Book Banning: What's at Stake?

Faculty: Dr. Amy Watkin

Book banning is at an all-time high in the U.S. To better understand what this means, first, a book is challenged; that is, there is an attempt to ban the book from a school district, public library, or other institution based on the book’s contents. The challenge then results either in banning the book or overturning the challenge so the book remains in circulation. In the 2021-2022 school year, PEN America recorded 2,352 successfully banned books in schools. That’s up from about 1,600 the year before and 377 the year before that. Remember, the number of book challenges far exceeds that number, so what’s so scary about books that would explain a growing number of book challenges and banned books? How does the book-banning process even work? What is gained or lost when we ban books? Books get banned, censored, and challenged based on a variety of factors: maybe they contain “dirty” words, sexual content, witches and wizards, representations of marginalized groups, and explicit or implicit political messages. More and more individuals, parents, lawmakers, officials, and organizations are making it their mission to ban books in this country. In this class, we will learn why and how book challenges and book banning are happening and why learning about book banning is essential to being an engaged citizen, returning often throughout the course to the question, what is at stake when books are banned?

Compassionate Community

Faculty: Dr. Anne T. Mocko

This seminar will approach the question “what does it mean to be an engaged citizen?” through a lens of interfaith activism and study. Students will examine ways that religions can create communities—and also divide communities—through three case studies drawn from multi-religious contexts outside of the US.  Over the course of the class, students will learn content about non-Christian religions, and also build skills for practicing deep listening and open learning across religious differences. Our goals will be to open students to the religious diversity of the world and to use interfaith cooperation as a model for creating more compassionate communities.

Exercise is Medicine

Faculty: Dr. Emily C. Huber-Johnson

This course is designed for you to learn about exercise as medicine while promoting physical activity as a vital sign of health. You will assess, evaluate, and analyze your health and physical activity habits and beliefs, as well as those of the Concordia community. You will have the opportunity to establish exercise is medicine educational programs and promotions on campus, while working to improve your health and well-being, as well as that of the campus community.

Engaged Citizenship in a Nation of Immigrants

Faculty: Dr. Lisa A. Twomey

The United States is often referred to as a nation of immigrants, yet immigration has been and continues to be a topic of debate. In this seminar, we will engage in this debate as we explore immigration in the context of what it means to be a citizen. By reading personal narratives of immigrants and developing relationships with New Americans in the community, students will reflect on the notion of citizenship through a broad and narrow lens. These experiences are complemented by a study of U.S. immigration throughout history, recent policies and laws, and the push and pull factors that cause people to migrate in search of a new home. The community connection is an essential part of the course, allowing students to enhance their understanding of the topic as they meet others from around the world and develop a deeper appreciation of culture, as well as a nuanced understanding of their role as citizens in this nation of immigrants.  

Entrepreneurial Mindset

This course introduces students to the attitudes, behaviors, and skills needed to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Students will recognize how an entrepreneurial mindset allows an individual to act in entrepreneurial ways – recognizing opportunities and using imagination and creativity to solve problems while being resourceful and having a sense of self-efficacy, agency, and resiliency. This course places emphasis on social entrepreneurship and students, as engaged citizens, will take a deep dive into the entrepreneurial process to solve an existing social problem by using an Opportunity Discovery Process where they will problem-find, problem-solve, and create value. Through individual reflection, students will discover who they are and what they can do to make a difference in the world and contribute to society in an entrepreneurial context. 

Fangirls/Boys Re-Making Culture: The Power of Fandom

Faculty: Dr. Susan J. Lee

This seminar is an exploration of the intricacies and powers of fandom. This course asks “what IS a fan?,” “what does a fan DO?,” and most significantly, “what CAN a fan do?” Rejecting the common stereotypes of the fan as a mere passive consumer of cultural products or a “fanatic,” we explore the powerful potential of fandom and the fan’s agency to create and sustain communities, perform multiple identities, participate in communal art-making, and subvert cultural norms. This course rejects the simplistic model of studying cultural/artistic production with an outsized or exclusive emphasis on the producer/artist. Rather, it highlights reception to explore how meaning is created and culture is transformed through the acts of interpretation by an audience.

Food in the World

This course is designed to challenge you to consider factors that influence your and other people’s food choices and the impact of those choices on personal health and well-being as well as broader global implications. You will learn about how food choices influence and are influenced by, a wide range of factors, including culture, religion, ethics, economics, and politics. Using podcasts, TED talks, news articles, and scientific research, you will grapple with real-world questions pertaining to food and the numerous ways in which food plays a role in the lives of people across the world.

Gatekeeping in STEM: Who Gets Let in and Why?

Faculty: Dr. Jason Askvig

The barriers set in front of historically excluded folks in science are still present. Following the announcement of the 2022 Nobel prizes, there have been 636 individuals awarded a prize in one of the three science categories. Of the 636, 23 are women, and 0 Nobel prizes in science have been awarded to a Black person. And most Nobel prizes in science were awarded to Americans. In this class, we will learn more about the barriers set to impede these scientists, the stories about the scientists that have been disregarded, and discuss the unethical research experimentation that occurred on those without power, with the hope of helping us learn from the past and make the future of science more equitable.

Greeks at War

Faculty: Dr. George B. Connell

At a time when war rages in Ukraine and elsewhere throughout the world, we will spend the semester reflecting on the ways the ancient Greeks experienced, represented, and understood war. War, as tragic and destructive as it is, gives special opportunities to see and consider key features of human nature and the human condition. War is also an excellent way to explore the general theme of these seminars, Engaged Citizenship. In the time of war, states call on their citizens to make great sacrifices, even to the point of giving their lives, but war also highlights how deeply individuals need the services and protections of their states. Through our readings of ancient Greek texts about war, we will spend the semester exploring the complex relationship between citizens and states, a relationship that is often complementary, each giving an advantage to the other, but that is also often adversarial, pitting the interests of the state against the needs and wants of its individual citizens.

Green Marketing

Today, businesses and society face a confluence of factors such as environmental deterioration, pervasive poverty, and the need for renewable energy sources. The future does not hold a "business as usual" approach, but rather a need for more constructive solutions that resolve environmental, consumer welfare, and community concerns. Green marketing has emerged as a crucial component of marketing management. As a result, green marketing practices have evolved as an integral part of the organization's competitiveness in the marketplace.

Historicizing the Present: How Historical Literacy Can Help Us Understand Contemporary Issues

Faculty: Dr. J. Elijah Bender

Contrary to popular belief, the past is not dead! It is used every day, wielded as a powerful tool of influence. We are constantly bombarded with narratives that urge us to take action, buy something, or frame our understanding of an event in a particular way. Often, these narratives rely upon historical information to increase their authority. History becomes a way of authenticating the claims being made, and therein lies a critical problem. If the audience (you!) has no means of evaluating the accuracy or appropriateness of the historical information mobilized, what recourse is there against basic error, purposeful omission, or even outright manipulation? How will you know if something is true? What makes one source of information more credible than another? Where did a current controversy, debate, conflict, or issue come from? To be responsible and engaged global citizens, we must have a critical thinking toolkit to answer these fundamental questions. This seminar will help us develop historical literacy – critically using information from the past to understand the present – as a key part of our thinking toolkit.

Hitler and the Holocaust

Faculty: Dr. W. Vincent Arnold

This course will focus on the destruction of European Jews by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Students will explore the shifting historical conditions from which the Shoah emerged by examining personal memoirs, historical documents, poetry, art, documentary and feature film, novels, and other media that help to illustrate the human experience during this important historical episode. By the end of the course, students will have an expanded knowledge and understanding of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, the origins and development of antisemitism, the formation and operation of concentration camps, the resistance movements, and the Shoah as a problem for world history. Additionally, students will have engaged with the problematics of representation, memory, ”the memorial,” and witnessing.

Iconography: Thinking Critically about Music in Painting

Faculty: Dr. Annett C. Richter

This interdisciplinary course focuses on the study of visual culture. More specifically, it combines the exploration of intersections among visual art, music, society, gender, class, education, and culture. We will investigate the meanings of music-making scenes and imagery in selected European and American paintings from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries. Students will learn how to read a painting critically and apply their knowledge in group discussions and diverse writing projects to prepare for undertaking a scholarly research project that includes gathering and documenting credible sources for, writing about, and presenting on an image with musical content. Students will also become familiar with selected styles in the history of Western art as well as respective social and cultural contexts of music. Continuing their studies outside of the classroom, students will have the opportunity during field trips to the Plains Art Museum (and possibly the Minneapolis Institute of Art or the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD) to learn from curators about musical instruments and works of art regarding their interpretations and meanings in today’s world.

I Want to Help People

Faculty: Dr. Kristi K. Loberg

Many students enter college interested in careers that “help people”. Students seek ways to both make a living AND make an impact serving others and their communities.  Students in this course will investigate relevant questions of helping, such as what is meant by “helping”? What motivates us to help? Who helps and how? What are the ethics of helping? What are the helping professions? And how can helping become engaged citizenship? Students will grow in self and other-awareness as they explore individual and social conditions that need our help. Finally, students will develop a deeper understanding of historic and contemporary systems of helping and the role of engaged citizens and professionals in creating and maintaining those systems.

Nonprofit Leadership + Community Engagement

This course seeks to provide a foundational understanding of the nonprofit community and the integrated nature of leading from the inside out through both organizational and community engagement. Students will recognize community needs, grapple with complex issues, and understand the integral role of advocacy as a way to address and solve social problems.  This course explores local, national, and international nonprofit organizations including their mission, vision, scope, and purpose in addition to understanding critical challenges and potential solutions. Student teams will build working relationships and gain first-hand knowledge of the distinctive professional skills necessary for rewarding careers in nonprofits through partnering with a local nonprofit organization. Face-to-face meetings with organizational CEOs and their executive leadership teams contribute to the data-gathering process including historical roots, services provided, leadership and management, governance structure, stakeholders, challenges, and future plans. This course contributes to a heightened understanding of the vital role of the nonprofit sector and the well-being of our entire community.   

Outsiders: The Cost of Exclusion

Faculty: Dr. Vincent J. Reusch

This seminar will focus on the outsider—what it means to be an outsider, what exclusion says about the in-group, what the consequences of exclusion are, how outsiders are silenced, and how they find their voices. Through the reading of literature (from classics such as Frankenstein to contemporary novels such as The Hate U Give), students will enter the points of view of various “outsiders,” fostering extended and intimate contact with the goal of increasing awareness and empathy. Throughout the course, students will apply the understandings they gain to some of our pressing current societal conditions that mirror those of the novels, such as racism, sexism, and other forms of ostracization. 

Seeking Justice in US Healthcare

Faculty: Dr. Shelly K. Gompf

Why are some people healthy and others not? Can where you live or the car you drive (or don’t drive) impact your health? These are many of the questions that will challenge our thoughts and ideas as we wrestle with “Seeking Justice in US Healthcare.” This seminar will introduce students to the many health disparities in the United States and how social class, race, ethnicity, and the social determinants of health impact us all.

Shades of Truth: How Media Shapes Our Stories

Faculty: Erin Hemme Froslie

Fake news. Deep fakes. Clickbait. How are we supposed to trust anything we read or see? How is our view of the world and institutions shaped when disinformation and misinformation seem to be everywhere? This course examines the intersection of journalism, technology, and citizenship. We’ll investigate some of the first forms of fake news and study contemporary journalistic practices for how news media report the news. We’ll dig into how social media and digital algorithms play a role in the news we see and share. And, finally, we’ll consider whether there is such a thing as objectivity and accuracy – and how we can better assess the quality of what we read and watch.

Stand-up Comedy and Engaged Citizenship

Faculty: Dr. Darren Valenta

In this course, we’ll discuss the use of stand-up comedy throughout history to critique power, engage in coalition building, and foster change. We'll discuss what makes stand-up comedy particularly successful in these efforts and what characteristics make it less successful than other methods of civic action. We’ll also talk about reactions and backlash to comedians who dare to aim their comedic efforts toward more serious ends. 

The Engaged Scientist

Faculty: Dr. Mark B. Jensen

What is the role of the scientist in society, and what responsibilities come with this role? In this seminar, we’ll begin by looking at what it takes to be successful in STEM – both as a student and as a professional scientist. Then we’ll examine the role of the scientist in a democratic society and look at examples from throughout the history of how scientists have used their understanding of science and the natural world to call attention to critical issues and influence the decisions of leaders.

Video Games and Media Literacy

Faculty: Dr. Indira Neill Hoch

This course will challenge students to develop and practice media literacy skills focused on understanding and critiquing the production, content, and reception of digital video games. Video games are a multi-billion-dollar entertainment and educational industry that often receives less academic attention, despite many people playing games daily (especially when including mobile phone games).  Understanding games and gaming will allow students to become more engaged citizens as they develop an understanding of the social and cultural conditions of the gaming industry, the mediated messages in the games themselves, and the (often-times) oppositional readings of games produced by players.  Students will be introduced to media literacy models and communication studies research that will guide them in exploring and interpreting video games, the gaming industry, and how and why we play games. Issues of gender, race, and global perspectives will be highlighted throughout the course. As a key component of engaged citizenship is being in community with others, thinking deeply about video games is also an opportunity for students to reflect on the groups and communities they join both online and off.

Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change

Faculty: Dr. Kenneth W. Foster

Concerned about climate change? Wondering what the debates are all about? Curious as to how we can successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also preparing to live in a changed climate? Puzzled about your role in all of this? This course will explore the scientific, political, economic, social, and psychological dimensions of climate change. By looking at the problem of climate change from different angles and with a systems approach, we’ll be able to understand how progress on dealing with climate change can be achieved and how each of us can be involved. How can understanding social psychology help us navigate through the problem? What political strategies can work? What technologies are most promising? And how can we best navigate the conflicts over values and ethical stances that run throughout climate change debates? In particular, how can the work of addressing climate change and advancing social equity and justice be pursued together? The course will explore these questions using a variety of readings, tools, and activities. Students will emerge from the course better equipped to navigate complex issues and ascertain how they can be effective and engaged citizens.

Who Gets to Tell Your Story: Race and Gender in Musical Theatre

Faculty: Christian H. Boy

Beginning with the radically integrated yet racially incendiary Show Boat, and cementing itself into popular culture with idealized versions of national identity in Oklahoma and The Music Man, Musical Theatre is both a uniquely American contribution to the arts and an often troubling mirror reflecting how race, gender, and identity are perceived and portrayed.  This class will celebrate the treasured history of Musical Theatre while also exploring its influence on American Culture and how a new generation of artists is using the art form to lift up a more inclusive collection of stories and identities.

Women and Power Relationships in Latin America and Beyond

Faculty: Dr. Fanny R. Roncal Ramirez

This course is designed to help students achieve an inclusive portrait of women’s participation in the private and public spheres through social and political activism and cultural activity. A second important objective of this course is the analysis of the construction of gender relationships in the XIX, XX, and XXI centuries from literary, historical, and sociocultural perspectives. Special attention is given to how political power has shaped and influenced the construction of gender relationships in Latin America to explain the situation of inequality and inequity for women today. Cross-cultural comparisons related to the topics covered in the syllabus are an important component of this class. Students are expected to participate actively through whole class conversations, group discussions, individual presentations, and interaction with our guest speakers, who include scholars from Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, and the Fargo/Moorhead community.