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Core Curriculum

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Mission Seminar Section Descriptions, spring 2014

These are descriptions for generic sections only. For descriptions of numbered VUSM courses, consult the searchable VU catalog.

VUSM 100 - Franciscan Values and Traditions 

Section 1 
VUSM-100-001          Michael Lopez-Kaley
Viterbo University was founded in 1890 by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.  This entry-level course examines that heritage and what it means to be and behave like a Franciscan.  This course will use the works of Saints Francis, Clare, and Rose of Viterbo as a foundation for exploring the university's core values of hospitality, integrity, contemplation, stewardship and service.  Special emphasis will be placed on how one grows into maturity in living out the Franciscan values we focus on in the class.  

Section 2
VUSM-100-002          Jackie Herbers
Franciscan Arguments
St. Francis once said, “Preach always; if necessary, use words.”   Here, St. Francis conveys his message that it is better for Christians to show their faith through serving others than to just speak of their faith.  In Franciscan Arguments, students will consider the question, “What are the values shown in society today?” by using rhetorical approaches to critically analyze a variety of artifacts.  These artifacts include, but are not limited to, speeches, articles, web sites, advertisements and songs.  After analyzing these artifacts, students will decide for themselves which values they see and will compare those to the values St. Francis tried to live.  Finally, students will argue what they see as positive values in our society and what values they would like to see change.

Section 3
VUSM-100-003          Lyon Evans
The most popular and beloved of all the Catholic saints, St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) has inspired millions of people around the world—Christians and non-Christians alike.  (In 1986, Francis was proclaimed the “patron saint of ecology”; in 2013, the new Pope—a Jesuit—chose the name of Francis to signal his commitment to Francis’ core values and spiritual mission.)  The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, and groomed from an early age to take over and run the family business, Francis profoundly challenged the prevailing materialism of his day—the belief that the highest value in life is the acquisition of  material possessions, wealth, physical comfort—by publicly renouncing his father, taking a vow of poverty, and pledging to imitate Jesus Christ in his words and deeds.  In our class, we’ll see how Francis’ renunciation and spiritual quest have reverberated down the centuries, inspiring creative artists as diverse as Henry Thoreau in Walden; the great Russian novelist and religious sage, Leo Tolstoy; Herman Hesse, author of the Buddhist-inspired novel, Siddhartha; and the Italian film director Roberto Rossellini, whose film, The Flowers of Saint Francis, we’ll view—along with Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. We’ll also read (and view the film version of)  Into the Wild, a non-fiction account of the life and tragic death of Chris McCandless, who gave away his inheritance, renounced law school, and sought spiritual fulfillment by hiking into the Alaskan wilderness.  Besides Francis’ rejection of materialism, we’ll also explore his dialogue with Muslims (a mission as urgent today as it was in the 13th century); his reverence for all God’s creatures and the natural world; and his authorship of an extraordinary poem, “The Canticle of the Sun.”  Finally, we’ll explore the relevance of Viterbo’s Franciscan core values: Contemplation, Hospitality, Integrity, Service and Stewardship.  

Section 4
VUSM-100-004          Keith Knutson
Franciscan Values in a Modern Detective Novel
In 1980, Umberto Eco, a professor at the University of Bologna, Italy, published a novel entitled The Name of the Rose. Although the setting was a Benedictine monastery in northern Italy during the early 14th century, the novel’s hero was a Franciscan friar. Eco translates the dynamism of medieval religious movements into modern terms. The aim of this course is to understand that dynamism through the history of medieval reform movements, the reading and discussion of the novel, and the study of the characters in the motion picture made from the novel, starring Sean Connery as the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville.

VUSM 200, Living in a Diverse World 

Section 1
VUSM-200-001          Melissa Collum
The Life Cycle of a T-shirt/The Human Cost
“Our actions – and inactions – touch people we may never know and never meet across the world.” –
Jacqueline Novogratz
We are going to redefine the geography of community and explore the shared responsibility and shared accountability for common human values . . . we are going to follow the Life Cycle of a T-shirt and its cost to humanity. From the carbon foot print, to human rights violations of the t-shirt manufactures in developing nations, from the ethics of your buying power and how much it REALLY costs you to own that t-shirt, to what your t-shirt says on the outside and how it reflects you on the inside, and “your t-shirt’s life” after you discard it… does it go in the trash, to the rag bin, Goodwill, or end up in Africa?

Section 2
VUSM-200-002          Audrey Elegbede
An Exploration of White Privilege

This course is an exploration of white racial privilege in contemporary American society. Considering whiteness as both race and power-based system, this course attempts deeper understanding of the persistence of racism and its impact on all segments of society. Questions of denial and resistance, collaboration in systems of privilege, ‘colorblindness’, and personal and intellectual responses to those explorations highlight how privilege influences human interaction. The distribution of privilege within American society at personal, institutional, and cultural levels, as well as how whiteness operates within social constructs of class and gender, will be analyzed. Students ultimately develop strategies for confronting racism.

Section 3
VUSM-200-003          Kem Gambrell
Leadership and Diversity
More and more individuals are interacting, engaging, working, and connecting with people different then themselves. With these experiences, finding ways to enhance the understanding of self and others becomes challenging. Thus, the need for stretching one’s perspectives and insight, as well as methods to interrelate with others becomes imperative. This course will explore Living in a Diverse World through the lens of leadership and "followership," specifically through Servant Leadership and Social Justice issues. Course texts include Black Like Me and The Journey to the East.

Section 4
VUSM-200-004          Jeff Nyseth
Our species exhibits considerable diversity; diversity in physical appearance, in beliefs, and in behaviors. This course will explore issues in diversity through the lens of film. We will look at how racial, gender, ethnic, social class, age, and disability stereotypes are used, created, and perpetuated through the media including film, TV, and advertising. Alfred Hitchcock said that film is a language that must be learned. You will often hear the term “film grammar” to describe the language of film. Through this grammar film can be shaped and meaning can be constructed. We will spend time looking closely at how filmmakers use specific techniques (lighting, composition, sound, color, contrast, etc.) to elicit specific audience responses or characterize actors to make them assume certain qualities. Using film as our medium, we will broaden our perspective on diversity, and examine how film as culture affects our attitudes and beliefs regarding diverse individuals and groups. 

VUSM 300, Serving the Common Good 

Section 1
VUSM-300-001          Mike Behan
This mission seminar course will examine and apply the value of serving the common good from the marketing/business perspective by working on a project for a local non-for-profit organization. In helping the organization satisfy their marketing/business needs, students will share their talents to promote and appreciate the benefits of serving the common good. No prior business knowledge or courses are necessary.  

Section 2
VUSM-300-002          Melissa Collum
Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone and discover your personal potential? Are you willing to expand your knowledge and understanding of the world? Are you able to look into your soul to see what you are made of? Can you, literally and figuratively, “walk a mile” in someone else’s shoes, to experience a life different than yours? Are you ready to act with empathy and quiet your soul, to listen the other, to understand how they think and hope to live their lives? Together we shall discover that we do not exist for ourselves alone ~we are here for a greater good, not for what it gives us, but of what it enables us to give others…… We shall reflect on JFK’s call to “Ask not what your country can do for you...” Texts include The Power of Citizenship: Why JFK Matters to a New Generation, Paul Famer’s call to Repair the World, the Kielburger’s call to hear and aid humanities’ Global Voices.

Sections 3 & 8 
VUSM-300-002, VUSM-300-008      Ed Wenzel
The Mission Seminar will focus on working with diverse children, specifically at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club in the Mathy Center on the Viterbo campus. Among the topics covered in the course are the following: a) defining service learning; b) demonstrating an understanding prevention theory; c) cultivating resilience in children; d) defining attitudes and actions with regard to servant leadership, social justice, and the common good; e) learning about and gaining an appreciation for various models of service learning; and f) developing an understanding of intercultural experience from various perspectives. The seminar will focus on respect for and support of the common good. An appreciation for cultural compatibility will also be emphasized. Because the student will be interacting with children/minors, a background check will be required. 

Section 6
VUSM-300-006        Tom Thibodeau
The number of people who are homeless and living in poverty is growing. It is real, it is everywhere. We will explore causes and responses and personal responsibility for serving the least among us. This course has a class trip, a night in a cardboard box in February, and 25 service hours in a local organization serving our brothers and sisters. Cross-listed with SOCL 370.

Section 7
VUSM-300-007   Lynda Fernholz
Students who engage in community service and then return to their classrooms readily link those experiences to concepts that, until then, were strictly theoretical.  This course will ask students to participate in experiences that adhere to the principles of service learning and are a response to community needs while also meeting course objectives. A minimum of 25 hours of service learning will be completed during the semester through a variety of activities in conjunction with the Boys’ and Girls’ Club at the Mathy Center on the Viterbo campus and other local service learning organizations. This course will foster intelligent reflection and thoughtful analysis of the world as students are asked to share their intellect and abilities by way of action and critical thinking.

VUSM 400, The Ethical Life

Section 1
VUSM-400-001          Matthew Bersagel-Braley
Global Health and Human Flourishing   
“Health for All!” has become a rallying cry in the twenty-first century, uniting rock stars (e.g., Bono) and conservative politicians (e.g., Jesse Helms), celebrities and corporations, private philanthropy and the world’s richest countries. It is a moral claim: health is fundamental to being human and therefore should be available to all. This course will evaluate the philosophical basis of this claim and its practical implications for health systems around the world. For Spring 2014, this course will focus on South Africa as the context for interpreting historical and contemporary issues in global health ethics. This course concludes with a two-week study abroad experience in South Africa. Enrollment in the course requires an accepted global education application form as well as course fees to cover the cost of the trip.

Section 2 
VUSM-400-002          Rick Kyte
This particular section of The Ethical Life prepares students for taking on the ethical challenges that come with assuming a leadership role in a profession, organization, or community.  We will look in particular at Servant Leadership, see how it is grounded in an ethical approach to life, and then examine ways in which servant leaders can create ethical cultures and resolve ethical problems in real life situations.  This course places a strong emphasis on class participation and student initiative in bringing examples to class for discussion.  Restricted to students in the Honors Program.

Section 3
VUSM-400-003          Jason Howard & Jeff Nyseth
Ethics and Media
This section explores the different moral problems that arise in relation to the creation, distribution and communication of different types of information and forms of entertainment. New forms of media over the last sixty years have changed how we access information, learn about the world, and pursue entertainment. This course investigates problems of manipulation, coercion, and deception in relation to advertisement, entertainment, and journalism, exploring how we might assess questions of moral responsibility within various media.   

Section 4
VUSM-400-004          Kim Nelson
Contemporary Issues in Health Care Ethics
This seminar will build upon students’ ethical reasoning to examine 21st century issues in health care ethics that are facing us as individuals, organizations, and societies.  Thoughtful analysis and discussion will surround such issues as new reproductive technologies, proposals for human cloning, competency, the aging population and access to long term care, health inequalities and inequities, and the ethics of healthcare reform.

Section 5
VUSM-400-005          Robyn Gaier
Happiness and the Ethical Life 
In this course we will be investigating the following question: does an ethical life constitute a happy life? Towards this end, we will evaluate competing conceptions of what constitutes human happiness. We will then proceed to explore both historical and contemporary ways of understanding the relationship between competing conceptions of human happiness and what it means to live an ethical life. Specifically, we will address the various roles of happiness within the ethical theories of consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics. Possible relationships between an ethical life, a happy life, and a meaningful life will also be explored throughout this course.