Monday, December 11, 2017

From Environmental Writing to the Psychology of Health, New Spring Courses Offerings Promise Exciting Learning Experiences

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As the fall semester draws to a close, University of New Orleans students are sorting through spring 2018 course offerings to find classes that fit their schedules, their degree requirements and their interests.

Every semester, new courses bloom in response to student and faculty interest and need. Here’s a sample of three new class offerings that are already generating buzz:

For more information:

To learn more about spring 2018 course offerings, view the course catalog and other course information through the website for the Office of the Registrar. To apply to the University of New Orleans, go to apply.uno.edu.

Class:  Environmental Writing (ENGL 4391/5391 and BIOS 4590/5590)

When: 2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m., T/Th

Instructors: Nicola Anthony, professor of biological sciences, and Richard Goodman, assistant professor of English

Who can enroll: Any student, graduate or undergraduate, but especially those pursuing concentrations in English or the sciences.

Why you should take this course: It’s not often that English faculty and science faculty team up to teach a class. But Anthony and Goodman were inspired to give University of New Orleans students a terrific opportunity to learn how to write with gracefulness and accuracy when it comes to environmental science. The goal of the course is for students to create lucid, compelling science-based writing about environmental issues in a manner that is highly accessible to the ordinary reader.

Anthony said that when she heard of Goodman’s proposal for the course, she jumped at the chance to collaborate. As a scientist, writer and avid reader herself, Anthony said it’s imperative that scientists today recognize the urgency of telling their stories in ways that translate to a general audience.

“There’s a lot of science out there that doesn’t translate well into the general public because the correct terminology is too technical,” she said. “And we need to think about breaking down our ideas in ways that the information is more relatable for the audience.”

Likewise, Goodman said, nonfiction writers must learn how to use their skills to describe scientific matters without compromising accuracy in their aims for great writing: “We need this writing now. Very good environmental writers—those who have a firm grasp of the science and write it in a way that you or I can access it – are rare.”

As part of the course, students from the English department will be paired with students from the biological sciences department and expected to work on a semester-long collaborative project focused on an environmental issue of their choice.

They will be expected to research widely and create a written portfolio about their findings. Students will also participate in weekly classroom discussions and exercises on a wide range of environmental themes selected by the two instructors for this course.

The class will also draw from texts that include both original scientific publications and popular writing by environmental writers like Elizabeth Kolbert, Bill McKibben, Stephen Jay Gould, Jared Diamond, David Quammen and, locally, Bob Marshall and Nathaniel Rich.

Class: Psychology of Health-Related Decision-Making (PSYC 4091)

When: M/W/F 9 a.m. to 9:50 a.m.

Instructor: Christopher Harshaw, assistant professorChristopher Harshaw

Who can enroll: Any student, graduate or undergraduate.

Why you should take this course: Ever wonder why some people follow their doctor’s orders and others ignore them? What about why someone is a faithful runner but another person cannot manage to keep their exercise commitments beyond a week or two.

Christopher Harshaw, assistant professor of psychology, will help students explore the ways biology, psychology and society interact to influence a person’s decisions about their own health. Topics will include eating, dieting, sleep, sex, drug and alcohol use, addition, gambling and other sorts of risk-taking.

The course will also delve into the influence that technology—such as smartphones and wearable fitness and health trackers—has on a person’s health and health-related decisions. For example, Harshaw said, there is some evidence that suggests that people who use food-tracking apps to help control their eating have poorer memory recall with regard to what they have eaten.

Harshaw, who joined the University of New Orleans in the fall, said the course was always a popular one when he was on faculty at Indiana University Bloomington. He thinks part of the draw is that it’s a course that has applicability to everyone’s lives.

“I think it’s the kind of class that lots of students would be interested to enjoy,” he said. “It’s dealing with every day, mundane decisions that lead people to be on either a good health trajectory or else on a course that could lead to riskier behavior and poorer health.”

Of note: This course is considered a “special topics” course, which means that when you go to enroll in it electronically, the system may tell you that you need certain prerequisites. Harshaw cautions not to be intimidated, however, as the course is open to everyone. If you are interested and are encountering difficulties enrolling, contact Harshaw at (504) 280-7167 or charshaw@uno.edu for help navigating the system.

Class: Academic Success (UNIV 1003)

When: You choose! The University is offering 15 sections of this one-credit course at various times throughout the week, Monday through Friday. It’s a 50-minute, one-day-a-week class, with a cap of 12 students per class.

UNIV 1003 TextbookInstructors: This course is being offered by various instructors, including college advisors and staff from First Year Experience.

Who can enroll: Freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

Why you should take this course: No matter your academic performance, UNIV-1003 is designed to help you learn how to strategically improve your GPA, launching you on the path of self-growth and discovery.

Students who take this course will be immersed in interactive activities that are designed to strengthen memory, self-management, study behaviors, motivation and engagement with university support networks. As part of the class, students will have the opportunity to take the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (also called LASSI), an assessment that will help identify individual learning strategies and attitudes. The results of this assessment will be used to help students find ways to maximize their study, incorporating practices that best suit their individual learning styles. In addition, students will create an individualized plan for academic success.

“It’s going to give them the best tools for them to be successful,” said Candace Stanton, student success counselor and coordinator of University Success. “Whatever study behaviors that they notice that they have that weren’t effective in the past, this can help to build on those things and turn them around.”

Mike Hoffshire, assistant director of Student Success, stressed that that UNIV 1003 is for every student who has an interest in optimizing their coursework for success. “This is a course that is designed for any student who wants to increase their GPA or learn new study skills and strategies that they can use in college,” he said.

Of note: The textbook used in the course, Practicing College Learning Strategies by C.H. Hopper, is being provided to students free of cost to them.

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