Fall Semester Sampler: Course Selection Offers Interesting Options

Posted: August 2, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nicholas Zinzer

With hundreds of courses – core courses, electives and special topics – offered this fall, George Mason offers literally something for everyone.

New approaches to courses in government, communication, history, health and geography, among others, keep the curriculum fresh and interesting.

Melvin Friedlander, associate professor in the Department of Public and International Affairs, will be teaching GOVT 339–001 Wealth, Value and Power, which is cross-listed with New Century College.

“This course will use a set of organizational principles … to explore the connections between cities and creativity at the end of the end of 18th, 19th and 20th centuries,” says Friedlander.

Students enrolled in GOVT 339–001 are required to register for GOVT 342 Diplomacy, which is also taught by Friedlander.

Both courses will focus on cities’ “golden ages,” periods when cities were at the height of political and economic influence relative to other global powers. More specifically, the class will study 15th century Florence, 17th century London and 19th century Paris.

Students will also study individuals who contributed significantly to the dynamics of the city and surrounding culture. “The class is about taking creators and focusing on how these creators functioned in the cities they lived in,” says Friedlander.

Cynthia Lont, professor in the Department of Communication, is teaching WMST 304 Women and Media. The class is cross-listed in Communication.

The course introduces students to the notion of both power and persuasion in the mass media. Students are able to examine how their behavior is affected by the media. Recently, the class has evolved to include how women are portrayed in a variety of social contexts.

“[The class] has expanded to include the issues of race, age, sexual orientation, nationality and the media: portrayal, employment and viewpoint,” says Lont.

Michael Chang is teaching HIST 354 Modern China, a survey class of modern Chinese history from the 17th to the mid-20th century. Chang, an associate professor in the Department of History and Art History, says the class is important to understanding the current international political climate.

“For anyone who has even a passing familiarity with world affairs in the last decade or so, the significance of this course is perhaps somewhat self-evident. As the People’s Republic of China … takes on increasingly important economic and strategic roles in the international community, it is critical for truly educated citizens of the world to more fully understand the basic issues and complexities of China’s modern history, not only in terms of high politics, but also in terms of varied human experiences.”

The class will consist primarily of lectures with occasional viewings of documentary and full-length feature films. The lectures and films will educate students about the seminal events in China the last few centuries.

History professor Lois E. Horton will be teaching AFAM 390–006 Ethnic Groups in America, which is cross-listed in History.

“This course will explore the concepts of race and ethnicity and discuss how they have operated in the history of United States from colonial times to the present. It will begin with the forced immigration of many ethnic groups from Africa as they were captured into American slavery and will follow the attempts to justify slavery in a nation proclaiming itself to be based on freedom. As other ethnic groups added their cultures to the already established cultural mix, they were fit into the racial hierarchy established by the long existence of racial slavery and segregation,” she says.

According to Horton, participants in the current immigration debate lack cultural history regarding ethnic groups in the United States who voluntarily immigrated or were part of forced labor.

“At a time when immigration is a hotly contested issue in the United States, it is important to examine the history of ethnic groups in our nation. We often call ourselves a nation of immigrants, and we need to understand what immigration, race and ethnicity have meant in our past in order to understand our present society and to be able to make informed choices about policies for our future.”

David Anderson, director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Health, will be teaching HEAL 310 Drugs and Health. The class will discuss how drugs – over-the-counter medication, illegal drugs and prescribed medicinal drugs – interact with the human body.

“Drugs, tobacco and alcohol are very much a part of our lives in this country, and have been. The challenge is to manage our individual, family and societal use in a more effective manner. I emphasize a respect for the human body, which is both delicate and robust at the same time,” says Anderson.

“Many students at Mason and elsewhere have experienced problems with alcohol in their lives. Students often know someone who has died or been seriously injured due to drugs or alcohol. The course can be helpful in understanding what happened, why it happened and what can be done in the realm of their own lives to help reduce the likelihood of it happening in the future.”

The class will include lectures and group discussions. Anderson will also use computer software to poll the students on their knowledge of drug use.

Instructor Charlie Grymes will be teaching GEOG 380 Geography of Virginia. He believes background knowledge of local geography is important.

“It is hard to be a successful citizen activist or leader in our community if we don’t have a basic understanding about the place where we live or work. How can we make a credible argument about what we think needs to be protected or changed if we can’t describe the current setting and compare it to other places?”

Grymes believes students who successfully complete the course will have a greater appreciation of their landscape.

“Graduates of the Geography of Virginia class should have an easy escape from boredom when they get trapped in traffic jams. The panoramas outside the car window offer a chance to explore why a forest, building or stream is located there, and how it will be changing in the future. That daydreaming can be far more entertaining than just singing along with the jingles on the radio.”

The complete fall 2006 Schedule of Classes is available on PatriotWeb.

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