Modes of Inquiry Program

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 2013
In Black & White-FI
L.LIB-100-01, 2:30-3:20 p.m. TTH, Prof. Matt Keyes
What role has race played in your life? How would your life be different if you were born to parents of another race or were raised in a more, or less, culturally diverse community? What impact has the civil rights movement had on race relations in our country? In this class we will examine racism in the United States and explore how race relations have shaped, and been shaped by, laws, social acceptance, and the media. Using a combination of critical readings and classic movies including Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, American History X, and A Time to Kill, students will study racism and cultural bias from the civil rights era to the present day. In addition, students will critically examine the roots of their own perspectives and share the experiences that shaped their beliefs about race in America.
Criminal Minds-FI
L.LIB-100-02, 12:30-1:50 p.m. TTH, Prof. Dedra Tentis
What twisted and perverse thoughts lie behind the motivations of our most famous criminals? Satisfy your thirst to know more by diving deep into the minds of Richard Ramirez, Ted Bundy, Andrea Yates, John Gotti, Bernie Madoff, Jeffrey Dahmer, Al Capone, John Wayne Gacy, Aileen Wuornos, and James Earl Ray. Not only will you reconstruct motivation through case study research, but you will explore this criminality through the lens of multiple theories of deviance. This course will examine the history, elements, and methods of criminal profiling followed by a look at crime scene types and characteristics. Finally, students will connect course material to reality crime television (First 48, Cold Case Files, Forensic Files, etc.) to determine how behavioral crime myths are often perpetuated by the media.
Computers in the Movies-FI
L.LIB-100-04, 9:30-10:50 a.m. TTH, Prof. Brenda Litka
Computers have been seen in movies for decades. The power that has been associated with the computers had a lot to do with what was going on in the world at the time. By watching movies that deal with computers, one has a clear view of what the world was going through and in many cases the fears of people concerning computers. In the movie Desk Set (1957) people worried that computers would take their jobs away. Sound familiar? And that was 60 years ago. Students will read various articles, critique movies from different periods of time to determine what was going on in the world at that time and determine if any of the movies predicted the actual future of computers. Some of the movies that will be critiqued will be 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), War Games (1983), and The Net (1995).
Weird Beliefs – FI
L.LIB-100-05, 1:30-2:20 p.m. MWF, Prof. Michelle Bechen
Throughout the course of human history people have believed all kinds of things. Since the enlightenment and dramatic progress in science many myths have been debunked. Still, many continue to believe in things like mind reading, the paranormal, aliens, and vampires. This course will examine a number of these “weird beliefs” through multiple lenses. We will consider arguments and evidence used to support and disprove such beliefs. Can you believe in something you cannot prove? Or are you weird?
L.LIB-100-06, 9:00-9:50 a.m. MWF, Prof. Rick Anderson
During the roughly 13,000 hours you have spent in some sort of classroom over the past 12 years you likely considered some intriguing questions. This course will raise questions about the purpose and process of education. Students will engage with the controversy surrounding our nationwide crisis in education. We will address topics like inequality, illiteracy, course content, teaching, standardized testing and charter schools. We explore compelling and complex evidence in order to better understand pressing educational issues and enhance our own learning.
(Dis)Ability in the Cinema-FI
L.LIB-100-07, 2:00-3:20 p.m. TTH, Prof. Janine Kane
What is (dis)ability and what role has the cinema played in perceptions about and treatment of people labeled with a (dis)ability? In this course, movies from various genres will be used to analyze how (dis)ability is depicted and we will study the impact that these images may have on people labeled with a (dis)ability and their families, movie viewers, and all members of society. This course will provide first-year students with an introduction to the (dis)ability studies literature. Through this lens, we will examine (dis)ability and the concept of self and “other” and compare the social model to other models of (dis)ability.
Food: Feast or Famine?-FI
L.LIB-100-08, 11:00-12:20 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 Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma in addition to a variety of films and documentaries.
Dance Around the World-FI
L.LIB-100-09, 1:30-2:20 p.m. MWF, Prof. Roger Kirkenbush
Hip-hop, ballet, jazz, lyrical, ballroom, folk…whatever form dance takes, it is a reflection of the culture in which it originates. The course will study and raise questions about all aspects of dance. Dance is filled with cultural, spiritual, and aesthetic dimensions. What significance do costumes have? We’ll explore the origins of all forms of dance from all over the world. What role does the dancer play? The spectator? Just what is dance? How can learning about dance traditions from across the world teach us about those cultures and its people? Whether we dance ourselves, or watch a master dancer at their craft, what is our own response to dance? Dance has bigger impact on our lives than we may realize. Let’s find out how.
The “-isms”-FI
L.LIB-100-10, 11:00-12:20 p.m. TTH, Prof. Jennifer Smith
In today's turbulent political environment, both domestically and abroad, these and many other terms are thrown around to discredit opponents. But what do these terms really mean? What are the foundations and goals for the different systems? What is the impact on business, individuals, politics, and economics under each? This course will explore each of these and other questions to aid in a clearer understanding of these and other governmental and societal structures.
The Power of Nature-FI
L.LIB-100-11, 1:30-2:20 p.m. MWF, Prof. Lisa Grinde
Today’s children and adults are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. What are the consequences of this disconnection on physical, cognitive, social and emotional development? How might “nature-deficit disorder” be related to physical and mental health issues such as depression and ADHD? And how will this lack of connection to the natural world affect how we care for and protect the environment? Whether you are an outdoors enthusiast, an environmental activist or plugged in indoors, this class will allow you to explore the consequences of our shrinking interaction with and access to the natural world.
The Modern Music Festival-FI
L.LIB-100-12: 2:30-3:50 p.m. MW, Prof. Brad Cavanagh
It is a sight to behold. In one glorious moment the many become one, united in a common purpose, moving to the music together. This course will explore the modern music festival in all its glory. Students will take a step back from their personal experiences with music to analyze the significance of this modern phenomenon and ask some uncommon questions. What drives human beings to gather in this way around the common denominator of music? Is there a deeper meaning to these gatherings? How do festivals benefit or harm individuals and society?  What are the implications for social justice? From Monterey Pop to Woodstock, Lollapalooza, Vans Warped Tour, Ozzfest, Bonnaroo, Coachella, and many more. This course will explore the modern music festival like you have never seen it before.
One Ring to Rule Them All?-FI
L.LIB-100-13: 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. His fifteen hours of opera required singers with vocal stamina and, in some cases, a willingness to fly above the stage. 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.
Man Up, Be a Lady: What We Mean When We Talk about Gender-FI
L.LIB-100-14: 11:00-12:20 p.m. TTH, Prof. Jean Merrill
What does it mean when we say that gender is a social construct? What does it mean to be masculine or feminine, male or female, man or woman? What is the impact of these designations? How do our own experiences shape our perceptions of gender? What is feminism? What are the roots of income inequality? How have sex role stereotypes been sustained over time? Can we achieve gender equality? These are just some of the questions we can explore as we examine the interplay between culture, religion, politics, sex, and our understanding of gender.
Controversy in Music: What’s All the Noise About?-FI
L.LIB-100-15: 9:00-9:50 a.m. MWF, Prof. Susan Crook
Did you know that “Dancin’ in the Streets” by Martha and the Vandellas was banned when it was first released? Were you aware that “Lola” by the Kinks had to be censored before BBC Radio would play it on air? We’ve all heard the recent debates over Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s lyrics in the song “Accidental Racist.” In Detroit, a teacher was suspended for playing Macklemore + Ryan Lewis’ song “Same Love” for her class. Clearly, music elicits strong reactions from people through its topics, performances, word choices, and alleged double meanings. Sometimes the material is obvious (e.g. “Same Love”) and sometimes we must dig deeper in the lyrics to find the true topic (e.g. Ben Folds Five’s “Brick”). In this course, we’ll explore how and why music creates controversy and vice versa. We will also discuss how the artist’s personal life and beliefs may color both the material addressed in a song and the public’s reception to his/her art. To support our opinions and assessments, we will read about the history of selected musical movements and political movements in response to music.
Science vs. Religion-FI
L.LIB-100-16: 1:30-2:20 p.m. MWF, Prof. Michael Thompson
There is much discussion today about whether topics such as Creationism or Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools as possible alternatives to the theory of Evolution. Nearly 400 years ago, Galileo was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church for his views that the Earth revolved around the Sun. These are prime examples of what is sometimes portrayed as an ongoing ‘war’ between science and religion. This frequently confusing relationship between can lead to many questions, including: How might science and religion conflict with each other? How might science and religion complement each other? Can a Christian be an effective scientist? Can an effective scientist be a Christian? This course will look more deeply into the differences and similarities between science and religion and attempt to answer some of these questions.
The War on Terrorism-FI
L.LIB-100-17: 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.
How Molecules Changed History-FI
L.LIB-100-18: 2:30-3:20 p.m. TTH, Prof. Adam Moser
Would Napoleon have conquered Russia if only his army’s jackets had different buttons? Could Europe have colonized and explored so much of the world if vitamin C hadn’t been discovered? Empires have risen and crumbled on the properties of a few molecules. A few atoms added here, subtracted 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. We don’t always appreciate the role molecules play in our lives, even though they make up everything we eat, smell, touch, and taste. In this class, we will explore how molecules have changed history and discuss what life might be like without them. Students will have a chance to choose molecules that interest them and show their importance to the past, present, and future. No science background is required, just an active interest in how science and history collide.
Identity and the “Other”-FI
L.HON-100-01, 11:00-12:20 p.m. TTH, Prof. Kate McCarthy-Gilmore
How is identity constructed? How do we define someone who is different than us? In this course we will explore the ways in which identity is based on issues of class, race, gender, faith, and geography. We will examine how dominant social groups develop their own identities as well as that of the “other." The class will draw on historical texts and popular culture to create connections between the topic and student experience.
Bazinga! Exploring “The Big Bang Theory”-FI
L.HON-100-02, 11:00-12:20 p.m. TTH, Prof. Susan Stone
What do “Stephen Hawking,” “Soft Kitty,” Comic Con, and the musical group, “Barenaked Ladies” have in common with the study of experimental physics, cultural competency, religious diversity and extremism, third-wave feminism, and the psychology of relationships? Easy! The popular TV show, “The Big Bang Theory”! In this course, students will view and analyze various episodes of this series and other related shows and movies, delving deeper into the connections among the above, the meanings of episode titles, and the significance of “vanity cards” placed at the end of each episode by creator Chuck Lorre. In addition, they will read critical articles, examine comic books, write process-oriented analyses of themes and tensions, study the way the show is marketed and reviewed, and trace the way that it has impacted popular culture and vice/versa. And, along our journey with Sheldon, Leonard, and the gang, we will also explore and link the above and several other topics to meta-issues related to race, class, gender, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
The Once and Future Church-FI
L.CTL-100-01, 12:30-1:50 p.m. TTH, Prof. Douglas Wathier
The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) had a profound impact upon Catholics worldwide. As we observe the council’s fiftieth anniversary, the course will examine its effects on the devotionalism, spirituality, and intellectual currents of American Catholics. This course will focus on the formation of Catholic identity in the periods immediately preceding and following the council, and examine implications for contemporary and future Catholic Identity. The course will strive to promote a nuanced and informed view of the multifaceted, stimulating, and ultimately very intriguing reality that is contemporary Catholicism.
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