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Curriculum Vitae

Catalog confidential

An insider’s look at some of Richmond’s most intriguing courses

One of the University of Richmond’s chief points of distinction is its small size. When you’re a student here, your faculty ask about your goals and want to be mentors. You know your classmates. A walk from one end of campus to the other could take less than 15 minutes — that is, if you weren’t stopping to say hi to someone every hundred yards.

One part of campus defies this quality — the curriculum. Every semester, Richmond’s course catalog achieves a breadth that would be enviable for an institution twice our size. Here’s a look at just a few of the courses that caught our eye as we browsed the current catalog wishing we could do it all over again.


BIOL 199
Amy Treonis, associate professor of biology

Why take it? Is there life on Mars? How will we know it when we see it? This course introduces students to the hypotheses and research methods scientists are using to figure out whether we are alone in the universe at a time new exoplanets are being identified at an exponential rate.

What you’ll do: Learn how biologists think and work. You’ll be introduced to interdisciplinary approaches, examine controversy and bias in scientific thinking, and learn to recognize limits in data interpretation. Along the way, you’ll evaluate a soil sample from an extreme Earth environment (Death Valley, California) to evaluate a hypothesis about the presence of life.

On the syllabus:
Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life by David Grinspoon
• Articles from Nature, Scientific American, and science journals

Worth noting: NASA’s Perseverance rover is right now collecting samples on Mars that could help identify biosignatures of ancient microbial life. The samples are expected to arrive on Earth in the early 2030s, when today’s students will be early-career researchers.

Genealogy and Economic History

John Zinn, adjunct professor of liberal arts

Why take it? Because Finding Your Roots is your favorite PBS show, and you’re eager to conduct your own serious genealogical and historical research.

What you’ll do: Research the life of an ancestor. You’ll root around in old photos, archives, census records, and other primary sources, plus research the broader economic forces that impacted this ancestor’s life. At the end, you’ll synthesize it in a rich, multimedia ArcGIS StoryMap that combines images, text, maps, and more to tell your ancestor’s story.

On the syllabus:
• (library edition via Boatwright Library)
• Interviews with family elders and other forms of intergenerational learning
“The Danger of a Single Story,” a TED Talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Worth noting: This course counts toward the liberal arts major offered by the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

Machine Learning for the Business Analyst

INFO 303
Tom Mattson, Associate Professor of Analytics and Operations

Why take it? Because you’re a businessperson who recognizes that although managers have limited cognitive capacity to find patterns in complex data, machine learning algorithms are exceptionally good at developing and testing decision-making models.

What you’ll do: Take a data-driven — as opposed to theory-driven — approach to business analyses using supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms to find patterns related to business issues. This approach can be used, for example, to predict whether customers will complete an online transaction based on their web surfing patterns or to predict employee turnover by analyzing digital trace data on their laptops. You’ll also discuss ethical questions such as whether black-box models replicate bias and what to do when once-in-a-generation events (like COVID-19) shape data in anomalous ways.

On the syllabus:
“How to Win with Machine Learning” by Agrawal, Gans, and Goldfarb
• “Ethics and the Algorithm” by Parmar and Freeman

Worth noting: The course satisfies one of the requirements for the secondary concentration 
in business analytics for business administration majors.

France’s challenges are distinctly French, but they also offer people elsewhere new perspectives.

Qu’est-ce que la France?

FREN 305
Lidia Radi, assocIate professor of French and Italian studies

Why take it? To strengthen your French fluency and deepen your understanding of French society by studying how the French grapple with questions of national identity. France’s challenges are distinctly French, but they also offer people elsewhere new perspectives on questions of race, immigration, colonialism, religious freedom, and other complex issues.

What you’ll do: Immerse yourself in today’s French culture with current books, TV series, and more. Engage in dialogue and write essays reacting to the issues they raise.

On the syllabus:
• 10 episodes of Lupin, the hit Netflix series
Le Voyage de Mon Père, Mon Départ by Michel Djiwonou, who also meets with the class via Zoom from Paris
• Comedian Trevor Noah’s reply after the French ambassador took issue with a joke celebrating the African roots of several star players on France’s World Cup-winning national soccer team.

Worth noting: This is no intro class. Everything is in French — course discussions, writing assignments, even the syllabus.

Medical Humanities

HS 200
Rick Mayes, professor of health policy

Why take it? Because you’re a future health care practitioner or policymaker who recognizes that medical practice is about more than the science of the body.

What you’ll do: Tackle ethical and interpersonal questions related to health care. You’ll explore what it’s like to become a patient or health care professional and study racial disparities. You’ll examine doctors, nurses, and hierarchy. Other topics include dentistry’s odd position in our health care system, addiction, mental health, opioids and psychedelics, aging and dying, obesity, women’s health, disability, and more.

On the syllabus:
“A Doctor’s Diary: The Overnight Shift in the E.R.” by Gina Siddiqui
“How Racism Makes Us Sick” (a TED Talk), plus the comments under it
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (documentary)
• A trip to Boston and Maine to meet alumni and others involved in public health, environmental health, and biomedical research

Worth noting: The course is an SSIR — Sophomore Scholars in Residence — so cocurricular learning activities are a fundamental part of the course design. You’ll even live with your classmates as a cohort in residence halls.

Anthropology of Human Rights

ANTH 328
Jan French, associate professor of anthropology

Why take it? We spend untold time and talent, not to mention billions of dollars of treasure, to protect what we call “human rights.” But where do ideas about human rights come from? How are they deployed in law and practice? What are the concept’s complications?

What you’ll do: Question assumptions about the term “human rights” and understand its uses and problems through readings, discussion, and a large research project. You’ll home in on topics such as women’s human rights, environmentalism, corporate social responsibility, ethnography, empathy, and violence.

On the syllabus:
The Art of Truth-telling About Authoritarian Rule, edited by Ksenija Bilbija et al.
After Freedom: The Rise of the Post-Apartheid Generation in Democratic South Africa by Katherine S. Newman and Ariane De Lannoy
• “Men Against Fire,” Black Mirror (Season 3, Episode 5)

Worth noting: Your professor has published extensively on Brazil, a country that has veered between democracy and dictatorship since independence and where human rights remain a hotly contested part of the political discourse.

University Dancers

DANC 306
Anne Van Gelder, director of dance

Why take it? To dance on the Alice Jepson Theatre stage. This course is the gateway to performing in the annual spring concert (Feb. 25–27 this year) of the University Dancers, UR’s student dance company.

What you’ll do: Deepen your understanding of dance as communication and art. There will be master classes in a variety of genres and rehearsals for world premieres of original choreographed works by your peers, your faculty, and guest professionals who come for residencies. Some benefits will be physical: improved strength, flexibility, body 
balance, endurance, musicality, and coordination.

On the syllabus:
• Auditions for choreographers
• Multiple costume fittings
• Community outreach matinee performances

Worth noting: You’ll also get experience with production responsibilities, such as set and costume construction, lighting crew, and other assignments.

This course is like hiking a winding mountain trail. There will be steep sections followed by level patches.

Humility as a Political Leadership Virtue

LDST 390
Kenneth Ruscio, senior distinguished lecturer

Why take it? To better understand humility’s effect on leadership in a democratic system of government. Should we want humble leaders, or does humility get in the way of qualities we value more?

What you’ll do: Read, discuss, and write about a variety of relevant ideas and different perspectives. From the syllabus: “This course is like hiking a winding mountain trail. There will be steep sections followed by level patches. There will be side trips along the way [and] occasional backtracking to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind. ... In the end, however, we will reach our destination and, I hope, marvel at a vista no one has seen before.”

On the syllabus:
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant
• Selections from The Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
Thirteen Days in October, a film about the Cuban Missile Crisis

Worth noting: Your professor has significant personal experience with leadership. He is a former dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and president emeritus of Washington and Lee University.

New Venture Creation

MGMT 352
Dale Fickett, Instructor in Entrepreneurship

Why take it? You’re an entrepreneur, or you want to approach your work in a larger employer with a more entrepreneurial mindset.

What you’ll do: Immerse yourself in an entrepreneurial experience. You’ll examine case studies and hear firsthand from entrepreneurs as you study lean principles, idea validation, proposed customer segments and channels, and how to approach investors. You’ll apply all of this by working with a Richmond entrepreneur or mobilizing a new venture concept.

On the syllabus:
• Entrepreneurs as frequent guest lecturers, including Richard Kelly, 
former CEO of Nutriati and Robins School executive in residence
• “RVA Works: Empowering Entrepreneurs for Big Change,” a case study of the nonprofit accelerator your professor established

Worth noting: The syllabus includes this line: “For those of you concerned about the workload in this course, it is — just like entrepreneurship — going to be strenuous.” Caveat subscriptor, students.

Cultural Property: Archaeology, Ethics, 
and Law

LAW 647/CLSC 320
Elizabeth Baughan, Associate Professor of Classics and Archaeology

Why take it? Maybe you’ve seen an Egyptian obelisk in London, Paris, Rome, or New York City and wondered why it’s not in Egypt. Maybe you’ve read news stories about Jewish families suing for the return of art looted by Nazis or France returning cultural artifacts to Benin. This course explores ethical and legal issues related to cultural heritage management.

What you’ll do: Study ethical and legal debates about collecting going back to Cicero. Examine case studies today, such as the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum and a recent Hobby Lobby case involving looted artifacts originating in Iraq.

On the syllabus:
Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World by Roger Atwood
Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership: The Ethical Crisis in Archaeology by Colin Renfrew

Worth noting: The course is cross-listed for enrollment by law students, who are required to do more extensive research and write longer papers than the undergraduates.

Leadership and the Humanities

LDST 101
Lauren Henley, assistant professor of leadership studies

Why take it? To get a 101-level introduction to leadership. Are leaders born or made? Why do we recognize some leaders more than others? You’ll explore these questions and more as you think broadly about issues such as power, morality, ethics, success, failure, and change.

What you’ll do: A mix of six required assignments (exams, reflections, and such) and four you-pick assignments (YPAs) that demonstrate comprehension and engagement. You’re offered seven YPA options. Some are traditional exercises like speech-making, letter-writing, and primary document analysis. Others are more creative, such as curating and annotating a how-to-lead playlist of songs.

On the syllabus:
• Classic texts by Plato, Machiavelli, Wollstonecraft, and Rousseau
The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership by Dennis Tourish
“How TikTok Holds Our Attention” by Jia Tolentino (The New Yorker)
TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the most influential people

Worth noting: The professor permits students to use personal notes during true/false or multiple-choice comprehension checks. The catch: Notes must be handwritten. She does it to encourage active note-taking while reading.

Pile of Garbage: Understanding Contemporary Art

Brittany Nelson, assistant professor of photography

Why take it? Because you’ve scratched your head at a piece of art and said, “My kid could do that.” This course confronts contemporary art’s opacity and potential for elitism to give students the tools to get past “Huh?”

What you’ll do: Examine movements including expressionism, minimalism, dada, pop art, postmodernism, and performance art. View and discuss works by a variety of artists in multiple media. Produce written works ranging from traditional research papers to stream-of-consciousness reactions.

On the syllabus:
“Cut Piece” by Yoko Ono
• Episodes of the BBC-2 series Ways of Seeing
• A 2017 Whitney Biennial controversy related to a painting depicting Emmett Till

Worth noting: This course is a First-Year Seminar. The university offers dozens of FYS courses each semester across the disciplines to introduce first-year students to new subjects and provide opportunities for critical reading and thinking.

20th-Century Court Cases

HIST 299
Pippa Holloway, Professor of History

Why take it? Because you want historical perspective on the decisions and impact of the U.S. Supreme Court. The course also keeps an eye on the present by monitoring current arguments and decisions by the court as the semester progresses.

What you’ll do: Study dozens of 20th-century court cases — particularly ones relating to free speech, civil rights, gender and sex discrimination, sexual privacy, gun control, and national security — and the social, political, and cultural contexts in which they were decided.

On the syllabus:
Gideon’s Trumpet: How One Man, a Poor Prisoner, Took His Case to the Supreme Court and Changed the Law of the United States by Anthony Lewis
Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law by David Cole

Worth noting: Each student takes a turn as a “court watcher,” reporting to the class on current developments with the court’s docket.