Inquiry Courses

All journeys begin here

Things in the real world don’t often fit inside the neat boxes of academic subjects. Why should all of your classes?

Inquiry courses explore compelling questions from fresh angles, bringing together different disciplines, perspectives, and types of evidence. Designed for first-year students, they also help you navigate the ins and outs of college. Incoming students may take them in place of the Student Success Seminar in the 2019-2020 academic year. Beginning in fall 2020, they will be required for all new students entering degree programs. 

INT 1555 Inquire: course offerings

21st-Century Cities (online)

For the first time in human history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. This process of urbanization has accelerated over the past decade or so, providing new and critical challenges for providing sustainable living conditions for cities around the world. Using the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, we'll look at both the challenges and solutions for meeting these goals in cities locally, nationally, and globally.

Artificial Intelligence: Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow (Dunkirk)

"Hey SIRI, what will my career area look like in 5, 10, and 20 years?" The continual development, refinement, and implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) is a disruptive force increasingly impacting virtually every career area. In many cases, its implementation is increasing the speed and efficiency of systems (e.g. fraud detection in banking), but in others the impact can potentially have more damaging effects (e.g. the impact of autonomous vehicles on employment in the trucking industry). Through an exploration of AI past, present, and future, students will consider various forms of artificial intelligence, how the application of AI impacts society in general, and more specifically AI's potential impact on their individual choice of careers.

The Art of Mathematics (Jamestown)

Mathematics and art have long been intertwined. From sacred geometric symbols dating back thousands of years to modern-day mathematicians using crochet to visualize complicated topological spaces, mathematics has bred creative endeavors, and many creative endeavors have their foundation in mathematics. In this course we will investigate those connections through topics such as how to “weave” an invisible carpet; why engineers find origami useful; and what daisies, the irrational number phi, and Leonardo Da Vinci have in common. Students will also discover their own connections as they exercise their creative talents. No special mathematics skills are required beyond curiosity and an open mind!

Beyond the Binary: LGBTQIA+ Expression & Identity (Jamestown)

The 21st century has seen an explosion of identities and manners of expression beyond the traditional male or female, gay or straight. Increasingly students and others identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, inter-sex, asexual, pan-sexual, resulting in confusion for the populations who identify as such and their friends, family, and society at large. This course is designed to help students understand who they are and how they fit into the world around them and how society could and should respond to the plethora of "new" identities based on the understanding of gender fluidity and related concepts. The course will take advantage of the instructor’s 30+ years as a gay activist and include potential guest speakers from around the country. Students will use LGBTQIA+ resources in our library as well as readings from various sources, including but not limited to books. The course will also consider the historical changes in expression and identity starting in the late 19th century through the present day.

Contagion! (Olean)

Students will learn how diseases have evolved over human history and the biological and social impacts of disease on human populations. Students will analyze the relationship between human behavior and diseases by focusing on contemporary public health problems related to antibiotic use and vaccination rates. Based on their research and analysis, students will make public policy suggestions about disease prevention globally and in the United States.

The Cult of Persuasion (Jamestown)

This course will start with a broad question: What is persuasion and in what ways are we persuaded to change our attitudes, values, and beliefs? We will then expand this question to further understand the prevalence of persuasive messages in our daily lives and the types of persuasive messages that are most successful. But we'll take it one step further: What traits do successful persuaders have and why does this matter for us as citizens? We will take a look at successful persuaders from cult leaders and politicians to Instagram influencers and consider our role as message decoders and creators. How can persuasion both empower and hinder us?

Designer Babies (Jamestown)

Curing diseases and improving the lives of people is a lofty goal, but does the end justify the means? Students will critically research the raw power and potential limitations of modern DNA technology that will be used by humanity to potentially improve or even save millions of lives. They will critically analyze the history of Social Darwinism and eugenics and how it influences how we think today in the context of this DNA revolution, as well as the ethical implications of the use of such technology.

Digital Citizenship (online)

If an employer were to conduct an online search, what would your digital profile reveal? Can ethics and civility be demonstrated in the online environment? How can you protect yourself and your digital identity? This course will explore these questions as students take a deeper look into the role technology plays in their lives and what it means to be a digital citizen. In this course, students will explore their social media use and examine the potential effects as aspiring professionals. In addition, students will create an electronic portfolio they will use to collect and curate their digital archives from their academic lives as they transition to the professional workplace.

Earth Song for the Universe (Olean)

Students will apply information they research from across several disciplines in deciding upon a song in English to be sent into the galaxy. In 1977 NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, both of which have now left this solar system and are traveling in interstellar space. On each is a golden record containing in analog form photographs, speeches, and songs. Students will work together as a class to determine criteria NASA scientists might have had for selecting songs to include, and then students will work in small groups to create a video where they nominate a song for inclusion in such a launch, if it were to be done today.

Feeling Smart? The Secrets of Emotional Intelligence (Jamestown & Dunkirk)

Students will study theories related to emotional intelligence including the relationship of emotional intelligence to academic achievement and workplace success. Students will explore the physiological processes and behavioral tactics that involve emotional intelligence. Students will investigate how emotional intelligence develops throughout the lifespan. A review of different cultures’ expectations regarding emotional intelligence will be explored. Students will apply what they’ve learned by completing self-assessments to measure self-awareness, self-confidence, self-control, commitment and integrity, communication skills, and initiating and accepting change. A final project will incorporate theory and the result of the surveys to create an individual plan to improve a specific component of emotional intelligence.

Finding Your Inner Roman (Jamestown)

The life we are used to today has many roots in ancient Rome. The Romans not only gave us ideas such as “representative democracy” and “innocent until proven guilty” but they were also master engineers and architects who invented concrete and used it to build an environment very similar to the one that surrounds us today. But ancient Rome wasn’t just similar on the surface; there is quite a bit of “ancient Roman” in all of us.  Are you a sports fan? Do you like to shop? Do you like “fast food” or a massage after working out at the gym? If so, you could spend a day in ancient Rome and still do many of the same things that you like to do today. In this course you will meet your “inner Roman” and learn about the numerous Roman influences on American culture today. On this journey of imagination you will journal your life in ancient Rome and reflect critically on our own society.

Gamer’s Guide to the Galaxy (Jamestown)

How do virtual worlds affect how we collaborate with others? Gaming is like any other journey in life, especially an academic one: When students come to college, they are presented with new “open worlds.” They are expected to develop new skill sets and set upon new journeys that “level them up” in order to look back upon where they’ve been and set themselves for the future. Only after repeating the “mission” over and over again, can students become truly skilled; in such a cycle, they become academic masters. Featuring: the virtual galaxy of Eve with special guests: Mercenary V from Cyberpunk 2077 and the child combatant soldiers of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Immigrant Voices (Jamestown)

This course will focus on the experiences of migrants in the world today. Through stories and personal interviews students will examine and compare the thoughts, challenges, perspectives, and journeys of migrants. Students will answer the questions: Why do people leave their homes? What are the impacts and challenges for them, the communities they leave and those that receive them? Through community outreach, students will come to know immigrants living in our area and will capture their stories as part of a digital storytelling project.

In the News (Jamestown & Olean)

Do your instructors ever bring up topics in class that are in the news, but you don't have any knowledge about? Is your response, “I think I have heard about it, but I am not sure?” News is available through a lot of different mediums, but do you actually pay attention to or take advantage of what is available? We will discover together newsworthy events of local, national, and global concern while discerning  appropriate sources for them. No “fake news” here. Students will follow their own topic of interest throughout the course and share their findings with the class each week and in a final project. Get ready to learn about what is going on all around us.

Irish Arts & Cultures (Olean)

In this course, students will examine how the issues and events pivotal to Ireland and Irish cultures are both represented and shaped by texts. The notion of "text" will be taken broadly to include literary and non-literary print text, visual arts, music, theatre, cinema, television, architecture, folk arts, and other expressions of self. The cultural, national, and historical contexts to be examined in light of these texts will include: Celtic and Gaelic origins, emigration, borderlands, the Irish language, religion, landscape, agriculture, postcolonialism, and globalization. Particular attention will be given to the cyclical relationships between contexts and texts (or life and art).

Just Breathe: Your Mind and You (Jamestown)

Students will engage in a variety of critical thinking tasks and meditation techniques through an examination of Eastern and Western psychological perspectives. Within the scope of these seemingly disparate cultural perspectives, students will develop a foundation of mindfulness practices in their daily lives. The course will also explore the biological impact of long-term chronic stress on physical and psychological health and well-being. Through selected readings, videos, and current scientific research in consciousness psychology, students will explore the efficacy of mindfulness in stress reduction, cognitive and emotional awareness, and positive personal growth towards becoming a happier, healthier, and more successful student for life. Students will maintain a journal chronicling their mindfulness practices to ultimately answer the question: What does it mean to be truly and mindfully present in our everyday lives? In a final project, students will create a plan that details how they will continue their mindfulness practices moving forward.

Local Legends: In Search of History (Jamestown)

Some of history's most interesting stories are found close to home in the bits and pieces of local legends. But are the stories true? And why do some stories survive while others are forgotten? From ancient earthworks to Underground Railroad hideaways, religious radicalism to sensational murders, this course will uncover the facts and falsehoods behind some of our area’s most intriguing legends. We'll also consider what the stories can teach us about the people who chose to pass them along or to ignore or discredit them. We will go on at least one off-site field trip and sleuth out a variety of first-hand sources to produce an online class exhibit.

Mark Making (Jamestown)

This course will explore the history of how humans have acknowledged their shared humanity and distinct individuality through a variety of mark-making techniques. Students will be guided through a series of printing projects including stamping, stenciling, mono-printing, and etching. Additionally, participants will explore the foundations of photography and photographic expression, including the use of hand-built cameras. Students will use visual journals to explore their own personal histories and record their progression throughout the course. At different times throughout the semester, the class will open its studio doors to the student body at large for a shared studio experience.

Music Is: Love, Death, Spirit (Jamestown)

Frank Fitzpatrick, a critically acclaimed songwriter, astutely describes music as “essential to human life and an integral part of our development as individuals and as a species.” Every culture has always had music. Since love, death, and spirituality are also essential to our existence, it’s not surprising that more songs likely have been sung about those three topics than any others. How does music help us to celebrate love, come to terms with death, and connect in spirit with something larger than ourselves?  How does music about these topics add to our human experience, enabling us to discover deeper truths about ourselves? The class will examine these and other questions relating to music of various styles, time periods, genres, and student interests. Students will develop related questions as they explore and interpret music of their own choosing. Music listening, discussion of multiple perspectives and meanings, personal reflection, and some research will be important components of our inquiry. No prior experience with music is required for this course, and it welcomes students of all majors.

The Next Steps (Jamestown)

Recent research finds that the act of walking increases blood supply to the brain and leads to improved creative thinking. From a neurochemical perspective our brains are more relaxed during walking due to the release of chemicals that aid in executive function, which governs how we focus on tasks and deal with unforeseen events.  Students will discover the importance of physical wellness, as well as the other areas of the multidimensional wellness wheel. This course will require a fair amount of reading and writing, but the class period itself will be largely conducted as long walks around campus, where students will discuss challenging questions in small groups and individually reflect on critical topics.   

Outbreak (Jamestown)

This course will examine the evolution of and emergence of infectious disease. We will incorporate information from biology, anthropology, and public health. We will pay particular attention to the ethical issues raised by the health campaigns used to battle emerging disease around the world, which include public perceptions, politics, and the stigma that can result.  Students will work on a simulation to “contain” a local outbreak.

The Personality of Politics (Jamestown)

This course helps students understand the psychological origins and evolution of their own political views—specifically, conservativism and liberalism. After exploring partisan politics on a theoretical level, students will research their own "political genealogy.” They will think about all the potential sources of their views and interview individuals with both similar and opposite views to their own. The course will also explore the current state of political discourse in the United States and current movements to censure unpopular opinions. What role does political correctness play in our current political climate? How do the 24-hour news cycle and social media contribute to group polarization? The roots of extremism on both the right and left will be explored. Students will develop recommendations for how to improve political discourse in our world today.

The Quest for Ancestors (Jamestown)

Once a genteel pastime of the wealthy, genealogy has become a multi-million-dollar industry in the United States, with sites like boasting more than two million subscribers. Why are Americans so fascinated with their family history? What can our quest for ancestors tell us about ourselves and our society at large? In addition to examining the modern "genealogy boom," this course will consider the complicated role of family lineage in a democratic society and how genealogy has been used throughout American history to find belonging, as well as exclude "others." While pursuing answers to these big questions, students will engage in hands-on research to uncover the stories of the people and places who shape their own ancestral selves.

Race to Wellness (online)

This course will explore an understanding of the broader health issues facing our current society. We will explore a range of topics associated with health, such as: population growth, food security, affordable healthcare, environmental disease (cancer), emerging diseases (virus outbreaks), food-borne illness, hazardous waste, and human health risk assessments. As a semester project, students will choose a current health issue and create a public service announcement that represents the problem, focusing on possible interventions and solutions.

Redefining Feminism (Jamestown)

Don’t be afraid to say the “F” word; feminism, that is. This course seeks to explore the roots and meaning of feminism and feminisms.  Through participatory learning, collaborative projects, critical thinking, and creative expression, students will engage with differences that cut across race, gender identities, class, and national origin. This course will stress the role of students as active co-producers of knowledge and it will require students to participate in in-class discussions, written work, and project-based learning. Students will engage with sources ranging from graphic novels, social media, journal articles, and readings from various sources. Additionally, students will be required to complete a creative final project that integrates research with campus life.

Silent Women (Olean)

100 years ago in the US, the movies were being invented with technology that was only some two decades old and evolving. This is the time of the suffragist and the 19th Amendment, the flapper, Prohibition, speakeasies, and bathtub gin. The movies grow up in these years, still silent until 1929, and according to film historians, more women are involved in writing, producing, and directing these movies than there have ever been since. In this course students will study the movies circa 1905-1929, the times they sprang from, and the women who created them. To better understand the process, students will create their own silent movie scene and decide who deserves the pre-1929 Academy Awards.

The Triple Bottom Line (Olean)

Packaging made from biodegradable mushrooms instead of styrofoam. Toys that break down gender stereotypes. Innovative toilets that reduce disease in overcrowded cities. These are examples of social entrepreneurs creating businesses that make a profit and also positively impacting society and the environment. Companies that embody a triple bottom line philosophy work to solve some of the world’s biggest social and economic challenges while also making money. Students in this course will study a variety of global concerns and generate a business idea that offers a creative solution through products or services designed to alleviate the suffering associated with global issues.

Up Your Game! (Jamestown)

Students will explore the history of gaming across cultures as a lens for examining the potential of games as mediators for social engagement, community cohesion, and individual growth. Students will play a variety of historical and modern tabletop games designed to encourage prosocial engagement and critical thought through cooperative gameplay and problem solving. The selected games will also expose students to various game mechanics and design. Based on research, course readings, and hands-on gameplay, students will collaborate to create and demonstrate gameplay for a tabletop game of their own design, ultimately answering the question: How do games make us better?

Urban Legends: Truths Behind the Stories We Tell (Jamestown & Olean)

All of us have heard stories that have been passed down from our friends. Sometimes, these are ghost stories, such as the vanishing hitchhiker story about a young woman who finds a ride with a sympathetic driver only to disappear. Sometimes, these stories involve alligators in city sewers or dangers in college dorms. Called urban legends, these stories are set in contemporary cultures and often reflect concerns and imagined dangers of specific time periods. In this course, students will examine various urban legends to determine their overall significances, meanings and perceived moral lessons.

Wellness and Happiness (online)

If you ask people what they want in the future, health/wellness and happiness are often high on the list. College students want a future career and relationships that bring them meaning and happiness. What exactly are we envisioning when we set our sights on a happy future? How does wellness intertwine with happiness and how can we use writing to investigate these topics? In this course, we will examine the lessons gleaned from the scientific study of happiness and well-being. Students will identify factors that make happy individuals and societies, and will explore how to increase their personal wellness and happiness. Special attention will be paid to the multi-dimensional wellness model, happiness, gratitude, and positive well-being.

What Would Florence Nightingale Say? (Olean)

Florence Nightingale has always been acclaimed as the founder of modern nursing. This journey in time will start at the beginning, researching the common medical practices of Florence's time. From there we will travel forward through history, identifying advances that have changed medical practices as Florence once knew. We will debate those changes and the positive and/or negative outcomes that have resulted. Our journey will end with a glimpse into the future and with what we propose medical practices might be. Along the way we will pause often to ask ourselves: What would Florence Nightingale say?

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