Signature Courses Help Students Reflect on Life's Big Questions
They are some of the most profound and provocative questions of our time:
Can mankind become extinct? Why have cancer and cardiovascular diseases become so prevalent? Is environmental stewardship a moral obligation?
Each of these questions forms the starting point of a School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) Signature Course.
Launched in 2009 as part of bold new approach to liberal arts and sciences, Signature Courses examine the perennial questions facing humanity while exploring compelling topics in the contemporary world. They are designed and taught by SAS scholars who are not only recognized for their specialized research but are also eloquent, demanding, and award-winning teachers.
The Signature Courses offered in Fall, 2013 include Extinction, in which Professor Rob Scott, an evolutionary anthropologist, takes students on a journey from the beginning of the universe to the present, and then asks: "How may we go extinct?"
“That question was a real conundrum to me because I can’t imagine us going extinct,” he said. “But it is the fate of species after species.”
Another course – Genetics, Evolution and Human Healthy – is taught by Genetics Professor Terry McGuire, whose teaching connects science with contemporary social issues.
As its title suggests, Genetics, Evolution and Human Health is interdisciplinary in nature, focusing on genetics and evolutionary biology. But it also explores issues that affect everyone’s lives, such as why people get sick, and what science can tell us about illness.“We are going to be spending time just looking at what it means to be human,” McGuire said. “How did we evolve? We migrated all over the world. We adapted to harsh climates. I want students to understand it’s a long struggle, and it shapes who we are and what we do.”