Modes of Inquiry

As a part of the First-Year Experience, the Modes of Inquiry (MOI) Program has been designed to enhance the development of specific dispositions and life-long learning skills critical for success at Loras and beyond. While the topics of the MOI courses are all different, the requirements and course objectives are the same. All courses share common assignments, exams, and activities that support the development of liberal arts learners. At the core of each course is a set of common objectives that emphasize critical thinking and reading, active learning, information literacy, group collaboration, community engagement, and educational planning. Thus, the topic serves as tool to facilitate the development of these common goals.
The objectives of each MOI course are:
  • To introduce students to liberal arts learning and the Loras general education curriculum.
  • To regularly engage students in active learning experiences and provide the skills and resources needed to promote active learning outside of the classroom.
  • To enable confident questioning and critique in a variety of contexts by enhancing students’ critical thinking and reading skills.
  • To provide information and resources on a variety of academic and social transition issues and engage students in critical discussion of these issues.
  • To strengthen the academic skills necessary for students to pursue a liberal arts education and become life-long learners, particularly critical thinking and reading, and information literacy.
  • To introduce students to, and have them be an active part of, quality advising and educational planning.
  • To engage students in collaborative activities that allow them to work with other first year peers and recognize the benefits and challenges associated with group collaboration.

Modes of Inquiry Course Descriptions - Fall 2014


Beginning and End of Human Life – FI
L.LIB 100-1: 9:00-9:50 a.m. MWF, Prof. Tom Davis
When does human life begin?  When does it end?  Easy questions, tough answers.  Through case studies, debates and open discussions of both sides of these issues, students will generate questions and learn academic skills to answer them.  We will learn about the biological, ethical and spiritual aspects of the beginning and end of human life.  What does the Catholic Church teach about these events?  What do other religions say?  Should stem cells be used to help the born and unborn lead better lives? How can we be "ready" for death?  What are definitions of a good "quality of life"?
Students will determine the most important questions to pursue.  The class will bring specific controversial issues to light and try to learn what the issues are on each side of the conflicts.  They will then develop an up to date "status report" of the current situation and how it has changed, what the forces and opinions are that are shaping it now and help us all respect life at the beginning and at the end.  
Music & Me – FI
L.LIB 100-2: 11:00-12:20 p.m.  WF, Prof. Glenn Pohland
What Does Your Taste In Music Reveal About Your Personality? Could the playlists lurking on your iPod really reveal information about your personality? Are you influenced by the music you listen to?   How?  Why?  This course will discuss how music influences our lives and seek to identify the ways in which music helps to shape our personalities and even our modes of behavior.    We will research various genres of music in order to see if certain personality traits can be linked to musical styles.  We will also seek to understand the relationship between musical listening and the behaviors that are often associated with certain styles.   In other words, are there stereotypes of the people who regularly listen to certain styles of music and can we determine someone’s behavior based upon their musicals tastes?  We will look at multiple styles of music and research both historical and current ideas and issues associated with the particular styles as well as particular songs.

Wildland Conservation – FI
L.LIB 100-3: 9:30-10:50 a.m. TTH, Prof. Dana Livingston
This course is based in part on a series of experiential pedagogies.  It is for the student who wants to learn first-hand about the natural environment of Dubuque County and spend time in natural areas.  Students in the course will learn about and practice conservation, management, and restoration of natural areas. You will have the opportunity to meet experts in the field and contribute to the work they do.  You will get to work with interesting, dedicated, and hard-working people.   You will read some good authors. As we learn about wildlands conservation, you will explore Dubuque County, Iowa.  No matter what physical and mental talents you assume that you have or don’t have, there’s a place for you in the course!   Please note that you will need to spend some Saturdays or Sundays at different natural areas in the county.

Food: Feast or Famine? – FI
L.LIB 100-4: 12:30-1:50 p.m. TTH, Prof. Erin VanLaningham
Films such as Supersize Me, Food, Inc., Julie and Julia and even Ratatouille have brought our fascination with food to prominence.  The Food Network’s Iron Chef and America’s Next Top Chef glamorize the food industry.  Yet, our culture faces issues ranging from childhood obesity and the dependence on fast food, to the other extreme of global famines and food shortages.  Organic farming, rising food costs and local food sources also pose important choices and questions.   In the class, we will investigate the personal, ethical, financial, scientific, and political choices that food presents us.   We will use a range of short readings from major voices like Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Wendell Berry, go off campus for a variety of food excursions,  and view a variety of films and documentaries about issues in food culture and agri-farming.

Backpackers Guide to the World – FI
L.LIB 100-5: 9:30-10:50 a.m. TTH, Prof. Seth Myers
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?  Where would you never want to go?  How do you think travel would change your perception of yourself and your role in your community? How would you deal with adversity and cultural differences along the way? This course will challenge students to critically examine how travel impacts how one relates to themselves and others.  Students will focus on how to think globally and act locally.  Students will become aware of the spiritual and psychological impact of preparing for and taking a backpacking journey across continents. Students will investigate how travelers document their experiences using photography, journals, video, essays, and documentaries. Students will be challenged to find the best tools they could use to communicate their own travel experiences.
One Ring to Rule Them All – FI
L.LIB 100-6: 9:30-10:50 a.m. TTH, Prof. Jennifer Swanson
Nearly 80 years before Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Richard Wagner finished his own monumental creation:  The Ring of the Nibelungen. Conceived as a “total work of art,” Wagner’s Ring cycle brought together music, theater, and literature on a whole new scale. Theatrical effects included a flood, an erupting volcano, a ring of fire, and, of course, a dragon. Scholars and fans have had an ongoing debate about the relationship between Wagner and Tolkien, especially in light of Peter Jackson’s films. In this MOI, students will explore the Tolkien books, Peter Jackson’s films, and the Wagner Ring cycle by comparing literary sources, characters, themes, and plots. We will deepen our discussion by reflecting on the impact and aesthetics of the diverse genres that have been used to tell these stories.

Nuclear Weapons and International Politics – FI
L.LIB 100-7: 11:00-12:20 p.m. WF, Prof. Lee Zhu
How do nuclear weapons affect the way international politics works?  This is the central question we’ll address in this course.  We’ll first examine the role that the dangers inherent in the atomic bomb played in starting the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union immediately after the end of the Second World War.  Then we’ll look at how nuclear weapons changed strategic policies and military doctrines of both the United States and the Soviet Union and influenced the course of the Cold War.  The course will conclude with an exploration of the legacy of the nuclear arms race of the Cold War era and the challenge of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War world. 
After the Disaster: New Orleans Nine Years LaterFI
L.LIB 100-8: 12:30 – 1:50 p.m. TTH, Prof. Kate Parks
When disasters hit, we are bombarded with images and news stories in the aftermath. Often people are compelled to donate their money or their time in order to help with recovery. However, what happens when the story becomes “old news?”   This course seeks to answer this question. Using Hurricane Katrina as an example, students will investigate the impact of disasters, as well as the long recovery process.  Additionally, students will consider the impact of media coverage on these events, especially once the survivors are no longer in the spotlight.
Making Sense – FI
L.LIB 100-9: 9:30-10:50 a.m. TTH, Prof. Biniv Maskay
Have you ever wondered why water, one of the most essential compounds for life existence, is cheaper than diamonds, an accessory? Or why matinee shows are cheaper than the prime shows, and why the government provides national defense and public parks? The forces that evoke sometimes obvious and other times seemingly mysterious human behavior are everywhere around us. In this course, we will analyze the world around us, and understand the forces that lead to decision-making at individual, firm and government levels. 
The American Dream: Does it Still Exist? FI
L.LIB 100-10: 2:30-3:50 p.m. MW, Prof. Sara Bagley
What does it mean to be an American? What is ‘The American Dream’? Was this dream the same for your grandparents, as it was for your parents, and yourself? In this course, we will explore the American Dream and the set of ideals that come along with its pursuit.  We will investigate where the ideals came from, both in American history and in our own lives.  Other topics explored will include the impacts on identity formation, gender issues, social mobility, and economic stability. Drawing connections from your own lives and popular culture, students will explore how the American Dream has changed over time and whether it is ever attainable.

Once you Pop (Culture), you can’t stop! FI
L.LIB 100 11: 9:00-9:50 a.m. MWF, Prof. Susan Crook
Our society seems to be increasingly obsessed with popular culture.  Most conversations revolve around popular culture of one type or another – whether it’s art, music, movies, television, sports, food fads, etc.  We’ll look at and discuss various topics in pop culture, including but not limited to: the evolution of the Hollywood scandal, the portrayal of different races, the depiction and propagation of stereotypes, guilty pleasures, pop culture punching bags, the role of pop culture in our lives and morals, and whether anyone ever deserves to be famous.
Scrambled Brains: Concussions in Sport-FI
L.LIB 100 12: 9:00-9:50 a.m. MWF, Prof. Nate Newman
The last decade has seen a dramatic change in the way concussions are viewed in athletics.  Doctors, athletic trainers, coaches, athletes and parents have all been faced with an onslaught of new discoveries about the brain that have presented very hard and real questions about the recognition, treatment and recovery from concussions.  In this class we will critically examine the evidence to see what is known and unknown .about concussions. Based on the evidence, we will explore what athletes, coaches, parents and medical personnel can do about concussions, and what changes (if any) should be implemented in competitive sports.

The World on a Chessboard – FI
L.LIB 100-13: 1:30-2:20 p.m. MWF, Prof. Ben Darr
Chess has fascinated people all over the world since antiquity.  Chess is more than just a game, however: it has shaped the way people imagine the world.  In addition to learning the basics of the game, students in this course will learn how the chessboard has reconfigured our understandings of society and politics, including the role of women, the power of the masses, and our relations to machines.  We will also examine Cold War politics through the lens of chess, and we will compare Western chess to Chinese chess as a microcosm for comparing Western and East Asian cultures.

It’s the End of the World as we Know it – FI
L.LIB 100-14: 9:00-9:50 a.m. MWF, Prof. Chris Lammer-Heindel
What do zombie films like Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later tell us about ourselves and our society? What does Cormac McCarthy’s The Road reveal about our ethical commitments to others? What are the implications of believing that the world as we know it might soon come to an end, and how should we respond to such ways of thinking?  In this course, we will take up these and related questions as we explore apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic themes in religious scripture, literature, and popular culture.
Shamrock Shakes & Lucky Charms – An introduction to the Emerald IsleFI
L.LIB 100-15: 12:30 – 1:50 p.m. TTH, Prof. Bill Hitchcock
Over 36 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, yet how many of us know much about their homeland?  This course will take an in-depth look at Ireland, studying its history, culture, politics, and economics in order to deepen our understanding of this small country that has made such a world-wide impact.  Along the way, we may dispel a few of the myths about Ireland (no, everyone in Ireland does NOT have red hair) and may even make a few surprising discoveries about the Isle and its people.
Mysteries at the Art Museum – FI
L.LIB 100-16: L.LIB 100-7: 11:00-12:20 p.m. WF, Prof. Wendy Romero
Have you ever walked through an Art museum and began to think that you could have made the art that is hanging on the walls? Are you confused when you see a painting of a plain white canvas? Is there really a difference between good art and bad art? Can anything be art?  This course will challenge students to critically examine the ‘whats’, ‘whys’, and ‘hows’ of art; for example:  what is art, why is art made, and how can one understand art? Through field study (going to the art museum), making artwork, and open discussions students will explore possible answers to these questions.
The Tiniest History Makers - FI
L.LIB 100-17, 12:30-1:50 p.m. TTH, Prof. Adam Moser
Would Napoleon have conquered Russia if only his army’s jackets had different buttons?  Could Europe have explored and colonized the world if vitamin C hadn’t been discovered?  How did olive oil shape the ancient world?  Empires have risen and crumbled based on the discovery of a few molecules.  We don’t often appreciate the role molecules play in our lives, even though they make up everything in the universe.  Adding an atom here, subtracted an atom there, is all it takes to make the difference between male and female sex traits, between a harmless molecule and an explosive one, between food and clothes.  This class, we will explore the importance of these molecular discoveries and how history might have come out differently a those discoveries had not taken place.  No science background is required, just an active interest in how science and history collide.


1692 – The Salem Witch Trials-FI
L.HON 100-1: 1:30-2:20 p.m. MWF, Prof. Kristin Anderson-Bricker
Why did this community execute 20 people as witches?
The Salem witchcraft hysteria of 1692 began in the home of Reverend Samuel Parris when several adolescent girls, including Parris’ daughter, began to exhibit hysterical behavior after a fortune-telling session with a West Indian slave.  It escalated when they accused older women in the community of witchcraft.  The adult relations of the “afflicted” girls supported the charges, organized trials of the accused and their zeal resulted in the death of twenty of the accused witches.  Who were the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay?  What were the conflicts within Puritan society deep enough to erupt into witchcraft hysteria?  How was a witch identified?  Why were 120 out of 162 people accused of witchcraft women?  How does class, age, religion and the location of your home fit into the puzzle?  Why did this community execute 20 people as witches? 
As historical detectives we will evaluate the range of factors contributing to the events of 1692 and determine the most important cause for this unusual event.   You will read documents from 1692, conduct a trial of accused witches and explore ethical conflicts involving class, age, gender and religion.  Could anything like this happen in the twenty-first century?
The War on Terrorism-FI
L.HON 100-2: 11:00-12:20 p.m. WF, Prof. Scott Scheuerell
Are you interested in exploring the impact of 9-11 and the Boston Marathon bombings?  Are you willing to sacrifice some of your freedom and civil liberties for more security?  Can we have both?  This course will explore the issue of freedom versus security that is currently facing our nation.  Students in the course will have the opportunity to explore several key issues from diverse perspectives on this issue.  Some of the issues in this debate include:  immigration, airport security, racial and ethnic profiling, wire taps, surveillance cameras, gun control, and national identity cards.  There will also be the opportunity to compare and contrast how our country has reacted to other pivotal moments in our nation’s history.  This will include a study of the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the restriction on speech during World War I, and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  As a result, students in the course will be able to formulate their own opinion on the issue of freedom versus security based on the research they conduct throughout the semester.  In addition, students will have the opportunity to debate the effectiveness of our government’s military strategy to deter terrorism


The Four Marks – FI
L.CTL 100-1, 2:30-3:50 MW, Prof. Amanda Osheim
In the creed, Christians claim their belief in a church that is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”  What do these four marks of the church mean, and how do they impact the ways the gospel is understood and lived in the church today?  We will explore these questions in relation to Catholic faith and experience. 
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