Transitions Classes

Engaging the Liberal Arts

This first-year course helps students adjust to living and learning in the academic community and concepts of a liberal arts education. You will explore and analyze complex ideas, develop curiosity and creativity, and take responsibility for your own learning.  Transitions I is designed to get your college career off to a strong start.

You have the opportunity to choose a topic of interest from 16 different classes. Please read the course descriptions below to determine your choices. We will do our best to place you in one of your top four choices.

Activism and the Arts: Dance, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts and the Vital Work of Social Change

Artists have always reflected and challenged the times they live in.  In this course we will study the history of the connection between activism and the arts, and imagine how we might use our own potential as artists to challenge the issues facing  the world around us. Instructor: Dr. Kelly Bremner

Banned Books: Controversy and Censorship

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” In this course, we will read three novels which have, at different times and for different reasons, been deemed so inappropriate, controversial, or taboo that public schools and libraries have pulled them from the shelves. Why were these books banned and how have these books shaped society? Who gets to decide what is appropriate?  We will explore concepts of censorship, culture, identity, power, and social change through our readings, writing assignments, and class discussions. Bring your love for reading and your willingness to step outside of your comfort zone.  Required texts: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison; and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
Instructor: Mr. Travis Proffitt

The Ethics of Westeros: Morality and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones

We will read the first volume of Martin’s series and a supplemental text to talk about ethics, worldview, governance, religion, violence, patriarchy, and preference.  
Instructor:  Rev. David Jackson

Frontier Nation

This course examines the central place that the frontier has held in shaping American society and the American character, from the earliest periods of settlement up through the twentieth century. Employing literature and film, as well as historical analysis, this course examines the development of the geographic frontier and such manifestations as cultural contacts, economics, diplomacy, social character, and intellectual formulations, with an emphasis on how those factors have been portrayed and embraced in American society.

Instructor: Dr. Michael Puglisi

The Mind-Body Connection

We live in a day and age where we are constantly consumed with information. We find ourselves putting our attention outward most of the time, which leads to less focus, productivity, creativity, and learning. Science now proves that in actuality we need to be going inward to find an abundance of these things. How does the mind-body connection affect our stress levels, learning, and ability to create? In this course, students will learn the science behind learning, the effects of stress, and practicing mindfulness as a means to become successful and productive. 
Instructor: Ms. Megan Atkinson

Mind Control: How Words Shape Our Reality

You know the saying. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…” Well, actually, words have much more power than we realize. The language we use (and the way we use it) shapes the lens through which we experience life. It informs the music we listen to, the jokes we laugh at, the ideas we believe, and even the people we find credible or interesting. In this class, we will work to understand why words matter and why analyzing the way other people use language is critical to understanding how the world works. Together, we will read and watch texts that allow us to analyze how words shape our reality. Ultimately, students will apply our course discussions to their own majors and interests. Course topics will include: culture, communication, comedy, politics, social media, music, film, and others.
Instructor: Ms. Mary Ellis Rice

Mothers and Fathers: What’s the Difference?

Why do your parents act the way they do? How would you be different if you become a parent? This class explores the way parental roles are constructed by gender in ways related to tradition, culture, work, religion, policy, media, education, and other institutions. It will also explore trends and possibilities in new and emerging models of parenthood.
Instructors: Dr. Tracy Lauder and Mr. Joe Vess


What are myths? What distinguishes myths from other kinds of stories? What questions were myths designed to answer? Why do myths remain relevant today? In this course we will explore these questions through a survey of a few myths taken from ancient Greece and Rome. We will take a look at the Greek story of how the world was created, the battles between heroes and gods at Troy, and the founding of Rome by descendants of Trojan exiles. 
Instructor: Dr. Jack Wells

Oppressed Voices Dismantling Dominant Narratives: Black & Brown Power in America 

For many years, in our dominant society many voices have been oppressed and continue to be oppressed. Why is it important to discuss such a society, and who is the dominant culture versus the oppressed? In this course, participants will engage in reflective dialogue to better understand privilege in America and what it means to be Black and Brown post the Civil Rights. Moreover, participants will examine how activism led to the rise of the Black Panther Party, Brown Berets, and the Young Lords, and why these organizations served as a tool of empowerment to uplift their communities and their people. Overall, the goal of this course is to understand the power of Black and Brown unity, and to also better grasp the important role the Black Panther Party played in empowering young Chicanos and Puerto Ricans to stand up and to uplift their people in a dominant America. 

Instructor: Ms. Patricia Gonzalez

Racial Identity in Context

Kenneth B. Clark, the psychologist whose studies on racial identity helped shape America’s historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, analyzed the role of racial identity relative to the struggle for equality. Despite progress toward said equality, race continues to define United States culture and—in the view of many—prevents the development of the “just society” envisioned by Clark, Martin Luther King, and others. Through research, debate and other class interactions, students will explore specific questions relative to this ongoing debate—a debate intensified in the presidential election of 2008. 
Instructor: Dr. Jerry Jones

She Persisted: The Legacy of England’s Queens

This course will explore the intersection of gender and power as demonstrated in the lives of England’s female monarchs. Employing literature and film through the lens of feminist literary criticism and feminist historical analysis, this course examines the perceptions of gender and power and how gender role expectations were both hindrances and tools in achieving personal and political goals. Some of England’s most beloved monarchs were female, and some of the most vilified monarchs were female. Our key question will be to explore to what extent gender roles and expectations contributed to each queen’s successes and failures as sovereign. 
Instructor: Mr. Josh von Castle

Tetris, Mario, and Deep Blue

This course will use popularized video games to understand the growth of technology and its progression throughout recent history. A selection of games unique to reasoning will be used to explore constructs of critical thinking, creative thinking, and logic. Following this introduction, such skills will be applied towards understanding the connections between the evolution of technology and that of our species. Social implications of technology, its growth and interactions with human nature, and the development of artificial intelligence will be discussed, allowing for a philosophical comparisons brushing the subject of what it means to be human.
Instructor: Prof. Christopher Hartless

What is the ‘Good Life’ in the Digital Age?

The need to connect with others is one of the most basic of human drives. Yet, the need to be alone, to self-reflect, is also an important characteristic of a healthy human personality. Achieving a balance between these two needs seems more difficult in the digital age with the explosion of devices and software that facilitate our connectedness. As with the advent of other technological advances in human history (e.g., printing press; television), the emergence of devices that expand the capability of human communication provides an opportunity to examine important questions about what constitutes the good life. When does one become over-connected, or as some have termed it, hyper-connected? What is the value of self-examination? Have the ease and constant availability of digital connectivity come at the expense of depth in personal relationships? What happens to the concept of self as we spend increasing amounts of time interacting via screens? This class will examine these and related questions from different perspectives. 
Instructor: Dr. Joe Reiff

#WorkWoke: A Push towards Justice & Equity in America’s Criminal Justice System

In this course, students will explore critical issues related to social justice and equity as it relates to the U.S. criminal justice system. We will examine issues such as the war on drugs, police profiling, victims’ rights, prison reentry and felon disenfranchisement, the criminalization of immigration, the trauma-to-prison pipeline, restorative justice, and the death penalty. This course will give particular attention to the different intersections (gender identity/expression, race/ethnic background, socioeconomic status, and immigration status) that often play a role in the criminal justice continuum.
Instructor:  Dr. Alana Simmons

Your Numbers

You start to complete a form—almost any form it seems—and you are asked for data such as zip code, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, high school GPA, SAT and ACT scores and any other characteristic that can be used to place you in some category. You may well wonder why it matters what your parents’ level of educational attainment was when it is in fact you who are applying to go to college. Are you really an ensemble of numbers? What about your future self? Will there be a demand for your chosen profession? Will you earn a sustainable living? Will you get into law/medical school? In this class, we will become aware of the categories we are put into, what they may say to someone else about us, what they might say about our future selves, and how we might use that knowledge to our advantage. Finally, we have to ask the questions, “Are we willing to be defined by these numbers or is there something more? If there is, how do we make that what the outside world sees?”
Instructor:  Dr. Michael Lane

You Say You Want a Revolution

Why do people revolt? What roles do governments play in fomenting or squashing rebellion? Do revolutions have to be violent? What even counts as a “revolution”? To answer these questions and more, this course will explore factors involved in both creating and crushing wide-ranging forms of contention, such as the Easter Rising, the Civil Rights Movement, the Arab Spring, and the growing potential for climate-based unrest. Students will analyze primary documents, create the trappings of a revolution, and experience collective action problems first-hand through simulations. By the end of the course students will have developed a critical understanding of historical and contemporary social movements, collective action problems, and revolutions by drawing connections among economics, gender studies, community organizing, art, psychology, and political science.
Instructor: Dr. Sarah Fisher