My Top Penn List: “Do Over”

Author: Casey Ryan, C’95

Working in academia, I have so many opportunities for education, whether it’s taking a class, listening on a guest lecture, or visiting one of the many museums on campus.  The one thing I can’t do is revamp my undergraduate career.  Recently, while checking out the 2011-2012 course register for potential graduate level classes, I found myself wishing that some of the currently-offered undergraduate classes were available when I was a student.  Here are the 10 elective courses I would have liked to have taken if I could get a “do over” (some descriptions have been edited for length).

10.          LING051 (Linguistics) Proto-Indo-European LanguageNoyer.

Most of the languages now spoken in Europe, along with some languages of Iran, India, and central Asia, are thought to be descended from a single language known as Proto-Indo-European, spoken at least six thousand years ago. Speakers of Proto-Indo-European eventually populated Europe in the Bronze Age, and their societies formed the basis of the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome, as well as of the Celtic, Germanic and Slavic speaking peoples. Students will learn the basis of reconstructing a language and explore the culture and society of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and their immediate descendants. In addition, we will examine the pseudo-scientific basis of the myth of Aryan supremacy, and study the contributions of archaeological findings in determining the “homeland” of the Indo-Europeans.

9.            ENG 019 (English) History of the English Language.

This course traces the history of the English language through English literary history, from Anglo-Saxon England to 21st-century America. We will consider the relationship between different language systems (e.g., syntax, morphology, orthography, grammar) and the relation of those systems to the literature of different historical periods. We will also consider the social and political events influencing language change, such as the introduction of Christianity, the Norman Conquest, the printing press, colonialism, educational policies, and mass media.

Image courtesy of the Furness Theatrical Image Collection

8.            HIST 050 (History) England and the British Isles to 1707. Todd.

The subject of this course is the history of the British Isles from the Roman Conquest in 43AD to the creation of the United Kingdom in 1707. Between these two dates the various societies and cultures in the British Isles were brought into the orbit of the Roman Empire, converted to Latin Christianity, and developed distinctive cultures and strong ties with the Continent. From the twelfth century on, the kingdom of England began to exert its power over Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. The Anglo-Norman continental empire of the Plantagenet dynasty also played a large part in shaping the English monarchy, as did the playing out of the Hundred Years War, the internal divisions in fifteenth-century English society, and the rise of the Tudor-Stuart dynasty.

7.            PHIL018 (Philosophy) The Idea of Nationalism. Steinberg.

Nationalism is one of, if not, the major geo-political forces of the past two hundred years. Its continuing power has been amply demonstrated by recent events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. This course will focus on the conceptual and theoretical issues raised by competing notions of nationalism, rather than on its history or expression in particular cultures.

Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Library Image Collection

6.            URBS012 (Urban Studies) The History and Politics of Space. Schneider.

How do we understand the places in which we live? What is the relationship between workplace and home, downtown and suburb, inner city and gated communities, department store and mall, row house and ranch house? How are our lives defined by place? The city is a social and a spatial system, and its organization both reflects and reproduces social categories of race, class, and gender. The current city is also the product of past decisions about where to locate communities and how to allocate resources. Through reading sociological, historical, theoretical, and primary texts, through studying maps and photographs, and through your ethnographic explorations, we will explore the presence of the past in the city around us, the evolution of different kinds of urban and suburban places, and the encoding of wealth and power as well as inequality and poverty in the urban landscape.

5.            IPD509 (Integrated Product Design) Needfinding.

Needfinding is an approach that puts people and their needs at the center of product development and business strategy creation. Over 90% of new products introduced into the marketplace fail. A good portion of these failures are due to lack of understanding of end consumers and their needs. Designers and engineers need tools and techniques to get beyond what people can explicitly state and determine their implicit needs. In this class students will gain a tool set from which to develop their own approaches to conducting researching for design: learning how to think about other people, about culture, and about new perspectives. They will also learn tactical skills: how to define research questions, how to conduct observations and interviews, how to interpret results, how to synthesize them into fodder for design, and how to communicate their findings in a way that is compelling and actionable for designers, marketers, and business strategists.

4.            GSWS240 (Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies; Cross listed HIST240) Gender and Athletics. Miller.

Have women started to “play hardball” on a “level playing field” in the American sporting culture? From the commercial successes of the WNBA and World Cup Soccer to new studies that document the positive effects of athletics on girls’ self-esteem, women finally seem to be turning the American obsession with sports to their own advantage. This course will examine how physical fitness and organized athletics for men and women have both reflected and helped to create norms of masculinity and femininity over the past one hundred and fifty years.

Image courtesy of the of Women's Club Basketball Team

3.            PSCI135. (Political Science; Cross Listed GAFL135 – Government Administration and HSOC -135 – Health and Societies) The Politics of Food. Summers.

This academically based community service seminar will explore the politics and institutions that have shaped – and continue to shape – food production and consumption. Students will use the readings, their community service, and ongoing “food events” at Penn to analyze the politics of food in many arenas: from farms, kitchens, supermarkets, schools, and communities of faith to corporations, research institutions, the media and international trade.

2.            MUSC014. (Music) Songwriting in the 20th Century. (M) Weesner.

This course will alternate between an analytical approach and a critical approach to the study of a wide range of songs composed throughout the 20th century. We will study musical techniques such as melody, harmony, form, rhythm, instrumentation, style, and text-setting. We will also pose far-ranging questions, such as, what makes a song a song? What makes a song a good song? What is the difference between an art song and a pop song? This course will occasionally focus on specific composers, such as Cole Porter, Charles Ives, John Harbison, and Liz Phair, and will also consider the musical ramifications of collaboration, covers and re-makes.

1.            ANTH 230 (Anthropology; Cross listed ANTH633) Forensic AnthropologyMonge.

This course will investigate and discuss the various techniques of analysis that biological anthropologists can apply to forensic cases. Topics include human osteology, the recovery of bodies, the analysis of life history, the reconstruction of causes of death, and various case studies where anthropologists have contributed significantly to solving forensic cases. Discussions will include the limitations of forensic anthropology and the application of DNA recovery to skeletal/mummified materials.

Image courtesy of the of Penn Museum Blog

I encourage you to wax nostalgic and peruse the course register, maybe your favorite class is still being taught by your favorite professor or you might find a course that inspires you to go out and learn more.


1 Comment

Filed under Academics, Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Casey R., Top Ten

One response to “My Top Penn List: “Do Over”

  1. Pingback: My Top Penn List: I <3 Penn | Frankly Penn

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