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New classes available next fall semester

Norwich Guidon Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 11:04

The dining hall may serve the same food each semester, the same professors may teach year after year, and some traditions are forever, but there is one change for Norwich students to look forward to next fall: Brand-new classes.

Instead of assigning a textbook, Professor Jeremy Hansen, an assistant professor of computer science, is asking his students to choose one of their favorite games and purchase that for class.

Hansen is offering a new course titled Gaming and Algorithms.

"Although the class is a 400 level course, the material is not that advanced," Hansen said, "It's more for non-computer science and non-computer security folks to be introduced to the things people really shy away from in computer science like algorithms, probability and gaming theory."

This elective course is explained nearly entirely through games, according to Hansen. "Most people know how to play chess or checkers, but we are going to find out the purpose and strategies of the games," Hansen said.

Meeting once a week, Hansen plans to divide the three hours into sections.

"(The students) will not be simply sitting at the computer and playing Bejeweled for an hour and a half, but the students will document things like rules and analyzing the state of the game," Hansen said.

The course itself does not get into computer programming but, "if there are students with any programming backgrounds in the class, I may have them build the stuff because they have the resources," Hansen said.

"It really boils down to games and problem solving," Hansen said, but outside of the problem solving, he plans to look in the role of theme in a game.

For Spanish majors, or students who have Spanish language proficiency, movie watching will be the heart of Professor Judith Stallings-Ward's National Cinema of Spain course.

"The cinema course introduces the student to the films of three of Spain's most renowned filmmakers — Luis Buñuel, Carlos Saura and Pedro Almodóvar," Stallings-Ward said.

These artists are popular because they "show a range of evolution from superficial to a more serious style," Stallings-Ward said.

The study of film is essential because it is a major part of life, according to Stallings-Ward, "but Spanish film is particularly captivating and should be appreciated by all who enjoy movies."

As a class offered only once before, "the students said it was one of the very best courses they had ever taken at Norwich," Stallings-Ward said.

In the department of history and political science, Professor Jason Jagemann is teaching a senior seminar on political behavior.

"This is the capstone experience for our seniors," Jagemann said, "where they can hone their skills that they have learned their four years at Norwich."

The topic is broad enough to allow for students to explore with individual research projects, but the core element is still present, according to Jagemann.

"As political scientists, we are interested in what makes people tick," Jagemann said.

The unique element about this particular course is that it is going to focus on issues being debated in today's ‘culture wars,' according to Jagemann. "These are issues that kind of pull on our heart strings and tug on the center of our essence," Jagemann said.

Jagemann plans to cover issues such as abortion, gay rights and the role of government that tend to make people uncomfortable or that get people energized.

This course has allotted 10 spots for students, to keep the class manageable and allow students to have a sense of ownership, according to Jagemann.

"I get to sort of play the role of the emcee, kind of hosting the event," Jagemann said. "Although I enjoy chiming in and taking an opportunity to point out certain things, but the students are largely in the driver's seat and it is very discussion-oriented class and I like that a lot."

Another new seminar is open to history, studies in war and peace and political science majors, titled Civil War in American Memory, taught by Professor Steven Sodergren.

"The course is not necessarily about the Civil War, but about what Americans think and say about the Civil War," Sodergren said. "It's not about history as much as it is memory."

"We are going to spend some of the course doing a critical assessment of movies that have touched the Civil War, all the way from John Wayne to the present-day movies like ‘Horse Soldiers,' and at the same time how it has been mocked in pop culture on shows like ‘The Simpsons,' ‘American Dad,' and then movies like ‘Sweet Home Alabama' where Reese Witherspoon's ex-boyfriend is a Civil War actor," Sodergren said.

Sodergren is offering another new course to students who have taken at least one history course, called The Origins of American Political Parties.

"This course looks at whether the United States was supposed to have political parties," Sodergren said, "Almost every other industrialized country in the world has some kind of political party, but very few of them have only two."

The course will begin its studies with the Constitutional Convention and look at how the different factions developed, according to Sodergren.

Professor Andrew L. Knauf of the English department has created a seminar studying the American authors Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

"I have never taught (the course) before and what I thought I would do is take two authors that I have some familiarity with who were friends, were both American ex-patriots living in Paris in the 1920's, who saw each other quite often," Knauf said.

The unique relationship between these two men is what makes the course interesting: "They helped each other to a certain extent in much the same way," Knauf said.

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