JEO Seminar Readings

2020 Scholarship Weekend Readings will be posted in January. You will receive notice of your seminar placement one week before your scheduled event date.


Last year’s seminar topics are below:

Genetic Engineering: “Playing God?”
Dr. Lea Alford, Biology
Initially concerned about the health and environmental impacts of genetically modified foods, termed GMOs, the public is now faced with a new scientific revolution: CRISPR. Josiah Zayner is selling gene editing kits from his house in California and Dr. He Jiankui recently announced the birth of genetically engineered babies resistant to HIV. Public concerns are rising, but many scientists are excited by the new gene editing technology. What is CRISPR and what are the extent of its applications? Are scientists on the verge of “playing God?”

“How to Remember: Complicated History and Collective Memory”
Mr. Eli Arnold ’06
Right now, there is an ongoing national dialogue concerning the role of collective memory, public history, and how we remember and preserve our past. Atlanta, the self-proclaimed capital of the New South and a city “too busy to hate,” is currently evaluating historic markers and names to better reflect an accurate and inclusive history.Starting our discussion with the Stone Mountain Park Confederate Memorial in Atlanta and the City of Atlanta’s report on street names and Confederate monuments, this seminar will seek to apply the discussion to Oglethorpe University, as we wrestle with how to preserve and honor our own past when there are historical complications.

Memories, False Memories, and Lies
Dr. Brooke Bays, Psychology
What is memory, and how do we make it? Why do we forget, or even worse, come to remember events that never actually happened? How do we discriminate between false memories and lies? In this seminar we will explore the complicated process of accurate and (in)accurate memory construction.  In doing so we will explore real world implications of memory processes, including eyewitness memory and false confessions.

Science, Technology, and the Future of Humankind
Dr. Jeffrey Collins, Art History & Anthropology
This seminar will discuss the meaning of the 21st century as a transitional period in human civilization. Students will discuss topics such as new energy sources, AI, the genomic revolution, space exploration, nanotechnology, fusion of humans and machines, singularity, and transhumanism. The reading will assume basic scientific literacy but no level of expertise in these fields, and an anthropological interest in such questions as: What is a human, really? Where do we wish to go? What will be our future values? How do we move beyond our present problems? Who will benefit from what technologies?

Literacy, Civility, and the Role of Journalism in a Democratic Society
Dr. Kate Keib, Communications
The term “fake news” has been used to describe both disinformation, patently false information spread nefariously, and, more recently, content that the user simply disagrees with.  Key to a democratic society is access to reliable information that holds the powerful accountable and allows citizens to make sound decisions in the voting booth.  In this session, we will explore the importance of journalistic norms in society, analyze how citizens decide what to believe and discuss future avenues for information flow.

Mean Girls: “Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice”
Dr. Carolyn Mata, Strategic Initiatives & Assessment
Socialization begins even before we are born. As expectant parents learn the sex of the fetus and celebrate this learning with gender reveal parties – they begin to assign norms, values, and even colors: blue for boy, pink for girl. Parents begin to shape their expectations for their children based on sex and once the child is born, gendering begins in earnest. Parents, teachers, and others often look for differences between boys and girls and ignore or downplay the similarities. We will examine gender as a performance – one in which we are rewarded if performed well. We often hear “boys will be boys” and girls should be “sugar and spice and everything nice,” but how does this impact how boys and girls, men and women deal with issues of power and disputes? What if we begin to consider how boys and girls are socialized to respond to these issues? In this seminar we will examine the social construction of gender and look at the “mean girls” phenomenon as a gendered performance of differential power.

Agatha Christie:  Murder, Mayhem, and Human Nature
Associate Provost Dr. John Nardo
Detective fiction is a relatively recent literary invention. This genre’s place in literature and its ability to say something meaningful about the human condition are up for debate.  If a murder mystery is a best seller, is it less likely to be substantial and of literary value? One of the masters of detective fiction is Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976).The Guinness Book of World Records hails Christie as the best-selling novelist of all times, and her company claims her book sales come third world-wide, only after Shakespeare and the Bible. This JEO seminar will focus on several short stories by Agatha Christie.  We will examine them as literary texts (for plot, characterization, and much more), but we will also explore them as artifacts of human nature.  What can they reveal about our inner selves and our relationships with others?

Breaking Binaries: Deconstructing Sex, Gender, and Sexuality
Dr. Amy Palder, Sociology
In this seminar we will examine the sociological aspects of sex, gender and sexuality.  We will learn that sex, gender and sexuality are socially constructed with meanings that vary historically and across cultures. Using an intersectional approach, we will contemplate how we categorize sex, gender and sexuality and deconstruct many taken-for-granted assumptions.

Plato’s Apology: The Ideal of a Liberal Arts Education
Dr. Amanda Printz Whooley, Philosophy
Plato’s Apology is one of the canonical texts of the Western intellectual tradition. In it, Socrates is accused of not believing in the gods that the city believes in and of corrupting the youth. But, a close reading of this text reveals that these are accusations not only of Socrates but also of the philosophical life itself and the very notions that ground the liberal arts. In this seminar, we will examine Plato’s portrayal of the trial of Socrates and the crisis of philosophy. We will think through the following questions: What is the philosophical life? Is this life worthy of condemnation, or is it the life we ought to pursue? How is the philosophical life related to pursuing the liberal arts and is such a pursuit worthwhile?

Social Change: Theory and Practice
Dr. Shane Pruitt, Student Engagement & Leadership
This seminar is for people interested in creating social change through collective action. We will take a behind-the-scenes look at how people organize grassroots social movements by exploring the art, theory, and science of making social change. By examining case studies of different movements, we will consider varied perspectives on power and powerlessness, political organization, collective action, and reform versus revolution.

The Future of Global Energy
Dr. Andrew Walden, Chemistry
Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is a necessary part of combating global climate change. Alternative energy sources that are currently being utilized or have been proposed often require improvements in efficiency and modifications of our current energy infrastructure in order to become viable alternatives to fossil fuels.  In this seminar we will explore the chemistry behind current technologies and the potential of proposed energy sources allowing for a fuller understanding of how the ways we generate, store, transport, and utilize energy will change in the future.