New year, new semester, new courses to take

Bel Carden, Contributing Writer

The new year brings about so many changes: new resolutions, new diet plans, a new season of “The Bachelor,” and finally, a new course schedule. Although starting a semester can be stressful, the University consistently offers a variety of exciting new courses to keep students on their toes.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the newest course additions:

The Psychology of Learning

Professor of Psychology and Animal Behavior Reggie Gazes is teaching “The Psychology of Learning,” a course during which she asks students to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world by training dogs. The class works with Mostly Mutts, a local shelter in Sunbury, Pa. helping to train the dogs and prepare them for adoption. The first half of the semester is focused on studying the theories and concepts surrounding the process of learning, and the second half is dedicated to physically training the dogs.

“Cheryl [the owner of Mostly Mutts] went through her dogs and came up with a group that had small behavioral problems that we might be able to solve within a semester, and every group in the class got assigned a dog with a set of problems—anywhere from three to five,” Gazes said. “Some of them were things like learning to walk better on a leash, not to jump, to sit, to come when called—basic behaviors.”

Gazes firmly believes that through the act of physically training animals, the students will be able to better understand the material, as well as see how it can be used in real life.

This History of Madness

A new course in the History Department titled, “The History of Madness,” is taught by Assistant Professor of History Jennifer Kosmin. The class is focused on various “historical understandings of madness from the late medieval period to the present or from Possession to Prozac,” Kosmin said.

This course focuses on the relationship between mental illness and society, encouraging students to question how the stigma surrounding mental illness directly relates to the structures and concerns of a society.

“By considering what a society deems ‘mad,’ we gain a particularly keen understanding of what that society deems ‘normal’–what values, behaviors, and beliefs it holds to be most important and how it reacts when those things are transgressed,” Kosmin said.


Another course surrounding different mental disorders is “Psychopathology,” taught by Dr. Christopher Connacher who is also a psychologist at the Counseling and Student Development Center. “Psychopathology” covers the theories and research on different psychological disorders with a focus on the developmental and cognitive effects. The material also touches on perspectives from the related field of neuroscience.

Furthermore, the course aims to analyze society’s relationship with mental disorders and question what is deemed by society as normal mental action. Connacher will also reflect upon his experience as a counselor to help students best empathize with individuals suffering from mental illnesses.

“The name for the class itself intrigued me to enroll. I also thought the idea of being taught by an on-campus psychologist would be so interesting,” Madison Lance ’22 said.

Farm to Table

One thing most students at the University can agree on is their love of food. Therefore, the popularity surrounding the course “Farm to Table” is no surprise.

“Farm to Table” focuses on the connection between food and society at both a personal level and a biological perspective. Furthermore, this class is an Integrated Perspectives course taught by Associate Professor of Sociology Elizabeth Durden and Associate Professor of Biology Mark Spiro. It explores how agriculture has affected society as well as evolution.

“I absolutely love the course. I think it’s a great match of disciplines that already have me thinking deeply about the choices I make. Not to mention, Professor Spiro and Professor Durden are the best,” Emily Brandes ’21 said.

The questions that will be addressed throughout the semester include the social and environmental costs of our modern food system, the effects of race, class, and income on the ability to obtain healthy foods, and the effect of population growth and global warming on the food system.

These are just some of the very interesting courses offered by the University this semester. From mental health to dog training to food, everyone has the opportunity to explore intriguing areas of study.

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