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Seminar in Academic Inquiry

Students enroll in Seminar in Academic Inquiry during the first semester of study at Endicott College.

"This Seminar has taught me to manage time, develop reading skills, research skills, and using available resources." - First Year Student

Course Description

Introduces students to college-level academic discourse and provides them opportunities to hone foundational skills that they will use throughout their undergraduate career and beyond.  The course helps students develop critical thinking and reading skills, the ability to find and use sources to deepen understanding of topics, and the capacity to form and defend positions on issues.

Course Objectives

The primary objectives of Seminar in Academic Inquiry are to:

  • Use the resources available to them to help promote library literacy and academic success.
  • Develop critical reading skills.
  • Analyze information for understanding and critical inquiry.
  • Describe the context of a problem: historical, cultural, theoretical, legal, social, geopolitical, economical, or other.
  • Formulate a point of view and support a position.

Seminar in Academic Inquiry: Example of Course Themes and Readings

Students are expected to read a minimum of 50 pages per week in Seminar in Academic Inquiry. Seminar readings include works from the following categories:

  • Theoretical based materials relating to the course theme

  • Research or academic articles relating to the course theme

  • Cultural works relating to the course theme: poetry, novels, biographies, life stories

  • Non-written materials relating to the course theme: music, art, and interactive media

"This Seminar has taught me to enjoy the journey, observe the world around me, and keep an open mind."
- First Year Student

"This Seminar has taught me to look at things differently instead of always just in one-way and to voice my own ideas." - First Year Student

LST100 Fall 2012 Topics by Section

Slavery in Historical Perspective - The institution of slavery extends back beyond recorded history and continues today. It knows no racial, gender, ethnic or religious boundaries; it does not discriminate among its victims. We will explore slavery from antiquity to the current day – the many forms it has taken, how it has been justified on political, social, economic, philosophical, legal, and pseudo-scientific grounds, and efforts to abolish it over time.

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Law in Literature and Film – We will examine how the law is portrayed in various literary and artistic forms. Bring your curiosity and moral compass as we embark on a search-and-explore mission to discover what law is and how it is portrayed in our cultural touchstones. Using films, books, selected articles, essays, plays and guest speakers we will investigate legal themes of truth and justice. Through discussion, debate, analysis and research, we'll develop our reasoning and analytical skills.

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Banned Books Censorship is nothing new; books have been banned, burned, and bowdlerized for generations. In this course, we will study some of those books and work toward an understanding of what lies beneath the impulse to censor. Are some ideas simply so unpleasant that they need to be kept from the citizenry? We will read texts that have been banned for political or religious reasons, texts that have faced obscenity charges, and texts that have been challenged as inappropriate for schools and public libraries. Our overarching concern will be to contemplate what place censorship has in a free society.

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Revolutions – We will consider a variety of revolutions in politics, culture, music, science and literature. We will examine works such as Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, the “Declaration of Independence,” Gray’s Elegy, Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, as well as classical texts by writers such as Copernicus, Darwin and Freud. What are the conditions of possibility for revolution? How is revolution different from incremental change? Students can expect to acquire and exercise skills in critical thinking, in library research, public speaking and the crafting of an argument.

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Friendship, from Shakespeare to Facebook – In contemporary society, the anthropologist Robert Brain has written, “We are friends with everyone.” Relationships of all kinds – between co-workers, spouses, even parents and their children – are increasingly modeled on friendship. We will examine the ways in which friendship has been defined in literature, film, philosophy, and social commentary. What distinguishes friendship from love? What are the different kinds of friendship? How is friendship related to the family, and to larger patterns of social organization? Students will reflect on these and other questions in papers, short journal entries, and in other assignments.

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Leadership: Theory and Practice – While exploring what has been discovered about leadership theory and practice, students will research the traits, values and actions of their own leader-heroes and identify how their leader-heroes have demonstrated principles of leadership to gain success. The seminar is rich in activities and assignments that engage students in a process of thinking deeply about the following questions: What is leadership? What is a leader? Who am I as a leader? How will I exercise leadership to achieve success in my career/life?

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The Tastemakers Who shapes the way we eat, listen, drink and dress, defining our American culture today? Do hip-hop artists, filmmakers and chefs create for themselves, large corporations or for the masses? Do critics write to flatter their friends, sell copy or interpret important/difficult work for a diffuse audience? Taking an interdisciplinary approach, and by studying reviews, critiques, essays, and films, and hearing about the work of guest artists, curators and cultural critics, we will deepen our understanding of contemporary culture and learn how to consume it critically. Students will examine a variety of art forms and acquire skills in research, writing, debating, and public speaking.

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Marketing to the Masses - When does an unknown artist become a force to be reckoned with? How do creative Prophets become Profiteers? Is financial success a viable goal, or should it be a by-product of commercial acceptance? We will consider contemporary arts, examining the lives and purpose of creators working outside the mainstream who subsequently become the mainstream. Students will examine the effects of focused marketing strategies; the concept of “selling out”; how markets and consumers may be defined by geographic location, and by social and economic class; and their own experiences with art and music. Specific readings and case studies will be used, but students will also select their own works for assignments.

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The Ecology of Food - What do we eat, and why? What meanings do we give our food? What impact do food choices have on the environment, on our bodies, on our communities? An interdisciplinary approach to these questions will use investigative journalism, literary essays, films, and visits with some of the people who work getting food to our tables. We'll look at topics such as health, globalization, and agriculture from multiple perspectives.

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Privacy and Other Legal Issues - Everyday news events and daily occurrences often raise interesting and provocative legal issues. Some examples include: can someone legally record or videotape a conversation or other encounter with you; is sexting a crime; is the use of Facebook or MySpace private; can the college search your dorm room or book bags. Other topics/issues include date rape; underage drinking; liability for hazing incidents; drug testing; legalization/decriminalization of drugs; sexual harassment; the death penalty; and issues relative to copyright infringement and illegal music downloading. We will critically analyze such legal issues using selected readings, class discussions, library research and written assignments.

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Theater as Moral Imagination - The philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues that moral imagination is developed by reading literature. In this course, we will read and discuss dramatic literature, focusing on how choices made by characters in plays can help us understand moral growth and development. We will read classic plays such as Antigone and Hamlet, seminal 20th century theater such as The Crucible and A Streetcar Named Desire, and plays recently shown on Broadway and the West End including Oleanna, Proof, and Copenhagen.

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The American Landscape Tradition - In his autobiographical novel, On the Road, Jack Kerouac wrote, “...but I preferred reading the American landscape as we went along. Every bump, rise and stretch in it mystified my longing.” In this course, through a combination of presentations, case studies and field trips, we will explore the evolution of the American landscape and the social, economic and environmental forces that have shaped its unique identity. From the western wilderness to contemporary issues in sustainable design and urbanism, the ideas, patterns and themes that shape human attitudes and activities in both the natural and built environment will be highlighted. Students will be encouraged to go beyond the classroom reading and discussion to think creatively about individual landscapes, viewing them as cultural artifacts with specific meanings that can be discovered through careful observation. A wide range of landscapes will be featured including parks and open spaces, suburban developments, gardens, campuses, cemeteries, theme parks, shopping malls, parking lots and others.

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The Immigrant Experience in the U.S. – The question, “What is it like to be an immigrant in America?” will guide our investigation of the contemporary immigrant experience. We will reflect on our own family stories, read, watch, and listen to first-hand accounts, and talk to community members in order to explore issues related to modern-day immigration. Through writing, group discussion, and class presentations we will critically analyze issues and respond to questions related to the immigrant experience, American identity, assimilation, and stereotypes.

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Baseball in American History & Culture – Jacques Barzun once said that to understand America one must first understand baseball. Others contend that baseball epitomizes the best aspects of America. But have these notions ever been true? How have labor struggles and ideas about race and gender complicated our associations between baseball and life in the United States? How has the spread of the game overseas altered our view of the national pastime and what has been the impact of that process? Studying fiction, film, and historical documents, we will answer these and other questions. By examining baseball’s history and mythology critically, we will better understand the game, but also American history and culture.

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