Daytime Duke Courses

Where do college courses come from? At Duke each undergraduate course is sponsored by an academic department and approved by a committee of the faculty. Some courses are considered to be "general" offerings and typically are taught at least once a year, while other courses are "special topics" focusing upon a specific topic that may be offered only once.

Students Listening to LectureWe have selected a broad range of courses, including both "general" courses and "special topics," to be featured in the 2020 offerings for Summer College participants. Although some of the courses have cross-listings - that is, the courses are multi-disciplinary in both content and approach and are sponsored by one or more academic departments - we list each course only once, according to its original sponsoring department. Each listing begins with the full name of the sponsoring academic department and is followed by the designation of the department in all capital letters as it will appear on your class schedule and your Duke transcript.

Every course will meet five days a week for two hours and five minutes per class session. The last day of the term may be utilized by your instructor for a final exam, final project, or final paper. Class size is likely to range from 10 to 18 students.

Please rank your top four course choices on your application form. Be sure to read course descriptions carefully as some may contain mature content. Course content will not be modified for students under the age of 18. While we will make every effort to enroll you in your first choice, in the event a class is unavailable or full, we will enroll you in an alternate course of your choosing.

Enrollment in the Duke Summer College for High School Students program begins on December 2, 2019, with immediate placement into evening classes. Course placement for daytime Duke undergraduate classes begins February 17, 2020, when pre-registration for Duke Summer Session opens.

Below is a list of projected course offerings for the 2020 Summer College. Additional classes may be added in coming weeks.

Arts of the Moving Image

(Arts of the Moving Image/AMI) History of Documentary Film

This course provides an introduction to the history, theory, and styles of nonfiction film and video. Attention will be given to the transformation in technologies and their influence on form, from actuality films to contemporary digital documentaries. Additional topics include: documentary’s marginal status and surprising commercial appeal; the mixing of fiction and nonfiction strategies in cultural construction, use of documentary as a tool for exploring individual identity, filmmaker/subject relationships, and fomenting political change.

(Arts of the Moving Image/AMI) American Film Comedy

American Film Comedy is a lecture course designed to familiarize students with the history, theory, and socio-political ties to American cinematic comedy since its inception in the nineteenth century. The general span of our survey is from the early talkies to the 1990s. The work of the course involves weekly screenings and short written reflections of a series of instructor-selected film comedies. The progression of the subject matter is thematic, not necessarily chronological, culminating in a final paper that demonstrates the students’ grasp of the material. (A specific topic will be announced in class.) These topics among others will be explored: Absurdist comedy as social critique, the Fatal Woman, Slapstick, Polemic, Parody, Satire, and Humor Noir.



(Biology/BIOLOGY) How To Build a Dinosaur: From Genome to Embryo

Transport yourself back in time to 1993, before sequenced genomes, before animals had been cloned, when the summer’s blockbuster film was Jurassic Park. Building a dinosaur for a theme park was purely science fiction in 1993, but how close are we to having the technology to build a dinosaur today? Using today’s technology, we can fully sequence a genome in less than an hour; we have successfully cloned animals such as sheep, horses, and deer; and we have even created “artificial life” in bacteria with fully synthetic genomes. In this course, we will discuss the advances in biotechnology from the time Jurassic Park was released to present day and examine what technology is still needed to successfully build a dinosaur. We will explore how to build a dinosaur from DNA to embryo while learning the basic principles of genomics, cell, and developmental biology along the way. By the end of this course, you will be able to discriminate science fiction from reality in the movie Jurassic Park and critically discuss the technology required to “create” a new life form. 

(Biology/BIOLOGY) Seeking Sustainability: Is One World Enough?

The term “sustainability” is a common buzzword heard in politics, the media, and product marketing, but what does sustainability mean in a biological context, and is it achievable within our current social and economic framework? This course will examine different facets of sustainability from scientific and societal perspectives. We will begin with an overview of the biodiversity crisis and what sustainability means to the biologist. You will learn fundamental principles from population and ecosystem ecology, and how those concepts apply to human population dynamics and growth. We will then proceed to examine how we obtain the necessities of life – energy, food and water – to support a growing human population. The course will conclude by looking at sustainability as an issue of human rights and social justice. By the end of the course, you will be better equipped to think critically about claims of sustainability and make informed decisions in their daily lives. Classes will be a mix of traditional lecture, discussion, and interactive in-class activities.  In-class work will be structured on the collaborative learning model. You will use publicly available datasets from national and international governmental organizations to examine energy generation, food production, and water use on global and regional scales. Discussions of individual impacts will require you to utilize various calculators and modeling tools to analyze your own consumption habits. Finally, we will consider possible ways to mitigate some of the issues discussed and look at how Duke is tackling them through its campus sustainability programs. Concepts from biological sciences to be covered in the course include the following:

  • Population demographics (life tables, survivorship models, fecundity/fitness tradeoffs, age structure), metapopulations/population fragmentation, population growth models and carrying capacity, natural selection and life history, ecological footprint.
  • Community structure and dynamics (keystone species, disturbance and succession), species richness, species interactions, energy flow through ecosystems (primary productivity and trophic structure).
  • Biodiversity measures, endemics, diversity hotspots, biomes and aquatic ecosystems, biogeography (species distributions), biological magnification, nutrient cycling and biogeochemical cycles, climate change/destabilization, eutrophication.

(Biology/BIOLOGY) Common Cold or Cancer Cure? The Discovery and Evolution of Virus based Therapeutics

Historically viruses are microscopic disease causing vectors that make headlines around the world as they emerge, spread, and evolve. More recently, viruses are being used as therapeutic agents to treat disease. The proposed course will provide a historical perspective of viruses past to present. Student will learn virus history, molecular biology of viruses and infection, discovery and treatment of emerging viruses, and the impact of viruses on society. Additionally, students will examine modern uses of viruses and the technologies used to create new vaccines, gene therapies, and cancer therapeutics. This student-centered class will provide an environment open for students to expand their communications skills through live discussion with current researchers, and writing activities meant to explore the current scientific literature, discuss viruses in the news, and the ethics of viral treatments. By the end of the course, students will be able to discuss virus biology and current treatment options, how clinical trials work, the ethics of treatment on society (including prohibitive cost and access), and the future landscape of virus-based therapies. 

(Biology/BIOLOGY) Genetics in the News: An Exploration of the Science Behind the Story

Many of the most exciting and controversial news stories in recent history have roots in the field of genetics, the study of heredity. From stem cells and gene editing to forensic analysis and criminal law, genetics intersects with almost every aspect of our daily lives and societal structures. In this course you will explore a number of these contemporary genetics breakthroughs and news stories, while also taking a close look at the ethical quandaries and international variations in medical, legal, and cultural norms related to genetic technologies. Through discussion, presentations, and use of mixed media, students will understand the basic biology behind the buzz words, leaving this course empowered to be critical and informed consumers of popular media. This course is appropriate for non-biology majors. Prerequisite: one semester of high school biology.

(Biology/BIOLOGY) Freshwaters in the Anthropocene

Freshwater ecosystems are important habitat for many species and vital resources for humans. They are threatened on local and global scales by urbanization, human water use, land conversion and climate change. This course will introduce the basic concepts of freshwater ecology with a focus on human environmental interactions and local waterways. We will cover how biology, chemistry, and physical processes interact to form the ecology of inland waters including biogeochemical cycling of elements, ecology of aquatic organisms, food webs and trophic dynamics, and whole lake and river case studies. Students will have the opportunity to apply their ecological knowledge and learn research techniques through field trips to local bodies of water. Throughout the course we will emphasize the role of humans as components of aquatic ecosystems and address the concepts of ecosystem services, governance, and environmental justice as they relate to water resources management. The aim of this course is to provide students with freshwater science literacy and context as citizens of local and global watersheds. 

(Biology/BIOLOGY) Genetically Modified Organisms—Past, Present, and Future

Since the emergence of agriculture around 10,000 years ago, humans have tinkered with the genomes of plants to produce varieties useful for shelter, food, clothing, and medicine. While early attempts at engineering relied on the slow and careful selection of desirable traits, the discovery of DNA and the gene as the basis of heredity has allowed scientists to directly modify plant genomes in ways that are both useful and controversial.  In this course, students will learn how humans have shaped the genomes of plants, from the earliest evidence for domestication to the current generation of modern crops. We will first cover the basics of plant biology, heredity, natural selection, and evolution before learning how human populations around the world have selected and modified wild plants for cultivation. Focusing on key crops like maize and rice, we will learn how domesticated crops have diverged from their wild ancestors in traits like seed retention, fruit size, and nutritional content and the implications for plant genomic diversity. We will then learn about current technologies used to create “genetically modified organisms” (GMOs) for human consumption. Finally, we will discuss the controversies surrounding GMOs and the implications for food security in a changing climate. This course will feature both lectures and class discussions of current scientific literature. 

(Biology/BIOLOGY) Evolution and Creationism

Through selected readings, short lectures, and class discussions, we will investigate some of the fundamental truths of biological evolution, the consequences of evolutionary biology for society, and the potential conflicts that emerge when evolutionary biology and (American) religion seek to co-exist. Building on Theodosius Dobzhansky’s famous statement that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” we will explore why some areas of evolution are easy to accept as factually true and why some areas are much harder to grasp. The course also seeks to broaden the discussion of evolutionary biology to include how societies have historically used and abused evolutionary theory (ancient crop breeding, eugenics, GMOs, etc.). Finally, we will discuss the modes of interaction between modern Western science and traditional Western (Abrahamic) religions, focusing on the rise of Creationism and Intelligent Design in contemporary American culture. This course will present various aspects of evolutionary biology, including phylogenetics, adaptations, natural selection, and genetics, while also drawing on diverse elements of cultural anthropology and theology to address the complexity of societal issues relating to evolution. Students from a variety of backgrounds, scientific and not, religious and not, are invited to engage in a collaborative discourse of one the thorniest scientific topics in modern society.

(Biology/BIOLOGY) Friends, Enemies, Frenemies: How the Biology of Interactions Shapes Nature and Society

When was the last time you thought about how an apple grows or where we grow all the grains we use to make our breads and cereal? While often ignored, the interactions of organisms shape the world around us. Plants rely on other living things to deliver pollen between flowers, while trying to combat other organisms that eat them. Much of the natural world around us is influenced by positive and negative interactions between living things, as one species tries to outcompete, prey on, or infect another; other reactions of pollination, facilitation, or commensalism determine where organisms can live or how well they can survive and reproduce. Many of these living things are essential for human life, while they can also act as potential causes of harm. This course will explore species interactions and ecology as they shape both natural and urban settings. We will begin by introducing the basic theories of species interactions and ecology. Then, we will examine how these basic concepts affect nature and humans through case studies and specific examples. For instance, timing of flowering for both plants in nature and in agriculture can affect the rate of pollination for individual entities, which in turn affects the number of fruits that can be produced. Class lectures will introduce critical topics followed by a class session with group work and discussion. Each week we will incorporate an on-campus field trip to make observations, collect data, or introduce a topic. Popular press and scientific articles will both be examined for how they present critical scientific lessons. During the first week of class, you will be asked to choose a topic related to species interactions, ecology, or environmental sociology and then to research your topic by researching and analyzing two scientific published articles each successive week. The final class will consist of student presentations, reflecting a synthesis of the articles each individual has discovered and analyzed. The goals of this course include developing the skills to locate, evaluate, and critically read scientific and popular press articles; developing teamwork and cooperation (hallmarks of contemporary scientific investigation and discovery); and synthesizing information into written and oral communications. 


Computer Science

(Computer Science/COMPSCI) Programming and Problem-Solving

This is an introductory programming course that teaches fundamental computer science concepts. This version of the course focuses upon animation and 3-D virtual created by using the software tool Alice. You will learn programming constructs such as repetition (calculating how many steps a person needs to walk to their car), selection (deciding which animal is the tallest), and organizing data (grouping penguins to waddle together), along with how to control objects (raise hands, flap wings, move, turn, spin, walk, etc.). This is a hands on course during which we will be writing programs with partners and designing 3-D virtual worlds. If you have your own laptop, bring it to class. It will be much easier to keep all your work on your own laptop. You will use your laptop every day in class. Note that a Chromebook or iPad will not substitute, you will need a laptop. For use outside of class, Alice is installed on the computer clusters around campus. By the end of this class, you will know how to make impressive animations for other courses or clubs. 


Cultural Anthropology

(Cultural Anthropology/CULANTH) Advertising and Society: A Global Perspective

In this course we will examine the history and development of commercial advertising. Specific topics to be addressed include the following: advertising as a reflector and/or creator of social and cultural values; advertisements as cultural myths; effects on children, women, and ethnic minorities; advertising and language; relation to political and economic structure; and advertising and world culture. Although the primary emphasis will be upon American society, this emphasis will be complemented by case studies of advertising in Canada, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Western Europe, and selected other countries.

(Cultural Anthropology/CULANTH) Anthropology of Sports

Saturday morning soccer leagues. Little League baseball. Power conferences and college basketball and football. The Winter and Summer Olympics. The National Football League. Cricket. Rugby. Badminton and table tennis. Auto racing. Horse racing. Camel racing. Football/soccer. Tennis. Golf. And the list goes on and on and on. This course examines the role of sports in different cultures in the contemporary world. What do sports reveal about humans, human behavior, and cultural norms and values? In this course sports will be seen through a variety of lens: race, gender, sexuality, fantasy, and desire. Attention will also be given to mythmaking and the culture of celebrity in sports, along with the relationship of sports to commercial broadcasting and mass media.

(Cultural Anthropology/CULANTH) Global Media Industries

How and why do particular media texts circulate globally? What are the cultural, economic, political, social, and technological forces that impact the circulation of media texts around the world? What impact do these texts have on how people come to see themselves and their relationships with others in the world? This course answers these questions by examining the relationship between media and globalization. Students grapple with and debate the terms ‘international’ and ‘globalization’ as well as how and why studying global media industries from a national perspective is productive, but also limited in scope. The course examines national and global audiences as well as the relationship between media flows, geography, and cultural identities along with media industries’ strategies to succeed in an increasingly globalized world. Special attention is drawn to the power of transnational and global media representations and institutions to bring the world together (and apart). Students have the opportunity to apply concepts and theories through discussion, in-class exercises, regular in-class screenings, in-depth case studies, research-based professional writing, and a final presentation.

(Cultural Anthropology/CULANTH) Humanitarianism

This course is about the genesis and transformation of notions of humanitarian engagement across time and cultures and societies. As such, students will trace the ways in which humanitarian thought and action develop in particular civilizations and is refined in others. Course materials ask students to consider humanitarianism in the space of encounter between civilizations, and these engagements will be deeply contextualized across historical periods. This course also focuses on the social structures that underpin humanitarian organizations, practice, and thought in the historical and contemporary world. It focuses on the "social" encounter of humanitarian intervention in order to tease out how such interventions function in diverse global contexts. Readings will be drawn primarily from anthropology and other ethnographic accounts but will also include work in political science, sociology, conflict studies, and others. A primary goal of this course is to de-naturalize assumptions about what humanitarianism is, what it does, and what it looks like. This class is deeply comparative and includes readings on humanitarian engagements in France, Haiti, Finland, Palestine, Uganda, Tanzania, Georgia, Guatemala, Ghana, Mozambique, Somalia, the United States, and others. Students will be asked to compare how and why cultural forms carry different and often contradictory beliefs about humanitarianism. Lastly, there will be a focus on tying global processes to local contexts and vice versa. Students will therefore leave the course understanding how both local difference and overarching global phenomena interrelate in distinct cultural communities. Note that a major focus of this class will the ethical and moral formulations of "help," aid, and assistance in the contemporary world. Students will investigate the many contexts out of which humanitarian policy is developed and evaluate the ethical dimensions of the decision-making process. These decisions are deeply complicated politically and otherwise, and so the course will attend to these by looking at how implementing and recipient communities navigate and make sense of humanitarian interventions through an ethical lens.



(Economics/ECON) Game Theory

The interactions of human beings with other individuals, within groups, and with the earth lead us to ponder many questions concerning the ways in which people coordinate and structure their actions. It is to these questions that we turn, in trying to understand the strategic decisions that people make on a daily basis. Will it make a difference if I throw my candy wrapper in the street instead of waiting to find a trash can? How much should I pay for a used car? How will our family decide who cooks dinner? Is it feasible for a firm to enter the market for a new product? Under what conditions would a union go on strike during labor contract negotiations? In this course students learn the basic tools of game theory in order to analyze these various economic and social situations. We start by providing a background and introduction to both game theory and economics. We then proceed to define the terminology used in both fields. Our section on games begins with an analysis of normal form (strategic form) games in which we have a static setting and players move simultaneously. Concepts such as a player’s best response, dominant strategies, and the Nash equilibrium are presented, along with various examples of applications. The three classic games of chicken (hawk-dove), coordination (battle of preferences), and the prisoners’ dilemma are introduced, with an extension to the mixed strategy Nash equilibrium. Next we turn to extensive form games in order to analyze dynamic games in which players move sequentially. The notion of a sub-game perfect Nash equilibrium is discussed, and the technique of backward induction is taught. Repeated interactions between players are then considered as we discuss both infinitely repeated games and finitely repeated games. Topics in public and environmental economics are introduced in order to apply these game theory concepts to situations pervaded by free-riding and collective action problems. Evolutionarily stable strategies are also discussed, allowing us to understand how repeated games can lead to the stability of social inequalities by class, gender, race, and ethnicity. The role of institutions (such as norms, customs, traditions, beliefs, and property rights) in maintaining these inequalities is discussed from a game theoretic standpoint. Lastly, we study situations of asymmetric information between players. We give specific references to issues of principal-agent problems, moral hazard, and adverse selection as applied to monitoring, signaling, and “lemons” markets. We will also discuss bargaining models. The course concludes with a critical analysis of the theories and assumptions used in game theory. In particular, students debate the usefulness of concepts of “rationality.”



(Education/EDUC) Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education

This interdisciplinary course explores the complex relationship between schools and larger society, with particular attention paid to the historical, philosophical, ideological, social, cultural, racial, political, and economic foundations of American education. Students will utilize the aforementioned foundations to critically explore and analyze contemporary educational policies and practices. We will also consider the influence of race, gender, class, culture, and religion on teaching and learning. Throughout the course, everyone will be encouraged to question their own and others’ beliefs, and to do so in a respectful manner. If you are not comfortable dialoguing about issues of race, gender, class, privilege, and sexual orientation, this may not be the right class for you. At the completion of this course students are expected to have a more comprehensive understanding of the foundation of American education and the potent influence various factors exert on teaching and learning. Students are also expected to develop foundational knowledge and strategies for working with students from all backgrounds. Class members will participate in structured learning experiences in which they reflect on ethical issues related to schooling.




(English/ENGLISH) Introduction to Digital Humanities

What can we accomplish when we apply digital and quantitative methods to humanistic questions? This is the inquiry that digital humanities (DH) as a field pursues. Recent applications of DH methodologies include, for instance, exploring how large-scale analysis of news media might indicate incipient mass genocide, thus enabling faster and more effective response prior to humanitarian crisis; or examining why major social movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo started as Twitter hashtags, and analyzing how social media has shaped the conversations around these issues. This course introduces students to the history, theory, and methods of DH, an interdisciplinary area of inquiry whose definition and applications are hotly contested. The course will be conducted in two modes each week. Half of our class sessions will be seminar-style discussions of short readings on trends and current debates in DH. The other half of our sessions will be lab-style training and collaborative practice in specific tools and methods of DH. We will develop skills in mapping, network analysis, digital publishing and content management, data visualization, social media analysis, digital storytelling, data cleaning, and virtual and augmented reality. At the end of this course, you will have gained both a theoretical orientation to DH and a practical toolkit in its methodologies. This introductory level course welcomes students in any discipline. There are no prerequisites, and no previous experience in humanistic, digital, or quantitative methods is required. Assessment will be based on class participation, one guided DH project, and one final research-based project geared towards the interests and skills of the individual student.



(History/HISTORY) Debates in the History of Capitalism

What is capitalism, and why does it inspire so much debate? This four-week course introduces students to a handful of major debates in the history of capitalism, organized by week. The first week explores the question ‘what is capitalism?’ Week two surveys writings by a handful of capitalism’s major advocates and opponents. Week three examines the relationship between capitalism and slavery in the Americas. Finally, the fourth week explores the relationship between gender and capitalism, paying particular attention to feminist theorizations of gendered labor. Rather than an exhaustive ‘history of capitalism’ survey, this course prompts students to engage in focused readings of key texts—supplemented by lecture and in-depth discussion—in order to understand what, exactly, capitalism is, and why it is so controversial. Materials with which we will engage include works of classical political theory; critiques and defenses of capitalism from a number of vantage points; selections from historical monographs; newspaper articles and podcasts; and primary source historical documents. Though primarily focused on the history of capitalism in the Western hemisphere, the debates it covers are broadly applicable to the study of capitalism in the modern world and are essentially ethical debates. Is capitalism good or bad? How do we historicize capitalism in terms of gender and race? By reading arguments from a variety of vantage points – Marxist, reformist, and so on – students will gain a sense of the major defenses and critiques of capitalism, and the issues at stake in these debates.



(Mathematics/MATH) Mathematics of the Universe

This course will survey, in precise mathematical terms, what is known and not known about the universe, from special relativity, the big bang, and black holes to dark matter and theoretical astrophysics. Einstein's idea that "matter curves spacetime," which is the fundamental principle behind general relativity, requires a field of mathematics called differential geometry, for example. Students will learn special relativity and gain an introduction to general relativity. We will also study and discuss theories of dark matter, which makes up most of the mass of galaxies. Students will work problems in class and for homework, from calculus problems to performing boosts in special relativity. Boosts are linear transformations of the t-x spacetime. Students will relate the information presented in one person's frame of reference to another observer's frame of reference, and understand how to interpret both sets of information. All of the problems that we solve, in class and on homework, will be related to facts about the universe. Students will be able to explain the relationship between what is observed in the universe and the results of computations that they do. The pace and emphasis of the class will be highly influenced by the questions asked by the students. Mastery of single variable calculus is highly recommended.

(Mathematics/MATH) Game Theory and Democracy

What is democracy? Using preferential ballots in elections is a natural idea since it allows voters to express a first choice, a second choice, a third choice, etc., on each ballot, thereby collecting more information from each voter and creating the potential for an outcome which better represents the voters. However, there are many ways to determine the winner of a preferential ballot election, and each “preferential ballot vote counting method” has its own game theory, both for the candidates and the voters, some better and some worse, and often very different from the game theory of the single vote ballot. So which preferential ballot vote counting method is the best? Does there exist a vote counting method which incentivizes politicians to seek out centrist, consensus building positions and to focus on issues important to voters, more than game theoretic tactics meant to manipulate the electorate? Or is there another goal we should be pursuing? In this course, we will use game theory and mathematics to study these questions.



(Philosophy/PHIL) Introduction to Philosophy

(emphasis on ethics and value theory). What exactly do philosophers do? This remains a mystery to most people who envision philosophers sitting around pondering the meaning of life. So we will begin this course by clarifying what philosophy is. Next, we will study the tools that philosophers use to assess arguments. After we practice distinguishing good reasoning from bad, we will use these skills to evaluate arguments in epistemology (theory of knowledge), metaphysics, and ethics. Discussion topics will be tailored to student interest, but potential topics to be addressed include the possibility and nature of scientific progress; the nature of mind; space and time; the ethics of environmentalism, genetic engineering, immigration, and the 2008 financial crisis; and, yes, the meaning of life.

(Philosophy/PHIL) History of Ancient Philosophy

According to the New World Encyclopedia, philosophy is the systematic study of the foundations of human knowledge with an emphasis on the conditions of its validity and finding answers to ultimate questions.” Not infrequently you will hear philosophy described as “thinking about thinking” and also as the love of wisdom. This course focuses upon certain Greek thinkers of the 6th and 5th centuries BCE known as the pre-Socratics who are associated with the origins of Western philosophical thought. Attention is also given to the seminal figures of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The course concludes with a look at post-Aristotelian systems.

(Philosophy/PHIL) Applied and Environmental Ethics

The aim of this course is to understand and critically examine central issues in applied and environmental ethics. There are ethical issues that arise at different levels of our lives. In this course, after introducing what ethics is and how it works, we will examine and discuss those ethical issues in three parts: 1) ethics of birth, 2) personal and social ethics, and 3) global and environmental ethics. In the first part, we will discuss topics related to giving birth to a person (for example, abortion, genetic engineering, and disability). The second part will address ethical issues that arise as we live interacting with people around us (for example, family, sexual morality, and gender). The last part will be devoted to ethical issues related to the entities in an ‘expanded circle’ (for example, strangers, non-human animals, and the natural environment as a whole). The questions we will address include the following: is it wrong to abort a baby with potential disability? what do we owe to our parents? who can we have sex with, morally speaking? are we responsible for the poverty of people on the other side of the world? how should we treat chimpanzees? what about frogs? why should we protect our Mother Nature? 

(Philosophy/PHIL) Existentialism

This course places literature and philosophy in conversation with one another, pointing to their close connections. Existentialism asks about the foundations of mind, morals, and the meaning of life. It asks about ways of living, ways of reading, and ways of writing. Key themes will be existence, ethics, meaning of life, freedom, death, and writing. Questions – such as, is God dead and is there any reason to be moral – will be explored alongside consideration of nihilism, racism, and sexism. Texts may include writings by Soren Kierkegaard, Fredrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon, Iris Murdoch, and others. 



(Physics/PHYSICS) Introductory Seminar on Big Questions in Physics

This course will provide an introduction to six major questions representing frontiers of twenty-first century physics, such as what are the ultimate laws of nature, how does complex structure arise, and how can physics benefit society. Individual class sessions will involve presentations by researchers and by students, discussions of journal articles, and tours of physics labs involved with related research.


Political Science

(Political Science/POLSCI) Introduction to Political Philosophy

In this course we will examine some of the most important and challenging texts and thinkers of the Western political tradition. Studying these works, we will gain a working understanding of concepts like authority, justice, the good life, rights, freedom, community, power, and sovereignty. We will also examine broad themes including: the polis experience (Plato, Aristotle), the state (Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes), constitutional government (John Locke), democracy (Jean-Jacques Rousseau), and liberty (John Stuart Mill). In the final days of the course we will focus on contemporary debates. Careful attention will be given to the ways argument and rhetoric operate in texts of political philosophy, as well as diverse modes of interpretation. 



(Psychology/PSY) Social Psychology

Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by others. The primary purpose of this course is to provide a general introduction to the theories, research methods, and major findings of social psychology. We will examine a wide variety of topics involving how we perceive and interact with other people, including person perception, the self, stereotypes and prejudice, group influences, and pro-social behavior. Some of the questions we may examine include the following:  why does someone who is ‘good’ act in an evil fashion? why would people act in ways that are alien to their nature? why would someone who is considered intelligent do something that is irrational? Where possible, we will apply the knowledge and skills learned to examine events and situations in the real world and everyday life.

(Psychology/PSY) Adolescence

This course will explore adolescent development across domains of physical, cognitive, and social development. Topics will include those related to normal/typical development as well as abnormal development, particularly with regard to issues of health and mental health in this age group. Additionally, students will learn about the broader world in which adolescents live and the contexts within which development occurs – families, peer groups, schools, neighborhoods, and cultures. This course features a service learning component that allows class members to interact with adolescents in our community by means of a variety of activities on the Duke campus. This class is particularly appropriate for students interested in counseling or clinical psychology, teaching, educational policy, or medicine.

(Psychology/PSY) Cultural Psychology

This course will serve as an introduction to cultural psychology. Specifically, this course provides an overview of theory and research on cultural variation in human development, social behavior, and physical and mental health. This course introduces various topics spanning the concepts of intersectionality of visible/invisible identities, degrees of social privilege, historical social oppression, modern social oppression, implicit bias, microaggressions, structural barriers to health care/health disparities, and cultural competence/cultural humility, among others. This course is intended to provide students with a broad overview of some the key issues involved in approaching psychology from a perspective that is mindful of the diversity in today’s society. While part of this course requires some self-exploration and application to personal experience, students are advised that the emphasis of the course is primarily on critically examining the theory and research in cultural psychology as a science. Students will be asked to engage with both seminal works in the field, as well as cutting-edge lines of research. The overarching aim is to gain an increased understanding of the multifaceted inter-play between culture and psychology.

(Psychology/PSY) Nature and the Brain

This course presents the new science describing the influence of time spent in nature on child cognitive and emotional development and adult mental health and creativity. Readings will include landmark interdisciplinary empirical studies covering experimental psychology, observational epidemiology, and neuroimaging as well as the accessible 2019 book, The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, by journalist Florence Williams. Students will learn what the new science says about the relationship between nature and the brain, how critically to appraise findings from experimental and observational studies, and how to place psychological findings into context to inform public policies around public health and urban design. Connections will be made to important trends now underway, including climate change and the aging and urbanization of the global population.


Writing & Communication

(Writing/Communications/WRITING) Public Speaking: Policy Advocacy & Communication

This course will explore theoretical and practical elements of effective advocacy, not only as applied to public policy issues, but also as related to personal image presentation. While the focus is on efficient oral communication and effective presentation skills (both in large public speaking environments, and in smaller interactive exchanges), stress is also given to the development of compelling arguments, debate, and written expositions for presentation. Emphasis is also placed on the human dimensions of the communication process: vocal intonation, body behavior, audience evaluation, focus, control, distraction, and self-awareness. Individuals who will benefit from this course range from students entering the public arena, scholars entering the political arena, and athletes wanting to develop confidence in the presentation of their public image.