Students participating in July Experience take one morning class and one afternoon class each day, Monday through Friday. Classes meet for 90 minutes, with the possibility of additional laboratory sessions in selected courses.
July Experience courses, although taught with college-level rigor, do not carry any secondary school or college credit. This allows students to take risks and explore curriculum without the pressure of impacting their permanent record.
Professors develop strong relationships with students and hold daily office hours at the Center for Teaching and Learning at the E.H. Little Library. The average class size is 15 students.
Courses are graded on an Honors/Pass/Fail basis and a detailed written letter to parents/guardians is provided by each professor after the conclusion of the program.
Students will have the opportunity to select their class preferences after they have been admitted to the program. To ensure small class sizes, students may be assigned second or third choices.
Are Humans Still Evolving? (Biology)
Have humans reached their optimal and final form, or are we still evolving? Can evolution be predicted? Does evolution always proceed over thousands or millions of years? Does evolution have a direction? Can a species de-evolve? In this course, we will seek answers to these questions and more by synthesizing evolutionary theory with the results of recent genomic and experiential studies. First, we will explore factors that promote or constrain evolution, and we will address common misconceptions about the pace, direction, and selectivity of evolution. Then, we will consider present-day evolution in humans by examining our evolutionary past and investigating evidence of recent and ongoing evolutionary change. Finally, we will contemplate our potential future evolutionary trajectories. In this course, you will develop a fundamental understanding of the process of evolution while also gaining familiarity with reading, discussing, and evaluating scientific data and publications.
- Susana Wadgymar, assistant professor of Biology; Postdoctoral Associate, University of Georgia; Ph.D. University of Toronto; B.S. University of Texas at Austin.
The Evil within Us: Literary Monsters (English)
Scholars such as (Jeffrey Jerome Cohen argue that imagined monsters of literature and film reveal contemporaneous cultural anxieties. This course will feature 120 years of iconic literary and filmic monsters, including Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jack Finney's 1955 The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, George Romero's 1968 Night of the Living Dead, and Max Brooks' 2006 World War Z. Through robust discussion and analysis, we will ponder key questions: What have particular cultures have labeled as "monstrous" and why? What makes a successful monster in a given culture at a given time? How do critical approaches (e.g. psychoanalytic, feminist, post-colonial) reveal assumptions about the monstrous, the "other," that inform and sustain our fears. Assignments will include frequent informal writing, group presentation on one key text, and a formal essay that combines primary textual analysis with relevant secondary criticism.
- Shireen Campbell, professor of English and chair of English Department; Ph.D. Tulane University; B.A. Florida Atlantic University
Haiti Comes Alive: Cinematic Depictions of life in Haiti (French and Francophone Studies)
Haiti fascinates as much as it perplexes. Stunning the society at the time with its successful slave revolt to become the first black republic in the New World in 1804, Haiti is now viewed as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere riddled with political instability, social injustices, and underdevelopment. Yet it boasts a diverse and dynamic cultural heritage expressed through various artistic media. This seminar introduces students to major events and conflicts (Haitian Revolution, dictatorships in the 20th century, US interventions, and the 2010 earthquake) that have shaped Haitian history, politics, society, and culture, and analyzes them for the ways in which they contribute to the creation of cinematic traditions.
- Shanaaz Mohammed, visiting assistant professor of French and Francophone Studies; Ph.D., M.A. Florida State University; B.A. The University of the West Indies at St. Augustine
Inequality, Poverty, and Discrimination (Economics)
Recent decades have shown significantly high and increasing degrees of income and wealth inequality within the United States. An understanding of the true extent, causes, and consequences of this inequality is vital to formulating effective policies. In this course, we will focus on an understanding of the causes and the dangerous repercussions of this inequality. We will also emphasize the study of and the results from assessing the role of discrimination in this problem. Finally, we will examine a recent Boston Globe series on the significantly pervasive racism in Boston. We shall review that series as a case study. During the course, students will learn a significant amount of basic economics, some statistical concepts, a focused view on making public policy, and, finally, the case study of Boston.
- Clark Ross, Frontis W. Johnston Professor of Economics; Ph.D. Boston College; B.A. University of Pennsylvania
In Pursuit of Happiness: The New Science of Positive Psychology (Psychology)
What does it mean to be happy? Why do we value happiness? And how do we promote human flourishing and growth? In this course, we will use research from the emerging field of Positive Psychology to explore these fundamental questions. We will consider ways in which well-being has been defined and measured, from ancient Greece through modern neuroscience. We will investigate the various benefits associated with positive emotions and experiences, ranging from resistance to illness to higher income. Along with our discussions of existing research, we will engage in experiential learning activities exploring a wide range of "positive interventions" designed to promote happiness and well-being.
- Laura Sockol, assistant professor of Psychology; Ph.D., M.A. University of Pennsylvania; B.A. Bryn Mawr College
Introduction to Digital Mapping (History and Digital Studies)
This digital humanities course introduces students to digital methods of making maps, as well as to the abiding humanistic questions underlying their use. Students will read about cognitive spatial patterns, the history of maps, maps and propaganda, misuses of map-making, and cutting-edge applications of mapping in humanities, politics, and popular culture. Through a series of regular coding tutorials, students will learn to build and design their own maps, from the ground up, in the Wolfram Language. In the final week, students will develop and present their own projects in spatial storytelling and cartography.
- Jakub Kabala, assistant professor of History and Digital Studies; Ph.D., A.M. Harvard University; A.B. Harvard University.
The Material Word: Letterpress in the 21st Century (English/Visual Art)
In this course, students will be introduced to the history and practice of an enduring, stubbornly analog technology: letterpress printing. In letterpress, information isn't just something we download, and language isn't just something we read and write. Quite literally built out of metal and wood, texts produced by letterpress encourage a visual, sculptural, and tactile relationship to language and image. Throughout the course, we will consider how this insistently material technology and process dating back more than half a millennium bears upon our own experience of information in the 21st century. The course will involve three main modalities: a textual component (readings in historical and literary texts), an archival component (work in Special Collections with rare books), and a practical component (hands-on work in the Davidson letterpress lab). By the end of the course, students will have assembled a small portfolio of letterpress work (individual as well as group productions) representing their engagement with these three modalities over the duration of the course.
- Andrew Rippeon, visiting assistant professor of Writing; Ph.D. University at Buffalo, SUNY; M.A. University of Chicago; B.A. University of Delaware
Nazi Germany: Confronting the Myths (History)
While providing an overview of Hitler and the Nazi state, this course seeks to debunk some common myths about Nazi Germany. We will study the rise of the Nazi party, learn about this ideology, look at the organization of the racial state along with its propaganda apparatus, examine the kind of culture it promoted (and that which it sought to oppress), and track the course of WWII. The scope of the course is thus interdisciplinary, ranging from political, social, economic, and military aspects of Nazi Germany to various forms of cultural production that will serve as a complement to the historical record, such as literature, film, sports, architecture, music, and the visual arts. This course offers an overview of Hitler and National Socialism. We will conclude with a study of the Holocaust and consider issues of remembrance, representation, and human rights today.
- Burkhard Henke, professor of German Studies; Ph.D. University of California, Irvine; M.A. University of California, Santa Barbara
Playing Games: How to Win at Final Jeopardy, Successfully Bargain with your Parents, and Score that Penalty Kick! (Economics)
Game theory is the study of strategic situations in which the payoff for one person depends directly on the actions of other people. For example, how should one wager in Final Jeopardy? The answer is obvious if you expect to answer correctly. However, it becomes more complicated by the fact that you might not have extensive knowledge of the topic and you also aren't sure about your opponents' wagers or how much they know about the topic. We will learn about the concept of Nash equilibrium and use it to solve mathematical models of strategic situations. We will play games in class! Then we will compare our class's data to what theory predicts, and discuss how our mathematical models might be improved to better predict the results. We will explore applications from many disciplines, such as political science, biology, environmental studies, medicine, anthropology, history, and economics.
- Mark C. Foley, professor of Economics; Ph.D. Yale University; B.S. College of William & Mary
Populism and Democracy (Political Science)
This course explores the recent emergence, in both the United States and Europe, of powerful populist movements that challenge the dominance of allegedly "out of touch" political, economic, and cultural elites. Responding forcefully to persistent economic stagnation, rising inequality, and large-scale immigration, these movements have found both warm admirers and vociferous critics on both sides of the Atlantic. Our task in the seminar will be to familiarize ourselves with some of these movements, and to evaluate arguments about both their origins and likely consequences for the health of liberal democratic societies.
- Brian Shaw, professor of Political Science; Ph.D., M.A. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; B.A. State University of New York at Stony Brook
Race, Religion and Donald J. Trump (Sociology)
The purpose of this course is to gain appreciation for sociological analysis at the intersection of race-ethnicity and religion through the phenomenon of Donald J. Trump's election as the 45th president of the United States. Let me be clear: the course is not an opportunity for the professor and students to air their opinions, and we will not be focused on Trump's personality. Instead, the class constitutes a careful exploration centering on racial and religious dynamics as they touch on the historical context of the Trump presidency-including our discernment of significance in his positions, policies, political appointments, and particular public statements (and those of his surrogates/supporters/representatives). The course is analytical, historical, and empirically grounded in observable patterns.
- Gerardo Marti, L. Richardson King professor of Sociology and chair of Sociology Department; Ph.D., M.A. University of Southern California; B.A. Pepperdine University
Reading and Creating Compelling Short Stories (English)
"Though the ability to write well is partly a gift--like the ability to play basketball well, or to outguess the stock market-writing ability is mainly a product of good teaching supported by a deep-down love of writing," says John Gardner. In this course students experience the deep-down love of writing through reading short works created by writers who obviously love the art. Just as important as reading such stories is the creating of them, and this course provides learning opportunities for young writers to develop and enhance their skills n creating compelling short fiction.
- Brenda Flanagan, Edward M. Armfield, Sr. Professor of English; Ph.D., M.A., B.A. University of Michigan
Three Pounds, One Quadrillion Synapses: Discovering the Frontiers of Neuroscience (Biology)
Beginning with the proclamation of the "Decade of the Brain" by Congress in 1990, the last 30 years have seen an explosion in our understanding of nervous system function and dysfunction. In this course, we will explore some of the most exciting questions in neuroscience, all of which are currently active areas of scientific investigation. We will discuss recent discoveries in a variety of topics, including cognition, learning and memory, addiction, sleep and circadian rhythms, development and neurogenesis, sensory systems, neurodegenerative disease, and aging. We will focus on the critical questions researchers ask in these areas and on the data being generated to provide the fascinating answers. The format of the course will be mostly discussion and group work, with some lecture.
- Mark Barsoum, assistant professor of Biology; Ph.D. University of California, San Diego; B.S. University of California, Davis
The Universal Language of Music...or not? (Music)
Myth of fact: "Music is a universal language that brings people together"? Lets put that to the test! After familiarizing ourselves with the grammatical rules governing our own musical language and considering the role music plays in our daily lives, we will delve into the probing question of how that language holds up universally. To investigate the validity of this idea we examine a diverse array of music practices from around the globe. We first establish a musical vocabulary for talking about current music in the United States, and then our journey will introduce you to the didgeridoo and Dreamtime in aboriginal Australian culture, the glorious world of Caribbean steel drums, polyrhythmic West African drumming, multi-phonic overtone singing from East Asia, the sitar of India, and culminates with students each investigating a topic of personal interest. What conclusions will we draw? You might be surprised--you will definitely be challenged! Bring your ears, a healthy musical appetite and your curiosity. (No previous musical training required.)
- Jennifer Stasack, Professor of Music; D.M.A. University of Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music; M.M., B.M. University of Hawaii, Manoa