First-Year Experience

Fall 2022: Self and Society Seminar

As part of the First-Year Experience at Truman, you have access to the Self and Society Seminar, a selection of unique courses designed exclusively for incoming students. These seminars inspire you to engage the big questions, cultivate intellectual and practical values, and foster character as you become grounded in the methods of critical, multidisciplinary, and intercultural thinking.

The Self and Society Seminar is a required course your first year at Truman and is taken concurrently with the Truman Symposium.

Seminar Descriptions (PDF)

Self and Society Topics Seminars

If your major does not require a discipline-specific section of the Self and Society Seminar, you will choose any section you would like from the list of Topic Seminars. Your choice should be guided by your interests (not necessarily your major!) and your availability. Make a short list of sections you’re interested in and have that list on hand when you go through Summer Orientation. You’re encouraged to explore a seminar topic that sounds engaging, whether or not it aligns with your major. Please note that there are a few courses in the next section that can also be taken by anyone interested in the discipline – feel free to explore!


How do we construct the value of those resources, and what is considered a common good? How do we think about water that flows from drinking fountains versus that in a can of soda, or an industrial solvent versus an aquifer? Given the central role of water’s many forms across ecological, cultural, and economic landscapes, it’s no surprise that questions of water governance span centuries and continents. In this class, we will examine concepts of water in two different societies: the Roman Empire, and the contemporary United States. We will explore water management in ancient and contemporary cities. As a class, we will analyze the various ways in which people value and think about water: drinking water, recreation, sanitation, economic resource, and catastrophic floods or droughts. To what extent do these concepts emerge as a part of our cultural identity? How did the perspective of past peoples differ, and what can we learn from those differences?”

All majors welcome; recommended for history majors

Meeting Time: MWF 8:30
Instructor: Stephanie Russell

The ideologies of nationalism and democracy have greatly shaped modern political life. Ideologies are normative outlooks meant to shape mass behavior. Each ideology that we shall study has moral or ethical obligations associated with their views of justice as well as who is a member of a particular community. So in this class we will ask: Who is a member of our nation or our political community? What obligations do we have to members of the same nations or political community? What is the best form of government? What do we owe, if anything, to fellow human beings outside of our society? We will examine the role of major political, social, and economic ideologies and their implications on national identity, political community, political and economic rights, any obligations we owe to others within our community, as well as on any international obligations emerging from our ideological views of the world. In this course, we see how different ideologies lead us to different answers by examining nationalism, classical liberalism, modern liberalism, socialism, Marxism, anarchism, fascism, feminism, and environmentalism. We will also explore other traditional sources of identity.

All majors welcome; recommended for political science majors

Meeting Time: MWF 9:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: John Quinn


This section of the Self and Society Seminar asks us to collectively consider what it means to be an intellectual – starting with the word: has it been used, and do we use it, to mean just somebody who’s really smart? And is that somebody who is hyper-expert in a specialized area, or a person who is broadly educated across numerous domains? Do we see them as private people meditating alone and for their own purposes, or do we expect them to be somehow publicly engaged? How did we come by these ideas? How does the culture evaluate/value the intellectual? There are actually empirical procedures for thinking through the history of words like nerd and geek, and we can look at representations in books and film. How does each of us relate to this category? There are large numbers who aspire to it, and also those who resent it or hold it up for mockery. Some who fear it. Some who are afraid of having it applied to them.
The major section-specific outcome is to be prepared to see these categories – the intellectual and anti-intellectualism — as real and present throughout our cultural history, shaping our understanding of the world as we presently experience it, and as we try to figure out our place in it.”

All majors welcome

Meeting Time: MWF 10:30
Instructor: Adam Davis


“Story sits on the curb at the intersection of self and society. This S&S section will look at the tool of story, its historical development, and the wide variety of ways we use it (and abuse it) in order to make sense out of the world, both collectively as cultures and individually as we consciously and unconsciously go through identity development.”

All majors welcome; recommended for English/creative writing majors

Meeting Time: MWF 12:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: David Leaton


This course will introduce students to the fields of studio art, design, and art history with an emphasis on the big ideas that visual thinkers address in their work. Students will explore the role of individual identity, culture, and society in the pursuit of artistic research and what it means to be a responsible cultural producer. The course includes reading, writing, discussion, and lecture, as well as two studio-based projects. Think, Make, Art is intended for studio art, design, and art history majors as well as anyone interested in visual arts.

All majors welcome; recommended for studio art, design, and art history majors

Meeting Time: TR 1:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Priya Kambli


We investigate the foundations of Self and Society by exploring our world reality as informed by disciplines that evolved from the Scottish enlightenment period, once known as Moral Sciences. We know some of them as Economics, History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology, along with a recent blending of Economics and Political Science known as Public Choice. Drawing on literature from such disciplines, including statistics, we examine what we think we know, what actually is, and explore where we should go as we and our society move forward. We provide a framework for addressing both timeless and modern societal concerns as found today in all forms of media, political debates, and conversations among friends.

All majors welcome

Meeting Time: TR 10:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: David Gillette


The course will explore the impact of teamwork in self and society. Students will be introduced to topics that influence their experience with teamwork and how that experience might be different based on generation, psycho-social factors, demographics, social norms, physical health, interpersonal skills, personality, and environment.

All majors welcome

Meeting Time: TR 9:00
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Jana Arabas


We explore the intersection of chemistry, biochemistry, and societal issues in the pursuit of sustainability. It is expected that incoming Chemistry Majors and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Majors will take this course, but it would be interesting and accessible to all students with minimal chemistry background.

All majors welcome; recommended for chemistry and bio-chem majors

TRU 110-12
Meeting Time: MWF 1:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Barbara Kramer

TRU 110-13
Meeting Time: MWF 3:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Andy Kauffmann


While the term “heartland” is often used to describe the central geographic area of the United States, especially its more rural regions, in this class the term is used to draw attention to the ways in which the places in which we spend our formative years play a role in shaping our sense of identity. People tend to express affinity for the place that they call home—their “heartland.” And that place tends to infuse them with particular worldviews and values that may travel with them even when they leave the place. We will explore how those worldviews tend to differ for places or communities of different sizes spread across the urban-suburban-rural continuum and how the economic and cultural differences between these places can be either a source of strength or of division in the broader society.

All majors welcome

Meeting Time: TR 12:00
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Michael Seipel


In this section students will consider music through the lens of many disciplines, including biology, psychology, philosophy, and sociology. Students will explore the various factors that contribute to music preference, the acoustic and physiological processes of sound, how music is used and celebrated in society, and the use of music for therapeutic purposes. Students do not need to have prior formal music training to enroll in this class.

All majors welcome; recommended for music majors

Meeting Time: MWF 1:30
Modality: Blended In Person/Online
Instructor: Marc Rice


This particular section “Is the world getting better or worse?” focuses on evidence-based decision-making. The conversation includes how we had made decisions about world issues, how one’s background affected the perception, what is our role in the society promoting “correct” information, and how to make a good decision which hopefully makes the world better.

All majors welcome; recommended for statistics majors

Meeting Time: MWF 9:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Hyun-Joo Kim


Think you have an “accent” or a “dialect”? Know someone else who does? Come join us as we explore how the way one talks reflects who they are (their ethnicity, region, gender, sexuality, social class, and personality) as well as who they aspire to be (In short, the Self). We also will explore how the analysis of how you talk can inform the understanding of the society that you live in as well as our understanding of how the human mind works.

All majors welcome

Meeting Time: MWF 12:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Mary Shapiro


An exploration of how macroeconomics, public policy, and societal norms influence the decision-making of the individual with respect to managing their own financial resources and accumulating household wealth.

All majors welcome; recommended for business and accounting majors

Meeting Time: TR 10:30
Instructor: Chuck Boughton


The course will look at why gays have been traditionally attracted to the theater; how homosexuals have been depicted historically in theater; how the LGBT community is depicted in contemporary theater; who the major LGBT playwrights have been (since Oscar Wilde); how spectators perceive LGBT characters and performances; and in what way is all the world a stage, and all its inhabitants, merely players.

All majors welcome

Meeting Time: TR 1:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: James Hammerstrand

Self and Society Discipline-Specific Seminars

Some academic departments have created discipline-specific Self and Society Seminars for students entering their programs. If you’re pursuing one of these areas of study, your full-time academic advisor will create a starter schedule for the fall semester with the Self and  Society Seminar for your program. You’ll talk with an adviser about that schedule during Summer Orientation. Please note that some of the courses on this list can be taken by anyone interested in the discipline!

All majors welcome; recommended for classics and history majors interested in the ancient Mediterranean:


In this course, we will explore the foundations of Self and Society through the literature, culture, art, and society of Greco-Roman antiquity, and evaluate how they influence modern perspectives. In particular, we will focus on socio-political dynamics of power and privilege through analyzing ancient and modern approaches to race, ethnicity, gender, and slavery as we blend reading primary texts from ancient Greece and Rome with modern content: movies, television, newspaper articles, literature, comics and cartoons, podcasts, etc. By re-focalizing modern society through an ancient lens, we will examine the origins of our own political system, society, biases, traditions, education system, and constructions of identity.

All majors welcome; recommended for classics and history majors interested in the ancient Mediterranean:

Meeting Time: MW 2:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Alex Tetlak


Required of biology majors; other majors welcome; Biology majors who are eligible for the transfer section should take TRU310:


The purpose of this course is to cultivate the habits of curiosity, good scholarship, ethical consideration, and community engagement needed for students to grow as liberally educated lifelong learners. Students will explore the notion of the self and how each individual’s role is influenced within the broader context of a major or occupation, relevant groups, the local community, and society. The course serves as an introduction to critical, multi-disciplinary, and intercultural thinking. This course will also serve to introduce biology majors to the discipline. Students will explore the role of individual identity, culture, and society in the pursuit of biological research and what it means to be a responsible citizen of the natural world.

Required of biology majors; other majors welcome; Biology majors who are eligible for the transfer section should take TRU310:

TRU 112 1
Meeting Time: MWF 3:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Stephanie Maiden

TRU 112 2
Meeting Time: MWF 9:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Joey Hubbard

TRU 112 3
Meeting Time: MWF 2:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Drew Sieg

TRU 112 5
Meeting Time: TR 3:00
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Chad Montgomery


Restricted to nursing majors:


This course will examine self and society through the lens of nursing and its past, present, and future. Students will compare and contrast the impact of social structures upon health care of individuals and communities, as well as the health care professionals providing care. Topics for discussion will include the historical evolution of nursing (including education, licensure, scope, image, and uniqueness of the discipline), with a particular emphasis upon the ethics of caring and research in growing a body of disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge.

Restricted to nursing majors:

TRU 113-1
Meeting Time: MWF 11:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Teak Nelson

TRU 113-2
Meeting Time: MWF 12:30
Modality: Fully In Person
Instructor: Teak Nelson


Restricted to Harry S. Truman Leadership Scholars:


This course is designed with the Harry S. Truman Leadership scholars in mind. This section of the seminar approaches the development of self and identity through the lens of literary study with an emphasis in Leadership. This course offers the groundwork for self and society and leadership through an integrative framework of historical and cultural context, analysis, practice, and reflection. Specifically, this course focuses on ideas pertaining to language, thought, identity, culture, diversity, and the overlap with and impact on society. Additionally, there are opportunities for you to develop best practices for being an ethically engaged citizen and leader at various stages of life. Throughout the course, you will hone your understanding of what it means to hear and interpret narratives of self, how we develop and share an awareness about our own identity and diversity, while recognizing our individual role and responsibility as participants and leaders in our local and global communities.

Restricted to Harry S. Truman Leadership Scholars

Meeting Time: TR 10:30
Instructor: Brian Heston


Recommended for computer science majors; other majors welcome:


This course investigates artificial intelligence’s (AI) impact on both the individual and society at large. The past, present, and future of AI will be covered with particular emphasis on effects of robots in our increasingly connected society. This course is designed for Computer Science Majors but is also open to anyone interested in the field.

Recommended for computer science majors; other majors welcome

TRU 116 1
Meeting Time:
MWF 11:30
Instructor: Ruthie Halma
TRU 116 2

TRU 116 2
Meeting Time:
MWF 1:30
Instructor: Ruthie Halma


Recommended for math majors; all majors welcome:


This seminar section is oriented around the study of self and society from a mathematical perspective using the principles of mathematical game theory as our lens. We will use game theory to look at how as humans we behave in conflict, how we deal with struggles against nature, to plumb questions of human free will, to think about the economy and political environment we operate in, and sometimes even to play games. Much of the homework will be mathematical in nature, solving questions of conflict that are modeled in mathematical language. Expect an emphasis on problem-solving and mathematical writing. There will be regular opportunities for classroom discussion and your participation in discussions is expected and graded. This course is primarily intended for Mathematics Majors but is open to any students interested in Mathematics and game theory.

Recommended for math majors; all majors welcome

Meeting Time: MWF 9:30
Modality: Blended In Person/Online
Instructor: Don Bindner

Self and Society Transfer Student Seminar

If you are a first-year transfer student who has completed either an Associate’s degree, or the Missouri core transfer curriculum (CORE 42), or one full year of college coursework at another institution prior to transferring to Truman, you will enroll in the Transfer Seminar. All other first-year transfer students will register for a course of their choice from the lists above.


“You’re traveling through another dimension—a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.” Although these words are drawn from the iconic “Twilight Zone”, they are also a useful way to think about navigating college life at Truman, the liberal arts, and interdisciplinary studies—especially for transfer students acclimating to a new environment. In this class, we will view episodes of both Rod Serling’s classic television series and Jordan Peele’s more recent reboot as starting points for exploring the course themes of “Self” and “Society,” undertaking research, honing communication skills, collaborating on projects, and meeting your transfer peers. So buckle up—you’ve just entered the Twilight Zone!

Restricted to transfer students who have at least one year of college coursework at another university

TRU 310-1
Meeting Time: W 1:30
Modality: Blended In Person/Online
Instructor: Amy Norgard

TRU 310-2
Meeting Time: W 1:30
Modality: Blended In Person/Online
Instructor: Kathryn Brammall

TRU 310-3

Meeting Time: W 1:30
Modality: Blended In Person/Online
Instructor: Lisa Hooper


Last update: June 2, 2022