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LAR Class Descriptions

LAR Class Descriptions

Doane University's First Year Liberal Arts Seminar is a course designed to introduce first-year students to college-level writing, discussion, critical thinking, and critical reading. Faculty will choose a theme for each seminar section in order to help students learn information research skills, to work collaboratively, and to gain an appreciation for interdisciplinary study and multiple perspectives.

Below are the descriptions, times and Professors for our available LAR classes. Check out the videos located at for more information about this required course you will take in the fall.

Monday/Wednesday/Friday Classes

  • LAR 101-2: Journeys

    Time: M/W/F 9-9:50 am

    Professor: Kimberly Jarvis

    People’s perceptions of the world around them are influenced and affected by their environment and experiences. In this course, students will read memoirs and novels that explore their authors experiences with and reflections on such issues as identity and political oppression in Iran, China, Russia, and Argentina. Also, students will examine and reflect upon their transition from high school to college.

  • LAR 101-3: Rejected Rebels: Why the Right Idea Doesn't Always Win

    M/W/F 9-9:50 am

    Professor: Mark Meysenburg

    Why are some people “ before their time?” Some pioneering thinkers are accepted and hailed in their time, while others are mocked and marginalized. Why have some ideas, which we recognize today as obviously correct, been rejected by experts in the past? What factors led to the right ideas being rejected, and what can we learn from history so that we do not repeat it? In this course, we will explore these questions through two specific historical events: Galileo Galilei’s idea of a sun-centered universe in the 1630s, and Charles Babbage’s design of a working computer in the 1830s.

    We will attempt to answer these questions through intense Reacting to the Past role-playing games. You will take on historically-based roles, work with your faction, delve deeply into significant historical texts, write and make speeches, debate controversial issues (while staying in character!), participate in laboratory sessions and try to win the game. Your performance in the game could change the course of history!

  • LAR 101-4: Taking a Stance

    M/W/F 11-11:50 am

    Professor: JL Vertin

    This seminar will expose students to several contemporary and historical controversies to help them build compelling written and oral arguments for a specific stance. Students will engage in two intensive role-playing games that place them in moments of historical controversy. Students will conduct research, write position papers, and participate in informal debates and negotiations, to win the game. First, students will go back to 1968 and recreate the protests at the Democratic National Convention before moving further back in time for the second game, where they confront the issues that surrounded Americans as they decided whether or not to declare their independence from Great Britain. Students will then switch gears and examine the current controversial social problems of immigration, the death penalty, and marijuana legalization. The course will conclude with students working in teams in a mock trial debate on one of these social issues.

  • LAR 101-5: Heroes

    M/W/F 10-10:50 am

    Professor: Dan Clanton

    What does it mean to be human?
    What does real companionship mean?
    What happens after we die?
    How should men and women behave?
    How should humans relate to the Divine?
    What does it mean to be honorable and heroic?
    What is the price of duty or responsibility to oneself and others?
    What is “justice,” and how is it achieved?

    These, and other questions, have been asked and answered in cultures of the past through stories about heroes. This class will examine three classic epics—Gilgamesh, the Iliad, and Beowulf—to discover how ancient and medieval western cultures answered questions like these. We will also address answers to these questions and the concept of heroism in our modern culture by examining our modern mythology, as found in stories of comic book superheroes.

  • LAR 101-12: Ethics and the Body

    M/W/F 9-9:50 am

    Professor: Brad Johnson

    Students in this course will examine many of the diverse ethical issues related to the human body. Topics such as body modification (tattooing, piercing, etc.), pandemics, organ transplant lists, and artificial bodies/body parts will serve as material for our reading and writing about how we make ethical decisions. Moreover, in the spirit of the Liberal Arts Seminar, we will examine the human body as an interdisciplinary subject, applying concepts from art, biology, religion, philosophy, literature, economics, etc., in an effort to understand how we approach ethical choices from a wide range of perspectives.

  • *CLASS FULL* LAR 101-13: Exploring Current Topics in the American Healthcare System

    M/W/F 2-2:50 pm

    Professor: Melissa Clouse

    (This course is especially recommended for students who plan to pursue careers in healthcare.) The United States healthcare system is increasingly in the news due to the effect it exerts on our national policy and economy, and individual quality of life. This course will examine common ethical and practical dilemmas encountered within our dynamic healthcare system. Students will investigate scenarios, identify high interest topics, and examine the ethics surrounding common healthcare debates. Viewing each situation from a variety of viewpoints will be encouraged. Issues examined may include topics such as universal healthcare, acceptance of vaccination, euthanasia, and the changing understanding of the term “health”. Students will explore these topics using a variety of readings, news media broadcasts, and videos, as well as interactions with practicing clinicians.

Tuesday and Thursday Classes

  • LAR 101-1: Choose Your Own Adventure

    T/TH 9:30-10:45 am

    Professor: Brandi Hilton-Hagemann

    Much like the popular Choose Your Own Adventure novels, “there are dangers, choices, adventures, and consequences,” in this LAR 101 class. Selected readings about volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, earthquakes, firestorms and tornadoes will allow you to experience the struggle to survive both historical and modern natural disasters. You will also have the opportunity to read a Choose Your Own Adventure novel – and write one of your own – based on research you will conduct throughout the semester. As you begin a new adventure, from high school to college life, this class will introduce you to a diverse world full of choices. To be sure, bad decisions may end in disaster but in this LAR 101, you choose the college adventures that await.

  • LAR 101-6: A Human Rights Journey: From Inquiry to Awareness

    T/Th 1-2:15 pm 

    Professor: Alec Engebretson

    This course will take students on a human rights and human wrongs journey. Taking this journey will enhance a student’s ability to engage in ethical reasoning by intentionally thinking critically, creatively, and practically. In addition, this journey will generate an understanding of identity, stories, ethics, and an individual’s universe of obligation as they relate to human rights as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The course culminates with the class hosting a community human rights symposium where students will use Ted Talks, poetry, imagery, and movement to create an awareness of human rights violations happening locally, nationally and globally.

  • *CLASS FULL* LAR 101-8: What in the World?!

    T/Th 9:30-10:45 am

    Professor: Becky Hunke

    Are there times you overhear conversations or watch the news and wonder; What in the world is that about? In this seminar class we will examine questions that can help us better understand ourselves and the world in which we live. These questions focus on important issues that we might not think about very often including, what does it mean to be happy? What is the big deal about this adjustment to college? What are the fundamental political and ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans? Why is there homelessness and poverty? Why do children go hungry everyday? Through class discussions, experiential assignments, writing assignments, guest lectures and films we will explore whether or not you have ever thought about these issues, how you might find solutions to some of these problems, and, finally, how and why each of us perceives these issues differently and why that matters.

  • LAR 101-9: Power of Stories

    T/TH 1-2:15 pm

    Professor: Katy Hanggi

    Why do we tell stories? We often consume stories without thinking about why we enjoy them or how they appeal to us. Yet, they are integral to our lives. From a very young age, we rely on stories to not only entertain us, but also to explain the world around us. In this class, we will consider the role of story in our lives. We will learn how to analyze narrative and its components through reading literature and watching film. We will discuss how different academic disciplines research and use the concept of narrative.

  • LAR 101-14: Know Thyself

    T/TH 1-2:15 pm

    Professor: Lucas Kellison

    “Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.” – Henry David Thoreau.

    How exactly does one person go about changing the world for the better? Our society has become increasingly polarized, and we often feel our choices in which moral direction to choose are based on two very opposite teams of thought. With the help of philosophy, art, mythology, religion, and science, this course will explore methods of developing a personal system of beliefs that speaks to the “areas in-between,” which is where the truth most often lies. When students are willing to face and resolve the difficult questions deep within themselves, it is only then that they can lead others with authenticity.

  • LAR 101-15: Government in the Time of COVID-19

    T/TH 2:30-3:45 pm

    Professor: Nathan Erickson

    If we've learned anything from our response to the Covid-19 Pandemic it's that truth, facts and effective leadership actually do matter. Governmental and organizational leaders should not rely on wishful and lazy thinking and must do a better job of executing policy that is true to reality. Students will analyze and assess a wide variety of government policies (beyond Public Health) from all over the world using social scientific evidence. Most importantly, students will be asked to challenge their taken-for-granted assumptions about the role that government should play in society by simply asking, "Is that true?" and "Based on what evidence?"

  • LAR 101-16: Climate Change and Science Communication

    T/Th 2:30-3:45 pm

    Professor: Ramesh Laungani

    Climate change is driven by human activities such as fossil fuel use Even though scientists agree about this, a mismatch exists between this scientific consensus and the general public’s understanding leading to confusion and inaction. In this section of LAR101, we will explore the science behind human-driven climate change while also exploring ways to effectively communicate climate change science (and science more generally). We will examine the roots of this disconnect between the science and the public, as well as understanding how to effectively communicate the complexities and nuances of science that are often lost in headlines. Additionally, we will learn how to identify when science, particularly climate change, is being misrepresented by comparing the scientific research to published headlines describing that research. Through portfolios, reflections, and critical reasoning, students will create a resource of high-quality information on climate change for themselves and the general Doane community.