Fall 2018 Courses

All courses taught by Robinson Professors are open to anyone meeting department prerequisites.
Spencer Crew |  Robert HazenSteven Pearlstein | Laurie Robinson | James Trefil


 Spencer Crew

HNRS 240:002 Reading the Past
The definition of family and the role of each member of that unit have evolved over the years.  Often the changes are related to economic circumstances and the social mores of the society.  This course will primarily examine the way the American family has changed since colonial days.  In the process we will study how the responsibilities of women, children, and men have altered and why.  We also will compare this with views of family operation in other selected societies such as Rome, India, China, and Japan.

In addition, the class will acquire basic skills in oral history so they can interview family members or close associates to better understand their own family history or the experiences of others growing up.

(TR 10:30 – 11:45 AM)

HIST 300:001 Introduction to Historical Methods – Underground Railroad and Abolition
The course will introduce students to the theory and practice of history.  It will use the Underground Railroad and its connections to slavery and abolition as the vehicle for teaching skills in historical thinking, research, and writing.  The Underground Railroad was a loose network of individuals dedicated to undermining the institution of slavery and gaining freedom for African Americans enslaved by the institution.  Studying it will provide an opportunity for using historical skills and methodology to separate myth from truth in the process writing a research paper.

(T 1:30 – 4:20pm)


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Robert Hazen

PROV 301:001 Great Ideas in Science
A non-technical introduction to the ideas that have shaped the growth of science. The idea behind each major advance is treated in its historical context, with special attention to its importance in mankind’s understanding of the nature of the universe. Examples are taken from the physical, geological, and biological sciences.

(M 4:30 – 7:10pm)

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Steven Pearlstein

GOVT 367:001 Issues in Government and Politics:  Money, Markets and Economic Policy
No prerequisite. Applies basic economic concepts to an examination of fundamental issues facing the U.S. and global economies. Explores the way markets work, the reasons they sometimes fail and the role of government policy. Topics include productivity and economic growth, taxes, health care, globalization, income distribution and financial crises, with an emphasis on market structure, social institutions and the not-always rational behavior of investors and consumers.

Over the last decade, economics has moved from the periphery of the political conversation to its white hot center. This course will provide a familiarity with the fundamental issues facing the U.S. and global economies, along with an understanding of the economic principles that underlie them. The course is aimed at non-economics majors seeking the economic literacy necessary to do their jobs, manage their lives and participate intelligently as citizens in a democracy.  It is taught by a prize-winning journalist with a knack for demystifying complex economic ideas and policy choices and translating them into conversational English. There are no prerequisites and the course involves very little math. Critical thinkers with curious minds are strongly encouraged to enroll. (MW 1:30 – 2:45 pm)

HNRS 131:004 Congressional Elections

We will study the 2018 Congressional campaign as it unfolds this fall in Virginia and around the country—an election that will be referendum on the Trump administration in which control of both houses of Congress will be at stake. We will not only follow it through the mainstream (and not so mainstream media), but also through the eyes of individuals who are in some way participating in it: a farmer, a small business owner, a teacher, a soccer mom, a nurse, an evangelical minister, etc. Each student will be assigned someone who comes from as different a background, and has as different views, as we can find (that’s the “multiple perspectives” part). Students will speak to their subjects by phone weekly, keeping a journal and “seeing” the election through his or her eyes. Along the way, we will read about politics, political journalism and public policy and discuss the interaction among them. A campaign manager, a pollster, an elected official and a political journalist will be invited to speak to the class. We will also conduct an exit poll on Election Day. Some summer reading may be required. Registration closed after August 1.

(T 9:00 – 11:45 AM)

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Laurie Robinson

HNRS 353:002 Effective responses to crime: policies and strategies

While the violent crime rate in the U.S. today is some  75% lower than 20 years ago — and is far closer to rates in the 1960s — the nation continues to face challenges in areas such as gun violence, gang crime, domestic violence and high rates of incarceration, and there is clear concern about how fairly the criminal justice system responds to racial and ethnic minorities, as events over the past 18 months in Ferguson, Missouri and numerous other jurisdictions have highlighted.  In the 1960s, a Presidential Commission appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson issued a landmark report that comprehensively looked at all facets of the criminal justice system and set out a blueprint for reform.  No single document in criminal justice since that time has been so influential.

In this seminar, Honors College students will act as members of a criminal justice commission to look at key aspects of the crime problem in the United States and what solutions are — or could be — used to address them effectively.  They will examine issues around policing, prisons and sentencing, juvenile justice, substance abuse, courts and (more broadly) innovation and hold “hearings” at which they can question expert guest witnesses (for example, frontline criminal justice practitioners, such as police chiefs) and explore evidence-based approaches that are being, and should be, taken to address problems.  Students will serve on subject area task forces and develop reports on their topics.

The work will culminate in the students presenting their policy-oriented research reports in class at the end of the semester.

This seminar is suitable for any student interested in public policy, government, technology, communications, criminology, political science, conflict resolution, or economics. (TR 1:30-2:45 pm)

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James Trefil

PHYS 122:002 Inside Relativity
Introductory course describing Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity intended for majors and nonmajors.

(Aug 25-Oct 13 TR 9:00am-10:15am)

PHYS 123:002 Inside the Quantum World
Introductory course describing quantum theory intended for majors and nonmajors.

(Oct 14-Dec 17 TR 9:00am-10:15am)

HNRS 240:001 The History of Science
This course will trace the development of science from the construction of monuments like Stonehenge to the latest ideas about the Large Hadron Collider and the Multiverse. No previous scientific knowledge will be presumed, and the major ideas of science will be developed in their historical context. The course will include readings from important historical texts, and students will be asked to dvelop and present biographies of major scientific figures.

(M 4:30-7:10 pm)

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