First-Year Interdisciplinary Sequences

See current course descriptions for the 13 sequences we're offering in the 2022-23 academic year. Sequence offerings rotate in and out from year to year, to some extent. 


American Voices and Visions

Steve Tripp and Allison Metz

Fall: HNR 151 09 TR 4:00-5:15p.m. and HNR 152 09 TR 5:30-6:45p.m. HHLC 207A

Winter: HNR 153 09 TR 4:00-5:15p.m. and HNR 154 09 TR 5:30-6:45p.m. HHLC 207A

“Make It New!” the poet Ezra Pound declared. American art, literature, and theatre shocked, challenged, and enthralled the world in the twentieth century. This course will examine major artists, playwrights, and authors whose work expressed this American passion for the new as we explore the social, economic, and political conditions that influenced and inspired these creators. Class material will be brought to life through vigorous discussions, interactive experiences, and low-risk performance opportunities. With special attention to the evolving understandings of "youth" woven throughout twentieth century artistic and creative movements, we will emphasize how these voices and visions challenged, extended, enhanced, complicated, and even undercut what it means to be an American.

Sequence Spotlights

Dr. Tripp and Dr. Metz Spotlight

Dr. Tripp and Dr. Metz

Click here to learn more from Dr. Tripp and Dr. Metz about their sequence, American Voices and Visions!

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The Middle East Beyond the Headlines

Coeli Fitzpatrick and Majd Al-Mallah

Fall: HNR 151 01 MW 12:00-1:15p.m. and HNR 152 01 MW 1:30-2:45p.m. HON 219

Winter: HNR 153 01 MW 12:00-1:15p.m. and HNR 154 01 MW 1:30-2:45p.m. HON 219

We’ve all watched the news. We’ve read the headlines. We’ve seen movies where there are Arab and Muslim characters. Therefore, we know about the region and its peoples, right? What more is there to learn? In truth, most people would say that they know enough about the Middle East. That they know enough about Arabs. About Muslims. The premise behind this class is that the Middle East is a vast region with complexity that we ought to explore beyond what’s readily available through media and popular film. Because the region is generally covered through a limited lens, this class tries to get behind the headlines to uncover the layers of complexity that make up both this region we call “The Middle East” and its multiple peoples, religions, languages, and cultures. The ultimate goal is to reach a nuanced and educated way of “knowing”. We also think about what goes into the construction of headlines. How have we come to think about the region in such simplistic ways? Why do we know so little about the cultures and the important contributions to humanity? Can we name a single Arab author? Our class is a discussion-based class, meaning that we don’t like to just lecture—we want to talk about what we are reading, seeing, and hearing. We value working in communities/teams, and strive to prepare students to be informed global citizens with sensitivity and cultural competency. We use a variety of ways to assess work, never limited to one method. We use different types of writing: blog posts, short essays, reading briefs, and some formal essays.

Sequence Spotlights

Jaclyn Driesenga Spotlight

Jaclyn Driesenga

Click here to learn more about Jaclyn's experience in Middle East Beyond the Headlines!

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The Worlds of Greece and Rome

Charles Pazdernik and David Crane

Fall: HNR 151 02 MWF 1:00-1:50p.m. and HNR 152 02 MWF 2:00-2:50p.m. HON 220

Winter: HNR 153 02 MWF 1:00-1:50p.m. and HNR 154 02 MWF 2:00-2:50p.m. HON 220

Ancient Greece and Rome are among the world's most exciting, important, and influential civilizations. Taught by researchers into various aspects of classical antiquity from Homer to the fall of the Roman Empire and beyond, the course asks participants to cooperate actively and enthusiastically in exploring mythology, history, art and archaeology, literature, and philosophy. Interactive learning experiences, including immersive role-playing games and field trips, complement spirited class discussions and careful attention to close reading, effective writing, and critical thinking. No prior knowledge is necessary (all texts are in translation).

Sequence Spotlights

Olivia Monroe Spotlight

Olivia Monroe

Click here to read more about Olivia's experience in Worlds of Greece and Rome!

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Dangerous Ideas

Ellen Adams and Thomas Pentecost

Fall: HNR 151 03 TR 10:00-11:15a.m. and HNR 152 03 TR 11:30-12:45p.m. HON 218

Winter: HNR 153 03 TR 10:00-11:15a.m. and HNR 154 03 11:30-12:45p.m. HON 218

We are culturally socialized to avoid difficult conversations—don’t talk about religion, sex, or politics at a dinner party! Not often do we substantively engage with one another about contentious, offensive, and potentially dangerous ideas. Art, literature, and science offer opportunities to explore incendiary notions such as such as evil, freedom, sex, racism, obscenity, tradition/progress, religion, and others. Many artists, writers, and scientists make work that incites emotional responses that can be powerful, polarizing, impactful, and/or divisive. How can these areas facilitate difficult conversations? For example, how do we distinguish between “free” speech that is legitimate and “hate” speech that incites violence? Throughout the year students will practice framing questions to allow space for meaningful discourse. This course focuses on art objects, texts, and scientific ideas originally deemed offensive or dangerous for their questioning of orthodoxy and experimentations with artistic and literary conventions.

Sequence Spotlights

Quinn Hefferan Nordlund Spotlight

Quinn Hefferan Nordlund

Click here to read about Quinn's experience in Dangerous Ideas!

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Spain in Europe

Grace Coolidge, Diane Wright, and Gabriela Pozzi

Fall: HNR 151 04 TR 1:00-2:15p.m. and HNR 152 04 TR 2:30-3:45p.m. HON 220

Winter: HNR 153 04 TR 1:00-2:15p.m. and HNR 154 04 TR 2:30-3:45p.m. HON 220

While this course covers all of European history and culture, we put a special emphasis on Spain. Spain occupied a unique historical and geographical position as the cultural crossroad of East and West, where the three “peoples of the book” (Christians, Jews and Muslims) coexisted in complex patterns of harmony and tension. The Spanish empire dominated the early modern world, and Spain was home to a rich cultural Renaissance. By contrast, twentieth-century Spain survived a brutal civil war and the longest-running Fascist dictatorship in European history to become a thriving modern democracy. We explore the twists and turns of Spanish history and compare and contrast Spain to the rest of Europe, learning about its uniqueness as well as about the common ties that bind it to the mainland. The course covers Spanish and European history and culture from the medieval period to the present day European union.  We learn how to cure love-sickness, follow a gender non-conforming nun in her adventures across Spain and the new world, meet the famous witch Celestina, and wrestle with the Frankenstein monster. In the 19th century the class uses a six-week simulation in which students play the parts of workers and factory owners caught up in the Industrial Revolution, making choices and living with the consequences in this fast-changing culture. We explore the tragic, disillusioned poetry of World War One, the impact of the Holocaust, and the slow rebuilding of a traumatized Europe into today’s European Union. The class puts special emphasis on learning to write historical and literary essays and to handle a college-level reading load, skills that will benefit students in any discipline they pursue.

Sequence Spotlights

Gabriella Jungwirth Spotlight

Gabriella Jungwirth

Click here to learn more about Gabriella's experience in Spain in Europe!

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East Asia and the World

Yan Liang, Jason Herlands, and Jeremy Robinson

Fall: HNR 151 05 MW 3:00-4:15p.m. and HNR 152 05 MW 4:30-5:45p.m. HON 218

Winter: HNR 153 05 MW 3:00-4:15p.m. and HNR 154 05 MW 4:30-5:45p.m. HON 218

This four-course, two-semester sequence explores the circulation of peoples, culture, and ideas throughout East Asia, from ancient connections between the regions of China, Korea, and Japan to contemporary interactions in a globalized world. The classes adopt a truly interdisciplinary approach, including both the “high culture” of history, literature, philosophy, and art; as well as the “lived culture” of food, family, school, and work. Rather than taking a chronological approach, the course explores common themes through which we can see the culture of the past informing the worldviews of the present.

Each semester, two courses are team-taught by specialists in Chinese and Japanese Culture: Meghan Cai and Jeremy Robinson in the fall, and Yan Liang and Jason Herlands in the winter. All classes feature readings in primary and secondary sources, full-class discussion, individual and group projects, student presentations, and written essays. Classes will also include group excursions to museums, restaurants, and marketplaces, exploring the many ways in which “East Asian culture” circulates in our own midwestern American communities.


The Powers that Divide Us

Jeremiah Cataldo and Maria Cimitile

Fall: HNR 151 06 MW 10:00-11:15a.m. and HNR 152 06 MW 11:30-12:45p.m. HON 218

Winter: HNR 153 06 MW 10:00-11:15a.m. and HNR 154 06 MW 11:30-12:45p.m. HON 218

This sequence wrestles with power, not only for how it affects our understanding of the world but also in how we relate to each other. Through course materials and discussions, we will examine the historical foundations of power relations. We will analyze their heritages and influences in religion, politics, health care, business, science, and more. We will pay attention to differences between patriarchy and gender equality, racism and diversity, and how those influence the world even now. With a multidisciplinary lens, we will pursue an answer to this question: can and why should power relations change? And we will seek that answer on the levels of society and of the individual.

Sequence Spotlights

Dr. Cataldo and Dr. Cimitile Spotlight

Dr. Cataldo and Dr. Cimitile

Click here to read more about Dr. Cimitile and Dr. Cataldo's new sequence!

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Design Thinking

Ryan Lafferty and Paul Lane

Fall: HNR 151 07 W 3:00-5:50p.m. and HNR 152 07 W 6:00-8:50p.m. HON 148

Winter: HNR 153 07 W 3:00-5:50p.m. and HNR 154 07 W 6:00-8:50p.m. HON 148

In Design Thinking for Social Product Innovation, you will be immersing yourself in a dynamic class that is centered around the idea of creativity. Design Thinking for Social Product Innovation is a mouth full, and you will learn nearly all the inner workings of it. The class periods will never be the same and there will always be something unexpected. The professors will guide you step by step through brainstorming techniques and components of prototyping. Whether it is bringing trash into class or going on hikes in the ravines, the class is an experience that you will never forget. It is all about developing ideas, rethinking the normal and coming up with different ways of production, hence the Design Thinking and Product Innovation. You will be surprised how much you do not know about the world around you and you will also learn that you have the resources to develop something amazing. It is not just about meeting deadlines and finishing projects, it is about immersing yourself in a class that will teach you the importance of the world, struggle of people in different countries, and the ability that you must change it. There is a heavy focus on the UN Sustainability Goals which are goals developed to help some of the poorest countries in the world. Targeting developing countries in ways of sanitation, clean water or no poverty plus investigating creative innovations is something this class utilizes to improve the lives of others. 

In many classes, you learn the basis of a problem in the facts around it and then that is it. Yet, this class is so different in the way you can dive headfirst into research to fully inspect and   problems. This class allows you to think for yourself and go beyond the normal. You will constantly be collaborating with other classmates, forced to reinvent, deconstruct, and have fun while doing it. The class may be long, but you will never go hungry with the constant supply of delicious dinners that shoots way past chicken tenders at Kleiner. There may be a 6-hour time stamp on this class, but with the local businesses and West Michigan adventures you may embark on, time flies. Dr. Lane and Professor Lafferty have so much to offer to this class with their experience, expertise and excellence. They are the working definition of collaboration while one is jumping on the table, the other is fixing his bow tie. This class is not just schoolwork, it is an opportunity to learn new methods of thinking that you will be able to use here in this class and in the future whatever you might venture on to. (2021 students of DTSPI)

Design Thinking for Social Product Innovation

Click for a video about the Interdisciplinary Sequence called Design Thinking for Social Product Innovation

Click here for a glimpse into Design Thinking for Social Product Innovation.


Culture, Power & Inequality

Joel Stillerman and Naoki Kanaboshi

Fall: HNR 151 08 TR 11:30-12:45p.m. and HNR 152 08 1:00-2:15p.m. HHLC 201A

Winter: HNR 153 08 TR 11:30-12:45p.m. and HNR 154 08 1:00-2:15p.m. MAK B1110

Why do the three richest people in the U.S. have as much wealth as the poorest half of the population? Why is sexual assault so widespread even though it is illegal? If race does not matter, why are black women more likely to die of breast cancer than white women?  In a time when gay marriage is legal in the U.S., why is the existence of transgender bathrooms deemed dangerous?  What are the sources of power and powerlessness in societies?  We explore these questions by addressing the social and cultural systems that shape our opportunities and behavior even when we are not aware of them.  We will investigate some pressing current topics, such as global income inequality, social injustice and oppression, environmental racism, unequal access to healthcare, the uncertain effects of digital technology on our world, and other issues of power and inequality.  We will also explore how people unite to resist the corrosive effects of systemic inequality and oppression through political participation, protest, online activism, creative expression, and other forms of collective action. We will examine these issues of inequality and protest in the U.S. and around the world.  Students will have the opportunity to explore some of these issues through small, independent research projects based on their specific interests both inside and outside the classroom.  Students will gain experience with writing-to-learn and writing-for-mastery assignments as well as guided revisions of their writing.  Classroom activities will include lecture, discussion, student presentations, multi-media activities, and field trips.

Sequence Spotlights

Jhay-Lah Kennell Spotlight

Jhay-Lah Kennell

Read about Jhay-Lah's experience in Culture, Power and Inequality!

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Water in a Changing World

Peter Wampler, Tara Hefferan, and Eric Snyder

Fall: HNR 151 10 TR 8:30-9:45a.m. and HNR 152 10 TR 10:00-11:15a.m. HON 214

Winter: HNR 153 10 TR 8:30-9:45a.m. and HNR 154 10 TR 10:00-11:15a.m. HON 214

Water is life. It shapes where we live, how we live, and if we live. Water is fundamental to many of the activities and actions we engage in both as individuals and as communities. Is safe water a human right that all people on earth should enjoy? Why do 2.1 billion people on this planet lack access to safe water in their homes? What cultural context informs our decisions about water in the United States and globally? This interdisciplinary course will explore these questions through books, articles, class discussions, guest speakers, field trips, and hands-on activities. We will take a deep dive into the science and social implications of contemporary water challenges and issues using tools, data, and perspectives from biology, geology, and cultural anthropology. We will explore contemporary water-related challenges such as lead, mercury, and PFAs in drinking water supplies; water use and allocation in the Great Lakes Watershed; and balancing competing values in the restoration of the Grand River and other waterways. The course will provide many opportunities to engage with your peers in open-ended problem solving and discussion of a range of water issues within their social and cultural context. We will explore water issues in developing nations such as Haiti, Ghana, and Ecuador. As we explore global water issues we will provide diverse viewpoints, perspectives, and opportunities for exploring how our own cultural context may impact our views of complicated water-related issues within the United States and internationally.

Making Waves: Water for a Changing World

Click here to learn more about Making Waves: Water for a Changing World!


Engines of Innovation

Kurt Ellenberger and Christine Rener

Fall: HNR 151 11 TR 2:30-3:45p.m. and HNR 152 11 TR 4:00-5:15p.m. HON 214

Winter: HNR 153 11 TR 2:30-3:45p.m. and HNR 154 11 TR 4:00-5:15p.m. HON 214

What do musical and scientific pursuits have in common? More than you would think—in fact, modern science owes many of its foundational theories to the study of music and acoustics.  While seemingly disparate disciplines, artists and scientists actually have many things in common—each require the use of creativity, problem-solving, experimentation, and perseverance in the face of significant obstacles. The themes of initiative, improvisation, and intuition will be highlighted in this course through the exploration of the people behind concomitant significant musical accomplishments and scientific discoveries. The challenges, triumphs, and failures of these scientists and musicians will be studied within the broader social, political, and philosophical context of their times. This course will begin in the middle ages, culminating in the 1960s, presenting a broad swath of scientists and musicians, with an emphasis on both well-known figures and underrepresented voices.

Sequence Spotlights

Dr. Ellenberger and Dr. Rener Spotlight

Dr. Ellenberger and Dr. Rener

Click here to learn more about the "Engines of Innovation" first-year sequence!

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The Sound of Ethics

Melba Vélez Ortiz, Roger Gilles (Fall)

Fall: HNR 151 13 TR 10:00-11:15a.m. and HNR 152 13 TR 11:30-12:45p.m. HON 148

Winter: HNR 153 13 TR 10:00-11:15a.m. and HNR 154 13 TR 11:30-12:45p.m. HON 148

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” – Cornel West

Is listening easy? Is it the kind of thing we are good at because, like speech, we’ve been doing it all our lives? How do listening skills impact our ability to speak, write, and read effectively? And what does effective listening have to do with thriving in school, work, friendship, and love? In this sequence, we approach listening as a process that begins long before we communicate and impacts virtually every aspect of our public and private lives. Beginning with ancient Greek and African philosophies and drawing from multiple academic disciplines, we explore the conceptual differences between hearing and listening in the context of both pluralistic societies and multicultural organizations. Through readings, discussions, essays, and group projects, we explore hearing as a function, and listening as an ethic—and ultimately a highly valued leadership competency.

Sequence Spotlights

Dr. Gilles and Dr. Velez Ortiz Spotlight

Dr. Gilles and Dr. Velez Ortiz

Click here to read more about Dr. Gilles and Dr. Velez Ortiz's course!

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The Making of Meaning

Gary Greer, Coeli Fitzpatrick, Melba Velez Ortiz

Fall: HNR 151 14 MW 3:00-4:15p.m. and HNR 152 14 MW 4:30-5:45p.m. HON 219

Winter: HNR 153 14 MW 3:00-4:15p.m. and HNR 154 14 MW 4:30-5:45p.m. HON 219

This sequence explores how humans come to claim knowledge about the world. We will look at how scientific and philosophical knowledge is produced, how scientific consensus is obtained, and how these things are communicated to the public at large. The sequence also investigates how culture helps to shape discourse about scientific and philosophical knowledge and how claims to truth are used by experts, policy makers, businesses, journalists, and the public. The first half of the sequence looks at the production of knowledge claims using the example of evolution, altruism, and theories of human nature. The second half focuses on challenges associated with communicating, valuation, and advocacy using the example of environmental and conservation science. 



Page last modified June 17, 2022