Interdisciplinary Courses

Moments of Change: The World of 1968

A time of turmoil highlighted by a president with approval ratings hovering in the low- to mid-30s, American troops fighting unpopular conflicts, and women’s rights and civil rights being the main topics of many conversations, and protests, 1968 was also marked by technological advances and other innovations that transformed the way Americans live, work and play. College campuses across the nation, including Penn State, found themselves at the epicenter of the country’s social, cultural, and economic evolution — which sometimes took the form of revolution.

The College of the Liberal Arts, Department of History, and DPS teamed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of 1968 through the “Moments of Change: Remembering ’68” project. This experimental, college-wide effort created an undergraduate theme for the academic year, featuring panel discussions, movies, lectures and various other programs that explored, considered, reflected on, and celebrated the global, national, and local milestones of that year. “Moments of Change” endeavored to give all individuals in the Penn State community  a better understanding of, and greater appreciation for, how events that took place in 1968 have helped shape America since then.

In order to integrate the yearlong series and its theme into the classroom, DPS and the Department of History developed the first three-credit, semester long Liberal Arts Edge Seminar: “The World of 1968.” In this multi-disciplinary course, students again examined central topics and themes from multiple disciplinary perspectives. They also engaged in research projects including the collection and preservation of oral histories of Penn State alumni who were on campus in the year 1968. The students oral history archives will be added to the larger “Witness to Change” web archive, developed by DPS and WPSU.

Collaborators

History (lead)

African American Studies
African Studies
Asian Studies
Communication Arts and Sciences
Comparative Literature
French
Jewish Studies
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Biochemistry
Media Studies
Molecular Biology
Humphrey Fellowship Program
Ukrainian Catholic University

News Coverage

Digging Deeper feature with President Eric Barron
Penn State News article announcing course
Penn State News article featuring student curated Special Collections exhibit
The Underground

Democratic Dissent: From Protest to Policy

Launched as a companion course to The World in 1968, this LA Edge seminar investigated historical and contemporary instances of dissent in United States social and political movements. Guest lecturers from across liberal arts disciplines guided students in exploring the relationship between dissent and democracy from multiple angles, and deliberating topics including “American Traditions of Dissent”; “Dissent and the Civil Rights Movement”; “War, Presidential Power, and Dissent”; and “Dissent, Sports, and Popular Culture.” Through in-class discussions, written reflections, and exploration of materials from the Voices of Democracy archive, students developed and defended theories of how expressions of dissent form a crucial part of democratic citizenship in general.

Collaborators

Communication Arts and Sciences (lead)
Center for Democratic Deliberation (lead)
McCourtney Institute for Democracy (lead)

African American Studies
English
History
Philosophy
Richards Civil War Era Center

News Coverage

Interrogating Prejudice

Drawing on research across disciplines within the liberal arts, this course empowered students to interrogate prejudice from different vantage points and across different levels of analysis (e.g., intrapersonal, interpersonal, intragroup, intergroup, institutional, and societal). Guest lecturers sparked in-class discussions on topics including “Racism in America, Then and Now”; “Homophobia and Prejudice toward LGBTQ People”; “Race, Religion, and Discourse about Immigration”; “Islamophobia and the Rejection of Religious Minorities”; “Xenophobia, Racism, and Latino/a Identity.”

Although students examined sensitive and controversial topics, the instructors fostered an open respectful environment for thoughtful discussion and much needed deliberation. Students left the class with tools to better understand prejudice – their own and that faced by others in society – and to fight against systems of prejudice in support of equality.

Collaborators

Psychology (lead)
Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Transformation (lead)

African American Studies
Communication Arts and Sciences
Philosophy
History
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
LGBTQA Resource Center
Paul Robeson Cultural Center
School of Theatre

News Coverage

Is Football Immoral and Other Questions in Sports Ethics


In the third LA Edge offering, students investigated one of America’s most popular cultural phenomena — “big-time” sports — from a unique critical perspective. Football was a natural place to start this exploration because it is both enormously popular and profoundly controversial. Some view the sport as a welcome escape and even a uniting force for communities; others, meanwhile, view the sport and its dominance over cultural activities with alarm and trepidation.

Questions explored include the following: How does being an athlete define a person’s identity? How can celebrity athletes use their public status to be positive role models and influence positive societal changes? Should they even be viewed as role models? Do contact sports like football promote a culture of violence, or do they provide an emotional and physical outlet that may actually help reduce the risk of violence? Can they do both? Should college athletes be paid?

Collaborators

African American Studies
Communication Arts and Sciences
English
Labor and Employment Relations
Philosophy
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Rock Ethics Institute
Bioethics
College of Communications
Educational Equity
Institute for Sports Law, Policy and Research
Kinesiology
Law

News Coverage

Trump: The Candidate and the Campaign

The Fall 2016 course included discussion and presentations by faculty from different disciplines of the liberal arts in order to help students acquire a historical and comparative frame of reference with which to understand and evaluate Trump’s candidacy and its implications for American democracy. The course examined the Trump presidential candidacy and campaign in real time, exploring a number of questions including: How does Trump’s nomination reflect tensions inherent in changing demographics and globalization? How does his brand of populism/nativism compare to earlier populist movements in the U.S.? And how does it compare with contemporary campaigns by new-right parties in Europe?

The course was covered by the Associated Press as well as many other journalists, and received more than 50 mentions in national & international news media.

Collaborators

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy (lead)

African American Studies
Communications Arts and Sciences
English
History
Political Science
Sociology and Criminology
College of Communications
Population Research Institute

The Fire this Time: Understanding Ferguson


In the first of the LA Edge seminars, “The Fire This Time: Understanding Ferguson,” examined the tragic events that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri, when an unarmed 18-year-old named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a White police officer. This interdisciplinary course explores the historical dimensions of Ferguson, the interaction between the police and locals, and the legal proceedings, which ultimately led to a grand jury refusing to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Brown. Days of protests and civil unrest followed and propelled a new wave of activism, the likes of which the nation had not seen since the 1960s.

More information about the course is available on its companion website The Fire This Time. The course was also featured in an article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Collaborators

African American Studies (lead)

Communications Arts and Sciences
English
Philosophy
Political Science
Sociology and Criminology
Indiana University East – Department of Sociology

News Coverage

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