Fall 2020

Note: this is page provides preliminary information about courses. Final course information will be published shortly before the start of the semester.


AMST-220-01/ENGL-120-01 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

This course considers from many perspectives what it means to read and write and learn and teach both for ourselves and for others. As part of the work of this course, in addition to the usual class hours, students will serve as weekly tutors and classroom assistants in adult basic education centers in nearby towns. Thus this course consciously engages with the obstacles to and the power of education through course readings, through self-reflexive writing about our own varied educational experiences, and through weekly work in the community. Although this course presses participants to reflect a great deal about teaching, this course does not teach how to teach. Instead it offers an exploration of the contexts and processes of education, and of the politics and desires that suffuse learning. Course readings range across literary genres including essays, poems, autobiographies, and novels in which education and teaching figure centrally, as well as readings in ethnography, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. The writing assignments cross many genres as well.

Limited to 18 students. Five seats reserved for first-year students. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

AMST-234-01/LLAS-234-01/RELI-234-01 The Sanctuary Movement: Religion, Activism, and Social Contestation

From sanctuary cities and states to sanctuary campuses and churches, declarations of sanctuary sites have swept the nation in recent years. The U.S. Sanctuary Movement, established in 1982 to harbor Central American asylum seekers fleeing civil wars, has today assumed broader social implementations in the New Sanctuary Movement. Beginning with an examination of antecedents to the U.S. Sanctuary Movement in global contexts, this course will offer students an in-depth study of the Sanctuary Movement since the 1980s with special attention to the New Sanctuary Movement which is active today throughout the country. Engagement with sanctuary workers outside the Amherst area may occasion one or two field trips, depending on availability.

Limited to 11 students. Assistant Professor Barba.

ARHA-345-01/FAMS-346-01 2020 Vision: Seeing the American Election (Advanced Photo and Video Projects)

This year’s election may be the most consequential one we have seen for a generation. Amidst the barrage of media exposure generated by presidential campaigns, what is the role of the visual arts in documenting, witnessing and making sense of this historic moment? In this advanced studio course, we will travel to locations in New England chosen by the class for their relevance to this year’s U.S. election. Students will work independently in photography, video or both to produce a body of work that speaks to their own experience in these places. Students may choose to work in a variety of modes, be it direct observation, diaristic record, poetic intervention or a combination of approaches. The course will also include group and individual critiques of the students’ work, research seminars, historical and topical lectures from the histories of film, video and photography, and the examination of art practices that seek to balance or blend politics and aesthetics. We will conclude the semester with a group exhibition of artistic work created by students in the class.

Requisite: One 200-level course in photography or film/video production and permission of the instructors. Limited to 14 students. Professors Levine and Kimball. 

BIOL-181-01 Adaptation and the Organism

An introduction to the evolution, ecology, and behavior of organisms and how these relate to the diversity of life. Following a discussion of the core components of evolutionary theory, we'll examine how evolutionary processes have shaped morphological, anatomical, physiological, and behavioral adaptations in organisms that solve many of life's problems, ranging from how to find or acquire food and avoid being eaten, to how to attract and locate mates, and how to optimize reproduction throughout a lifetime. We'll relate and compare characteristics of animals, plants, fungi, protists, and bacteria, examining how and why these organisms have arrived at various solutions to life's problems. Laboratory exercises will complement lectures and will involve field experiments on natural selection and laboratory studies of vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. Four classroom hours and three laboratory hours per week.

Professors Clotfelter and Miller; Lab Coordinator Kristensen.

ECON-453-01 Economics of Entrepreneurship

This course explores the economic importance of entrepreneurship, with a focus on recent empirical findings. We will study the roles entrepreneurs play in innovation, economic growth, and rising living standards, as well as determinants of entrepreneurial success such as finance, geography, and entrepreneur characteristics. The course will also cover implications for policy and explore recent patterns in entrepreneurial activity in the United States. Students will become familiar with key research findings on entrepreneurship, conduct research utilizing publicly available data on firms and workers, and identify real-world examples of course concepts.

Requisite: ECON 360/361. Limited to 15 students. Professor Blackwood.

GEOL-301-01 Water Science with Laboratory in Hydrogeologic Methods

As the global human population expands in a future marked by climate change, the search for and preservation of our most vital resource, water, will demand thoughtful policy and greater scientific understanding. This course is an introduction to surface and groundwater hydrology, geochemistry, and management for natural systems and human needs. Lectures will focus on understanding the hydrologic cycle, how water flows over and within the earth, and the many ways in which this water is threatened by contamination and overuse. Three hours of lecture and three hours of lab or field trip each week. The course will conclude with a final project based on an integrated study undertaken during most laboratories.

Requisite: GEOL 111 or consent of the instructor. Professor Martini.

HIST-380-01/AMST-380/SWAG-380 Women of Color and the Emergence of U.S. Third World Feminist Left

This research seminar investigates the active role taken by Asian American women and other women of color in the emergence of the U.S. Third World Feminist Left during the 1960s and 1970s. This movement saw ending imperialism and colonialism as a necessary part of their fight against racism, sexism, and capitalism in the United States and beyond and drew inspiration from Third World feminism and decolonization activities.  Third World feminism posits that women's activisms in the Third World do not originate from the ideologies of the First World and specifically centers Third World women's radicalism in their local/national contexts and struggles.  Organizations such as the Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA) in New York City, which grew out of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), brought together Black, Puerto Rican, and Asian American women in the socialist fight to end imperialism, sexism, capitalism, and racism.  The images of revolutionary Third World women engaged in anti-colonial struggles in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, especially during the Vietnam War era, inspired U.S.-based feminists of color and helped them embrace leftist Third World solidarity politics.  Students will utilize the rich archival sources found in the Sophia Smith Collection (TWWA records, Miriam Ching Yoon Louie papers, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum papers) as well as the Triple Jeopardy newspapers found in the Marshall I. Bloom papers at the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections to produce a 12-15-page research paper and will publicly present their collective work.  Two meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students. Professor Kim.

MATH-150-01 Voting and Elections: A Mathematical Perspective

The outcomes of many elections, whether to elect the next United States president or to rank college football teams, can displease many of the voters. How can perfectly fair elections produce results that nobody likes? We will analyze different voting systems, including majority rule, plurality rule, Borda count, and approval voting, and assess a voter’s power to influence the election under each system, for example, by calculating the Banzhaf power index. We will prove Arrow’s Theorem and discuss its implications. After exploring the pitfalls of various voting systems through both theoretical analysis and case studies, we will try to answer some pressing questions: Which voting system best reflects the will of the voters? Which is least susceptible to manipulation? What properties should we seek in a voting system, and how can we best attain them?

Limited to 24 students. Professor Leise.

PHYS-112-01 Electronics

The aim of the course is to foster an understanding of and intuition for the modern-day electronic devices and circuits that are central to many aspects of our research, work, and play. A practical hands-on approach serves this aim well. After investigating the electrical characteristics of electronic components, including discrete semiconductor devices and integrated circuits (ICs), we go on to build and analyze both analog and digital circuits in order to gain insight into electronic control devices, data acquisition systems, and computers. Brief introductory lecture/discussion periods will be followed by experiments to help students understand new concepts. While the course is elementary, experienced students will be able to explore more complex circuitry and will be encouraged to apply some of their newly developed electronics knowledge and creativity to ongoing research projects in other fields. Two eighty-minute meetings per week of Lecture/Discussion/Laboratory.

Limited to 20 students. Professor Carter.

POSC-160-01/SWAG-160 Sexualities in International Relations

From abortion to gay rights, sexuality is deeply entangled in world politics. As LGBT rights become human rights principles, they not only enter the rights structure of the European Union and the United Nations but are also considered a barometer of political modernity. If some Latin American nations have depicted their recognition of gay rights as symbolic of their progressive character, certain North African nations have depicted their repression of homosexuality symbolic of their opposition to western imperialism. The results of sexual politics are often contradictory, with some countries enabling same-sex marriage but criminalizing abortion and others cutting aid in the name of human rights. This course explores the influence of sexual politics on international relations. We analyze how women and gay rights take shape in the international system, from the UN to security agendas, and evaluate how sexuality shapes the modus operandi of contemporary politics.

This course fulfills a requirement for the Five College Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice (RHRJ) certificate.

Limited to 30 students. Karl Loewenstein Fellow and Visiting Associate Professor Picq.

POSC-421-01 Indigenous World Politics

Indigenous peoples are dynamic political actors in national and global contexts. They have secured their rights in international law, first through Convention 169 at the International Labour Organization (1989), then with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). They have created innovative political forums and organized global social movements. Global indigenous politics are forging major changes in the international system, thereby disordering conventional understandings of sovereignty.

This course locates indigeneity at the core of international relations and examines indigenous politics from the Andes to the UN. We study international law securing rights for indigenous peoples and analyze indigenous experiences such as the Arctic Council and the election of Bolivian President Evo Morales. The course also explores the epistemological implications of indigenous rights for our understanding of politics. The consolidation of plurinational states in the Andes and indigenous parliaments in the Arctic change the locus of the political, and principles of self-determination challenge Westphalian notions of sovereignty to redefine territoriality.

Limited to 15 students. Karl Loewenstein Fellow and Visiting Associate Professor Picq.

PSYC-224-01 Intergroup Dialogue on Race

This highly interactive course brings together students to examine the roles race and other intersecting identities play in their lives. Course work includes an interdisciplinary blend of scholarly readings, in-class dialogue, experiential learning activities, reflective writing, and an intergroup collaborative action project aimed at bettering relationships and communication patterns outside the class itself. The course readings link students’ personal experiences with race to a socio-historical understanding of individual, institutional, and structural discrimination, and to the ways social inequality is embedded in social institutions and individual consciousness, constraining life chances. The readings address power imbalances within and between racial groups, and the ways privilege is allocated and social inequalities are sustained. Students will engage in sustained and respectful dialogue around racial divisions, learning to build skills in intergroup communication, collaboration, and relationships. Students will bring their own experiences with race into the classroom as a legitimate process of learning. Class members will explore similarities and differences between their experiences with race and privilege within and across racial identity groups, with the goal of coming to understand the underlying conditions that account for these different experiences and perceptions.

Requisite: PSYC 100 and consent of the instructor. Limited to 14 students. Professors Aries and Hart.

STAT-104-01 Building Statistical Literacy through a Criminal Justice Lens

In this data-driven, digital age, being able to reason through the numbers we see on a daily basis via the media, advertising, and other sources is critical.  This discussion-based course is designed to help build statistical and data literacy.  Examples will be focused on the use of data and statistics as related to the public health field, including smoking, diet, and mass incarceration.  Many topics from introductory statistics will be covered including probability, study design, sampling, and confidence intervals.  This course will be conducted inside a correctional facility and enroll an equal number of Amherst students and residents of the facility. Permission to enroll in the course will be granted on the basis of a questionnaire and interview with the instructor.  If space is available, first-year students will be admitted during the add/drop period. This course is not intended for students who want to major in statistics. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 12 students. Professor Correia. 

STAT-231-01 Data Science

Computational data analysis is an essential part of modern statistics and data science. This course provides a practical foundation for students to think with data by participating in the entire data analysis cycle. Students will generate statistical questions and then address them through data acquisition, cleaning, transforming, modeling, and interpretation. This course will introduce students to tools for data management and wrangling that are common in data science and will apply those tools to real-world applications. Students will undertake practical analyses of large, complex, and messy data sets leveraging modern computing tools.

Requisite: STAT 111 or STAT 135 and COSC 111 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 24 students. Professors Correia and Wagaman.