Academics & Advising, Countdown to Earlham | Earlham College Skip to Content

Academics & Advising

Your Next Steps

  1. Review the Earlham Seminar Course Descriptions
  2. Begin Your Advising Questionnaire

Earlham Seminar Course Descriptions

You will need to select which Earlham Seminar courses that pique your interest. Earlham Seminar courses explore a topic in an intimate, challenging and collaborative learning environment. They are designed to establish foundational skills to prepare you for advancement in the Earlham curriculum. 

Take a moment to peruse the Earlham Seminar courses offered before entering the Advising Questionnaire form.  

Although we attempt to honor all student Earlham Seminar preferences, submissions after June 12 cannot be guaranteed.

This is Sparta! Receptions of Greece and Rome

Max Paule, Assistant Professor of Ancient and Classical Studies

The influence of Greco-Roman antiquity is inescapable. From shots of the Athenian Parthenon in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, to Ted Cruz’s repeated comparison of himself to the Roman statesman Cicero, and even to our own college seal (Sigillum Collegii Earlhamensis), western culture is still actively shaping itself through its relationship to classical antiquity. Students in this course will learn to identify, analyze and question the usage of classical themes in a variety of modern examples (e.g. language, architecture, film, literature), many of which will directly impact students’ own lives.


Kelly Tuttle, Assistant Professor of Arabic

Paper, now a ubiquitous commodity, has been and remains a dynamic technological and artistic tool. Think of the book, the letter, the newspaper, the ‘paperfuge’, the paper sculpture in engineering and art and the myriad other paper products. Although it serves many a mundane function, paper has been instrumental in shaping our lives. In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will investigate the history of paper and papermaking. We will focus in particular on three general areas: premodern paper manufacturing and the spread of paper books from Asia to the Middle East, the history and gradual decline of our local Ohio Valley papermaking industry, and finally, the relationship of technology and paper today.

The Fountain of Youth: Diet, Genes and Aging

Courtney Scerbak, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry

What allows groups of people to remain extremely healthy well into old age? Will eating a handful of blueberries everyday make me live longer? In this seminar, we will study historic and modern theories of aging and explore the role of nutrition and genetics in this complex process. Through reading, reflecting on, and discussing popular science and peer-reviewed science texts, students will gain experience engaging with scientific literature and communicating science to both their peers and a broader audience.


Sci, Tech, Soc and Change

Charlie Peck, Professor of Computer Science

There is a long history of advances in science and technology shaping the development of human societies. The pace of change driven by technological and scientific advances continues to increase, to the point where those advances are now the defining feature of modern life. This course will examine some of the major milestones of science and discovery, their effects on human societies, and some possibilities the near-term future may hold. At the same time as we explore the history of science and technology we will learn how to use a variety of modern software and hardware tools. One of the defining characteristics of our time is the availability of easy to use, inexpensive, powerful platforms for people to be creative with. This lets us make lots of things, from water quality testers to rave dresses that react to sound, light and biometric input to lab-on-a-chip devices that quickly detect disease in the field.

The Modern Shakespeare

How does Shakespeare still matter?  This course explores the ways that Shakespeare turns up in our language (“knock, knock. Who’s there?”), as well as in modern films, plays, and novels – everything from The Godfather to classic science fiction and fantasy.  We’ll meet characters who’ve been well-loved for centuries: moody, cunning Hamlet; the manically cheerful and treacherous Iago; impetuous, romantic Juliet; and driven, capable Othello. Along the way, we’ll conference with award-winning actors, directors, activists, and scholars who use Shakespeare to improve the qualities of life in cities as large as New York and as small as Richmond, as glamorous as London’s Globe and as crowded as American prisons. 

The Middle Passage

Professor of French and Francophone Studies

The Atlantic crossing from the African continent to the Americas — has been alternatively interpreted as a cultural rupture preparing captive Africans for rebirth as slaves and as a continuum by which various African cultural practices entered the "New World" despite repression. In this course, we will consider representations of the Middle Passage on screen and in texts and use visits to sites like a stop on the Underground Railroad near Richmond to think about how somewhat related events have played a role in African diasporic history. Throughout the course, we will use writing, digital presentations, and discussion to reflect on how these "middle passages" have shaped and continue to shape cultural practices and race relations in the Americas.

Culture Wars

Ryan Murphy, Assistant Professor of History

The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were contentious decades. Anti-racist, feminist, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer activists were changing the way that people thought about love, sex and family. Those movements expressed their politics through provocative new forms of art, film and literature. During the same period, a growing evangelical Christian movement was using “social issues” – opposition to abortion, feminism and homosexuality – to galvanize its members. This class takes an interdisciplinary look at the ensuing struggle over sexuality, religion and art that historians have called “the culture wars”. This class pays particular attention to the way that ideas about the Midwest were used to pit the defenders of traditional “family values” against the presumed cultural radicalism of the northeast and west coasts. Students will read, write about, and discuss a variety of texts, from the performance art of Annie Sprinkle to the photography of Carrie Mae Weems to the political speeches of Pat Buchanan to the cultural analysis of Robin Kelley.

Are Some Mosquitos Entitled to Rights?

Kevin Miles, Professor of Philosophy

Animal “rights” activism sometimes claims that non-human animals should be afforded the same considerations as human animals. Does this mean that human animals should cease keeping pets; does it mean the abolition of zoos or a moratorium on using mice in scientific experiments? If we want to extend “rights” to animals such as elephants and dolphins, will the same “rights” be extended to ants, ordinary mosquitos, mosquitos carrying the zika virus? Why? Why not? This course will read philosophical and literary texts investigating how humans have constructed various ways of understanding human animal/non-human animal relations. Students will, as well, scrutinize some human attitudes toward non-human animals based upon how non-human animals are treated at animal shelters, horse barns, local farms, and in labs on Earlham’s campus so that we might better situate ourselves for examining questions concerning how animals of any kind might or might not be entitled to what we call “rights.”


Vince Punzo, Professor of Psychology

This course will explore the human side of medicine and health care through engaging humanities texts in which patients and health care practitioners confront the biological and existential realities of illness, disease and mortality. Students will encounter texts which provide personal narratives of individuals seeking healing, wholeness and dignity in the midst of crisis and vulnerability. This course is especially tailored to students who are interested in being health care practitioners as well as those who want to more fully understand what it means to be human. The course fulfills one of the requirements for the Medical Humanities Integrative Pathway.

Who am I, What are you? Identity and Diversity

Nelson Bingham, Professor of Psychology

One of the distinctive qualities of human beings is the capacity, indeed, the need, to have a sense of self or identity. But our life as an individual almost never happens in a social vacuum. We encounter those who are different from ourselves every day. How can we best engage with the diversity that surrounds us? While it sometimes leads to conflict and oppression, can it also lead to enhancement of our personal identity and enrichment of community? This course will explore the interplay of identity and diversity using texts, videos, Earlham’s Principles & Practices, personal journals, Websites and other sources.

Career, Calling and College

Isaac Hunter, Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology

This course will explore the role college can and should play as students begin the task of figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. Particular attention will be given to self-awareness, finding meaning and fulfillment, and approaching growth opportunities with intention. Students will interview local people in a variety of jobs and professions as part of the course.

Psychology of Humor

Beth Mechlin, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Humans regularly engage in humorous exchanges, and actively seek out books, movies, TV shows and podcasts that will make them laugh. This course will focus on the role that humor plays in our lives. We will examine humor from developmental, cognitive and social psychology perspectives. Research studying the role of humor and laughter in mental and physical health will also be discussed. This section will also use a F 2:30-4:00 p.m. time for course activities.

The Perfect Human

Emi Smith, Assistant Professor of Biology

Is tall better than short? Should all diseases be cured? Why not make your child smarter/more beautiful/more athletic? This seminar will explore the past, present and future of genetic engineering, focusing specifically on humans. Students will read and reflect on a variety of materials related to this topic, including opinions from preeminent scientists, news articles, scientific literature and propaganda. We will spend time discussing the historical practice of eugenics, including how eugenics was practiced locally in the state of Indiana, and compare this practice with the recently discovered CRISPR/Cas9 human genome editing system and the implications that this technology has on the future of disease treatment and “designer babies.”

All Politics are Local

Jennifer Seely, Associate Professor of Politics

Many Americans agree that voting is a civic duty and an important aspect of political participation, so why do relatively few Americans actually turn out to vote in elections? If all politics is local, as former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill is credited with saying, then why is voter turnout relatively low even in local elections where each vote arguably “counts” more than in national elections? This course will explore what political scientists have to say about when and how large numbers of voters head to the ballot box, considering a range of arguments about what influences American political behavior including education, race, income and age. We will also take a closer look at trends in voter turnout in Indiana and our own Wayne County, which has experienced some recent changes that might be expected to increase voter turnout (vote centers and early voting) and some changes that might be expected to diminish it (voter identification laws).

Race and Class in Comparative Perspectives

Cassio Muniz, Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics

This course analyzes the issue of race and class in comparative perspective. It draws on experiences from developed and developing nations in the process of understanding the origins and evolution of race and class relations. It also discusses the structural, political and economic implications of the dynamics of this interaction, as well as the social and cultural contributions of the different groups to their societies.

World-Building and Place through SF/Fantasy Media and Games

Neal Baker, Library Director

This course is intended for hardcore SF/fantasy geeks entering Earlham. In academic terms, we’ll mobilize a conceptual toolkit from media studies, game studies and fan studies. More prosaic, we'll explore what it means to be a first-year college SF/fantasy geek as you build your own new "world" in Richmond, IN. To do so, we'll explore both "canonical" and fan world-building across SF/fantasy in various media (e.g. from tabletop RPGs to award-winning fiction), and in so doing, analyze world-building processes and associated issues (e.g. constructions of race, gender, the alien). You’ll complete media projects, too, and we hope to visit the Ohio Renaissance Festival equipped with theoretical lenses on such sites as built worlds. Be forewarned: Anyone expecting a blow-off class is in for **epic** grief.

The Underground Railroad

Betsy Schlabach, Associate Professor of History and African & African American Studies

During the mid to late 19th century, Wayne County, Indiana, was one stop on the route of the Underground Railroad. The enslaved would begin their journey in one of the upper southern states, and go from stop to stop, ultimately reaching “their Canaan lands.” There was a group of whites that aided in African Americans’ pursuit of freedom. Many considered them subversive fanatics. The aim of this class is to achieve an understanding of African American leaders of this movement, the geography of the Underground Railroad, and the nature of opposition to antislavery sentiment. Students will also explore the Underground Railroad’s recent depiction in television shows such at WGN’s Underground, Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad, and films, relying on primary textual sources and local historical sites in Indiana and Ohio to offer critique.

Sweet Persuasion

Stephen Heiny, Research Professor of Classics

Human beings are always trying to persuade one another. Earlham has persuaded you to come here. I will try to persuade you to love learning. Advertisers persuade us to buy products. Politicians persuade us to vote for them. Artists persuade us to see the world as they do. Many of us will persuade another to join in a relationship. In this course we will not only study persuasion, but practice it as well, in discussion and writing. Among our readings will be Levine's The Power of Persuasion, Wills's Lincoln at Gettysburg, and Plato's Phaedrus.


Stories of the Body: Medicine and Literature

Shena McAuliffe, Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing

Medicine is often considered the territory of science, but illness, dying and healing are central to human experience, and from them come some of our most important stories. What similarities and differences arise in the ways we understand and discuss our bodies and our health? What themes and patterns emerge in narratives of illness, aging, death and recovery? What is the power of such stories, and what are the limits? (How) do these stories differ when told by doctors, patients or family members? Who has the authority to tell these stories? Who chooses or is forced to remain silent? And what does such literature teach us about these human experience? In this class, we will explore poetry, fiction and essays that attempt to map such experiences, and texts that engage critically with the intersection of humanities and medicine. Readings may include Susan Sontag, Atul Gawande, David Small and Margaret Edson. Local explorations will include a visit to the Indiana Medical History Museum. The course fulfills one of the requirements for the Medical Humanities Integrative Pathway.

Sustainable Energy: Protecting Our Planet, Testing Our Morals & Powering Our Lives

Patrick Barber, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Scientists agree that the rapid rate of change in climate is largely due to human impact since the industrial revolution. Technologies for producing energy in sustainable means, methods that use renewable inputs and decreases pollution, have been around for decades and continue to improve every year. This course will explore the chemistry and materials behind sustainable energy technologies and how the change in energy sources will change our lives, challenge our everyday morals, and protect the planet. We will reflect on our personal impact and the impact of the surrounding areas, including the College.

Advising Questionnaire

Earlham's esteemed faculty are passionate not only about the subjects they teach, but also about helping you reach your fullest potential. One of your faculty adviser's goals is to partner with you to explore your academic interests and passions. Your faculty adviser provides connections to campus resources assisting your vocational aspirations and career planning.

The close relationship you'll form with your faculty adviser begins by submitting the Advising Questionnaire. From your answers, we will match you with a faculty adviser who compliments your academic interests, learning style and personal characteristics.

(You Will Be Taken to a Login Screen First)

Print Friendly and PDF