Signature courses are small, seminar-style courses provide opportunities for students to discuss engaging issues while developing critical thinking, information literacy and both written and oral communication skills. Each class is focused on a unique subject but all classes are about intellectual curiosity, making campus connections and learning how to thrive in the SUNY Oswego community. Learning objectives include critical thinking, communication, intercultural knowledge, and campus engagement.
Fall 2021 Offerings:
Black Art Matters: Excellence, Activism and Self Identity
Where and who are the Black visual artists of the past and the present? What impact have African American artists made on the country and the world? This course introduces and surveys the art of African Americans from 1800 to the present—highlighting visual art produced during slavery, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance (or the New Negro movement), Black Power and Arts, Civil Rights, and the Black Lives Matter movements. We will explore and compare how the artistic and creative concerns of these historical periods and movements are parallel and intersect through Black visual art.
Ellen M. Blalock, narrative artist and documentarian, is SUNY Oswego’s Artist-in-Resident of fall 2021. Her mediums are photography, video, drawing, fiber and installation. She has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States in museums, galleries, and non-traditional places to bring her art to the people. She has a M.F.A. from Syracuse University and a B.F.A. from Temple University. She believes her job is to be a conduit to listen and tell stories of the ignored and underrepresented. She uses art to raise awareness of human conditions, social injustices, cultural diversities and religious and spiritual beliefs. Several topics Blalock has addressed in her art are: the Deaf community, GLBTQ families, African American teen fathers and trauma and mental health in the Black community. Blalock most recently traveled to Dagahaley, the world’s largest refugee camp in the desert of Kenya, to document a Somali son’s reunion with his mother for film and photo exhibition.
American Blues: Music, cultural history and expression
The history of the blues is the history of 20th-century America, and no greater illustration of its tragedies and triumphs exists than two days in 1936. On Nov. 23, Robert Johnson recorded some of the most famous blues songs ever, to be covered by hundreds of acts and revered by millions of fans. But the night before, while playing on the street for extra cash, he was arrested, roughed up and had his guitar destroyed by local police who thought -- despite his insistence -- he was a vagrant. Thus one session that moved the musical world forward was preceded by an event that reflected the backwards attitudes the blues, and Black America, continuously tries to conquer.
This course will use cultural and social history, writing, music, popular culture studies, psychology and other fields to probe how the blues and its history provides lessons on an America that was and still is, while also offering opportunities for student self-expression and supporting intercultural knowledge and competence.
Tim Nekritz is a communications professional, published historian and amateur (but improving!) musician. By day, he serves as director of news and media in the college’s Office of Communications and Marketing, telling the stories of the SUNY Oswego family. He also has taught in communication studies for 15 years. A former music columnist and promoter, Tim is a voracious blues researcher, working on publishing projects and on differentiating between the two Sonny Boy Williamsons. He plays bass and sings at open mics and a variety of jams. In addition, Tim’s 8-year-old son, Arius, is trying to teach his dad to become a competent gamer.
Mindfulness practices can help re-unite body and mind in the present moment, allowing us to examine connections between our inner experiences (thoughts, feelings) and our physical experiences (restlessness, anxiety, physical sensations, energy, relaxation, sleep), and the world. Everyone has the capacity to cultivate mindfulness and experience life more fully.
In this practice-based course, we will experience various mindfulness practices including yoga and meditation, and investigate the impacts on our awareness, emotions and thoughts. We will explore the ancient roots of yoga in India and look at ways eastern and western practices have co-mingled and influenced one another in modern yoga and meditation practices. We will use these cross cultural explorations to reflect on and examine our own cultural beliefs. Together we will discover the fascination of exploring our interior spaces.
Dr. Beyerbach is an education professor, a certified yoga teacher, and Professional Development School Coordinator for the School of Education. A faculty member in Curriculum and Instruction, she teaches Culturally Relevant Teaching and supervises student teachers. She has visited India to explore the roots of yoga and works with area schools to bring mindfulness practices to teachers and children. She has walked the Camino de Santigo, and has visited and worked with schools in Benin, China, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica and India. She, Davis and Ramalho most recently published the second edition of the edited volume, Activist Art in Social Justice Pedagogy (Beyerbach, B., Davis R. D , & Ramalho, T., 2017, Peter Lang Publishing).
New Adult Literature: Exploring Books about Early Adulthood
Where can readers who loved Young Adult literature as teens turn for pleasure reading as they leave adolescence behind? “New Adult” literature targets an audience ranging from about 18 to 25 years old. In this course, we will use a book club format to discuss characters negotiating academic and social aspects of college life. We’ll get to know characters as they explore intellectual passions and careers; forge new relationships; accept challenges; and construct a future. We’ll read biographies and memoirs focusing on the early years of famous people in several fields, as well as informational texts about approaching the age of “twenty-something.”
Sharon Kane is a Professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, where she teaches literacy and methods courses. She is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She loves hiking, bicycling, and skiing, as well as reading and teaching about Young Adult literature. She has been an active member of a writing group for more than 20 years. Her publications include Literacy and Learning in the Content Areas, 4th Edition (Routledge, 2019) and Integrating Literature in the Disciplines, 2nd Edition (Routledge, 2020). She is currently working on a book about “New Adult” literature.
Health and Social Justice from Abolition to #BLM
"Racism is a public health threat,” declared Dr. Lisa Cooper in a recent webcast. Over the past year, COVID-19 has exposed racial disparities in health on a national stage and helped ignite protest over police violence against Black Americans. Heightened attention to racial health disparities and organized civil rights protest are not only linked in today’s pandemic but also occurred several times before in U.S. history. Before the Civil War, health reformers, antislavery protesters, and the first women doctors spurred social change. Again, after World War II, activists linked illness, poverty, and racial inequality to bring about the Civil Rights movement. In this course, we will examine these patterns of anti-racist protest meshing with health justice during these three eras. Throughout these eras, racially-diverse groups preserved and developed health and healing ways for thriving in their communities. We will engage with protest and pro-health strategies in relation to social change by reading a variety of historical and personal accounts in various media as they intersect with race, health, and social change up to the present day.
Sarah Berry earned her PhD in English from Syracuse University and her Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. She teaches in English and Creative Writing at SUNY Oswego; her courses examine the relationship between embodiment and citizenship in U.S. literature as well as intersections among literature and healthcare in diverse literary forms. She is the author of essays on medicine, gender, race, and cultural history, covering topics ranging from the early days of public health and vaccination to Henrietta Lacks and medical privacy and serves on the board of the Health Humanities Consortium. She grew up in Onondaga County and is proud to be a 3rd-generation Oswegonian, following her grandmother and father who both earned degrees here. When not on campus, she enjoys growing things in her garden and walking by the lake.
Black Lives, Black Literature
How have Black lives really mattered across the centuries in the United States? The stories about Black people in the U.S. are wide-ranging, covering the hopes, tribulations, fears, longings, and joys of a people. In this course, we will read and learn about the lives of Black people and how they mattered in narratives written during slavery; novels and poetry written during the period of emancipation; the literature of the New Negro Renaissance of the 1920s; the social commentary in the literary works of post-WWII; and the contemporary issues in the fiction and non-fiction of the 21st century. Authors we will likely consider include (but not limited to), Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Sojourner Truth, William Wells Brown, Charles Chestnutt, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Harryette Mullen, among others. The goal here is to foster a greater sense of the complexity and diversity among Black people in order to better understand the current and ongoing movements for social justice and equity.
Patricia E. Clark, Ph.D. (A.B., M.A., Syracuse University; Ph.D., Miami University), is an associate professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing. She also teaches courses in the African & African American and Gender & Women’s Studies programs. Dr. Clark’s primary areas of focus are mid 19th through 21st century African American and U.S. literature and culture. Her published and forthcoming work focuses on language, food writing, and aurality/orality in the U.S. African diaspora. Dr. Clark is a voracious reader, loves to cook while listening to jazz music, and is passionate about vegetable gardening.
The Spoken Word
Spoken word poems are meant for a crowd. Performance poetry (spoken word and slam) became popular in the United States in the 1980s, and this genre of writing and speaking emphasizes word choice, rhythm, repetition, and storytelling to address issues related to social justice.
This course will introduce you to contemporary spoken word poems and performers as well as the social problems they address in their writing: sexism, civil rights, poverty, body image, LGBTQ+ rights, rape culture, mental illness, religious freedom, and more. You will also compose, workshop, and perform your own spoken word poem.
Stephanie Pritchard is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English and Creative Writing department at the State University of New York at Oswego. She received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2011. Stephanie teaches poetry writing, digital storytelling, and English composition courses, is Assistant Director for Writing Across the Curriculum and the Director of The Creativity Lab. She is the recipient of the Provost's Award for Teaching Excellence. In addition to teaching and writing, Stephanie enjoys going for long walks with her two beagles, watching the same shows over and over on Netflix, instructing group exercise classes at the Oswego YMCA, and trying to convince her toddler to wear pants.
Be Well at Oswego
Be Well at OSWEGO is a behavior change course specifically geared at addressing a student’s well-being as they transition from high school to college. Particular focus will be on learning daily coping skills necessary to thrive in the area of emotional, social and intellectual well-being. Special attention will be given to how the use of daily goal-setting, mindfulness, positive psychology, healthy eating, physical activity and stress management can enhance resilience in college.
Dr. Amy Bidwell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness. She received her M.S. and PhD from Syracuse University in Exercise Physiology and Science Education with a research emphasis in nutrition, physical inactivity and disease progression. Dr. Bidwell teaches nutrition and exercise physiology at Oswego. Her aim is to increase the overall health and wellness of all college students by educating them on ways to incorporate physical activity, maintain stress levels and practice a healthy diet every day. Dr. Bidwell enjoys involving her students in her research and has often been spotted sharing a healthy meal with her student at Lakeside. Dr. Bidwell practices what she preaches by running and doing yoga on her free time. She has completed 3 half marathons and a Tough Mudder!
Sexual Health in The Media
Sexual Health in the Media is a wellness course that uses popular media such as reality television, pop & hip-hop music, movies, Instagram, and other media sources to explore themes related to sexual health, relationships, communication, and prevention. The course focuses on giving college students the tools and strategies needed to navigate the college culture and empower students to make healthy life decisions. Some core modules of the course will include:
- Understanding Health on Campus
- Study and Lifelong Learning Skills
- Introduction to Sexual Health
- The Media and Perspectives of Sexuality
- Communication and Collaboration
Dr. Jessica Harris is a full-time Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness at SUNY Oswego. She received her Ed. D from St. John Fisher College in Executive Leadership, where her research focused on “Knowledge, Behavior, and Attitudes of College Students Regarding HIV/AIDS.” Her M.S. was in Health Science from the University of Arkansas, where her research focused on sexual health.
Dr. Harris is passionate about teaching and is very active on the SUNY Oswego campus, you may see her at several student events such as OZFEST, ALANA fashion shows, or simply chatting with students in the lounge. Dr. Harris is very approachable and has an open-door policy. Her goal is to help her students succeed whether that be by going on to graduate school or helping students into flourishing career paths.
Navigating News: Fake & Fact
Do you think following the news is something just your parents or grandparents do? How can you tell if that news story in your social media feed is fake or fact? And why is everyone yelling on cable news? Following the news doesn’t have to be boring. It can actually be fun if you know the language of news and find sources that are interesting to you. And, being an informed citizen can be vitally important to your life and your career.
This course sets out to help students learn news literacy -- what different news outlets and platforms are intended to do, and not do. Students will learn from a seasoned journalist what goes into reporting and producing news stories. We’ll explore the difference between “fake news,” opinion journalism and news reporting. Students will learn about news online, television radio and social media. That means the class involves watching TV, listening to podcasts and exploring social media. This class is meant for students who have never read a news story before, those considering a media career and everyone in between.
Catherine Loper is a visiting assistant professor of broadcast journalism. She started teaching full time at SUNY Oswego in 2017 after a 25+ year career in broadcast news, primarily in Washington, D.C.. Professor Loper has worked for a variety of broadcasters including ABC News, Fox News Channel and WRVO, the NPR affiliate based on the SUNY Oswego campus. She’s traveled to over 40 states and 20 countries covering presidents and presidential candidates. Professor Loper has a B.A. in broadcast journalism from the University of Southern California and a M.A. in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Professor Loper left the whirlwind world of news to live with her husband and two stepchildren in northern New York. When she is not watching, listening and reading the news, she enjoys cooking, eating, traveling and watching sports.
Puzzles and Paradoxes: Mathematics in Fiction
This course will take us down the rabbit hole to look at how mathematical ideas appear in fiction, from Alice in Wonderland to a modern graphic novel. Along the way, we’ll explore logic puzzles and paradoxes, while also addressing deeper questions of societal expectations and who belongs in math and science.
Zoë Misiewicz is an Instructor of Mathematics whose priority is to help all students enjoy and succeed in math. She received her B.Sc. from the University of Toronto, where she studied both mathematics and classics. This combined interest in math and ancient languages led to research in the history of science, and she completed her PhD at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling, and board games.
Physics at the Frontier: Most Amazing Discoveries
Which are the oldest discoveries? What scientific breakthroughs changed the outcome of wars and shifted the frontiers? How did condensed matter research lead to the Silicon Valley boom? What are the novel medical procedures developed with biophysics advancements?
We will discuss the scientific discoveries which revolutionized the world. We will have a historical view on physics advancement, and then we will discuss how the physics discoveries were essential in the progress done in other fields: medicine, astronomy, computer science, chemistry, geology, and biological sciences.
Dr. Carolina Ilie is a Professor in the Department of Physics. Dr Ilie decided to do physics when she was 11, and she really loves to discover new things and to spend time solving problems. She obtained her PhD in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, an MSc in Physics at Ohio State University and another MSc in Physics at the University of Bucharest, Romania. Her research is in condensed matter physics: in magnetic materials, molecule absorption on polymers, solar cells. She received the President’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2016 and the Provost Award for Mentoring in Scholarly and Creative Activity in 2013. She published two books on electromagnetism and electrodynamics with a SUNY Oswego team: alumnus Zac Schrecengost as co-author, and alumna Julia D’Rozario as exclusive illustrator.
When not doing research or solving problems, she enjoys walking with her family, listening to classical music, reading, playing piano (terribly!), learning languages (Spanish) and, when inspiration strikes, writing poetry and knitting.
Creative Living: Pursuits in Curiosity, Purpose and Problem Solving
As Elizabeth Gilbert states in her book, “Big Magic”, “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself.”
Throughout this course students will learn about different approaches to creativity, inspiration and motivation. The techniques and methods in this course can be applied whether students are looking to write, make art, find new ways to address challenges in their work, or simply infuse their everyday college experience with more mindfulness and passion.
Ola Kraszpulska has been working at SUNY Oswego since 2013. She teaches classes in Theatre Design, Introduction to Theatre, Theatre of the Oppressed and Scene Painting. During her time here, she has been a part of over 30 theatrical productions, with two of them nominated for the SALT award (Sleuth, 2019- Best Scenic Design, Always a Bridesmaid, 2015- Best Scenic Design).
With the pandemic putting a pause on her regular mode of expression, Ola became really interested in pursuing other outlets for creativity, which have broadened her as an artist and a person.
In her free time Ola enjoys hanging out with her animals (an English Bulldog named Gorgonzola, a cat named Zen and a French lop named Pumpkin), hiking and reading.