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September 17, 2014 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-09-17

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V3 ' - - 1,

How theme semesters are shaping the way you learn
by Tanaz Ahmed

For more than 20 years, theme semesters
have played an integral part in anchoring the
LSA curriculum. Through theme semesters,
LSA works to provide courses and events
related to a specific topic each term.
Though they were first implemented in the
1980s, theme semesters became more estab-
lished in the '90s under former LSA Dean
Edie Goldenberg. Faculty and administration
recognized the potential of theme semesters
to foster thought-provoking conversations on
campus and in the broader Ann Arbor com-
munity, said Marjorie Horton,
the assistant dean for under-
graduate education.
"The purpose of theme
semesters is to involve the
community in learning
ow.pbout, thinking about a com-
plex subject matter together
and from many different per-
spectives," she explained.
Topics that are relevant on
campus and but also have a
national impact are chosen.
Brown v. the Board of Educa-
tion was elected as a theme in
winter 2004 during the 50th
anniversary of the landmark
case. Past theme semesters
have also included "India in
the World," "Understanding
"kace," and "Genders, Bodies,
The subject matter for
each semester is carefully
chosen. Preliminary propos-
als from departments, fac-
ulty and staff are expected to
be brief, two-page documents with an expla-
nation of the theme, lists of potential col-
laborating departments or programs, ways
to involve students, proposed courses and
community events. After the preliminary
proposals are returned with feedback, a full
proposal is developed.
The theme for Fall 2014 is "Sport in the
University." The recent media focus on col-
legiate athletics coupled with the passion for
sports on Ann Arbor's campus makes "Sport
in the University" a timely subject, Anne
Curzan, professor of English Language and
Literature, said.
"We thought it would be fun and inter-
esting to capitalize on the widespread and
often passionate interest in sport on cam-
pus," wrote Curzan, who is spearheading
this semester's theme, in an e-mail interview.
"We wanted to highlight the ways in which
Wsport intersects with questions and research
we pursue across a wide range of disciplines
at the University, from psychology to physics
to literature to engineering, from race to gen-
der to economics to medicine."
Goce a theme is selected, the dean's
office provides a large portion of the finan-
cial resources needed to plan events and

programs. According to Evans Young, LSA
assistant dean for undergraduate education,
the office provides approximately $25,000
to $30,000 to the steering committee, com-
prised of faculty and staff, in charge of orga-
nizing the theme semester.
Specific LSA departments with an interest
in the specific theme semester provide addi-
tional funding. Occasionally, other Univer-
sity schools and colleges, such as the School
of Art and Design or the School of Music,
Theatre & Dance will also contribute to the
funding if the theme is relevant to their cur-

ment (PitE). John Knott, a current profes-
sor emeritus in the English department, was
able to further pursue his interests in litera-
ture and the environment while a part of the
'98 theme semester steering committee. He
was later one of the key figures in imple-
menting PitE.
Knott is not the only professor who
has been given the opportunity to further
explore his or her research interests and pas-
sions through theme semesters.
For Scott Ellsworth, a lecturer in the
Department of Afroamerican and African

To kick off the semester, "Sport in the Uni-
versity" hosted a panel titled "Game Plan:
Achieving Success at Michigan and Beyond."
Michigan Basketball Coach John Beilein and
Women's Gymnastics Coach Bev Plocki -
along with Phil Deloria, LSA associate dean
of undergraduate edtication, University pro-
fessors Rob Sellers, professor of Psychology,
and Robin Queen, chair of the Linguistics
department - were panel speakers.
Other events include a concert held in
honor of the "Star Spangled Banner," a His-
tory of Women's Athletics gal-
lery exhibit at the University
of Michigan in Hatcher Gradu-
ate Library and a performance
of "Good Kids" by the Sexual
Assault Prevention & Awareness
Center (SAPAC) at the Arthur
Miller Theatre. Lectures given by
speakers Philip Veliz, a professor
at the Institute for Research on
Women and Gender, and Univer-
sity alum Tarkington Newman,
will take place as well.
There will also be screen-
ings of films. "A League of Their
Own" will be shown on Sept. 21
with an introduction given by
Carol Hutchins, women's softball
"Afghan Muscles" and "A City
of Fire: The Story of '68 Detroit
Tigers" will be screened on Sept.
26 and Oct. 1, respectively. "Play-
ing Unfair: The Media Image of
the Female Athlete" and "Mira-
cle" are some of the films which
will also be shown.
While LSA junior Ayesha Mehrotra said
she found theme semester courses to be
unadvertised to students who did not seem
to belong to a department sponsoring these
courses, other students who had taken past
theme semester courses or attended related
events were intrigued by the selected topics.
"I did notfeel like I was an expert in any
of these topics before but I'm always look-
ing for opportunities to learn more about
my culture," said LSA junior Sunny Dharod,
explaining why he was motivated to enroll
in two theme semester courses as part of the
"India in the World" semester last winter.
LSA senior Loritta Chan became a part of
the student advisory board for "India in the
World" and took a theme semester course
because she felt as though they enriched hers
and other students' learning experiences.
"The diversified learning approach which
theme semester courses offer fosters a stu-
dent's interest in the subject," she added. "It
gives students room to explore the multiple
facets of Indian culture not taught in class,
such as music or the arts. When one draws
links between such events and issues taught
in class, the course becomes much more
dynamic, applicable and closer to real life."

' ' on the record
"The customer is highly overrated. Steve Jobs, the
foremost entrepreneur of our generation, consistently
believed he knew more than the customer did."
- VINAY GUPTA,founder of two companies and CEO of
outsourcing relationship management company Janeeva, at
Entrepalooza this week.
"If they're truly fans, they'll believe in these kids and
what they've done and the hard work they've put in. If
they're not, they won't."
- BRADY HOKE,Football coach
"In some ways, jokes are like a language. They're like a
way that people communicate with other people who
have a good sense of humor. In some ways, my shows
are kind of like a series of inside jokes between me and
the audience."
- Comedian MIKE BIRBIGLIA inan interview with The Daily
about his upcomingperformance at Michigan.

r, , .I%- U . -v, ... - ~
"...You need that drive. But at the same time, the study of (vocal performance) kind of
legitimizes it in a way. Because a lot of people think, 'You're a voice major; that's so cool. You
just sing.' Well, it's more than that. The whole point of the (vocal performance) art is to make
it look effortless ... Even though there are the hours and hours of study and practice that
go behind it. It's neat for me to be in that world now. To come from a place where this was
something I once did for fun, and now it's like, this is my life."


M pM

Alibaba Group Holding
td., the Chinese
: e-commerce giant, will
begin trading shares of its
stock on Friday in New
York. Currently, shares
are to be priced from
$66-68 per piece and
could raise $21.8 billion
for the firm.

riculums. There have also been instances
where themes have been funded by orga-
nizations outside of the University - such
as from the Ford Motor Company for the
"Detroit 300" semester.
The English Department and Physics
Department are some of the other depart-
ments contributing to this semester'sbudget.
The money goes toward the multitude of
events organized for theme semesters aswell
as staff support. Events - most of which are
open to the general public - usually include
speakers, movies, panels, performances,
concerts, student essay and video contests.
Over the years, theme semesters have
made a significant impact on academics at
the University.
For instance, in the Fall of 2012, the
"Translations" semester led to the creation
of the translations minor under the Com-
parative Literature Department. Although
housed under the Comparative Literature
Department, the minor stays true to its
theme semester roots through its interdisci-
plinary approach.
The Environmental Semester, the theme
in Winter of 1998, was a catalyst in creating
the University's Program in the Environ-

Studies, this semester's theme, "Sport in the
University" is the perfect opportunity for
him to incorporate the teachings from his
book, "The Secret Game: A Basketball Story
in Black and White" into a class on race and
basketball in America.
"There's a core group of faculty that
works on sports from various disciplines but
don't often get a chance to talk with one and
another, so I'm hoping this theme semester
helps us get to know one and another better
and share research," said Santiago Colas, an
associate professor of comparative litera-
ture, who is also teaching a course of global
sports cultures this fall.
For Tyran Steward, a lecturer in the His-
tory Department, this year's theme semester
gives him the opportunity to teach a subject
that is generally disregarded in American
"The reality is that many of the themes to
be pursued, such as sport, have been under-
studied by scholars and/or undervalued in
our classrooms despite their popularity in
mainstream American life or their need for
greater intellectual scrutiny," wrote Stew-
ard, who is teaching two courses related to
"Sport in the University" this semester.

On Monday, Netflixbegan rolling out its
online product in France. The question
remains: will the company will be able to
compete against Europe's uneasiness toward
U.S. giants? NBCNE



This Thursday, the University's board
of regents will vote on whether to
approve $18.7 million renovations to the
Intramural Sports Building.


NASA awarded
Boeing a $4.2
billion contract
and SpaceX
a $2.4 billion
contract to test
space taxis
that would
transport U.S.
astronauts into
outer space.


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