Undergraduate courses of interest:
This course introduces students to global environmental politics, justice and development. This course will explore environmental issues around the world and the relatedness of nature to politics, development and culture. We will address historically unique social form that presents special challenges to our understanding of environmental politics, gender, race and culture by looking at case studies from around the world. Among the questions that we will examine are the following: How have local and global histories, memories, practices, values, gender, race and identities that derive from our understanding of politics intersect with nature? Are there environmental issues that are also issues of race, class and gender? For example, are there particular forms of knowledge and subjectivity that intersect or interact with race and gender difference, or ideas about civilization and primitivity that could be seen as distinctive instruments of environmental rule?
When people say “global health,” they usually mean delivering Western medicine in low-resource settings. This assumes that medicine is a universal good. Is it? Or is biomedicine also a “culture” – with values, practices and understandings built in a particular place and time? What are medicine’s ethics, symbols, economies, experiences of the body, and politics? What happens when these things run up against other ways of viewing the world? In this course, through scholarship and popular media, and through the instructor’s experiences as a practicing physician and anthropologist, we will explore mind-bending paradoxes about what we assume to be true, explore aspects of medical practice, and describe why those practices often have unexpected results when they travel.
This course is an advanced offering on environmental politics and the environmental policy-making process. The course considers both processes of policy formation and implementation, placing particular emphasis on the development of alternatives to conventional regulatory practices at federal, state, and local levels of government.
This course investigates the political imperatives and policy frameworks at the local, state, and national levels that drive land development in America. It leverages political science, history, law, and urban planning to understand how public policy does (and does not) guide land use patterns, and how it might do so differently in the future. The course uses the phenomenon of urban sprawl as a lens through which to integrate multiple disciplinary perspectives in a rich and nuanced understanding of policy change. Students are required to exercise, in written and oral work, their faculties of analysis and (especially) synthesis, unpacking a complex policy challenge into discrete elements and then analyzing the interplay among these elements. The course is first and foremost a capstone experience in critical thinking, using a policy arena with which the students are familiar as a platform for that experience. The course is organized as a seminar. While it does teach a certain policy vocabulary and test students’ critical thinking and writing skills, it ultimately demands much more. It requires students to actively interrogate and synthesize the course material in order to generate a new, shared understanding. Students’ formal (written) and informal (in-class) commentary on the readings are central to the organization of each class session (along with brief lectures and small-group exercises). Their research projects culminate in memos that are required reading for the final weeks of the class. In short, the course expects students to exercise the skills that professional policy work and/or graduate school require: active synthesis of new understanding.
This undergraduate course is designed to provide students with an overview of the policy and legal implications of land development and use, focusing primarily on the environmental implications of public planning, policy-making, and law at the state and local level. The course is framed around four general topics, each of which will be addressed specifically to environmental issues: the scientific and moral justifications for undertaking private and public land use management; the state and local institutional structures employed for managing land development and use in the U.S., focusing on planning, infrastructure policy, and regulation; the successes and failures of that state and local land management regime and corresponding efforts to reform it; and the ‘wise-use,’ ‘tea party,’ and other popular back-lash responses to land management reforms. Students will learn the substance of the topics described. They will also learn to read and brief legal cases related to land use law, to read and interpret local master plans, and to read and interpret local zoning codes.
Public policy embodies an assortment of value systems. While individual value systems express coherent, consistent approaches, public policy expresses an amalgam of values, with corresponding decrease in coherence/consistency. This course explores the relationships between various environmental values and public policy through analysis of policy issues at local, state, and national levels. Students in this course reflect on and refine their own approach to environmental ethics through a close examination of a set of current environmental issues. They develop skills in detecting the value systems presently underlying public policy as expressed in laws, administrative regulations, and government action. Discussion and presentations by participants and by outside speakers who are professionals in the field will give insight into the challenges of meeting stakeholder expectations and forging a coherent, effective approach to environmental challenges. Issues such as water protection/preservation in the Great Lakes Basin, the sustainability and survivability of endangered species, the management of wildlife in rural, suburban, and urban areas, and formulation of energy policy will provide the basis for investigation.
From iPhones to intelligence testing to immunizations, technology, science, and medicine permeate our modern lives. In this course, students will learn to think critically about technology, science, and medicine and analyze how they have transformed the world in spectacular and mundane ways. We explore questions such as: How has the development of the medical profession shaped debates about inoculation or the AIDS epidemic? How have culture and politics affected the goals and designs of such technologies as guns, washing machines, and electrical systems? How have science, technology, and politics interacted in debates over climate change? And, ultimately, how should we manage the tension between popular democracy and technical expertise?
Projects based on environmental sustainability. Project based teamwork. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). Techno-Economic Analysis (TEA). Engineering economics. Environmental impact with emphasis on CO2 utilization. Identification of key technology drivers to reduce cost and environment impact. Written and oral presentations.
Governments increasingly use algorithms (such as machine learning predictions) as a central tool to distribute resources and make important decisions. Although these algorithms are often hailed for their ability to improve public policy implementation, they also raise significant concerns related to racial oppression, surveillance, inequality, technocracy, and privatization. While some government algorithms demonstrate an ability to advance important public policy goals, others—such as predictive policing, facial recognition, and welfare fraud detection—exacerbate already unjust policies and institutions. This class examines the opportunities and challenges raised by the use of algorithms in public policy. The course aims to help students 1) build the interdisciplinary skills to thoughtfully reason about the social benefits and harms of government algorithms, 2) apply these frameworks to study policy domains where algorithms are being applied and debated, and 3) analyze and develop policy interventions for regulating the use of algorithms in government. Throughout, we will look to both theoretical writings regarding the politics of algorithms and applied case studies of computational systems and public policies in practice. Students will engage with these topics through readings, class discussions, and a research paper related to the topics of this course. No prior technical background is necessary.
Algorithms are a set of rules for computers to follow. Algorithms affect myriad aspects of everyday life, from facial recognition to privacy to policing to social media. This course will examine the ways that algorithms impact individuals and communities, especially in ways that may not be obvious to people who are consumers of algorithmic technologies. We will investigate concepts of bias, discrimination, fairness, ethics, and justice, especially as they relate to attributes like gender, race, or health. Students will be tested via quizzes and will be given an opportunity to explore new ideas.
This course will explore social aspects of health, illness, and the health care system in the United States. We will begin with a general overview of what a sociological perspective of medicine actually means. We will then focus on various forms of inequality, particularly with respect to race, gender and class, before moving on to study the medical profession. We will also touch on controversial topics such as medical experimentation, the role of the patient, and ethical medical decision-making. This class will give you a new perspective on medicine to see it not only as a practice for making sick bodies well, but also for maintaining social control, establishing ideas of human worth, and even a new kind of citizenship.