Graduate

We are actively seeking titles and descriptions of relevant graduate courses from professors and instructors at the University of Minnesota for dissemination among interested faculty and graduate students. Please submit course descriptions for upcoming semesters here.


Spring 2022

Spring 2022

CI 5442 - Adolescent Literature, Youth Activism and Climate Change Literacy - Prof. Marek Oziewicz (asynchronous, fully online)

This course explores how adolescent literature engages with the developmental and identity challenges faced by a generation whose lives are framed by anthropogenic climate change. It builds on the premise that climate literacy is a fundamental right of today’s adolescents. And that adolescents constitute the most invested audience for discussions about mitigating climate change and creating an ecological civilization.

Starting with the notion that climate change is primarily a challenge to our story systems, we read adolescent literature as a site of rebellion against the unjust, ecocidal status quo; a site where adolescents can articulate, debate, and creatively respond to visions of sustainable futures. We explore how narratives inspire youth activism and how, in turn, teenage activism of Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Greta Thunberg and other youths assists in the emergence of new stories about hope and change. Our focus on the intersection of storytelling, activism, and climate literacy highlights the key role adolescent literature plays in empowering today’s youths to become agents of change. We discuss how adolescent literature can stoke young people’s transformative anger, inspire them to address the climate crisis, and stand up for their right to have a future. We consider how educators can support this fight through activism and engaged discussions of adolescent literature. We read award-winning picture books, novels, and graphic novels that challenge us to reinvent ourselves as a biocentric global civilization. The goal is to transform you into an informed advocate of adolescent literature as a tool for developing climate change literacy and empowering your students to imagine post-carbon futures. The course will appeal to educators on all levels and to graduate students in the humanities: all those who are committed to advocating for climate literacy. With questions, contact Dr. Oziewicz at [email protected]

ENGW 8130 - Seminar: Writing of Literary Nonfiction

In this literary nonfiction seminar, we will experiment with ways to incorporate elements of science, nature, and the environment into our writing, whether that means building an essay around an equation, questioning the assumptions at the heart of a given study in a piece of literary journalism, or deepening a memoir by telling stories of human and non-human histories of the land where it unfolds. Scientists, historians, poets welcome.

Fall 2021

Fall 2021

GCC 5005 - Innovation for Changemakers: Design for a Disrupted World - Profs. Megan Voorhees, Andrea Davila, Anthony Loyd, Robert Gradoville

In this project-based course, students will work in interdisciplinary teams to develop entrepreneurial responses to current social and environmental problems while developing the tools, mindsets, and skills that can help them become leaders in addressing any complex grand challenge. This course will focus on seeking ways to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact in meaningful ways.

GCC 5027 - Power Systems Journey: Making the Invisible Visible and Actionable - Profs. Jonee Brigham & Paul Imbertson

An energy revolution is underway, and needs to accelerate to support climate and economic goals. But the general citizenry does not understand our current energy systems, particularly the seemingly invisible phenomena of electricity, and its generation, distribution, and use. Technical knowledge is only half the solution, however. It is through human decisions and behaviors that technical solutions get applied and adopted, and the importance of communication and storytelling is being recognized for its relevance to making change. How can science literacy and behavior-motivating engagement and storytelling be combined to help make systemic change? This course explores the integration of science-based environmental education, with art-led, place-based exploration of landscapes and creative map-making to address this challenge. How do we make electricity visible, understandable, and interesting -- so we can engage citizens in energy conservation with basic literacy about the electric power system so that they can be informed voters, policy advocates, and consumers. In this class, you will take on this challenge, first learning about the electric power systems you use, their cultural and technical history, systems thinking, design thinking, and prior examples of communication and education efforts. With this foundation, you will then apply your learning to create a public education project delivered via online GIS Story maps that use a combination of data, art, and story to help others understand, and act on the power journey we are all on. All will share the  common exploration of power systems through field trips, and contribute to a multi-faceted story of power, presented in a group map and individual GIS Story maps. No prior knowledge of GIS story maps or electricity issues is needed. The study of power systems can be a model for learning and communicating about other topics that explore the interaction of technology and society toward sustainability.

HSCI 5244 - Nature's History: Science, Humans, and the Environment - Prof. Susan Jones

We examine environmental ideas, sustainability, and conservation history; the human impact on nature; racism, empire and power; the Anthropocene; how the science of ecology has developed; and modern environmental movements around the globe. Mostly small group work: critically analyzing the history of science “Canon” with the “View” from beyond it (non-Western, diverse gender, cultures, ethnicities); historical analysis & how history informs the present; roots of/solutions to environmental problems; roots, ideas, practices of ecology.

Spring 2021

Spring 2021

HSCI 8920: Seminar: Things - Material Culture and Its Histories, 1750-2000 - Prof. Susan Jones

How environmental history/history of science meets posthumanism, through reading recent critical work on material culture in the humanities. Topics include: Recent historiography of the “new materialism” and the “more-than-human” turn; posthumanism and material culture; entangling methods from history and the
natural sciences and critiques of this move; and the stability/instability of “things” in Asian, European, and American historical context.

Case studies include: late-premodern and modern human/nonhuman bodies and disease (animals, traces, vectors); material culture of the “Anthropocene;” things and state-building (Namibia’s “Red Line”);” reimagining “third nature” by tracing
matsutake mushrooms (globally); ancient DNA and plague.

Readings include: Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: on the possibility of life in capitalist ruins; Timothy LeCain, The Matter of History: How Things Create the Past; Anita Guerrini, “The Material Turn in the History of Life Science”; Etienne S. Benson, “Animal Writes: Historiography, Disciplinarity, and the
Animal Trace”; Tim Ingold, What Is an Animal?; Giorgio Miescher, Namibia’s Red Line; “History Meets Biology,” American Historical Review Roundtable; Monica Green, “Putting Africa on the Black Death Map”; Sarah Whatmore, “Materialist Returns: practicing cultural geography in and for a more-than-human world.”

GC 5013 Making Sense of Climate Change: Science, Art, and Agency - Profs. Christine Baeumler & Mike Dockry

Making Sense of Climate Change: Science, Art, and Agency is a course that explores Climate Change issues through the combined approaches of science and art and transformative action. We will also focus on different ways of knowing and a place-based focus. The course will be blended with most classes conducted both synchronous and asynchronous with the hope that there will be several field trip opportunities. The course also meets the LE theme of Civic Life and Ethics. The course is offered at the undergraduate and graduate level. The class will include both creative and academic assignments but no prior experience with art or Climate Science is required to engage successfully with the course.

SCAN 5604W Introduction to Nordic Cinema: Cinematic Ecologies - Prof. Benjamin Bigelow

This course examines cinema from the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sápmi and Sweden), with a particular focus this semester on film as an environmental art. We will examine both how Nordic cultures have traditionally framed themselves within idealized natural landscapes, and how contemporary cinema is grappling with the implications of climate change and other ecological consequences of global industrial development. Watching films from a variety of time periods and in a number of genres, we will pay close attention to the formal qualities of film—cinematography, editing, sound design, etc.—as well as the historical context of each film’s production. As a writing-centered course, students will gain skills in analyzing, critiquing, and writing about moving-image media.

PA 5743 Social Innovation Design Lab: Making your Idea a Reality - Profs. Andrea Davila and Tony Loyd 

Are you a graduate student with an idea to create impact? In this one-week 1.5 credit course, you will design a solution to address an environmental or social challenge that you are passionate about.

To view Institute on the Environment Course Listings, click here.

Fall 2020

Fall 2020

GCC 5027 Power Systems Journey: Making the Invisible Visible and Actionable- Profs. Paul Imbertson & Jonee Brigham

An energy revolution is underway, and needs to accelerate to support climate and economic goals. But the general citizenry does not understand our current energy systems, particularly the seemingly invisible phenomena of electricity, and its generation, distribution, and use. Technical knowledge is only half the solution, however. It is through human decisions and behaviors that technical solutions get applied and adopted, and the importance of communication and storytelling is being recognized for its relevance to making change. How can science literacy and behavior-motivating engagement and storytelling be combined to help make systemic change? This course explores the integration of science-based environmental education, with art-led, place-based exploration of landscapes and creative map-making to address this challenge. How do we make electricity visible, understandable, and interesting -- so we can engage citizens in energy conservation with basic literacy about the electric power system so that they can be informed voters, policy advocates, and consumers. In this class, you will take on this challenge, first learning about the electric power systems you use, their cultural and technical history, systems thinking, design thinking, and prior examples of communication and education efforts. With this foundation, you will then apply your learning to create a public education project delivered via online GIS Story maps that use a combination of data, art, and story to help others understand, and act on the power journey we are all on. All will share the common exploration of power systems through field trips, and contribute to a multi-faceted story of power, presented in a group map and individual GIS Story maps. No prior knowledge of GIS story maps or electricity issues is needed. The study of power systems can be a model for learning and communicating about other topics that explore the interaction of technology and society toward sustainability. 

Note: this class is taught remotely, with optional outdoor field trips (masked, distanced) that will also be available virtually.

GER 5651 Thinking Environment: Green Culture, German Literature and Global Debates - Profs. Charlotte Melin & Ross Etherton

Our relationship to nature is complicated—how can it foster resilience in the face of existential challenges? Can a “two cultures” perspective (humanities + science) help our society envision possible futures? Known as the country of poets and innovative thinkers, Germany now has a reputation for environmentalism. This course (taught in English with German assignments for interested students) explores how literary and non-fiction writing, film, and the arts shapes environmental thinking in German-speaking countries. Across Europe, public concern about well-being is catalyzing social, political, and cultural change. Yet this focus on science, Green party successes, and sustainability has deep historical roots. Romantic writers found inspiration in nature and German scientists pioneered ecology; others, mindful of fascism’s legacies, caution about uncritical glorification of nature. How does this compare with the U.S. and global developments? We’ll start with Faust (a drama by Goethe that begins just after the plague ends), a contemporary novel by Daniel Kehlmann about the early scientist Alexander von Humboldt, and a novella that describes how news of the Chernobyl accident spread. Poetry, a comic book, and current journalism will add to our materials. Assignments include a group project that asks you to translate your learning into real world engagement with environmental issues; graduate students will choose a research path appropriate to their interests.

ENGL 8090-001 & GER 8820 Ecocriticism and the Environmental Humanities - Profs. Dan Philippon & Charlotte Melin

Since its inception in the 1990s, ecocriticism has grown from an initial position within the interdisciplinary study of literature and environment to become part of a larger multi- and cross-disciplinary endeavor known as the environmental humanities. Working from the premise that human-environment relations are inherently bound up with one another, environmental humanities scholars approach a broad range of textual and cultural artifacts with a deep concern about the current state of environmental degradation, the rapid pace of global (and especially climate) change, and the social inequities that both drive and result from transformations in our physical environment. This team-taught graduate seminar will explore the current state of ecocriticism and the environmental humanities through readings of primary and secondary texts, guest lectures by leading scholars in the field, and video conferences with other scholars and graduate students working in this area in Europe and North America. The first half of the course will be planned in advance by the instructors, while the structure of the second half will emerge out of the needs and desires of the course participants, so that the course is responsive to the disciplinary communities represented by the participants. Potential topics include the various subfields of ecocriticism (material, empirical, affective, feminist, queer, and postcolonial), as well as broader humanistic approaches to such topics as climate fiction, environmental justice, critical animal studies, and food studies. The course will be integrated with the Environmental Humanities Initiative on campus and frame its explorations in terms of efforts to counter the ongoing "crisis in the humanities" as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Course activities will reflect the multiple vocational outcomes for which graduate education should prepare students. Assignments will thus include attendance and participation, weekly reading responses, leading discussion, and a final project that reflects each participant's knowledge, skills, abilities, and interests as they relate to our course material.

Spring 2020

Spring 2020

AMES 8002 Readings in New Materialism

Recently scholars in a range of disciplines including media and literary studies have developed methods to account for the material world and material dependencies. In this class we will examine how and why these theories constitute a critical turn in philosophy and cultural criticism.

New materialist modes that we will address include agential realism, OOO, speculative realism, among others. Students will develop an understanding of the principal theories and discourss of new materialism and  consider how material agencies have been accommodated in these media and literary theories. It will become clear that scholars from a range of disciplines have developed theoretical models in order to consider the more-than-human world. For the purposes of the course, these approaches are grouped under the concept of  “new materialism,” but they vary in their approach to materiality and agency of the more-than-human world. 

We will use course materials to see how we might incorporate new materialist perspective in our own research and writing. Required readings will be in English, but students are encouraged to consider the relevance of  these methodological approaches to their research agenda and primary materials. Authors to be read include but are not limited to Alaimo, Barad, Bennett, Bryant, Harman, Meillassoux, Parikka, Shaviro, Stengers, among others. We will discuss these materials while analyzing a range of representational forms and technological modes.  

AMST 8920 Topics in American Studies: Indigenous Urganism

This course heeds historian Coll Thrush’s call to reframe the city through Indigenous experience. The course begins with histories that center the metropole as an Indigenous space. We will follow decolonial guides to cityscapes that unearth the multi-layered cultural geographies created by sovereign and autonomous Indigenous people and their diasporas. We will examine Indigenous people’s active engagement with urban life and how this engagement has led to a resurgence of Intertribal identities. We will look at policy and planning practices as exclusionary tactics that marginalized Indigenous people and explore Indigenous-led initiatives demanding urban land justice and rights to the city. The course relies on a variety of texts—histories, art, novels, films, poems, maps, ethnographies, and digital stories—and spans the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. Through case studies, this course engages with decolonial narratives and praxis that acknowledge and reclaim Indigenous histories and rights to the city.

ANTH 5045W Urban Anrthropology

This class explores anthropological approaches to urban life. On one hand, the course examines the ontological nature of the city by looking into the relation between cities and their environment, and asking whether and how people differentiate "urban" and 'non-urban" spaces. It uncovers the social practices and behaviors that define urban life; urban-rural distinctions; the material and ecological processes that constitute cities; and popular representations of city and/or countryside. On the other hand, the course investigates the spatial and social divisions of the city, seeking to understand the historical struggles and ongoing processes that both draw together and differentiate the people of an urban environment. It studies how cities influence political decision-making, contributing to the uneven distribution of power and resources. It considers: industrialization; urban class conflict; gendered and racialized spaces; and suburbanization. Both of these approaches will also critically consider the city as a social object that we encounter and learn about through our engagement with kinds of media, such as novels and film. Hence, reading for the class will include literature from the social sciences and humanities, as well as critical works of fiction.

Students will engage with these broader anthropological issues through an investigation of several global cities, especially Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, Paris, Mexico City, Brasilia, and New Delhi. The class mixes lecture, discussion, and guided research. Lectures will introduce the history of urbanism and urban anthropology. Discussions will critically evaluate the readings, and offer insights and examples to better understand them. By participating in a guided research project, students will uncover hidden aspects of their own city, using ethnography or archaeology to shed light on the urban environment, social struggles over space, or other themes.

CHIC 5374 Migrant Farmworkers in the United States: Families, Work and Advocacy

Socioeconomic/political forces that impact migrant farmworkers. Effects of the laws and policies on everyday life. Theoretical assumptions/strategies of unions and advocacy groups. Role/power of consumer. How consuming cheap food occurs at expense of farmworkers.

ESPM 3051 / SOIL 5993 Lands and Humans in World Cultures: The Past and the Present

Lectures are online. Class meets once per week for discussion (50 min.). This course examines scientific and historical foundations of land uses and associated sustainability issues in different cultures or countries. This course thus takes a bottom-up approach to global land use and its sustainability. Class materials are sourced from multiple disciplines including soil science, ecology, geology, anthropology, and history. 

GCC 5013 Making Sense of Climate Change - Science, Art and Agency

The overarching theme of the course is the role of artistic/humanistic ways of knowing as tools for making sense and meaning in the face of "grand challenges." Our culture tends to privilege science, and to isolate it from the "purposive" disciplines--arts and humanities--that help humanity ask and answer difficult questions about what should be done about our grand challenges. In this course, we will examine climate change science, with a particular focus on how climate change is expected to affect key ecological systems such as forests and farms and resources for vital biodiversity such as pollinators. We will study the work of artists who have responded to climate change science through their artistic practice to make sense and meaning of climate change. Finally, students create collaborative public art projects that will become part of local community festivals/events late in the semester.

This is a Grand Challenge Curriculum course.

HIST8122 Public Histories:  Environmental Justice and Public Memory

HSCI 8920 Things: Material Culture and Its Histories, 1750-2000

Recent historiography of the “new materialism” and the “more-than-human” turn; posthumanism and material culture; entangling methods from history and the natural sciences and critiques of this move; and the stability/instability of “things” in Asian, European, and American historical context. Case studies include: late-premodern and modern human/nonhuman bodies and disease (animals, traces, vectors); material culture of the “Anthropocene;” things and state-building (Namibia’s “Red Line”);” reimagining “third nature” by tracing matsutake mushrooms (globally); ancient DNA and plague.

PHIL 5607 Philosophy of the Biological Sciences

Biology dominates the landscape of contemporary scientific research, and yet "biology" consists of a variety of different disciplinary approaches: from protein biochemistry to field ecology, from developmental biology to evolutionary genetics. Many philosophical issues can be found in the concepts and practices of life science researchers from these different disciplines. What is the structure of evolutionary theory? What is a gene? What are the units of selection? What is an individual? What counts as a "cause"? What is the relationship between evolution and development? Are all biological phenomena reducible to genes or molecules? What are adaptations, and how do we identify them? What is an ecological niche? Is there a progressive trend in the history of life? Is there such a thing as 'human nature'?

This course is an introduction to these and other related issues in the biological sciences with an emphasis on their diversity and heterogeneity. It is designed for advanced undergraduates with an interest in conceptual questions and debates in biology that are manifested across a variety of majors (e.g., Animal Science; Anthropology; Biochemistry; Biology, Society and Environment; Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; Chemistry; Ecology, Evolution and Behavior; Genetics, Cell Biology and Development; Microbiology; Neuroscience; Physiology; Plant Biology; Psychology). Some of these issues will appear familiar from previous coursework or opportunities, whereas new issues will be intriguing because of their similarities and differences with those that have been encountered in other contexts.

Fall 2019

Fall 2019

GCC 5027 Power Systems Journey: Making the Invisible Visible and Actionable

An energy revolution is underway, and needs to accelerate to support climate and economic goals. But the general citizenry does not understand our current energy systems, particularly the seemingly invisible phenomena of electricity, and its generation, distribution, and use. Technical knowledge is only half the solution, however. It is through human decisions and behaviors that technical solutions get applied and adopted, and the importance of communication and storytelling is being recognized for its relevance to making change. How can science literacy and behavior-motivating engagement and storytelling be combined to help make systemic change? This course explores the integration of science-based environmental education, with art-led, place-based exploration of landscapes and creative map-making to address this challenge. How do we make electricity visible, understandable, and interesting -- so we can engage citizens in energy conservation with basic literacy about the electric power system so that they can be informed voters, policy advocates, and consumers. In this class, you will take on this challenge, first learning about the electric power systems you use, their cultural and technical history, systems thinking, design thinking, and prior examples of communication and education efforts. With this foundation, you will then apply your learning to create a public education project delivered via online GIS Story maps that use a combination of data, art, and story to help others understand, and act on the power journey we are all on. All will share the common exploration of power systems through field trips, and contribute to a multi-faceted story of power, presented in a group map and individual GIS Story maps. No prior knowledge of GIS story maps or electricity issues is needed. The study of power systems can be a model for learning and communicating about other topics that explore the interaction of technology and society toward sustainability.

GER 5651 Environmental Thinking: Green Culture, German Literature, and Global Debates

Known as the country of poets and thinkers, Germany today has a reputation for leading in environmental innovation. But how did that happen? This course (taught in English, with assignments in German for students who know the language) looks at how sustainability became mainstream in Europe. We will explore how literary and non-fiction writing, film, and the arts shaped German environmental thinking. Public concern about environmental issues is driving social, political, and cultural change in German-speaking countries—Green party successes, renewable energy initiatives, and cradle-to-cradle design have deep historical roots. Romantic writers found inspiration in nature and German scientists pioneered principles of ecology. However, after 1945, nationalistic glorification of nature was suspect, due to the legacy of National Socialism. This course explores how the involvement of writers and other public intellectuals in critiquing the past changed attitudes to revive environmentalism. Frequent comparisons will be made with global developments and the U.S. Our starting point will be Faust (by Goethe) and a contemporary novel by Daniel Kehlmann about the early scientist Alexander von Humboldt. Other works will include a novella about the Chernobyl, a comic book, and examples in other media. Assignments include an extended simulation project related to renewable energy; graduate students will be asked to pursue additional research.

HSCI 5244 Nature's History: Science, Humans, and the Environment

This course examines the history of environmental ideas, sustainability, conservation history; critique of the human impact on nature; empire and power in the Anthropocene; how the science of ecology has developed; and history of modern environmental movements around the globe.

LAW 5062 Energy Law

This course provides an introduction to U.S. energy law. The first portion of the course introduces the nation’s primary sources of energy: coal, oil, biofuels, natural gas, hydropower, nuclear, wind, solar, and geothermal energy. In doing so, it explores the physical, market, and legal structures within which these energy sources are extracted, transported, and converted into energy. The second portion of the course turns to the two major sectors of our energy economy—electricity and transportation—and the full range of federal and state regulation of each sector. The third portion of the course explores case studies of hot topics in energy law and policy that highlight the complex transitions taking place in the energy system. These topics include electric grid modernization, electric vehicles, risks and benefits associated with hydraulic fracturing and deepwater drilling for oil and gas, and the continued role of nuclear energy. In addition to traditional textbook reading and class discussion, the course will include industry, government, and nonprofit guest speaker presentations. Grading will be based on a final exam given at the end of the semester as well as class discussion and weekly written postings on the Canvas site for the course.