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Interdisciplinary Studies Courses

Course information found here includes all permanent offerings and is updated regularly whenever Academic Senate approves changes. For historical information, see the Course Catalogs. For actual course availability in any given term, use Course Search in the Portal.

IDST 103. Cultural Approaches to Mathematics (1). What we think of as “mathematical” ideas may be viewed by other cultures within the contexts of art, navigation, religion, record-keeping, games, or kin relationships. This course treats mathematical ideas investigated by cultures such as North and South American Indians, Africans, and various peoples of the Pacific Islands, and analyzes them through Western mathematics (developed in Europe, the Middle East, and India). The course helps the student understand what mathematics is, both to Western culture and to other cultures, and how cultural factors influenced the development of modern mathematics. (Also listed as Mathematics 103.) (2A) Offered once per year.

IDST 125. A Multidisciplinary Approach to Consciousness (1). Consciousness is “the most profound mystery facing modern biology” wrote Richard Dawkins. What is consciousness? Using experimental approaches from scientific and spiritual traditions, and applying disciplinary approaches from psychology, philosophy, religion, neuroscience, and biochemistry, the class will explore what it means to be conscious. Rather than accepting easy answers, the objective for the class is to apply both an interdisciplinary approach and the scientific method to investigate consciousness based on published literature, empirical findings, and testable theories. Offered each spring semester. Prerequisite: A 100-level course in Biology, Chemistry, Philosophy, Religious Studies, or Psychology is recommended.

IDST 156. Science of Asian Sounds (1). A theoretical, experimental, historical, and cultural study of musical instruments and music of Asia. The course involves laboratory examination of instruments, mathematical modeling of sound production and amplification, and readings in order to understand the context of the evolution and playing of the instruments. (4U)

IDST 200. Your Major Meets the World: Planning for Study Abroad (.25) What is study abroad’s purpose? What role does it play in students’ learning and development? How does a semester abroad differ from a semester at home? Using readings, discussions, and a variety of exercises, students in this course will explore these and other questions about study abroad. In the process, they will develop ideas for their own study abroad experiences and identify what they need to do to further prepare. The resulting essays they write will become part of their study abroad applications. Graded credit/no credit. Prerequisite: Sophomore or junior standing and intention to study abroad in the following academic year.

IDST 201. Unpacking Study Abroad: Using Digital Storytelling for Reflection and Integration (.5). Research on study abroad learning outcomes indicates that the lessons of study abroad do not “take” without opportunities for reflection and meaning-making. Using writing exercises, analysis of text and images, and discussion, this course aims to allow returned study abroad students to learn from their experiences and convey these lessons to others, normally in digital films created during the course. The course begins with a three-day workshop and continues with five additional evening sessions. Graded credit/no credit. Prerequisite: a study abroad experience.

IDST 202. Introduction to Entrepreneurship (1). This course focuses on the entrepreneurial process and its component parts. Through case studies, students will explore the elements and skills required for successful venturing such as financing, planning, marketing, and negotiating. Course will focus on pragmatism and developing sound judgment within the context of ambiguous scenarios.

IDST 207. Victorian Garbage: Disgust and Desire in British Literature and Culture (1). This course explores the significance of garbage in Victorian period literature and culture. What did it mean to be dirty—and clean—in a culture riven by changing notions of urban life and industrial labor, of gender and sexuality, of colony and metropolis, and of social class and economic value? In the words of one anthropologist, waste is “matter out of place”: it by definition challenges cultural, psychological, and conceptual boundaries. This course examines dirt both literally and metaphorically, turning to the actual detritus of London and to the fallen women and “human scum” that we encounter in literature by Charles Dickens and his peers. Along with the 19th-century novel, we will treat materials from a variety of other fields, including anthropology, psychoanalysis, the visual arts, architecture, urban planning, and public health. Although this course seeks to introduce English majors to the historical process of disciplinary formation, other majors may enroll with the consent of the instructor. Prerequisite: English 190, 195, and junior standing (for English credit); or approval of instructor (for Interdisciplinary Studies or Critical Identity Studies credit). (CP)

IDST 215. Listening and Speaking About Politics (.5). Listening and Speaking About Politics is a half unit course about expressing political ideas. Students will learn about and practice skills related to political discourse in order to promote understanding, empathy, and transformational learning. Course participants will address questions such as, is it possible to discuss complex political or social issues from different perspectives and both listen carefully and be heard? What assumptions do persons from different political ideologies make about each other in conversation? What does “free speech” mean, and what conditions are necessary for it to occur? Students will meet three days a week, attend a required number of public events, complete readings and assignments, and write short responses to course material. There is no research paper or final exam in this course. No prerequisites.

IDST 217. Medieval European Civilization (1). This course surveys the period from the dissolution of the classical Greco-Roman world into three kindred civilizations (Byzantium, Islam, and Latin Christendom) to the formation of a new civilization in the West. The primary focus of the class is to develop a synthetic understanding of the Middle Ages through an integrated exploration of its art, music, literature, theology, politics, and sociology. (Also listed as History 223.) (3B) Offered every year. Open to first-year students.

IDST 222. Taking Action: Theatre, Therapy, and Activism (1). You’ve got something to say, but you can’t find a way to communicate your perspective? Why wait for the play? Street theatre, psychodrama, and guerrilla theatre can offer exciting possibilities to create dialogue in your community. Taking Action is created for students who are interested in using theatrical techniques to take a message to the masses. The course will cover improvisational acting; Augusto Boal’s Image Theatre, Forum Theatre, and Legislative Theatre; Jacob Levy Moreno’s psychodramatic techniques; as well as other international trends in street and psychotherapeutic performance. Taking Action is a performance course that asks students to turn political and personal issues into action. The focus is on developing a persuasive message that has the possibility to incite discussion and eventually bring about change. In addition, students will be given the opportunity to create activist performances in the surrounding college and Beloit communities. Prerequisite: Theatre, Dance and Media Studies 106.

IDST 225. Doing the Right Thing Well: Experiments in Ethical and Effective Leadership (1). In this course students analyze the efficacy and ethical challenges of their own leadership efforts, as well as those of local community and historical leaders. A variety of approaches are employed, including interviewing local leaders, field trips, case studies, team building for problem solving, and practice in various forms of communication, written, oral, Web, and/or visual. Resources include classic and popular texts, films, guest speakers, and biographies. Prerequisite: All students in the seminar are required to be involved, either currently or within the past year, in some leadership capacity on or off campus, through employment, clubs, sports, student government, social action, or another venue.

IDST 226. The Information Economy (.5). Focus will be on the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning and scholarship. This course will build the foundation needed for successful interdisciplinary research and scholarship.

IDST 228. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Quest for Racial Justice (1). An examination of selected writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., along with related secondary materials dealing with his life and his place in the civil rights movement’s quest for racial justice. Interdisciplinary work will focus on philosophy, theology, history, sociology, ethics, politics, the media, and black experience expressed in literature, the arts, and religion. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of instructor.

IDST 233. Comparative Religious Ethics (1). Using the atrocities and acts of courage committed by “ordinary people” during the Holocaust as the central problematic to be investigated, this course examines the ethical perspectives offered by particular strands of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and Confucianism. Emphasis is placed on grappling with the problems and possibilities of ethical relativism in a global context. (Also listed as Religious Studies 221.) (5T) Offered at least every second year.

IDST 236. Liberal Education and Entrepreneurship (1). An examination of research pertaining to student development and the impact of college with emphasis on the outcomes of liberal education. Relation of impact to skills and motives of the entrepreneur. Discussion of measures of preferred learning styles, motivation, and non-cognitive skills as associated with entrepreneurial orientation. Consideration of definition, role, and social significance of the entrepreneur. Students will be encouraged to consider entrepreneurship as a profession, but will not be taught to start new ventures.

IDST 239. Psychology and Law (1). This course examines the ways in which psychology can enhance our understanding of the American legal system, assist in the solution of legal problems, and contribute to the development of a more humane and just legal system. Topics considered include criminal responsibility, mental health law, eyewitness identification, children’s testimony, prediction of violence, jury decision-making, psychological consequences of incarceration, and capital punishment. Contributions of other disciplines (e.g., sociology, politics, communications) also will be addressed. (Also listed as Psychology 239.) Prerequisite: sophomore standing.

IDST 242. The English Language (1). This course investigates the origins and development of the English language. We begin with a brief introduction to language in general. Then, to describe spoken sounds, we learn the International Phonetic Alphabet. Next, we study the sounds and spelling of English, development of written languages, and the relation between spoken and written language. This work readies us to trace the history of English from its Indo-European roots through development from Old to Middle to Modern English. We also study the development and use of dictionaries and grammars, and semantic innovation—word coinage. And we sample research in linguistics and sociolinguistics, attending particularly to linguistic differences among English speakers: between African-American and white American speakers, e.g., and between masculine and feminine speakers. Throughout, we take semantic and syntactic evolution as a window on socio-cultural process. Prerequisite: at least one year of learning a non-native language.

IDST 249. Central Asia: A Sense of Region (1). Between the Caspian Sea and the region of Lake Baikal, Central (Inner) Asia is a region of millions of square miles, inhabited by non-Slavic and non-Chinese peoples—Azeri, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Mongol, Tajik, Tibetan, Turkmen, Uighur, Uzbek, et al. Although their number is close to 100 million, we know little of their way of life and their societies, and even less of their histories and their aspirations. They are now resuming the course of their independent development, after being dominated—directly or indirectly—by the neighboring empires of Russia and China, among others. This interdisciplinary lecture-discussion course emphasizes the region’s environment, which had the primary effect on the inhabitants’ way of life, their history, and their marginalization in the modern era. Parts of the region are still described as belonging to “the Third World,” while others are making promising moves toward modernization. Beyond a strategic location and an abundance of natural resources, Central Asia is rich in tradition. It was the center of history’s largest land empire. It more than once exerted epoch-making historical influence on its neighbors (including Europe), and survival techniques of its peoples—from simple items such as use of the stirrup and dehydrated food to such practices as diplomatic immunity and parliamentary representation—became components of our modern life. (Also listed as History 249.) Offered biennially.

IDST 255. East/Central Europe: A Sense of Place (1). This is an interdisciplinary lecture-discussion course, surveying past and present realities that prevail in the geographical center of Europe, i.e. the lands inhabited primarily by Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, and Hungarians. Looking first at the environment, which had much to do with the markedly diverse peopling of the region, the course presents Central Europe’s earliest viable nation-states—Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary—and their promising development within Christian Europe. The impact of geography on national life is demonstrated, as the region became the object of expansionist desire to the surrounding empires: Ottoman, Habsburg, Romanov. As “the shatter-belt” between hostile alliances, Central Europe was forced to miss all or most of such crucial stages in European history as rational Enlightenment or a democracy-building Industrial Revolution. Owing in large part to shortsighted and tradition-bound leadership, the region’s peoples were easy prey to false ideologies, leading them into some of history’s most destructive wars and subjecting them to decades of spirit-killing oppression. Subsequent to the liberating year of 1989, Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, and Slovaks are now in the midst of “nation-building”—along with their Balkan and Eastern European neighbors. It is a promising and confusing period. This course attempts to provide guidance for the region’s future course by presenting those aspects of its past that shaped the feeling, thinking, and behavior of its peoples. (Also listed as History 255.) Offered biennially.

IDST 259. Dinosaurs and Their Lost World (1). An interdisciplinary investigation of dinosaurs and the world they occupied. The course explores current controversies involving dinosaurs, including debates about extinction, physiology (warm- vs. cold-blooded), parental care, and museum reconstructions and restorations. Dinosaur culture is studied in a variety of disciplines, such as literature, film, pictorial arts, economics, and child psychology. Interpretations of dinosaurs and their world provide an introduction to science as a human activity, an activity shaped by the social and cultural contexts of the interpreters.

IDST 260. Critical Philosophy of Race (1). Inquiry into race and racism from a philosophical perspective, in dialogue with other disciplines. What is the meaning of race? Is it a biological fact or a social construction? Should racial categories be eliminated, or are there good reasons to preserve them? Is racial color-blindness the solution to discrimination, or is it just another form of racism? This course will focus on the history of the concept of race and contemporary debates surrounding racism and racial identity. (5T) (Also listed as Philosophy 260/Critical Identity Studies 307.) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or sophomore standing.

IDST 265. Nicaragua in Transition: Health and Microcredit (1). Currently, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America. Numerous natural disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes) along with political strife conspire to economically suppress most Nicaraguans. Many Nicaraguan families must make a living on less than two dollars per day. Impoverished Nicaraguans lack food, shelter, and access to clean water and waste removal. Therefore, since economically disadvantaged people are often unhealthy people, poverty is a pathogen. What can be done to provide more resources for impoverished people and make them healthier? What can be done to improve the environment of economically disadvantaged Nicaraguans and make them healthier? For the past 25 years, more than 250 institutions using micro-credit programs based upon the Grameen methodology have provided small loans to the poor. These small loans support personal initiative and enterprise allowing individuals, families, and communities greater access to resources and help break the cycle of poverty. Graded credit/no credit. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

IDST 272. The Balkans: A Sense of Region (1). Forming a southeast appendage to the larger continental extension known as Europe, the Balkans is a region of about 320,000 square miles, inhabited by some 90 million people. Its relatively modest size notwithstanding, the region and its peoples have played a role of considerable importance in history. Classical Greece and Rome claimed it as a valued part of their empires, and Byzantium considered it a constituent as well as a potential threat to its dominance. Its earliest inhabitants—Illyrians, Wlachs, Dacians, et al.—left only faint traces of their presence, as they became outnumbered by South Slavs. Once the zone of lively commerce between Europe and the Orient, the Balkans lost out to the Atlantic explorer-traders, and its nascent cultures were nipped in the bud by centuries of armed struggle against Islamic invasion. The region became most marginalized in the modern era, as the decline of Ottoman rule was combined with the occasional involvement of other powers. The region’s strategic location, combined with a glaring failure to quell sharply conflicting ethnic aspirations, made the Balkans the spark of recurring conflicts and the site of brutal confrontations. Today, the Balkans is relatively quiet, even if a number of thorny issues (Cyprus, Macedonia, Transylvania, et al.) await solution, and the civilizational struggle for the allegiance of its peoples is far from over. (Also listed as History 272) Offered biennially.

IDST 286. Entrepreneurship and the Arts (1). Principles of entrepreneurship and small business formation and management designed to appeal especially to needs of students in the visual and performing arts, creative writing, and communications. Emphasis is upon the role of improvisation in the art of business venturing in comparison to its role in artistic and creative production. Attention is given to the structure and institutions of business pertaining to the various creative arts. Coverage includes opportunity finding/creation, goal-setting, resource acquisition, financial record-keeping, and marketing, all as motivated by issues of artistic creation. (2A) Prerequisite: Open to non-first-year students having declared or intended majors in the creative arts including communications. Not recommended for students who have completed Economics 207.

IDST 288. Cities in Transition (1). This course enables students to engage critically with the complex urban environments in which they live and study by combining classroom work with explorations of the city beyond the university. Depending on the course location, these explorations will use techniques ranging from observations, field notes, mapping exercises, and visits to various sites of cultural, historical, and social significance to informal interviews, volunteer placements in local organizations, and research projects. Possible topics to be explored include tradition vs. modernity, gender, poverty, movements of people from rural to urban spaces, the effects of globalization, the human impact on the environment, and social problems. Topics course. Prerequisite: acceptance to a Beloit College study abroad program with a Cities in Transition course. Cities in Transition courses are offered in China, Ecuador, Russia, and Senegal. As well, a Cities in Transition course with a focus on health is taught in Beloit and Nicaragua every other spring.

IDST 301. Making Up and Making Real. (1) “Let there be light,” says the god of Genesis. “And there was light.” Absolute creative power embodies itself. We mortals, though, confront the distance between making up and making real. Asking how human words work to create shared social reality, we focus on the construction of reality in situations that empower language by force, overt and/or covert. We seek means that resist dominating force, searching out viable alternatives to its mode of making real. We focus first on historical study of a specific atrocity (the Holocaust), from the vantage of both the enforcers and the resistant. Then we turn to the subtler force of what Michel Foucault calls the disciplinary regime, i.e., acculturation to norms. Finally, we concentrate on resistance. Throughout, we attend with special care to strategies not themselves violent or coercive. Note: by arrangement during its first week, this course may be taken as a capstone. Prerequisite: at least junior standing, plus one introductory and one intermediate course in art, English, History, Philosophy, Anthropology, Sociology, and/or Psychology.

IDST 310. Translating the Liberal Arts (.5, 1). Designed as an interdisciplinary capstone experience for seniors from any inter/discipline, this course asks students to examine, reflect on, and articulate the values associated with a liberal arts education, both for themselves and those they encounter in their lives beyond Beloit College. Through course readings and assignments, in-class discussions, and meetings with Beloit College alumni, local employers, and Liberal Arts in Practice Center staff, students are provided with the conceptual frameworks, intellectual space, and practical information to move between the esoteric (e.g., what will make my life worth living?) to the downright practical (e.g., how do I write a cover letter?). Each student will develop their own personal narrative and mission statement, evaluate and enhance their professional online presence, learn and practice techniques of networking, all the while sharing their unique curricular and co-curricular experiences to emphasize for all class members the breadth and adaptability of liberal arts training for a lifetime of learning. (CP) Prerequisite: senior standing.

IDST 313. The Life and Financial Planning Workshop (1). This course is designed to help students learn how to identify the key financial decisions they will face following graduation, to help them learn the analytical tools to make wealth- and life-enhancing decisions, and to help them recognize the potential entrepreneurial opportunities in choosing their life and career paths. The class emphasizes that all planning, financial or otherwise, serves short and long-term life goals and that financial resources are means to an end, not the end itself. The course aims to help students be better prepared to make the key financial, career and life decisions they will face in the years immediately after graduation. The course will be open to any junior or senior. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing required.

IDST 318. Living and Dying in Global Traditions (1). In our civilization, issues of life and death are fundamentally bound to the deepest questions of what it is to be human. This interdisciplinary global engagement seminar will examine the phenomena of living and dying through a comparison of rituals encountered in African traditional religions with those that engage followers of two traditions with deep roots in the African continent—Islam and Christianity. In the process, the course will provide students with an opportunity to create frameworks to deal with loss and grief in their own lives. Prerequisite: One Religious Studies course, or Sociology 275, or Anthropology 262 and junior standing, or consent of instructor.

IDST 375. International Relations Seminar (1). An interdisciplinary seminar on a global theme. Students will read and discuss relevant literature, undertake an independent research project on a topic of their choice, and present their results to the seminar. Required of all international relations majors, this course may also count as the capstone for some interdisciplinary studies minors. (CP)

IDST 380. Dance Kinesiology (1). This course will include a basic introduction to human anatomy and kinesiology, specifically as applied to dance. Students will learn the bones of the body, the muscles, their attachments and their actions. The course will also take a broad look at the theory and practice of a wide variety of Somatics (approaches to improving the use of the body in movement). Students will increase their awareness and knowledge of their bodies and their own individual movement patterns. Offered each spring. Prerequisite: previous dance experience.

IDST 390. Special Projects (.25 - 1). Interdisciplinary studies independent study provides the means for students to work on exploratory cross-disciplinary topics with a pace, scope, and format to be worked out between the individual student and the instructor(s) and approved by the Interdisciplinary Studies committee and the registrar. Prerequisite: sophomore standing.

IDST 395. Teaching Assistant (.5). Work with faculty in classroom instruction. Graded credit/no credit.

IDST 396. Teaching Assistant Research (.5). Course and curriculum development projects with faculty.