Every January at Barnard, a new set of course offerings becomes available from faculty who are excited to present students with immersive and reimagined spaces for learning.
While over 30 new courses were approved for the 2023 spring semester, these four faculty members are ready to ring in the New Year with community activism, fieldwork, and food!
Flavor Perception and the Human Diet, with John Glendinning
John Glendinning, associate chair and Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Biological Sciences, serves up a course that explores how humans decide what to do with one of life’s greatest pleasures — eating — in seven different ways.
Students will begin the semester by examining how the different senses evaluate food and how human flavor perception connects to nutrition and health. As they look at the diet of existing hunter-gatherer societies and assess how genetics or environmental factors shape food choice, students will gain deeper insights into why they eat what they eat.
“My goal is for students to [learn] the nature of flavor and how [humans] develop food preferences,” said Glendinning. “One striking feature of the human diet is the seeming arbitrariness of what is considered palatable.”
This includes personally examining the development of food processing and preparation techniques. “There will be in-class exercises in which we [survey] the impact of different culinary manipulations on the flavor of foods,” said Glendinning.
Students will also consider the evolution of the human flavor system with a dive into the history, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience of food. The course will culminate in a final research project that will look at an aspect of this system.
“I want to increase students’ appreciation of the science [behind] food preparation,” said Glendinning. “In doing so, the students may even learn how to become better chefs!”
Grace Lee Boggs Learning Lab, with Saima Akhtar and Erika Kitzmiller
In the spirit of exploration and revolution, term assistant professor of education Erika Kitzmiller and associate director of the Vagelos Computational Science Center Saima Akhtar are co-teaching the Grace Lee Boggs Learning Lab, to explore the groundbreaking activism of philosopher and writer Grace Lee Boggs ’35.
The learning lab will encompass two parts: discussions and digital research. The discussion-based reflections will focus on Boggs’ life, and the technical side will equip students with the skills they will use to highlight a local issue — once championed by Boggs — into a data-driven, digital research project.
“This structure reflects our belief that the [Grace Lee Boggs] learning lab should be approached in an interdisciplinary manner,” said Kitzmiller, an historian and educational researcher of poverty, inequality, and opportunity in rural and urban spaces. “Students [will] have the time and support to [expand] their research questions and computational methods.”
Modeled after the transformative thinking that fueled Detroit Summer — a youth program launched by Boggs and her husband James Boggs in 1992 — the learning lab will “honor radical doers who have had a significant hand in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion [across the U.S., and] whose thinking was fundamentally shaped by their experience and education at Barnard,” said Akhtar. A Michigan native who joined Barnard in 2021, Akhtar was inspired by Boggs’ dedication to political activism, union organizing, and social justice in cities like Detroit and NYC.
This course, which will include a site visit to the Museum of Chinese in America, will enable students to collaborate with peers to explore research questions, methods, and ways to communicate their findings to a larger audience.
“[I have] often walked past the book depository on campus and dreamed about sharing Boggs’ insights about advocacy with [students], asking many of the same questions that Boggs grappled with in [her] lifetime,” said Kitzmiller. “We are optimistic that this lab will produce rigorous and relevant undergraduate research that addresses local issues [moving toward] a more equitable and just world.”
Sociology of Art, with Gillian Gualtieri
Field visits to various artistic sites — such as concert venues and dance studios around the City — will be a major focus in the course Sociology of Art, taught by term assistant professor of sociology Gillian Gualtieri.
In their study of sociological theories and intervention, students will spend the spring semester considering art as a social institution.
“The [course] is focused on providing students with an opportunity to enter the field and to examine artistic site[s] during the semester for further, personal study,” said Gualtieri.
At the end of the term, and after having visited many different places for viewing art, students will complete a final research project showcasing their observations, reflections, and expanded sociological knowledge based on what they have seen.
“I encourage students to think flexibly about the form that this final project will take,” said Gualtieri. “It might be a research paper or an alternative reimagining of an existing exhibit that [they] observed — such as a tour of a gallery or museum that they have designed.”
Students will interrogate the ways that art is produced, consumed, received, and evaluated. The course will challenge them to read broadly across the subfields of sociology, while they develop analytical strategies to understand the various landscapes of art.
Whether it’s through movies, literature, or cuisine, Gualtieri hopes students “will find that art is reflective of the broader social systems [that] define the social world — [systems] that include inequality, collaboration, and hierarchy.”
Find the complete Directory of Classes for spring 2023, here.