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CAS offers fives new courses as prospective general education requirements

UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences will offer five new interdisciplinary “Ideas, Information and Inquiry” courses in spring 2019 for first-years and transfer students. 

If successful, these courses may be incorporated into UNC's new general education requirements, which are currently under development.

The five courses (III or “Triple-I” courses)offered are all listed as IDST 190, with different sections: 001 is "Philosophy, Politics, and Economics," which deals with the ethics, politics, and analysis of economics. Section 002 is "Death and Dying," a course on the experiences and practices surrounding death. "The Idea of Race" is 003, which will discuss the false construct of race, its history and its future. Section 004 is "The Environment, Intersectionality, and Science Fiction," which will look at how science fiction addresses environmental issues and gender, race and class. Section 005 is "Happiness and Well Being," a course on happiness and improving life skills. 

These courses are currently reserved for first-year and transfer students.

Each class will be co-taught by three professors from different fields with the intent of providing an interdisciplinary view on the topic. For example, "The Idea of Race" course is led by an ethnomusicologist, a biologist and a linguist.

“For this topic, it’s really important for it to be interdisciplinary,” said Dave Pier, a professor in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies and the ethnomusicologist teaching "The Idea of Race" course. “My background doesn’t equip me to address people’s questions or thoughts about biological human diversity. I just don’t know it. So, biologists like Dan Matute can address those questions.”

Biology professor Matute voiced a similar sentiment.

“We live in a world that actually tries to use multiple methodologies and tries to integrate teams in order to solve problems,” he said. “That’s essentially what we’re trying to do with the class. We need to know how to work in teams with partners who know things that we don’t. It just makes us stronger.”

Jeannie Loeb, the director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and a co-teacher of the “Death and Dying” course, said that this is also an opportunity for professors to learn from each other and foster collaboration on all levels.

Professor of American Studies and a co-teacher of the “Death and Dying” course Tim Marr said  learning through an interdisciplinary perspective is especially important for first-years.

“Triple-I is designed to have a more systematic experience for first-year students, in which they aren’t just taking one first year seminar, but their courses are more integrated and open them up to a more systematic path to general education,” Marr said.

In addition to introducing new UNC students to interdisciplinary approaches, these courses hope to impart critical skills for the modern age.

“When I was young, there were reputable news sources that everyone read and were considered authoritative,” Pier said. “That’s changed. Everything is set at the same level of authority so you have to have quite a lot more proficiency at judging the accuracy of information, being able to evaluate how credible certain kinds of resources are. I hope that ("The Idea of Race") equips them to read critically what comes out in the news on general issues. How do we evaluate information that’s presented as scientific.”

These courses are also intended to provide incoming first-years with lessons on diversity, culture and living meaningful lives.

“Death and dying are productive conversations around value, politics, culture and morality, ethics so it’s a productive avenue for these larger questions,” said Jocelyn Chua, professor of anthropology and co-teacher for "Death and Dying."

Loeb said while some students may not have direct experience with death, it will be a good opportunity for thoughtful reflection.

“(Thinking about death and dying) is not something that is morbid or morose, but it really offers them the opportunity to begin to think as philosophical beings about the commitments they’re making, and to how they use their time and how they learn,” Marr said.

Aside from providing life lessons and critical thinking skills, the professors said they hope to provide students with an enjoyable introduction to UNC.

“It’s gonna be awesome,” Matute said.

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