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GSTR 110

GSTR 110

Writing Seminar I - Critical Thinking and Liberal Arts

This course is designed to help students with transitions from their past experiences to the challenges of college academic life and culture, also emphasizing writing, reasoning, and learning as foundations or continuing academic success in General Education and beyond. Each section of the course involves explicit, continuing attention to writing, reasoning, research, and reflective engagement with various texts, written and non-written. All sections initially address students’ questions about the nature of education, liberal-arts education, and links to lifelong learning and living. Offered in multiple sections each year; taken in the first term of the first year.

Student Learning Outcomes

Successful students will learn:

  • to develop, compose, and complete college-level essays that are documented, that engage and use various kinds of texts, and that are expository (i.e., develop reasons, evidence, support for a thesis);
    • to identify and use properly some common modes of reasoning (e.g. analogy, argument), patterns of reasoning, and basic critical thinking concepts such as consistency, ambiguity and vagueness, and general criteria in thinking well about a variety of topics and texts;
      • to use the Hutchins Library facility and it resources, including the Library Home Page and library web resources;
        • to research, read, and evaluate a variety of sources, to assemble an appropriately diverse bibliography, and to appreciate different types of sources can work together;
          • to understand how preparation, engaged attentiveness, reflection, and thinking with appropriate criteria leads to learning from experiences beyond the formal classroom.

            Section Descriptions

            Below are section descriptions for all instructors who regularly teach GSTR 110. Not all of these instructors listed here teach the course each term. Please refer to the schedule of classes for the term in question to see which instructors will be offering the course.

            GSTR 110- Adams, Sarah: Interesting People Are Interested People. Alan Watts, extremely funky English philosopher and counterculture guru, wrote “It is obvious that the only interesting people are interested people.” In other words, Watts suggests that the people you want to be around, who you can’t wait to talk to, who challenge, engage, and excite you, are usually folks who are deeply curious about the world—and people—around them. In this course, we will try our best to become those kinds of interesting and interested people.

            To cultivate interest, we’ll explore a number of different kinds of texts, presentations, and performances on campus, like Hus Hsu’s college memoir Stay True, a musical put on by the Theatre Department, and talks given by visiting speakers for Convocation. Along the way, we’ll ask ourselves a number of questions: What does it feel like to be curious? Why can it be difficult to stay interested in a subject, text, or event? How can we get interested when we might not automatically feel interested? How might we think of curiosity as a practice not a personality trait?

            To work through these texts, presentations, performances, and questions as well as to spur on our curiosity, we will write—a lot. We’ll write for a variety of purposes: to question, to wonder, to observe, to reflect, to analyze, to evaluate, and to propose. And we’ll write in a variety of forms: notes, lists, poems, paragraphs, essays, and creative projects. Moreover, we’ll write for a variety of readers: ourselves, our classmates, and people we’ve never met. We’ll be so curious and we’ll write so much in this course that by December we’ll all be more interesting, more interested, and more confident writers and people.

            GSTR 110- Bates, Rebecca: Unmapped Territories: Journeys and Knowledge. Travel is generally understood to be an excellent way of learning about new people and places. But in traveling how much do we learn about others and how much do we learn about ourselves? By exploring (and experiencing) different types of travel, we will ask questions, including: what happens when you are a stranger in a place? How do you understand the difference between yourself and others? How does your previous knowledge, ignorance, or expectations and fantasies about a place affect your travel experience? And, how can the insights you gain about travel lead to fruitful paths of learning while you are at home?

            GSTR 110- Broadhead, Edwin: Human Nature. This section fulfills the goals of GSTR 110 through readings and reflection on the ways in which humans construct a sense of identity and of social location. Primary texts, focused upon varying theories of what it means to be human, will illustrate these developments. Readings will be taken from various areas of human inquiry, among which are religion and the secular, science and technology, and social and political life.

            GSTR 110- Bouma, Jill: Walking: Pilgrimage of the Personal and Political. “Tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are,” a quote by Esmeralda Santiago, provides an invitation to discover who we are and understand the experiences that shape us. In this course, we’ll write about and engage in various walks as we explore a history of walking and its myriad benefits. We’ll begin by discussing how walking and other forms of exercise can help us deal with stress. Next, we’ll explore paths to personal pilgrimage, from walking our way through problems to discovering new passions. We’ll end by exploring the power of mass movement for political solidarity, from Civil Rights marches to recent social movements important to you. Throughout the course, we’ll examine the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of walking to inspire our writing and the ways we engage the world.

            GSTR 110- Brown, Jarrod: Thinking about Thinking: Brains, Zombies, and Intelligent Machines. To be a rational thinking being has been considered the essence of what it is to be human for at least two millennia. But as we gaze across human history, it seems hard to believe that something that is essentially rational could do so many stupid things! In our contemporary world, the seeming inevitability of artificial intelligence creates the possibility of an artificial rational, thinking being. If computers were “intelligent” would they make these same sorts of mistakes? This media-rich course will explore the very idea of thinking and learning: What is the structure of rational thought? How does deductive and inductive reasoning work? How do the structures of your brain determine how you think and learn? Given what we know about the way the brain works, how can we learn more efficiently and retain information better? How do we make decisions? What ways do the languages we speak influence how we see the world? Could we tell the difference between people who think and thoughtless zombies that just acted like they think? What would count as an “intelligent machine”? Are you your mind, or do you even have a mind? In exploring these questions about what it is to be a rational thinking being, participants will acquire skills to think more rationally, communicate more logically, and learn more effectively.

            GSTR 110- Butler, Jim: Ethics and Democracy. The topic of this course will be the relationship between the individual and the state. The two key questions we will examine are a) In what ways can the state legitimately limit an individual’s actions? and b) What responsibilities does the individual have to his/her society (and vice versa)? The materials for the class will be a mixture of traditional readings in political philosophy (Mill’s “On Liberty,” Plato’s “Apology,” and “Crito”), popular essays (“Civil Disobedience”), and contemporary fiction which explore the role of the state and the individual (Clockwork Orange). Since the class is limited to a small size, classes will primarily involve discussion rather than a traditional lecture.

            GSTR 110- Carlevale, JohnWarning: Education Can Ruin Your Life. A preview of the pros and cons, ups and downs, rewards and frustrations, and pleasures and perils of a liberal education. The good news is a liberal education can build your communication skills, broaden your tastes and horizons, and strengthen your analytic and critical skills; the bad news is that these good things can leave you with questions without simple answers, appetites not easily satisfied, and doubts about once comfortable certainties. In this course, we will read and discuss writing—dramatic and discursive, fiction and non-fiction—about education going right and wrong, including Aristophanes’ Clouds and David Mamet’s Oleanna.

            GSTR 110- Clifton, Teresa: Writing on Trees. The human imagination has long been captivated by nature and compelled to express it in art. In an age of a global environmental crisis, we turn to our own creativity to make sense of nature, to wonder if we can survive it, or if it can survive us. Literature explores whether humans can achieve harmony with nature, questions what, if any, of our most human, most artificial trappings can coexist with the natural world.

            In this course, we will trace the depiction of nature and environmental issues in global literature and other art forms and witness how human expression can attempt to categorize, control, use, improve, or advocate for nature. Using the framework of ecocriticism, we will read, listen, and look to ask what authors and artists contribute to environmental understanding and action. Grounded in explorations of Berea’s natural setting—and human interventions in it—we will respond to nature and to art about nature through creative and ecocritical writing.

            GSTR 110- Crachiolo, Beth: The Stories We Tell. This section explores the very human habit of storytelling. Every day we read, listen to, watch, and tell a variety of stories, from the day’s news, to literature, to videos and television, even to the gossip we tell one another over dinner. We’re going to explore the history of storytelling (as we can piece it together) and write our own stories in the forms of journals, personal narratives, and analytical essays.

            GSTR 110- Crum, John: The American Essay. This course explores the craft of persuasive writing through a genre that has shaped, and been shaped by, American history: the essay. From eighteenth-century pamphlets calling for revolution to twenty-first century critiques of the attention economy, Americans have used essays to test new ideas, make impassioned arguments, and envision new worlds.
            Students in this course will read a wide variety of essays from throughout the American past, sampling the best of the genre and tracing its evolution. Learning from these authors, they will hone the craft of developing, drafting, and revising essays on a variety of topics. Along the way, they will also obtain new skills that apply to academic writing generally and reflect on how the essay represents the best of a liberal arts education has to offer.

            GSTR 110- Feagan, Beth: Freedom to Read. America is a contradictory place. We say we believe in freedom of speech, but every year hundreds of books are challenged, censored, and banned. And Tango Makes Three, Captain Underpants, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Looking for Alaska, The Perks of Being a Wallflower: from picture books to novels, these books have been banned right here in the USA. What does that mean? Why does that happen? What can we learn from these books? We will read a variety of banned books and wrestle with these questions. It’s a complicated conversation, and it’s been going on for a long time. Censorship is nothing new. Freedom of expression has been under attack since the founding of our country. We’ll learn how to unpack arguments, do thoughtful research, and make smart arguments of our own. We’ll also work on overcoming procrastination. Does writing freak you out? It’s actually just thinking on the page. That sounds abstract until you put it like this: I think something, I go find out what others think about it (reading and research), and then I let them know what I think (writing). Good writing is always in conversation with others. The conversation we will explore and join is about freedom of expression and the power of your voice.

            GSTR 110- Foster, Rob: Civilization. What makes a civilization? What makes a person civilized? This section focuses on the ancient civilizations of Europe and Asia. Through fiction, ancient texts, archaeological material, and art, we will examine aspects of some of the most important early civilizations in Greece, Persia, India, and China. We will explore the different religious, philosophical, political, and aesthetic systems to try to define civilization and to understand why humans have upheld the term as an ideal.

            GSTR 110- Gardner, Kevin: Artistic Inquiry, Dialogue, and Interpretation. This course will investigate the extended conversation between various sources along the theme of what is discovered through studying and responding to works of art. In particular, through films and readings we will study examples of people succeeding or failing to understand themselves within artistic contexts. Students will explore their own reactions and interpretations of specific works of art through reflective and analytical writing, supported by critical essays, discussions, and materials on art interpretation.

            GSTR 110- Gray, Gordon: From Disney Princesses to the Dark Knight: Popular Culture and Society. This seminar explores how the relationship between popular culture and the society in which it is produced. In particular, we will focus on animated storytelling genres from the USA and Japan to analyze and discuss the ways in which various animated films, books, and television series both produce and represent the societies in which they are created and viewed. This course is designed to encourage students to develop critical methods for evaluating examples of the types of entertainment they consume on a daily basis. At the same time, students will be expanding their ability to communicate that critical analysis, as well as learning and developing skills in critical reading, note taking, argumentation, essay structure, revision, proper documentation, and gaining skills in research and familiarity with library resources.

            GSTR 110- Green, Chris: Minds, Thinking, Emotions, and Life. How do our minds work?  What short cuts do they take and why? How can we help them, when needed, take a more careful path? How does brain development shape your emotions, your desire to connect, to find novelty, and to create? And what the heck do the Liberal Arts at Berea—in other words, your college experience—have to do it with all? You can find out by joining with others in class as we exploring those questions in our lives and surroundings, essays, and diverse contemporary short-stories. Looking forward to meeting you!

            GSTR 110- Heyrman, John: The Future of Higher Education. Constantly-changing computer and Internet technology and the upheavals of the globalized workplace have led many to question what college and university education will or should look like in the future. Indeed, some wonder whether traditional colleges, especially liberal arts colleges, even have a future in a world filled with easily-accessible information and the often very high cost of college education. These are the kinds of questions that this section will consider, along with many related political, social, cultural, and technological issues.

            GSTR 110- Hill-Zuganelli, Dee: Emerging Adulthood. Coined by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, emerging adulthood is the phase in human development at which individuals begin launching from their families of origin, seeking greater independence in daily life, and navigating deep and existential challenges to identity and sense of self. Students may experience both liberation and high anxiety; it is a time of dramatic change, uncertainty, but also immense freedom and self-discovery. This section will guide students through an exploration of tensions and triumphs through the first-year college experience. We will also investigate the role that family members play in helping us through this time or potentially holding us back. News, current events, films, and lived experience provide context for discussion and learning.

            GSTR 110- Hoffman, Megan: The Most Intelligent Animal. “If a rabbit defined intelligence the way man does, then the most intelligent animal would be a rabbit, followed by the animal most willing to obey the commands of a rabbit.” –Robert Brault, writer

            What is intelligence? How can we best measure it? Should we even try to measure it? Is it an “it” (intelligence) or a “they” (intelligences)? How does intelligence relate to education, especially a liberal arts education? How does intelligence relate to the structure and function of the brain? We will consider these and many more questions and will investigate intelligence through reading, research, discussion, and writing. We will strengthen our ability to see both sides of an issue, to make and substantiate strong arguments, and to find our own stances and voices on controversial issues. Will we become more intelligent? That remains to be seen. Join us and find out.

            GSTR 110- Huck, Dan: Crime, Law, and Justice. This course will examine the concepts that shape our view of crime, and that dominate our system of justice, in the contemporary United States. To begin the term, students will be presented with a crime scene, including witnesses who have viewed a portion of the crime or who know background concerning the incident. Actual faculty members and staff play the roles of these witnesses, and real physical evidence (weapons, fingerprints, etc.) are made available to students as they work as “lawyers” on the case. As the semester develops, students use writing assignments and group work to apply the substance and procedures of criminal law to investigate the evidence of the crime and then to develop their legal theories of the case.  The course concludes with students preparing their cases, as either prosecutors or defense attorneys, for a mock trial presented in front a jury which also consists of faculty member and staff professionals who volunteer to serve as jurors and deliver a verdict.

            GSTR 110- Mack, Felicia: No doubt, today we are living through challenging times. The pandemic has led to high unemployment rates, increase in mental illnesses, potential homeless and tons of hopelessness. In the midst of all this upheaval you have decided to further your education by attending Berea College and are now faced with new challenges. As you well know the struggle is ALWAYS real. In this section of GSTR 110 we will read The Skinny House: A Memoir of Family that shares the story of Nathan Seely, an African American man, whose drive and determination led to him becoming a prominent homebuilder in New York. At the height of his fame and fortune he loses everything in the Great Depression; however, he and his family are determined to come out of the depression stronger and more determined than ever. I think we can all relate to feelings of desperation during challenging times and the desire to come out on the other end–stronger and more determined to make life better for ourselves and loved ones. This is why most attend Berea College. Throughout the course we will engage in numerous writing activities designed to build writing sophistication and the development of academic writing. Coupled with the reading and writing activities you will be introduced to many resources available at the college to support your academic studies and professional aspirations so like Nathan Seely, you too will come out of challenging times and graduate stronger than when you arrived.

            GSTR 110- Martin, Deborah: This class will explore some of the ways in which citizens have peacefully refused to obey laws and government edicts that are deemed harmful, unethical, and/or dangerous. From the Suffrage Marches, to Black Lives Matter, to an examination of the most current events, we will explore how we use our bodies and voices to demand legal and social change in the United States. By exploring the written remnants and commentary of these events, students will be challenged to discover ways in which their personal beliefs are challenged and will create active, written and verbal defenses.

            “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” -Henry David Thoreau

            GSTR 110- McDonald, Verlaine: Media, Higher Education, and Identity. This course will focus on historic and contemporary characterizations of higher education and those who pursue it. What does it or should it mean to be in college? How can we understand the messages about collegians that are conveyed in fiction, nonfiction, film, and other media? And how do these messages shape the perceptions and experiences of those who pursue college degrees? As we explore these and other questions, students will develop and practice essential college (and life) skills including critical inquiry, writing, revision, group discussion, and public speaking.

            GSTR 110- McKee, Lauren: Becoming Your Berea Self. This 110 course will explore various perspectives on college, learning, and work during students’ first semester at Berea. Together, we will ask questions such as: “What is the value of a liberal arts education? How can I be a successful learner? What kind of work is right for me when I graduate?” In pursuing answers to these questions, students will learn more about the opportunities they can take advantage of at Berea College and best practices to get the most out of their time here.

            GSTR 110- Meadows, Richard: Fighting Poverty in Appalachia & Inner Cities. At first, rural Appalachia and nearby inner cities don’t seem to have much in common. Yet, in fact, people from both areas—including most Berea students—confront many of the same obstacles, such as poverty, unemployment, poorly-funded schools, inadequate healthcare, substance abuse, and negative stereotypes. Fortunately, many people in Appalachia and nearby inner cities are seeking and finding ways to overcome or help eliminate these obstacles so that their families, friends, and communities can prosper. We’ll analyze and debate competing attempts to explain these obstacles as well as competing plans to overcome or eliminate them.

            GSTR 110- Mecham, Neil: The role of animals in our lives: Where do they fit in? Our lives interconnect with other living creature in a myriad of ways that we take for granted. We bet on horse races, drink milk from cows, eat pigs, keep dogs and cats as pets, and kill mice. What if we bet on dog races, drank milk from horses, ate cats, kept pigs and mice as pets, and worshiped cows? Throughout the world, we do. This course will examine what influences our individual and collective beliefs and actions towards the animals in our lives and in our world? Through reading a variety of materials, viewing visual works, visiting settings where animals and people interact, and engaging in discussion, we will explore the nature of the human-animal relationship. Through expository writing, oral presentations, and interactive dialog, we will develop critical thinking skills, research and analysis skills, and an appreciation for the diversity of experience and thought that surrounds us. In the end, students should be able to express with confidence their beliefs about how humans should treat animals and explain the important roles animals play in our lives.

            GSTR 110- Messina, Troy: On Certainty. We will explore our world views. These views range from whether Vegemite tastes good to the reality of climate change and its causes. Reading and writing will help us to identify the sources of our views and how they are supported (or not). How resolute are our views? These views often affect how we make decisions, choose friends, find jobs, and where we reside. Do these choices further separate our already politically and socially divided world? We will work to understand how writing, both our own and others’, may persuade our views. We will reflect on how a liberal arts education plays a role in the way we engage with the world around us.

            GSTR 110- Nakazawa, Mario: Technology is often viewed as the hopeful panacea that will solve many of the world’s deepest problems. The progress of computing and other technologies is indeed impressive, and the pace seems to be accelerating with the explosion of apps that one can use in their smartphone to do things such as buy plane tickets, donate to charities and other organizations, and even pay each other. Many people have embraced the opportunities offered by these inventions, but have enough people understood the consequences of what has been developed and unleashed? This section of GSTR 110 aims to tackle the challenging question of whether technology is overall improving or degrading human life, and what decisions and challenges must be overcome by those who choose to join the technology “bandwagon”. It is easy to be allured by the dazzle of the latest technological breakthrough, but it is important to take a step back and really think about what it means before becoming an adopter and advocate for it. In this course, we will explore and discuss recent talks and articles about how technology is used, and we will develop our ideas about how to best use technology in our lives.

            GSTR 110- Pearson, Eric: You Are What You Eat. This section will address many questions about food, including food’s scientific, medical, ethical, and aesthetic dimensions. We will read, write, and think carefully about such issues as the origins of domesticated plants and animals, the morality of killing and eating animals, and the difficult question of what makes some food better than other food.

            GSTR 110- Sowers, Nancy: Success: finding and keeping it. In this course we will explore what it means to be a lifelong learner and lay the foundation for a successful career as a student and as a professional. Topics include: recognizing the value of a liberal arts education, identifying meaningful career choices, thinking about current events, and figuring out what is important to you. We will explore these issues thorough regular and substantive writing assignments and seek to enhance college writing skills.

            GSTR 110- Starnes, Bobby:  Exploring Concealed and Stock Stories. History is complex. Textbooks, Wikipedia, and information provided at museums, historic sites, and monuments are not. Unfortunately, most of us learn little about the complexities of our history. And even more unfortunately, much of what we do learn is wrong. Information taken out of context, reshaped to support a particular perspective, or carefully-crafted half-truths make up the stock stories we learn in school. These stories present a picture-perfect United States (for example the stock Thanksgiving story or the Columbus ‘discovers’ America story). Behind these stories are the ones we are seldom taught—stories concealed in most retellings. Using a wide variety of primary documents and artifacts, we will look beyond the stock stories to uncover long-concealed stories. Through inquiry, idea generation and development, prior knowledge and experience, visual and critical thinking, and social construction of knowledge, we will explore three overarching questions:

            1. What can we learn about connections between historical events, movements, and people and their impact on our lives today?
            2. What are the stock stories we are taught, and why might they be taught?
            3. What stories are concealed; why might they have been concealed; and how does learning these stories impact our understandings of our histories, our beliefs, and our identity as Americans?

            GSTR 110- Strange, Jason: Writing is a Superpower. One of the most daunting aspects of college is that it’s full of writing. Why? Writing is hard, research papers are dull, and many students have no desire to become professors. So why all the writing? In this course, we’ll take that question seriously. We’ll see that writing is actually something like a superpower—it will make you stronger and better and even help you heal faster and live longer. Just as important, we will see that, even though it’s a superpower, being a skilled writer isn’t some mysterious gift bestowed only on the talented few. As with learning the guitar or playing basketball, there is only one way to get better at writing: steady practice. And that’s exactly what we’ll do.

            GSTR 110- Turner, Lisa: Zombie Apocalypse: Are We Prepared?  The rise in infectious disease outbreaks, such as Zika, Ebola, and measles, have public health experts on high alert. Zombies have been referred to as the viruses of the monster world. As such, when considering readiness for disease outbreaks, it is only logical to prepare for a zombie epidemic. Using a zombie apocalypse to frame the issue, this course will examine how infectious disease outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics occur, what public health officials do in response to disease outbreaks, and the ethical issues that arise when trying to prevent the spread of disease. Students will explore these topics through various readings, podcasts, and videos/movies. Students will sharpen their writing, reasoning, research, and reflective skills through the course assignments.

            GSTR 110- Webb, Althea: Emerging Adulthood and the College Experience. This course centers on the exploration of the physical, cognitive, and social-emotional growth of the emerging adult during the transition period of the college years. We will examine the college experience across a number of dimensions, including culture, ethnicity/race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. We will also explore the contexts of the higher education institutional environment (e.g., community college, private, public, and/or elite institution) that influence development. Throughout the course, we will relate theory and research to practical concerns and current events. We will connect academic research on emerging adults to the lived experiences of young people today. Students will link the theoretical to the practical by conducting an interview with an individual who attended college in order to connect theory and practice.

            GSTR 110- Woodward, Andrea: Seriously Funny: The Power of Humor to Address Social Problems. In this course, we explore the power of humor to address complex social issues. In particular, students will think critically about questions of why, when, and how humor works to bridge understanding on issues that can seem intractable or hopelessly divisive. We’ll explore the boundaries of humor, asking about what is fair game, what is off-limits, and what makes a topic (or one’s approach to it) one or the other. In particular, we’ll explore how comedians, writers, and others have used humor to open up conversations and move the needle on mental health, racism, and gender-based violence.

            GSTR 110- Wray, Linda: “Are We Doing the Right Thing?” Ethical Decisions in Healthcare. Increasingly, the healthcare system in the United States has garnered much attention politically, economically and, most importantly, ethically. This course will examine common ethical dilemmas encountered within this dynamic healthcare system. Students will investigate ethical decision making, identify these ethical dilemmas, and then examine the ethics surrounding each situation. Viewing each situation from a variety of viewpoints will be encouraged. Ethical dilemmas examined may include topics such as universal healthcare, the rationing of healthcare, euthanasia and the termination of care. Students will explore these topics using a variety of readings, news media broadcasts, and videos.