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Academic Theme

As part of its mission to prepare students for rich professional careers and active citizenship, the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences frames programs and activities around a broad theme that unites our community in interdisciplinary exploration each academic year.

The theme inspires the college's course offerings, performances, and exhibitions as well as influences our selection of visiting distinguished speakers, inform reading group selections, focus our faculty lecture series, and orient Travel Study courses. Each academic division approaches the theme from a unique perspective. The result is an interdisciplinary approach to the academic year that produces a confluence of ideas and interpretations.

The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences invites all members of the NSU community to join us throughout the year to explore our academic theme.


Theme for 2014-2015

The term "identity" refers to how we define ourselves as individuals, communities, and humanity as a whole. This theme has particular relevance to students, who are actively aligning themselves with disciplines and groups, and making commitments to personal philosophies. The exploration of identity is about differences and distinctions as well as shared qualities and goals. The academic year ahead will include examinations of "what makes us who we are" — from the smallest (genetic) to the largest (global) ways of thinking.

Each of the college’s divisions (Humanities; Math, Science, and Technology; Performing and Visual Arts; and Social and Behavioral Sciences) offers unique ways of defining and exploring the concept of "Identity." We will examine the subject within cultural, social, scientific, legal, philosophical, religious, historical, and artistic contexts.

As we study our various definitions of and associations with "identity," the college is using this exploration to further develop students’ analytical and critical thinking abilities, hone their communications skills, and foster more thoughtful, active participation as citizens of a complex world.

The expression "speak truth to power" is captured in this theme. The college encourages students to consider their responsibility in regards to truth in the classroom, power in their professional lives, and the interplay of these forces in the world. These concepts can be as personal as academic integrity, as global as religious and cultural conflict, and as topical as policy decision making.

The quest for objective truths plays a central role in all cultures, whether testing scientific principles, supporting religious beliefs, or questioning the impartiality of the legal system. Many societal units, such as familial, local, national, or spiritual groupings, teach their members clear principles for defining what is true. Seeking new proof of seemingly objective claims and subjective perspectives is what fuels the advancement of knowledge in every discipline and, correspondingly, change in the world.

The concept of power also inspires analysis inside and across disciplines. A physicist can insist that power is the rate at which work is performed or energy is transmitted. A sociologist or psychologist may examine how a shift in power changes interpersonal and societal dynamics. The humanities often explore the limitations and possibilities of traditional and modern power structures. While one may see the visual and performing arts as expressions of the artists’ personal power, art itself can have the power to stir emotions and open minds to new perspectives.

Common agreements on what constitutes truth can help define a social order. The proponents of these truths often retain political, religious, and cultural power. Academic inquiry and debate facilitate societal changes by developing new versions of truth and, correspondingly, new owners of power.

The college will examine the relationship of life and death within social, scientific, technological, legal, religious, political, and artistic contexts. As part of this analysis, we will explore how we discuss and define life and death and how our cultural expectations and beliefs regarding the human life cycle inform all of our experiences. We will also look at the ways the broad concepts of life and death manifest themselves in society—the genesis and expiration of government, environment, ideas, and hope. We will consider the conceptual relationship between life and death—the ways in which we see life and death as connected while at the same time disparate.

These conversations will consider the global diversity of attitudes on these subjects, including those surrounding highly charged socio-political issues such as birth control, abortion, education, the penal system, health and hospice care, euthanasia, and capital punishment. The college may also explore the ways in which religious ideology has shaped our perspective on life and death. Students will be encouraged to reflect on their own anxieties regarding life and death and to explore how variations in attitudes toward life and death influence a culture's social, political, and economic tone.

The issues surrounding good and evil are complex and topical in today's world. The college will explore how the broad concepts of good and evil present themselves in society through topics such as national security, criminal justice, politics, cultural identity, artistic expression, and the environment. We will examine the relationship of good and evil within social, scientific, legal, religious, historical, and artistic contexts. We may ask ourselves, what is the philosophical nature of good and evil? How are good and evil viewed through science, literature, history, the arts, and psychology?

Academic-Themed Courses

For first-year undergraduates, the college offers courses (UNIV 1010, 1011 Seminars) that approach the current academic theme through unique and timely topics.

Themed Events

The college hosts thought-provoking lectures, panel discussions, and performing and visual arts events that reflect the current academic theme. Visit the Events page to learn more.

More Information

For more information, please contact the Office of the Dean at (954) 262-8408.

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