Curriculum: Humanities & Sciences

Architecture | Design | Fine Arts | Interdisciplinary Studios


MATHS200 Symmetry in Nature & Design (Undergraduate)
Instructor: Carol Manahan
The word symmetry suggests balance, proportion, and harmony—both in aspects of the natural world and in human creations of art, design, music, dance, and architecture. We consider four types of symmetry in the course that can occur or be illustrated on a flat surface. Symmetry as pattern points us to Ian Stewart's work in which he argues that mathematics is a formal system for studying nature's patterns. Symmetry as cultural expression points us to the study of ethnomathematics, mathematical thinking embodied in the daily lives of all cultures. Concepts will be introduced in the classroom "math lab," and explored beyond the classroom through reading and interpreting articles, and through observation of the world around us, the construction of new symmetry patterns, and analysis of symmetry patterns through the language of mathematics.

METHS300 Globalization & Environment (Undergraduate)
Instructor: Sydney Carson
Globalization benefits some people more than others, some countries more than others, while all exist in a diminishing environment with limited resources. This course begins with a survey of the interrelationships that make up our shared environment, the economy, and our political culture. We then consider creative alternatives that are appropriate, nonviolent and that meet real human needs. Readings and films are the basis of class discussions, written comments, a research project, and a final project.

Methods Seminars are in-depth, interdisciplinary investigations of a particular problem or theme. These seminars focus on ways of knowing the world characteristic of the disciplines represented in the seminar, such that the forms or methods of investigation are as important as the subject matter itself.

METHS300 Oikos (Undergraduate)
Instructor: Ignacio Valero
There exists a rather intriguing contemporary convergence around the semiotics of Oikos, where at least four major crucial historical practices intersect with each other: political economy, ecology, art and architecture, and cultural studies. Is this a mere coincidence, a simple question of language or does this old Greek word convey a larger meaning, a sort of underground source that may help us navigate the treacherous waters of the present? At a more practical level, the actual conditions of the planet rife with environmental devastation, social, cultural and economic dislocation, technological ubiquity, and psychological anomie call for a creative reimagining of our place in the earth.

The class then is an attempt to develop an "oikoic" cartography or poetic economy of life—an approximation to an aesthetic political economy of the environment. We revisit certain aspects of these practices not only from the perspective of intellectual history but also from the nomadic angles of cultural hybrids and environmental science, ethics, and aesthetics. We reflect on the "nature-culture" social constructs and dichotomies and its attendant ideas of the "wild," "primitive," "savage," "civilized," "developed," and "cosmopolitan." We are helped by abundant visual and textual aids, as well as by extensive discussions and class presentations.

METHS300 Environmental Ethics (Undergraduate)
Instructor: Carol Manahan
In this seminar we join the ongoing conversation about contemporary ecological challenges and the moral concerns they evoke. We explore philosophical methods, religious traditions, and activist stances and examine controversies over ethical approaches and their significance. Field trips to local sites will provide living examples for discussion. Along the way we consider how architects, designers, and artists contribute to the conversation through the materials, methods, and messages of their creative work.

SCNCE200 Natural History/Bay Area (Undergraduate)
Instructor: Carol Manahan
Natural History of the San Francisco Bay Area: historical and contemporary survey of geography, weather, geology, plants, insects, birds, and animals of the San Francisco Bay Area through field trips, lectures, reading, discussion, and hands-on assignments. Discussion of California's unique biogeography, Mediterranean climate, and native plant communities, including conservation efforts, are included. We visit a number of habitats, such as grassland, oak woodland, redwood forest, creeks, sand dunes, marshes, beaches, and tide pools. Students maintain nature observation journals and conduct collaborative research projects.

SCNCE200 Applied Biology for Des & Art (Undergraduate)
Instructors: Thom McKeag & David Hammond
A comprehensive yet detail-focused class that teaches the basic principles of biology and its connection to art, architecture, and design. Through in-class lectures, hands-on labs, and field observation, students learn how to draw direct correlation between aspects of the biological sciences and their own creative work. The underlying theme of the class is that nature is our best source for creative inspiration. This class includes organismic biology, microbiology, and ecosystem biology.

SCNCE200 Biology As the Art of Life (Undergraduate)
Instructor: Forrest Hartman
The course integrates historical, philosophical, and contemporary concerns about the scope and limits of scientific thinking with an emphasis on the 17th-century Newtonian and the 19th-century Darwinian scientific revolutions and their consequences for current social concerns.

How and why has scientific thinking come to such prominence in our culture, and why are the arts now held in less esteem? How are scientific ways of thinking similar to the creative and imaginative approaches of the arts, and in what way is biology specifically about the art of life? The historical part of the course (Unit I) shows how the 19th-century Darwinian revolution completes the scientific revolution begun by the physicists in the 17th century and how materialism has become the dominant philosophy of our time. After establishing the historical background, relevant biological concepts are presented (Unit II).

Finally, we turn to various social problems arising from the revolution in biology and in particular to problems with biotechnologies and bioengineering, including stem cell research, cloning, and reproductive technologies (Unit III). Time permitting, current ecological and environmental issues are covered (Unit IV). Relevant films are also shown, particularly in the last half of the course.

SCNCE-200-02 Green Science (Undergraduate)
Instructor: William Alschuler
When we say something or practice or process is "green," what do we mean? Can we believe green labels? For example, what about LEED ratings for buildings? Energy Star ratings for appliances? Is there such a thing as a process with no waste? Why are renewable energy schemes tied to fossil fuels, and can they be untied? Is there a criterion for examining the sustainability of processes such as making ethanol biofuel from corn? What about impacts of such processes outside the energy market, such as on the food market? Is local food always better? Is there truth to the notion that Native Americans have always lived lightly upon the land? Why was Easter Island abandoned? What is our responsibility to current and future generations? Is there a sustainable future in the face of unlimited population growth? Can technology save us? Was Malthus right?

Through examinations of historical and current case studies and topics and hands-on assignments, we investigate all of the above (and related topics) to find our way to an idea of sustainability based on sound science and ethical behavior.

WRLIT304 L: Literature & Environment (Undergraduate)
Instructor: Steve Ajay
Literature of the Environment is a new course designed to enhance appreciation of our living planet through a careful investigation of selected writings that focus awareness on multiple ecosystems: the mountains, the oceans and rivers, the desert, and the land that is home to all beings.

Students are exposed to a range of authors (poetry, nonfiction, and prose) whose passion is the natural world. The class is based on the readings, the discussions, and assigned writings. There is a wealth of exquisite literature on the natural environment. Our intention in the class is to be nourished by this and also to delve into the urgent issues involved.

Authors: Barry Lopez, Gretel Ehrlich, Loren Eiseley, W. S. Merwin, Edward Abbey, Scott Russell Sanders, Diane Ackerman, Wendell Berry, Rebecca Solnit, Terry Tempest Williams, Leslie Silko, Mary Oliver, Wallace Stegner, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, Theodore Roethke, and others.