Inquiry Seminars

Inquiry seminars are designed exclusively for first-year students. These courses help you transition to college by guiding you through the ways in which college-educated people ask questions, gather information to address the questions, and then share with other people what they've learned. Inquiry seminars are small, no more than 25 students per section, and you'll work with your classmates to explore and find answers to important questions in an academic discipline. Your professor will work with you on both the topic and the best techniques for learning. Incoming freshmen at Clarion choose their top three choices for an inquiry seminar and are placed according to their preferences. Incoming freshmen should log into their D2L to complete their Inquiry Seminar placement module.

The following INQ 100 courses will be offered during the 2018-2019 academic year. Below each title there is a brief description of the course. We have also indicated whether the course will be offered during Fall 2018, Spring 2019 or during both semesters.

Please note: The two courses at the bottom of this list are *not* available to students attending the Clarion Campus for face-to-face courses.

Pandemic!  ::  Fall 2018

In an era of modern travel, the spread of a contagious viral or bacterial agents across the globe is a real threat. Whether it is an avian flu that has jumped species or a weaponized form of anthrax, these agents must be identified, contained, and neutralized. Therefore, students are tasked with answering “How does a public health team combat global pandemics or epidemics?” This course is designed to introduce students to the various roles of public health: scientists including epidemiologists, health care workers like doctors and nurses, and government agencies that handles policy and management. Students will work cooperatively to research various real-world pandemic scenarios using scientific literature and historical records.

What is the fate of our forests?  ::  Spring 2019

Do you love the woods?  Do you hunt, fish, hike, or simply enjoy lying under the trees on a summer day? Have you wondered how logging, air pollution, insects, or gas and oil development impact our forests?  Forests are complex ecosystems that provide crucial services to humans, like timber, air and water purification, and wildlife habitat.  However, our forests are faced with numerous environmental threats with no easy solutions.  In this course you will use current research in science, ethics, economics, and law in order to collectively answer the question: What is the fate of our forests?

Why do I hate what others love? ::  Fall 2018 and Spring 2019

Have you ever asked yourself why
 you hate stuff that everybody else loves? Have you ever tried really
hard to enjoy what some people consider to be a “cool” band, only to fail miserably at it? Are you secretly ashamed of some things you really like or don’t like? In this Inquiry Seminar, students will explore the factors that shape our tastes in many areas such as music, books, movies, art, leisure time activities and food. We’ll discuss related issues—such as how what we love and hate defines us and others (as jocks, nerds, foodies, snobs, etc.). And, to boot, we will also learn how to become more understanding and tolerant of other people’s tastes.

What responsibility do we have to others?  ::  Fall 2018 and Spring 2019

Our history is marked by movements—from women’s suffrage to the abolition of slavery—that were founded on empathy, understanding and a passion for making others’ lives better. Your generation, Millenials or “Gen Y”, are serving millions of hours each year in their local communities through schools, churches and other non-profit organizations. And thousands of Americans are now opting to live in co-housing communities—private homes clustered around shared space where residents pitch in to help each other out. But are there limits to being your “brother’s (or sister’s) keeper”? Is there a point at which empathy can actually be a “bad” thing or at which we are better off turning inward and focusing on ourselves? Throughout the course we will explore questions of how our individual needs and desires can help us connect with others but how they also keep us at a distance. We will consider these questions in broader conversations about volunteerism, activism and altruism and in the context of global issues, local issues and even personal relationships. This course is particularly relevant to students in Education, Speech Language Pathology, Nursing and other health-related majors that place an emphasis on helping others. 

What makes us laugh and why?  ::  Spring 2019

This course explores a series of questions about comedy, humor, and the comic, with a focus on the initial question: what makes us laugh and why? The course investigates questions about the inter-relationships between laughter, forms of comedy and humor, and different societies and groups: What’s the relationship between humor, comedy, and laughter? What functions does comedy serve in a culture? What is comedy, anyway? What’s humor? What forms do they take? Do some forms of humor cross cultural and historical boundaries while others do not? Does the comic work as a way to critique, to change, or reinforce power in a society? Is some comedy also cruelty? The course will look at various theories of laughter, humor, and comedy from different disciplines and consider comic texts from different periods, cultures, and genres. This course will also consider how issues of race, gender, age, class, and sexuality relate to the comic and how they are represented, constructed, and affected by comedy.

Communicating from generation to generation: Do they really understand me?  ::  Fall 2018

When grandparents tell stories about their lives and express how they think about things, what can you learn? Grandparents communicate many things, but what do they say that you need to remember? These questions will be explored by investigating current research, interviewing grandparents, evaluating the conversations, and reflecting on values.

What’s the greatest idea of all time? :: Fall 2018

 Are you one of the smartest people you know?  Would you like to be even smarter?  This course will help you to better understand many of the fundamental ideas that drive this world and, in doing so, will lead you to a deeper understanding of just about everything.  The course will also be a lot of fun, as you will learn not only about the history and nature of ideas, but will also develop a unique philosophical vision by which to appreciate their importance.  At end of the semester, you will be in a position to judge, for any idea you ever encounter, whether and why it is truly, and genuinely, great.

Pay to Play  ::  Fall 2018 and Spring 2019

Video games have become the dominant form of entertainment for a whole generation of young people.  The average age of a gamer is now in the low to mid 30s.  The potential impact of this phenomena on the players, including on their empathy, social skills, brain development, and aggression is a source of ongoing research.  Game designers are concerned about these issues as well, as they attempt to make games challenging, but also interesting enough to keep gamers coming back.  As games have evolved from a self-contained platform-based system, such as Nintendo 64, to games where the console is a gateway to the internet, developers have embedded economic value-added components into the games.  Of particular interest are the “digital rights management” (DRM) systems video game designers/publishers put in place to discourage piracy, “downloadable content” (DLC) and ‘microtransactions’, whereby players are incentivized to use real money, either within or outside the game proper, to purchase real merchandise, or virtual merchandise such as upgrades to the avatar/character, or to buy additional levels or maps, or hints for completing the game.  Other issues include backwards compatibility, and how some developers continue to honor it, while other developers do not.

 We will explore the impact of games on players and on society.  An essential question we explore is this: “If gamers have to Pay to Play, are they really playing games or are they being played?”  The course structure will be very flexible to incorporate student interests and questions they want to explore related to gaming.

What's your story?  ::  Fall 2018

What is your favorite movie, novel or song? What stories do they tell? Why do you love them? Most importantly, what does storytelling tell us about ourselves? Are we the “storytelling animal”? Imagine the number of hours each day we spend telling and listening to stories, whether by daydreaming, watching television, playing video-games, or imagining our futures. We will take an interdisciplinary approach and examine the stories we find great, and try to find out why we love them and what they, and storytelling in general, tell us about ourselves. For example, what story does your own life tell and who is telling this story? Are you in control of your own story? What type of character are you becoming, and are you free to shape the character that you want to be? Do you remember your life as it really happened, or does your memory create a fiction about what you think happened? Do the dreams you have while you sleep tell stories, and if so, who shapes these stories and what are they telling you? You, and your classmates, will guide this class. You will select the movies, novels and songs that we will examine, and you will ask questions about them to guide your research. In the process, you’ll learn something about yourself and what it means to be the storytelling animal.

Why do we ask people where they are from?  ::  Fall 2018

Why do we ask people where they are from? To whom are we most likely to ask this question? By asking the question, are we trying to understand better who they are, find a connection with them, or make ourselves feel safe? What if you are being asked where you are from? Does it matter who is the person asking? In what context the question is asked? Or how it is asked? In a world well connected physically and virtually any moment and anywhere, asking questions like “where are you from?” is part of the first contact and has great impact on how communication will proceed from there. Shouldn’t we look into this experience and find out about its meaning?

 Where do you rank?  ::  Spring 2019

Who are the greatest running backs of all time? Who are the worst presidents in our nation’s history? Where are the best vacation resorts in the world? And who gets to decide? Rankings have the ability to influence our decisions and manipulate our actions. This course will prompt you to dive into various rankings to create meaningful debate, while allowing you to create your own, justifiable rankings of the people, places and events that make up our history and culture. You will be working “behind the scenes” to determine how valid rankings really are. Who knows? At the end of this course you might rank this as the greatest class at Clarion University.

Check your privilege at the door  ::  Fall 2018 and Spring 2019

Have your heard (or used) the idiom “blondes have more fun?” What about “lock up your daughters?” Do you walk to you car alone, at night? Do you have flesh-colored bandages in your medicine cabinet? Are you comfortable in your student desk? Questions like these are starting points for our inquiry into “privilege.” Does “privilege” exist and, if so, who has it, who doesn’t, and why? Does American culture represent privilege? How and to what effect? Is privilege good? Bad? Neutral? In other words, buckle up.

What can pop culture teach us?  ::  Spring 2019

What can pop culture teach us…about race…class…immigration…our politics…prejudices…and ourselves? In our age of media saturation, political polarization, and institutional dysfunction, we will employ film, television, and video – including satire and comedy – to shed light on myths, realities, and our shared and diverse beliefs and experiences. Through discussion, reflection, small group activities, and presentations, we will examine what pop culture can teach us about major issues and debates and in turn, how we can engage each other as informed citizens.

What happens when you can’t take it back?  ::  Spring 2019

Have you ever wanted to kick yourself after saying or doing something that came out wrong? Have you ever posted something you wish now never existed? Whether it’s blowing a job interview, blurting out an uncomfortable truth at a family or social gathering, a picture of you on your bicycle flipping off the presidential motorcade gone viral, or saying something hateful in a moment of anger, this class will help you develop communication strategies to alter process and outcomes.

From page to stage: How’d they do that?  ::  Fall 2018

Do you ever wonder how a writer’s idea gets turned into a play, TV show or movie? Explore the series of questions and creative challenges presented by a script before it is turned into a performance. Hands-on work with University Theatre productions possible.

Connected or lonely: How does living online affect relationships? ::  Semester TBD  ::  Clarion Online Students Only

Every feeling, every thought, traveling tens, hundreds, thousands of miles to be read and embraced by tens, hundreds, thousands of friends, family members and friends-in-the-making.  Sounds like utopia, no?

Yet recent research suggests that social media and online interaction can make us and has made us more isolated and even lonely.  How can that be, with hundreds of friends loveloveloving every word we write?

In this course we’re going to ask the question, how has online interaction and social media changed how we interact with each other?  Have we become closer as a community, more fragmented, or something in-between?  Using personal experiences and hard-core research, we’ll see what the possible answers might be—or what further questions we need to ask.

Whatever you do, don’t swallow your gum!  ::  Semester TBD  ::  Venango Campus Students Only

Have you ever heard that if you swallow your gum, it stays in your body for 7 years? Have you heard that it’s safe to eat food off the floor as long as you pick it up within five seconds?  What about that swimming within 30 minutes of eating gives you stomach cramps? No? Well everyone knows that the chemical tryptophan in your Thanksgiving turkey makes you sleepy, right?  Within this course we will investigate a whole host of common myths concerning your body and health. 


Last Updated 5/24/18