Orientation/New Student Advising

2008–09 University Seminar Courses

Click the USEM titles below to read the seminars' complete descriptions. Then choose four or five USEMs from those listed that sound interesting to you.


Once you have completed the online tutorial "Earning Your Degree at SPU," located on Blackboard, you will be able to register for one of the USEMs you chose.

21st-Century Technology for 21st-Century People I Really Want to Be Mother Teresa, But Life Gets in the Way
All You Need Is Love Math Wars: Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Are There Dogs in Heaven? Missions and Ministry: Culture and Communication
Audio Culture: What Does Your Music Say About You? Music and Mystery
Because It Is There Privacy and Technology
Business for God's Sake! The Quest: The Adventure of Faith Through Tolkien, Sayers, and MacDonald
Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Racism and Health Care
Changing the World Through Sustainable and Appropriate Technology Reel Music: The Music Behind the Movie
Diseases, Plagues, and Pandemics The Songwriter's Workshop
Dynamics of Vocation: Perceiving and Responding to Your Life's Calling Stories Americans Tell
Energy – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Telling Stories: The Rhetoric of Frederick Buechner
From Anime to Rampaging Monsters: An Introduction to Japanese Culture To Lift the Veil: Literature as an Act of Revelation
From Page to Stage True or False: Competence+Motivation=Success
The History of Baseball Understanding Our Hidden Wound
The Hollywood Studio System Why Good People Do Bad Things
How Free Are We? You Bet Your Life (Whether You Know It or Not!)
Latin American Heroes and Villains You and Your Family: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

21st-Century Technology for 21st-Century People

CRN: 2842
What are the best uses of computing technology today? Explore different types of computing and technology:
  • Useful gadgets, your personal computer, mobile technology, websites, social networking and your web presence, blogs, search engines, eCommerce, adaptive and assistive computing for the disabled, robotics, and pervasive computing.
  • Consider the implications of the expanding use of computing technology in people's lives.

How are computing and technology changing the way people communicate and interact? Is good technology always good? Is there any information privacy left? Instructor’s discipline: Computer Science


All You Need Is Love: Relationships as Adults

CRN 6109
Explore the development of relationships from childhood to maturity. Friendship, dating and romantic commitment, work, and fellowship will be explored through analysis, self-exploration, interpretation, and discussion around journaling, works of literature, and film. The goals of the class will be the following:

  • Greater understanding of mature development as movement from being cared for (childhood) to giving care and mutual care-giving (maturity).
  • Achieving a greater sense of balance in caring relationships between romantic love and self-care, friendship and personal time, work and family, and between personal life and commitment to the church community.

Instructor’s discipline: Psychology

Are There Dogs in Heaven?

CRN 2867
Explore the relationship between humans and animals. Topics will include:
  • Christian writings on whether animals have souls.
  • The issue of animal suffering.
  • Emotional bonds between people and animals.
  • Ethics of laboratory testing and keeping animals in captivity (circuses and zoos).
  • Cultural variations in attitudes toward animals.
  • Animals who perform work for people.
  • Psychological benefits of pets to the elderly.
  • Teaching language to animals.
  • American habits and spending on pets, including advent of pet cemeteries and therapists.

Students will explore these topics through their own experiences, current news events, examination of scholarly writing in theology, ethics, and social science, and films and poems that elicit our emotions about animals. Instructor’s Discipline: Geography

Audio Culture: What Does Your Music Say About You?

CRN 2844

What's on your IPOD? How are music preferences determined? Can music define a culture, a generation, an individual? In this USEM, you will explore the art of listening to music, the influence of music on culture and behavior, and how technology has impacted music in our society. Instructor’s Discipline: Music

Because It Is There

CRN 5565
The Pacific Northwest is a world-class mountaineering destination. In this seminar, first-time college freshmen use first-hand accounts (e.g., photos, stories, and poetry) of the men and women who challenge themselves in the pursuit of mountain summits. We will concentrate on the Cascade Range, but will also study the geography, geology, peoples, and cultures of the Himalayas, the Tien Shans, the Dolomites, the Alps, and the Andes.
  • Special guests include mountaineers, search and rescue personnel, mountain guides, scientists, and photographers.
  • Students will attend a presentation given at the Mountaineer’s Clubhouse in Seattle.
  • Optional day or weekend trips to classic viewpoints in the Cascades will be offered. 
Instructor’s discipline: Computer Science

Business for God's Sake!

CRN 2854
Learn to “think Christianly” about business. We will consider and critique Christian teaching about the role and function of business in a modern, information-based, global context. Topics will include:
  • Purpose of business and role of profits
  • Utilization of capital, corporate structures, institutional roles, and personal accountability
Join us as we learn to “think Christianly” about this influential sector of modern society. Instructor’s discipline: Business

Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? (visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=2luAeK0Tuu8)

CRN 2859
In this University Seminar, you will:
  • Recall your best (and worst) experiences in school, as well as your most meaningful ones.
  • Learn about results of research on how people learn (and don't).
  • Explore issues of teaching and learning in many vocations.
  • Examine education (especially science education) as a catalyst for social justice.
  • Apply what you learn in a project situated in a precollege classroom.
Instructor's discipline: Physics

Changing the World Through Sustainable and Appropriate Technology

CRN 2855
Want to make a difference? Globally? Through technology? Explore how sustainable development and appropriate technology can be used to address critical global, environmental, economic, and societal needs. Sustainable development brings economic as well as environmental benefits. Appropriate technology is characterized by small scale, simple designs that use locally controlled, sustainable resources with minimal environmental impact.
  • Can engineers really make a difference in addressing critical global issues?
  • Can we design for sustainability? Can we empower local communities in developing countries through the use of appropriate technology?
  • How can sustainable development and appropriate technology address our needs in the United States?
  • What does this mean for the engineers of the 21st century?
  • How are these issues related to the Christian faith? And can you make a difference?
  • We will explore these issues and their impacts on the world through readings, discussions, and projects.
Instructor's discipline: Engineering

Diseases, Plagues, and Pandemics

CRN 2856
This course will investigate the historical impact of microbes from biological, social, and Christian perspectives. Epic plagues from the Black Death to the current avian influenza pandemic will be discussed. Emphasis will be placed on an analysis of how microbes have impacted major historical events and continue to shape our society today as new and reemerging pathogens and agents of biological terrorism. Instructor's discipline: Biology

Dynamics of Vocation: Perceiving and Responding to Your Life's Calling

CRN 6859
Exploring narratives, memoirs, and theologies of vocation, this seminar will consider the variety of ways in which people come to recognize and fulfill their life's calling.
  • Students will encounter such figures as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Frederick Douglass, and Frederick Buechner with the aim of developing their own skills of vocational discernment.
  • Occasionally, the seminar will examine pertinent films such as Field of Dreams and Dead Poets Society with an eye toward themes of calling and purpose.
The focus will not be limited to professional vocation or choosing one's career. Rather, the seminar will seek broadly to consider the responsible and joyful use of one's time, labors, and gifts. Instructor's discipline: Theology

Energy—Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

CRN 2853
What will fuel humanity through the next millennium? Of the first 5,000 years of recorded history, petroleum has played a prominent role for only the past 100. The earth's supply of crude oil is not infinite, and its carbon dioxide combustion product may be harmful to the environment.
  • What will fuel humanity through the next 1,000 years?
  • This course will look at current prospects for our long-term energy needs from the perspective a chemistry teacher.
  • Some possible energy sources are coal, nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass.
  • Strengths and weaknesses of these and other options will be explored.
Future generations will have to make progress in solving this problem to stay warm, stay lit, conduct commerce, and live healthy lives. Instructor’s discipline: Chemistry

From Anime to Rampaging Monsters: An Introduction to Japanese Popular Culture

CRN 2846
Peer through the window at Japanese pop culture. Here in the United States, phenomena ranging from Cowboy Bebop to karaoke have captured the interest of young and old alike.
  • What is it about exports of this nature that fuels their attractiveness so far from their place of origin?
  • What can they tell us about the culture whence they came?
Using Timothy Craig’s work Japan Pop! as a guide, this course will peer through the window onto contemporary Japanese society that its music, drama, and comics provide for us. We will collectively be encouraged to consider both differences and similarities between ourselves and our neighbor across the Pacific. Instructor's Discipline: History

From Page to Stage

CRN 2851
Experience live theatre in Seattle. In this seminar, students will use the great live-theatre resources in Seattle for a selection of plays that form the basis of the course. Students will follow a process of:
  • Reading, analysis, interpretation, processing, rehearsing and presenting scenes in class.
  • See a live production and write responses.
  • Discuss and analyze based on the viewed production.
This process will be repeated two times over the course of the quarter, with three to four weeks spent on each play script and its production. Instructor's discipline: Theatre

The History of Baseball

CRN 2848
What does baseball tell us about America — and vice versa? This seminar is an investigation of the social and economic as well as the athletic and statistical aspects of the great American game. Professional baseball developed over the last century and a half in ways that mirrored important changes in American society. Includes a personal introduction to the national professional Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). In addition, certain aspects of the game serve as metaphors for important themes of learning. Instructor's discipline: History

The Hollywood Studio System

CRN 4057
Investigate the art, business, and history of movies. This seminar requires students to attend a weekly film lab on Monday evenings at 6 p.m. Do not enroll if you have other commitments on Monday evenings. In this seminar, students investigate the art, business, and history of movies through studying the development of the studio system and classical Hollywood cinema. In detail, we will analyze:
  • The house styles and star images associated with each studio during the golden age of American movies.
  • The eventual decline of that system.
  • How movie icons are linked to particular meanings and genres, and how those meanings are influenced and embraced over time by audiences, critics, and fans.
Instructor’s discipline: Communication

How Free Are We?

CRN 2849
Certain of our actions are within our control and, because they are, we can properly be held accountable for them. However, there are some actions that individuals claim to perform freely (and for which they are blamed, or even punished), but the circumstances in which they're performed raise serious questions about just how free the individual was at the time of action. Such actions might include
  • Criminal behavior (e.g., drug-dealing, prostitution, murder)
  • Non-criminal, but self-detrimental behavior (e.g., the use of the human body in a suggestive manner to promote a product, or excessive consumerism).
These raise questions about the nature of the influences we are under daily and at what point influence become coercive and participation becomes exploitive. In addition to surveying the philosophical literature on free will, we will examine several case studies taken from various forms of news media and film. Instructor’s discipline: Philosophy

Latin American Heroes and Villains

CRN 2843
A comparative, biographical-historical examination of key figures in Latin America who have made a difference, for good or ill: Such figures include La Malinche, Simón Bolívar, Juan Manuel Rosas, Santa Anna, Benito Juárez, Juan and Evita Perón, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Pinochet, and Hugo Chavez.
  • Students will attempt to construct the personality profiles of male and female power figures who make a difference in their worlds.
  • One overarching concern will be to discover what characteristics are worth emulating, even of the figures whom history, or current views, deem as negative.
  • Library and internet research skills.
  • Oral reports and one final research paper, with bibliography. MLA style.
Instructor’s discipline: Foreign Languages and Literature

I Really Want to Be Mother Teresa, But Life Gets in the Way

CRN 6860
Explore how Mother Teresa’s lifestyle can be modeled in your life. Using Mother Teresa’s words and sayings as the foundation for the curriculum, we will study topics such as personal holiness; Christ in the poor; loneliness; suffering; prayer; generosity; service; poverty; and love.
  • Time will be spent looking at the call and vocation of the individual student, their dreams and goals for their life, and how they can integrate their beliefs into their present and future lifestyle.
  • Students will view relevant media works that support and model Mother Teresa's work in other countries.
  • Students will have opportunities to work in the community and act out the qualities of Mother Teresa.

"God does not demand that I be successful," said Mother Theresa. "God demands that I be faithful. When facing God, results are not important. Faithfulness is what is important.” Instructors’ Discipline: Education


Math Wars: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

CRN 2845

A significant rift has developed concerning the teaching and learning of mathematics. Those backing what are called reform curricula say that understanding is the key. Others call for a move back to basics, where memorization and drill are the goals. In this USEM you will:

  • Explore the issues through multiple readings from a number of different perspectives.
  • Take a historical perspective to see if there are things we can learn from past controversies.
  • Examine different algorithms for doing arithmetic and discuss their relative advantages and disadvantages.

Instructor’s discipline: Mathematics

Missions and Ministry: Culture and Communication

CRN 2869
Explore ministry in a variety of contexts with a focus on cross-cultural interaction. Students will explore ministry in various contexts with a focus on cross-cultural interaction both internationally and domestically. In the context of ministry, we will:
  • Explore how culture creates our communication and communication invokes our cultural values.
  • Discover what often happens when distinctly different cultures connect and examine some of the common places of miscommunication.
  • Increase our knowledge, sensitivity, and skills in communicating with people in a variety of cultural contexts different from our own.
Through books, films, discussions, and activities, we will consider how our faith and the Scriptures inform and motivate ministry as a lifetime vocation regardless of career choice. Students will also explore their own unique spiritual gifts and personality styles as they talk about, read about, and participate in ministry in a variety of contexts. Instructor’s discipline: Communication

Music and Mystery

CRN 2865
Explore musical expression as a reflection of the human experience. In this seminar, we will seek to interpret the deep mysteries of emotion, death, nature, and religious belief through works as diverse as:
  • Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time"
  • Songs of the American Civil War
  • African-American spirituals
Students will listen to, discuss, and write about music from various epochs and genres and will attend live musical events — from Christian chant in a cathedral to a symphony or opera — in our quest to discover how music affects us so deeply. Instructor's discipline: Music

Privacy and Technology

CRN 2850
  • Explore information technology (IT) devices and applications such as computers, databases, web, search engines, social networking sites, GPS, etc.
  • Research laws and regulations dealing with privacy in different countries.
  • Examine ethical and Christian expectations of privacy.
  • How can IT enhance and/or destroy your privacy?
  • What can/shall an individual, a business, an organization and a government do to enhance personal privacy?
Instructor’s discipline: Information Systems/Business

The Quest: The Adventure of Faith Through Tolkien, Sayers, and MacDonald

CRN 2862
Explore the role of the journey in expanding faith and deepening relationships. Through the life and writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and George MacDonald:
  • Explore the faith-stretching dynamics of pilgrimage journeys, which echo themes from the Bible and students’ own lives. (Taking risks of faith can expand one’s capacity for courage, community, and trust.)
  • Explore the authors’ sacramental vision of life, which fosters greater wonder and gratitude for God’s world and for the diversity of God’s peoples.
  • With these authors, discover a basis of hope from which to take a stand against evil and move toward that which is life-giving.
Through this class, students will develop resources and strategies to guide them in their college quest and the years beyond. Instructor’s discipline: Theology

Racism and Health Care

CRN 2847
Should health be a right of all members of society? Health for all members of our society is a matter of social justice, which depends on reducing social and economic inequality. In this class, students will explore a number of factors that impact health care access and health outcomes. Some of these issues include:
  • Social forces
  • Racial/ethnic disparities in health access
  • Institutional racism
  • Historical issues
  • Public health as social justice
Christian community development models for improving health outcomes will be explored. Instructor’s discipline: Health Sciences

Reel Music: The Music Behind the Movie

CRN 5067
Explore the realm of music in the movies. Do all movies have music? Why or why not? What kinds of music are in movies? What role does music play in a film? Learn about:
  • How music affects a film.
  • How it evolves during a century of filmmaking.
  • Discover great film composers and their unique contributions to our culture.
  • How music establishes psychological moods, guides our emotions, and reveals aspects of an unfolding narrative.

You will never watch a movie in the same way again. Instructor Discipline: Music


The Songwriter's Workshop

Spark your imagination with hundreds of creative songwriting techniques! This hands-on class provides lessons on how to write innovative songs. Whether you are a beginning songwriter or an experienced professional looking for new ideas, you’ll find this class provides you with new insight to your craft. Instructor’s discipline: Music


Stories Americans Tell

CRN 2861
Americans often describe their lives with stories that have some themes in common:

  • The struggle through hardship to a success made meaningful by the struggle
  • The desire to share unusually abundant blessings
  • The need to enact a special destiny

These stories affect they way Americans think of themselves individually and collectively, with both bright and dark consequences. This course examines these stories and themes using classic and contemporary American texts. Students will be invited to reflect on their own lives using these stories as starting point. Instructor's discipline: English

Telling Stories: The Rhetoric of Frederick Buechner

CRN 5067
This seminar welcomes students into a conversation about the rhetoric of Presbyterian minister/novelist Frederick Buechner. Through a careful examination of Buechner’s autobiographical books, sermons, and essays, we will identify and trace the dominant rhetorical themes in his nonfiction and then seek to understand the fictionalization of those themes in Buechner’s The Book of Bebb, four novels in one about a traveling religious conman, Leo Bebb. In this USEM, you will:

  • Explore the power of telling your personal story in memoir.
  • Develop and articulate a theory of gospel communication which presents your approach to speaking God’s truth as you know and experience it.
  • Compare and contrast Buechner’s rhetoric to that found in your own local church, seeking both points of convergence and divergence.
  • Identify, discuss, and evaluate the important themes in the assigned novels with the goal of fostering an enhanced appreciation for the artistry and content of good literature.

Instructor’s discipline: Communication

To Lift the Veil: Literature As an Act of Revelation

CRN 2863
Can a metaphor or a dream most clearly describe reality? In this class, we will explore a paradox: That the best way to describe reality may be through something that appears to be unreal (i.e., through metaphor and symbol, dream and fantasy).
  • Eexplore a few of the parables of the New Testament, where Jesus uses story and metaphor to describe the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Compare ways in which artists have attempted to convey something of this indefinable reality — seeking not only to describe or explain but also inviting us to experience this truth.
  • Explore the works of such writers as Dante, George Herbert, William Blake, and Charles Williams (close friend of Lewis and Tolkien), among others.
  • Consider (time willing) other forms of art in our exploration.

Creative work will be invited, along with analysis. Instructor’s discipline: English


True or False: Competence+Motivation=Success

CRN 2860
We will address these questions as we consider competence, motivation, and its application to our own college experience:

  • What do we know about competence and motivation that leads to success both in and out of the classroom while attending college?
  • What are some important individual, cultural, and developmental moderators of motivational processes that lead to success? Does this apply equally across genders?
  • What is competence? Do we need to consider “fit” between competence, motive, and environment?
  • How do we perceive and effectively regulate our personal, situational, and social resources as we work toward success?
  • How might competence and motivation explain the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and general social conflict?
  • How can we apply what we learn on this topic to our lives as college students in the 21st century?

Instructor’s discipline: Education

Understanding Our Hidden Wound

CRN 2864
Explore racism, prejudice, and reconciliation. Racism and prejudice often comes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We are slowly introduced to this beast and are gradually consumed by the power and protection that follows without knowing. Therefore, we seldom realize the pain and suffering we cause. In light of this issue, students will:
  • Examine the potential causes and unfathomable effects of racism and prejudice.
  • Be required to investigate the effects of racism or prejudice that might exist as hidden wounds within themselves.
  • Explore what it means to reconcile racial issues and live in a grace-filled community.

Instructor’s discipline: Psychology


Why Good People Do Bad Things

CRN 6108

This seminar will explore various forms of good and evil behavior – from simple acts of charity to extreme acts of genocide. Emphasis will be placed on how social science can allow us to better understand our dual natures as both created in God’s image and as fallen creatures. Instructor’s discipline: Sociology

You Bet Your Life (Whether You Know It or Not!)

CRN 2852

If you are not living your life deliberately, you are relying on providence, gambling with your life. In this course, we will learn the skills of critical reasoning, and explore how to apply those skills to be deliberate and intentional with our lives. To achieve our goals and dreams and live a life that is glorifying to God, we need to live deliberately by prayerfully and conscientiously identifying our goals, and through the use of critical reasoning, identify and take the steps necessary to achieve them.

  • We will explore the implications of living deliberately to academic endeavors, careers, and personal life.
  • We will also look at various examples through readings, films, and guest lecturers.
  • We will examine our own lives to consider how we can be more effective tools for God and achieve more of our objectives through learning to be more deliberate.

Instructor's discipline: Business

You and Your Family: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

CRN 2857
How does your family influence who you are and who you become? Students will explore the families from which each of us come, and they will consider how family lessons and experiences apply to the college transition. Each of us comes from a family, or families, of some sort. We have earthly families and the family of God.
  • How do our families function, though?
  • How do they influence who we are now and who we might become?
Instructor's discipline: Psychology