Special Topics: Fall 2020 course offerings

By MacKenzie Brady

Student Life Editor

Each semester, a number of special topics courses are offered in various departments. In the fall semester, there will be over 30 special topics courses offered, many of them cross-listed between departments.

Special topics courses are not a part of that department’s standard cycled courses. While some are only offered once — sometimes by visiting staff — others are taught semi-regularly but aren’t a part of the department’s core courses, still others function as special topics courses until they are approved to be a part of that department’s standard cycled courses.

Some of the special topics courses being offered next semester include Inside Out: Race & Gender taught by Dr. Emily Steinmetz, Assistant Professor of Anthropology; Printmaking taught by Julie Wills, Assistant Professor of Studio Art; Video Editing taught by Nancy Cross, Director of Educational Technology; Data Science taught by Dr. Kyle Wilson, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science; Washington College and Slavery taught by Dr. Carol Wilson, Arthur A. and Elizabeth R. Knapp Professor of American History; and Disease Ecology taught by Dr. Robin Van Meter, Chair of Environmental Science and Studies and Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Studies and Biology. A full list of this year’s special topics listed can be found in the fall 2020 course schedule on the registrar’s website.

Many special topics courses come from a professor’s interest in an idea, a concept, a question they want students to help answer, or the need for additional options.

Dr. Van Meter’s Disease Ecology course is one of those being taught because of the need for additional options.

“The Department of Environmental Science and Studies was planning to offer our ENV 222: Ecuador short-term summer course this May, but due to the current pandemic that trip was cancelled,” she said. “As ENV faculty were advising seniors and juniors, we realized there was a need for an upper-level ENV course, in part due to the cancellation of the Ecuador course, and also to help rising seniors who needed upper-level major electives but preferred not to wait until the spring semester.”

Dr. Van Meter, who has personal research interests in amphibian ecology and ecotoxicology, had been thinking about disease transmission and spread for years.

“When the need for an upper-level ENV course arose, knowing there are so many intimate connections between humans and other animals, it seemed quite timely to introduce a course that would help students begin to understand the ecology of disease,” Dr. Van Meter said.

“As much as I am saddened about the current crisis the entire world is in, I am really excited about this course and eager to work with enrolled students in the fall,” she said.

Descriptions of each course, including special topics courses, are available on Student Services by searching the course code on the Plan and Schedule page.

Students interested in learning more about special topics courses are encouraged to talk to their advisor or email the professor.

Because these special topics courses aren’t regularly offered, it is highly encouraged that students interested in taking them do so — you never know if, or when, they will be offered again.

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