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Session II Course Descriptions

Big History: Finding Humanity’s Place in the Universe

Even though human civilization has only been around for roughly 5000 years, most historical studies focus exclusively on this period, ignoring the 13 billion years that led up to it. In this course, we will widen the scope of history to include the complete timeline, analyzing and exploring how the momentous events that took place before the earliest humans have shaped our development as a species. With a focus on the crucial historical thresholds that transformed humans and society, we will construct a more complete history of humanity.

Using David Christian’s Maps of Time as a guide, we will incorporate astronomy, biology, geology, and environmental science to develop a more complete account of history and humanity’s place in it. We will challenge common misconceptions of cause and effect in history, provoking students to look at human history with a more critical lens. In doing so, students will be better equipped to understand modern society as it stands today by having a fuller appreciation of the colossal forces that have and continue to impact our daily lives in countless ways. To achieve this goal, course activities will include reading, writing, discussion, and research into a wide array of topics.


Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History by David Christian

Andrew Peake, Instructor, Special School District of St. Louis County. B.A. History, M.A.E.History/Social Science, Truman State University.


Bright Ideas: Exploration of Light’s Role in our World

Why is the sky blue? How do rainbows form? How do our eyes receive images from the outside world? How does your cell phone display cat memes? Why can I actually see myself in the mirror? What’s going on with the album cover for The Dark Side of the Moon?

Equipped with lenses, mirrors, prisms, and a host of light sources, we will carefully develop three models of light to help explain these phenomena and more. By the end of the course, you will have a detailed understanding of what light is and how it makes the world remarkable. You will never see the world in the same light again. There will be lasers.


Joe Milliano, Instructor of AP Physics, Parkway West High School. B.A.Physics, B.S. Mathematics, M.A.E. Math/Physics, Truman State University.


Computers in Art and Design

Explore how the computer has been integrated into the image-making processes by incorporating traditional art processes such as drawing and markers with modern Graphic Design software. Learn how professional artists, designers, and illustrators utilize the power of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and other software to create digital artwork and enhance images to create digital graphics such as maps, posters, and postcards. The basic features of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator will be explored through tutorials and original artwork will be produced when techniques are mastered. By the end of the course, students will have a digital and print portfolio consisting of several projects. Students will also utilize digital cameras, scanners, and output to laser/inkjet printers. Quad-Core Intel Macintosh computers (the industry standard platform) power this exploration into the realm of digital imagery.

Enrollment limited to 20 students. Course fee for class supplies and materials is $65.00.

No textbook required.

Matthew Derezinski, Professor of Art, Visual Communications, Truman State University. B.F.A., Visual Communications, Kansas State University. M.F.A., Visual Communications, Kansas State University.


Genetics 101: The ABCs of DNA

Did you know you are 50% genetically similar to a banana?  All living organisms from the simplest bacteria to more complex organisms like humans use the same genetic material to pass on their traits – DNA.  DNA is the molecule of life.  But what exactly is DNA and how does it make you, you and a fly a fly?

In this course you will learn the basics of DNA and heredity, and then dive deeper to understand how DNA is used to create a fully functional organism.  We will also explore new technologies in DNA editing that are making our hopes of changing disease-causing mutations in DNA a reality.  We will discuss the science behind these techniques and then discuss some of the ethical and moral issues they raise.  Finally, we will investigate the ethics and laws surrounding genetics such as do you own your own genes, who is allowed to have access to your genetic code, and what are your legal rights concerning your genetics?

Our learning in the classroom will be supplemented by many activities in the lab.  We will learn about and use many biotech tools and molecular genetic techniques.  Activities will include extracting DNA from strawberries, analyzing DNA from a crime scene, and investigating your own genetics to name a few!

Enrollment limited to 24 students

The Cartoon Guide to Genetics by Larry Gonick and Mark Wheelis

Sarah Berke, Assistant Professor of Biology, Biology Department, Truman State University. BA Biology and Psychology from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. Ph.D. Neuroscience from University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA


Introduction to Chemistry

The course will introduce you to the scientific process by exploring fundamental concepts in chemistry in the context of contemporary environmental and societal issues.  A broad range of topics will be explored throughout the session, including the atom and atomic structure, molecules and chemical bonding, chemical nomenclature, writing and balancing chemical equations, the mole and molarity, and the relationship between chemical structure and function. You will participate in several laboratory experiences in which you will learn to work safely in the laboratory and make careful observations of chemical reactions and phenomena in order to draw useful conclusions from your experiments.  You will also have the opportunity to explore and share new topics through brief class presentations.

A key component of the course involves inquiry based learning as a means to understand the process by which new scientific knowledge is developed.  For example, in the laboratory you will synthesize a compound of unknown composition and use a variety of tools to deduce the structure of this new material.  Examples of other experiments include determination of water hardness of samples from local sources, the synthesis and analysis of biodiesel, chromatographic characterization of chemical mixtures, analysis of artificial blood, the study of dyes through the making of tie dye T-shirts, as well as the opportunity to develop and perform chemical demonstrations for your peers.

Chemistry Essentials for Dummies and a course packet which includes laboratory experiments and supporting materials for the lecture.

Brian Lamp, Professor and Chair of Chemistry, Truman State University.  B.A. Augustana University (SD), Ph.D. Iowa State University.


Monsters: Using Big Screen Frights to Think Critically About the World Around Us

This course teaches our students much more than the “do’s” and “do nots” of surviving a horror movie. Using a combination of films, literature, and discussion, we will study the horror genre, using monsters as a metaphor to explain the nuances of different cultures and societies. Students will explore many STEM fields along with the humanities, learning practical skills of disaster preparedness alongside critical thinking skills in the classroom.From shelter building, to crisis management we will learn to take care of ourselves and others in times of disaster.  Surviving is only half of the battle. The films and literature of the horror oeuvre will serve as a jumping off point as we use monsters as a metaphor for exploring current and historical cultures and societies.The students final project will be to use what we have learned about disaster preparedness and horror movies to create a Public Service Announcement that uses their critical thinking skills to link our new knowledge of these ghouls with an actual problem we could all face.


Tyler Unsell, Director of Debate and Forensics, Park Hill School District. B.A., Truman State University. M.A.E., Truman State University.


Reading Between the Panels: Comics, Graphic Novels, and Sequential Art

In his book Understanding Comics Scott McCloud explains that the potential of comics is limitless, but has been constrained by its perception in popular culture. In this course we will explore the true potential of the medium by reading and analyzing comics (also known as graphic novels) as a form of both art and literature. Using McCloud’s Understanding Comics  as a guiding text we will learn about the history of comics as well as ways to interpret the combinations of words and pictures within comics. We will put our understanding of sequential art into conversation with other mediums that use words and pictures to make meaning such as advertisements, art, and film. This course will also invite students to think critically about what they read and to consider the ability of literature to shape our understanding of who we are and  how we interpret the world around us.

Daily activities will include reading, writing, and discussion. While we may try our hand at producing some comics ourselves, artistic ability is not a requirement for this course.  

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, fiction and nonfiction graphic novels TBD

Rachel Brown, Instructor of English, Raytown High School. B.A. English, M.A.E. English, Truman State University.


Science of Secrecy

Can you keep a secret a secret?

Suppose you need to get an important message to your best friend Remington, but you are afraid that your arch-nemesis, Sly (a master of cryptanalysis!) might try to intercept the message and read it for his own evil purposes.  How can you encode your message so that Sly will not be able to decipher it?
What if you need to establish communications with your ally Natasha, and the only channel of communication available is one that can be accessed by anyone. How can you agree out in the open on a procedure for Natasha to encipher her message, which will permit only you to decipher it?

In this course we will study the mathematics of cryptology as we look at the most famous methods of encryption dating back two thousand years to the age of Caesar right up through high-tech applications for securing communication on the internet.  Students will have opportunities to make and break many of the codes we study.  We will discuss dramatic historical events in which cryptography played a key role, including the breaking of the German Enigma code in World War II.  Along the way we will see how methods of cryptanalysis were used to interpret Egyptian hieroglyphics, and we will study unusual methods of encryption, such as the use of the Navajo language during World War II. We also peer into the future and contemplate what impact quantum computers will have our ability to keep our communications secret.


Tony Vazzana, Professor of Mathematics, Truman State University.


The Writers Craft

Emily Dickinson says the experience of a good poem is like having the top of your head come off. The haiku master Basho says it’s like being alive twice. We all have a favorite book or poem, a piece of writing that has moved us to new ways of thinking, feeling, or living in the world. One of the best ways to appreciate such moving writing is to let it move us toward creating our own poems, stories, and essays. In this course we will consider the possibilities and challenges of imaginative writing. We will explore the creative process, from generating ideas to shaping and revising, and we’ll seek to share our work with others—reading, performing, and publishing our collective and individual efforts. You will find out how your own writing process operates by learning how other writers work. Francine Prose says that literature “sets up a series of rules that the writer is instructed to observe, [and] reading will show how these rules have been ignored in the past and the happy outcomes.” We’ll spend our time recklessly learning and ignoring all the rules, remembering the poet John Ashbery’s advice to writers: “Let us leave the obedience school!” In addition to reading, writing, and work shopping, we’ll get out of the classroom to write with our feet, about the world, not as we’ve seen it on TV, but as we really find it, including both on-campus and off-campus explorations. Students who complete this course will grow as poets and storytellers, but also in their broader ability to communicate vividly, as they learn to think about audience and adapt expression to the reactions it provokes.

A Little White Shadow; Ron Carlson Writes a Story

James D’Agostino, Professor in English, Truman State University.  B.A., Loyola University of Chicago; M.F.A., Indiana University; Ph.D., Western Michigan University.


Why We Fought: American Wars from World War I to Iraq

The course covers the major American conflicts from the start of the 20th century to the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the focus of the course will examine these conflicts from the U.S. foreign policy perspective, some attention is given to the role of domestic public opinion as well as foreign perspectives on the conflicts.

There are three learning objectives for this course. First, students should gain a deeper understanding of US conflicts over the past century and how these conflicts shaped the US into the global leader. Second, students will attain a better theoretical understanding of why countries fight. Finally, students will discuss and attempt to determine what countries can attain from conflict and if it’s worth the price.

Aside from the normal classroom activities, the class will take two field trips. The first will be to Laclede, Missouri to visit the Gen. John J. Pershing Boyhood Home State Historic Site. Students will take a tour the famous US Generals boyhood home and see how he lived and discuss his accomplishments. The second trip will be a two day trip to the World War I Museum in Kansas City Missouri and the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. There they will explore wartime documents and memorabilia before undertaking role-playing activities where students will decide how to deal with the growing differences between the U.S. and its Soviet allies near the end of the war in Europe.

Course Fee for the overnight field trip is $150.00.

International Politics and Zombies

Michael Rudy, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Truman State University. B.S., Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville; MA, Eastern Illinois University; Ph.D., University of Missouri.