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Predictably Irrational: An Introduction to Behavioral Economics

Priyanka Chakraborty, Economics
Keywords: Behavior and Irrationality, Biases, Norms, Preferences, Nudges

Did you know that a person is more likely to take pencils or a stapler home from work than the equivalent amount of money in cash? People rationalize their behavior by framing it as doing something (in this case, taking) rather than stealing. The willingness to cheat increases as people gain psychological distance from their actions. These behavioral economics principles have major consequences on how we live our lives.

This course introduces students to a growing field of economics called behavioral economics, which uses insights from psychology, political science, anthropology, management and experimental data to improve upon traditional economic models of behavior. Standard economic theory assumes that individuals are fully rational decision-makers; however, that is often not the case in the real world. Behavioral economics considers the ways that people are more social, more impulsive, less adept at using information, and more susceptible to biases than the standard economic models assume. This course gives an overview of key insights from behavioral science and identifies ways in which these findings have been used to advance policies on diversity, education, health, energy, taxation and more.

 

Bloody Caddo: Race and Policing in Caddo Parish

Chris Ciocchetti, Philosophy
Keywords: Law, Poverty, Beliefs and Values, Community, Racism

Do something to overcome racism where you live. We will focus on criminal justice in Caddo Parish. We will learn about Shreveport’s history, examine the government structure, and learn about ongoing efforts to improve the system. Students will have the opportunity to meet with lawyers, judges, or others who work in the design and people affected by the system to learn from their experiences. Finally, students will collectively choose an action they could take to make Caddo Parish more just. Throughout the process, we will reflect on our beliefs and values, what it means to live in a diverse community, and how we—individually and collectively—can put our beliefs and values into action.

 

Innovation: Where Good Ideas Come From and How They Got Us to Now

Michael Laffey, English and Communication
Keywords: Innovation, Invention, Cultural Studies, Technology, Media Theory, Communication

Do our best ideas come in a flash? Does a light bulb suddenly illuminate the darkness? Not so fast. This course engages with the argumentative strategies and tactics deployed in two 21st century books by Steven Johnson. Johnson is an American popular science author and media theorist who examines the role that innovation plays in natural history and in human cultural development. In the first of these texts, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, students are challenged to think differently about many of the everyday, common sense descriptions and explanations about creativity and invention. With the next text, How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, students are presented with the historical foundations that underlie many of the qualities that go unnoticed and are taken for granted in everyday life: glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light. Students will be assigned to conduct further research and produce arguments concerning the unexpected and unfamiliar roles played by what we often overlook. Ultimately this research will be presented in written essays, oral presentations, and audio documentary recordings to be broadcast on KSCL-FM, the Centenary College radio station.

 

Ecology, Technology, Culture

Jeanne Hamming, English and Communication (Section F)
Jessica Hawkins, Art and Communication (Section H)
Keywords: Environment, Nature, Technology, Media, Public Art

One of the primary challenges that we currently face—regionally, nationally, and globally—is how to insure sustainable futures for human and non-human inhabitants. But how do we do it? One key factor, often underplayed by public media, is our cultural attitudes, the collective mindset that often shapes our values, our politics, and our daily habits. At the same time, the built systems in which we live and work—transportation, energy delivery, media—often determine, in advance, the way we think and feel. Drawing on literary, artistic, and other cultural expressions, this course takes a deeper look at the complex attitudes and behaviors that shape the American environmental imagination. We will explore such issues as the politics of climate change, environmental justice and its historical causes, and the role of consumerism in shaping American values about what it means to live “the good life.” Students will complete this course by working in teams on a critical production project—an expressive work of public art that encourages audiences to engage the problems and promises of our shared ecological future.
[Please note: This is a team-taught course offered in two sections that will gather frequently as one big “super- section.” This is also a course in “critical making,” meaning that students will collaborate to produce a work of public art as part of their research.]

 

Monsters and Outcasts

Bellee Jones-Pierce, English (Section B)
Emily Leithauser, English (Section C)
Keywords: Monsters, Disability Studies, Literature, Diversity, Culture

How do cultures decide what is "acceptable" or "normal"? How do we come to agree on what we value? On what things are out of bounds? This course begins from the position that we can learn a great deal about what cultures deem desirable by investigating what they deem most undesirable: monsters and outcasts. Because literature both creates and reflects cultural messages-about beauty, humanity, monstrosity, ability and disability, how societies are shaped and organized, what behaviors we will tolerate, etc.-this course will focus on depictions of monsters and outcasts in literary texts. Our texts will range widely across time and form, and we'll enrich and complicate our experiences of primary texts by reading them in conjunction with theoretical works from the fields of literary studies, feminist criticism, critical race studies, and disability studies. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we'll connect lessons from monster studies and the texts we encounter to our lives, our bodies, and the present moment.
[Please note: This is a team-taught course offered in two sections that will gather frequently as one big “super- section.”]

 

Myths and Why They Matter

Margeret Sanders, English
Keywords: myth, science fiction, fantasy, medieval, modern, literature, humanity, history

What do myths tell us about the values of a nation? Why does mythology still hold such an important place in our cultural psyche, even thousands of years after it was written? What is the human need for personal and cultural mythologies? What myths have shaped the history of our language, the Western World, and history? This course endeavors to answer these historical and social questions through examining the texts of some of the major mythologies written in English in the last fifteen hundred years. The course will begin with Beowulf, and chart the path of medieval humanity through Gawain and the Arthur Legends, engage with the Renaissance through The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost, and end with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as well as a discussion of such modern mythological works as the “Percy Jackson” series and science fiction. The course will seek to understand why myth has such a powerful effect on national and cultural identity, and what myth means today in a world that constantly redefines itself.

 

Doing Race

Michael Hicks, Education
Keywords: Race, Education, Society, Ethnicity, Identity Community

The social construct of “race” touches every aspect of our lives and profoundly (though sometimes unnoticeably) affects what we do, who we believe, and how we are treated - every one of us. Today, as much as ever, conversations around race and inequality provoke powerful feelings of discomfort, shame, guilt, and even rage. No wonder people often retreat from these discussions, hoping to avoid messy, uncomfortable confrontations. In this class, however, we are going to lean into this tension in a safe, academic environment in order to learn from primary sources, and from one another.
Through an exploration of history and scholarship stretching across academic disciplines, and through the lived experiences of invited guest presenters, we will analyze what it means to “Do Race” in America, in Louisiana and the Deep South, and even here at Centenary. For those with a heart for human connection and who want to hear, just as much as they want to be heard, this course will be a journey into understanding how we (beginning with those of us in this course) can deal with our differences differently, and in fact - better.

 

The Evolution of Everything: The Universe, Life, Consciousness, Language, and Society

Loren Demerath, Sociology
Keywords: Complexity

The human brain, climate, economics, music. Whether we are talking about individual organisms, social dynamics, cultural artifacts, or physical systems, we are constantly immersed in complex systems. This course introduces to complexity studies, a burgeoning field that strives to explain everything, from the emergence and evolution of life, to consciousness, society, art, music, and even our sense of virtue. Students will learn and apply concepts from a variety of disciplines to explain emergent complexity—energy, entropy, thermodynamics, information, hierarchy, idiolects, tipping points, and connectivity, agency, autonomy, language, beauty, narrative, framing. Students will also become familiar with two new powerful tools for understanding complex systems—agent-based modeling and network analysis—that are already used in fields like disease control, disaster management, and economic forecasting. Finally, students will use course concepts and analytic tools to present descriptions of themselves and the phenomena that interests them.

 

Notice of Nondiscriminatory Policy As To Students The institution does not discriminate in its educational and employment policies against any person on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, or on any other basis proscribed by federal, state, or local law.