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“Science requires more than intelligence. It requires courage.”
Richard Samuel Deese (GRS’95,’07), a College of General Studies lecturer in social sciences, backs his statement with ample examples. In addition to Galileo’s famous flip-off to the Vatican when he showed that the Earth circled the sun, Albert Einstein’s political views prompted the subversion-obsessed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to open a file on the brilliant physicist. Chemical companies spent money smearing Rachel Carson for her exposé of the pesticide DDT’s toxicity in the 1960s.
Less known to Americans, Chinese astrophysicist and human rights activist Fang Lizhi fled to the United States in the 1980s after the People’s Republic spilled blood at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Scientists who defy authorities, and the social and moral consequences of their defiance, are the subjects of Deese’s fall 2018 class Science and Political Engagement in the 20th Century. It’s one of about 400 classes this fall expected to inaugurate the BU Hub, the first University-wide general education program.
“The Hub,” says its managing director, Amanda Urias, “ensures that all undergraduates, no matter their major, develop intellectual capacities that will teach them to thrive throughout their lives.”
New courses in the Hub will be rolled out semester by semester over the next four years, threading throughout undergraduates’ time at BU, “not only as electives, but in their majors and minors as well,” Urias says. Current students (whose general education requirements won’t change) will have an opportunity to enroll in courses that are part of the Hub beginning this fall. Incoming freshmen will register for courses in the Hub during summer’s Orientation sessions.
“This is an immense undertaking, and many people are working hard in many areas to prepare for first-year students who will be entering under BU Hub” this fall, says Elizabeth Loizeaux, associate provost for undergraduate affairs and cochair of the University Council General Education Committee, which approves courses and cocurricular activities for the Hub.
The Faculty Guide for developing the BU Hub curriculum can be found here.
Loizeaux, who is also a College of Arts & Sciences professor of English, says that while the committee anticipates more proposals for new courses for the Hub as it goes forward, the bulk of them to date have involved existing classes.
Classes such as Religion, Community, and the Birth of Social Sciences. Stephanie Nelson, CAS associate professor of classical studies, says the course studies the religious basis of society, focusing on reformers (St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, among others), probing such questions as: What is a just war? Do people have natural rights? Is tolerance of others a utopian goal?
Nelson lectures on European attempts to understand other cultures, be it Spanish missionaries to Latin America or Jesuits in China. “We want students, particularly ones who do not identify with a religion, to think seriously about what religion is and why it has been, and still is, so crucial a part of human history,” she says.
She directs the Core Curriculum, the CAS program integrating study of humanities, sciences, and social sciences, a platform whose interdisciplinary approach, she says, fits naturally with the Hub’s goals.
In Introduction to Climate and Earth System Science, taught since 2015 and tweaked for the Hub, students will learn that “earth is an amazing but complex system,” says Christine Regalla, a CAS assistant professor of earth and environment, who coteaches the course with Diane Thompson, also a CAS assistant professor of earth and environment.
“Interactions and feedbacks of the solid earth, atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere” drive effects on everyday living, Regalla says, including “weather patterns and storms; hazards like flooding, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanoes, erosion, and changes to beaches and coastal areas; and the presence of natural resources.… Understanding how earth’s climate evolves in response to natural and man-made processes requires an understanding of these earth system processes” over decades, and millions of years.
Thompson says the goal is to encourage students “to think about the earth in a different way: as a system of components…that exchange energy and matter in many, often complex ways.”
Some other courses being offered through the Hub fall 2018:
Race, Gender, Music, and the Making of Latin America, Michael Birenbaum Quintero, College of Fine Arts assistant professor of music, musicology, and ethnomusicology
Latin American music has dramatized gender attraction, repulsion, and separation between the region’s peoples of differing descents—European, African, Amerindian, and mixed. The class will study music from the 16th through 21st centuries and its role in religious evangelism, cultural nationalism, tourism, and “racial whitening,” an ideology throughout Latin America that prescribed race-mixing as a way to civilize or eliminate ostensibly inferior, nonwhite citizens.
Chemistry in Culture & Society, Scott Schaus (CAS’95), CAS professor of chemistry
Far from a jumble of symbols and numbers, chemistry is essential to understanding sustainable energy, nutrition, and 3-D printing, to name a few social needs. The class teaches the discipline’s basic concepts and scientific principles “as an essential feature of an advanced society and culture.”
Archaeology of Cities, David Carballo, CAS associate professor of archaeology
Students will explore both ancient and early modern cities and the interactions of urban dwellers with their built environment. It will compare cities and urbanism according to various themes.
Living in the City, Diana Wylie, CAS professor of history
Students will study selected cities, from Uruk, a pivotal ancient Sumerian city, to modern Shanghai, China’s largest urban center. Students will read histories and documents and discuss issues affecting the urban future, such as justice, health, worship, human rights, and city planning.
Writing, Research, & Inquiry with Digital/Multimedia Expression, Jason Prentice (GRS’03), lecturer, CAS Writing Program
Students will hone their critical reading, research, writing, and digital/multimedia skills in this seminar that will span a range of topics. Its emphases include scholarly inquiry and presenting findings to different audiences, argumentation, and prose style. Individual student conferences are part of the class.