Course Descriptions Fall 2021


  • Gen Ed. Attribute: Quantitative Literacy.
  • Instructor: Professor Sarah Greenwald
  • Time: M 4:00-4:50 pm & TR 3:30-4:45 pm

Prerequisite:  passing the math placement test or MAT 0010.

Whether it is counting the number of stars, understanding why the Benjamin Franklin fund never earned its intended money, or managing the uncertainty inherent in polling and medical testing, many real-life situations require the critical and creative analysis of a variety of mathematical interpretations in order to fully consider the implications. This course focuses on local to global connections related to the application of geometry, algebra, probability, and statistics as you develop creative inquiry skills, research techniques, and communication skills. You’ll also explore what mathematics is, what it has to offer, and the diverse ways that people can be successful in mathematics and impact the world (including you!), as we study:  

  • Geometry of our Earth and Universe: How we measure and view the world around us and decide what is the nature of reality.
  • Personal Finance: How we apply algebra to interest formulas and decisions we make about our own lives.
  • Consumer Statistics: How probability and statistical techniques allow us to recognize the misrepresentations of studies and make public and private policy decisions.
  • What is Mathematics? To reflect more broadly about the course themes as we tie the segments together.  You can choose a topic you are interested in and research how mathematics relates to it or you can design a creative review of what we covered in class. You will communicate your expertise in a poster presentation session.  


  • Gen Ed. Attribute: Serves as First Year Seminar and ENG/RC 1000 for Watauga College students.
  • Instructor: Professor Joseph Bathanti
  • Time: TR 11:00-1:45 pm & 2:00-3:15 pm

“Words are all we have,” the great Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, reminds us. All of us bear stories and they all matter, and I would hazard that sharing stories comes as naturally to humans of every stripe as breathing. Stories make us jointly human. They kindle intimacy. Stories can save us even when we don’t know we need saving – by returning us to who we are essentially, by underscoring what matters most to us, by taking us back home, wherever that home – an abstract in all likelihood – might reside.

Tim O’Brien writes, in his short story, “Spin,” from The Things They Carried: “Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story." 

This course will tackle story from a generous vantage. While the bulk of the reading will be short stories – some classic, some brand new, some obscure, from diverse voices, realms, and persuasions – we’ll also engage with other kinds of stories: poems, memoirs, essays, interviews, film – and we’ll host a number of noteworthy guests who will share their spellbinding stories with us. This is a course where your lived life is of the utmost importance, as is the place(s) where that lived life plays out. This is very much a course that relies on autobiography. And, of course, you will write stories too.


  • Gen Ed. Attribute: Serves as First Year Seminar and ENG/RC 1000 for Watauga College students.
  • Instructor: Professor Clark Maddux
  • Time: MW 2:00-3:15 pm & TR 11:00- 1:45 pm  

The "Gilead" novels of Marilynne Robinson are acknowledged as some of the best works in American fiction, regardless of period. In 4 interlinked narratives, Robinson explores the nature of faith in this country, and the role that religious belief plays in American society, including its historical complicity in racial, gendered, and economic systems of injustice. During this class, we will read, discuss, and write about these works, as well as consider some of Robinson's non-fiction essays that complement her fiction, and explore the Calvinist theology that underpins both.


  • Gen Ed. Attribute: Serves as First Year Seminar and ENG/RC 1000 for Watauga College students.
  • Instructor: Professor Gabriella Friedman
  • Time: TR 11:00-1:45 pm & 2:00-3:15 pm

This course explores twenty-first century African American literature, including novels, poetry, drama, and new media forms. We will ask: Are there images, textures, or sounds that define contemporary African American literature—or is it a body of work that inherently flouts definition? What is the relationship between cultural production and political struggle? How do gender, class, sexuality, and (dis)ability shape what it might mean to be Black in the United States?  What kind of future does contemporary African American literature envision or bring into being? While we will read a geographically broad range of writers, we will focus our attention on how the course material might help us understand issues in the Watauga County area. We will also spend a significant portion of the course reading Black Appalachian (or “Affrilachian”) writers. Our coursework will be complemented with visits to historical sites and museums in the region, as well as engagement with music, television, and visual art. Writers may include Colson Whitehead, Toni Morrison, Danez Smith, N.K. Jemisin, Lynn Nottage, Frank Walker, Crystal Wilkinson, Nikky Finney, and others.


  • Gen Ed. Attribute: Serves as First Year Seminar and ENG/RC 1000 for Watauga College students.
  • Instructor: Professor Michael Dale
  • Time: MW 2:00 -3:15 pm  & TR 11:00 -1:45 pm

Love and death are oftentimes experienced as seismic upheavals in our lives; we are changed in puzzling, perhaps even mysterious ways by these two forces, sometimes delightfully and sometimes terrifyingly or painfully. In love, suddenly someone or something that perhaps we did not even know existed comes into our life and now is seen and felt as a presence we cannot imagine living without. In death, as the poet Gerald Manley Hopkins puts it, "I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day." How should we see and understand the experiences and transformations wrought by love and death? The question is especially important in a society that frequently trivializes love, and at times and in some circumstances, makes death something to either be avoided, not spoken of, or a spectacle of entertainment.


  • Gen Ed. Attribute: Serves as First Year Seminar and ENG/RC 1000 for Watauga College students.
  • Instructor: Professor Jessica Martell
  • Time: TR 2:00 - 3:15 pm & 11:00-1:45 pm

Food is everything. Food is the primary source of energy for our bodies; it is a form of creative and cultural expression; and it can be a rallying call for implementing social change. In the last few decades, the popularity of regional foods, like Southern and Appalachian cuisines, has heralded an American culinary renaissance. Yet there is a great deal of controversy and politics wrapped up in food. “Foodie” trends have elevated culinary expression into a high art form; diets like paleo and keto flood social media; and people will fight tooth and nail over the right way to make barbecue. But not everyone has access to food – low income populations all over the world, including in the United States, struggle to find healthy and nutritious food on a daily basis. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions and rising food insecurity have been exposed as major failings of the industrial model.

 In this section of WRC 1103, students will learn about how the US food system operates, taking interdisciplinary dives into topics like nutrition, welfare, food justice, and environmental impact. After studying the system’s vulnerabilities, students will explore alternative models in the High Country that work towards sustainability, equity, and community resilience. In addition to fulfilling the requirements of first year writing and research, students will apply their academic work by partnering with a Boone-based non-profit and volunteering to support one of their food system reform projects.


  • Gen Ed. Attribute: Serves as First Year Seminar and ENG/RC 1000 for Watauga College Students.
  • Instructor: Professor Audrey Fessler
  • Time: MW 2:00 - 3:15 pm & TR 11:00-1:45 pm

Historian David Shie identifies the “process of forging an American identity” as one of the “overarching themes of the early American republic [that] continues to resonate today.” Late-18th-century political writings such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution grounded this unitary (and therefore exclusionary) effort. In the early 1800s, Irving, Cooper, Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, and others began to establish a canon of “American” literature; in 1828, Webster published the first American Dictionary of the English Language, which sought to identify and consolidate a specifically “American” language. How did subsequent writers and artists in other media appropriate, challenge, expand, redefine, and otherwise respond to foundational conceptions of “an American identity”? In answering this question, we will explore a wide range of 19th-century short stories, novels, poems, slave narratives, dream narratives, speeches, paintings, cartoons, songs, and folk art productions, and will visit local museums and attend local artistic performances together. Students will also research little-known paintings by important American artists and write label texts that may be permanently displayed with those paintings in an area museum. We will travel to the museum three times to work with the curators there, pandemic conditions permitting.


  • Gen Ed Attribute: Second Year Writing
  • Instructor: Professor Gabriella Friedman
  • Time: MW 2:00 - 3:15 pm 

Science fiction dazzles its readers with alien invaders, comet collisions, futuristic technologies, and dystopian landscapes. Why are such works so captivating, and what can they show us about the societies that produce them? In this second-year writing course, we will delve into major works of British, U.S., and Indigenous science fiction. We’ll begin in the late-nineteenth century, when the genre arguably emerged, and journey through the twentieth century, encountering the “Pulp Era” of the 1920s-30s, the so-called “Golden Age” of the 1950s, and the “New Wave” that began in the late 1960s. We will then spend substantial time on twenty-first century science fiction, including iterations in new mediums such as podcast, digital art, and web series. As we move through this historical progression, we’ll analyze common themes such the fraught role of technology and science, the question of what makes someone “human,” the use of extrapolation to predict the future, and more. Because science fiction cannot be separated from its social and historical contexts, gender, race, settler colonialism, sexuality, and class will be central to our explorations. Expect to encounter well-known writers like H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Ursula Le Guin, and Octavia Butler, as well as lesser-known and emerging authors and creators.


  • Gen Ed Attribute: Integrative Learning Experience Theme (Experiencing Inquiry); Literary Studies Designation
  • Instructor: Professor Michael Dale
  • Time: TR 9:30-10:45 am

Living in relationships with the natural world (land, oceans, and the larger universe of galaxies and star systems) and reaching for an understanding of nature provides fertile ground for novelists, short-story writers, and writers of narrative non-fiction. In this seminar, we will explore and examine the intellectual and emotional landscape of fictional and non-fiction beings as they are immersed in and navigate the world of science and nature. What happens when the sciences and humanities meet? What do we learn about science and the all-too-human human beings who pursue scientific knowledge and understanding when both are brought together on the landscapes of novels, short stories, poems, and essays? What do we hear from the voices of science and scientists in narrative literature and poetry?


  • Gen Ed Attribute: Integrative Learning Experience theme (Experiencing Inquiry); Historical Studies designation
  • Instructor: Dr. Joseph Gonzalez
  • Time: MWF 11:00-11:50 AM

Can you imagine a world without sugar, caffeine, and chocolate? Believe it or not, for most of human history, our ancestors lived in a world largely devoid of sweetness and stimulants; only alcohol, in the form of wine, ale, and beer, was present. In this course, we will explore the origins of these so-called "addictive foods" in the spice trade of the Middle Ages and the conquest of the Americas. Along the way, we will discover the ways in which the production of "addictive foods" created our modern global system and changed the lives of individuals around the world, for better and worse. Students will read from a variety of disciplines, while making use of primary sources, films, and videos. During the term, students will also plan and execute a research project on a topic of interest to them.


  • Gen Ed Attribute:  Integrative Learning Experience theme (Experiencing Inquiry); Historical Studies designation
  • Instructor: Professor Marjon Ames
  • Time: MWF 9:00 - 9:50 am

How do we know what we think we know? What informs our understanding of the past? This course examines both historical nonfiction and fictionalized accounts of plagues to help us shape the ways we think about European history. Students read a variety of historical works in order to form a foundation of techniques and theories on which to build. Students read fiction and watch films in conjunction with nonfiction in order to consider what results in successful storytelling and why it has fascinated people throughout history. Students examine different storytelling techniques employed, question the quality of the portrayal of the historical backdrop, and observe how different approaches in narrative can result in different stories.


  • Gen Ed Attribute: Liberal Studies Experience; Literary Studies Designation.
  • Instructor: Professor Joseph Bathanti 
  • Time: TR 3:30-4:45 pm

"A creative-writing class may be one of the last places you can go where your life still matters," claims the great Northwest poet, Richard Hugo. This course introduces the basics of poetry writing. It tackles poetry through a “writerly eye” (reading like a writer) and pays careful attention to the kinds of craft (a protean word we’ll use regularly and seek to define contextually) choices that influence the emotional impact and meaning of a given poem.

The class will also provide students with an overall context for poetry: its scope; trends; its development, especially during the last decades of the 20th Century to the present, with a decided lean toward American poetry (of a narrative vein), but with a keen eye on diversity and burgeoning voices, multiculturalism and various “kinds” of poetry, including formalism and free verse.

An extremely important component of the course will be careful readings and analyses of poems from a number of realms and “schools.” Approximately half the class time will be spent workshopping student-generated poems, and each student will have the opportunity to workshop at least two poems. We’ll also engage occasionally in in-class writing assignments and hopefully do a bit of writing out of the classroom. Our ultimate aim, by the end of the semester, is to acquire an understanding of, and instinct for, various elements and strategies – all revolving around craft choices – employed by writers in building/composing/shaping poems, elements and strategies you can then employ in your own poetry.

Regardless of whether you consider yourself primarily a poet, fiction writer, playwright, song-writer, or creative nonfiction writer – and even if you’ve never attempted to write a poem before – this course is the right place for you.


  • Gen Ed Attribute: Integrative Learning Experience (Experiencing Inquiry), Fine Arts Designation 
  • Instructor: Professor Mel Falck 
  • Time: W 5:00 - 7:30 pm

An integrative and creative encounter with multi-model artistic processes as a means of exploring unique inquiries and responses to natural, social, and constructed environments. Artistic forms studied may include visual art, dance, drama, poetry, music, puppetry, and film. 


  • Gen Ed Attribute: Liberal Studies Experience; Literary Studies Designation
  • Instructor: Professor Laura Ammon
  • Time: MW 3:30-4:45 pm

Myths are the stories we tell about the world, exploring and explaining humanity’s place in the past, the present and the future offering insights on what it means to be human. This course will explore various expressions of myth, from the Aztecs to Black Panther, and how these myths construct meaningful imaginative worlds within specific historical, cultural, and literary contexts. We will cover an assortment of myths, rituals, symbols that construct the worldviews of various communities, investigating conflict, syncretism, and hybridity in differing global encounters, and how that conflict impacts the stories humans tell about their place in the world. This investigation is necessarily an interpretive journey involving theoretical approaches to the role of mythology in human cultures and religions.


  • Gen Ed Attribute: Capstone for Watauga Minor
  • Instructor: Dr. Joseph Gonzalez
  • Time: TR 3:30 pm - 4:45 pm 

This is the culminating course for the Watauga minor. During the semester, we will compare the history and organization of Watauga Residential College (WRC) with other residential colleges. Students will also write a reflection on their experience in WRC and a seminar paper on some aspect of the history of WRC, making use of materials in the university's archives. Just as important, students will contribute to the construction of a "virtual museum" showcasing Watauga's history, as well as a video documenting the history of Watauga since 1972.