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Pepperdine | Seaver College

First-Year Seminar Courses

Course Descriptions: Fall 2023

  Servant Leadership – Then, Now and The Future

April Akinloye | Servant Leadership – Then, Now and The Future

This course will provide an introduction to the 10 characteristics/behaviors of servant leadership (listening - empathy - healing - awareness - persuasion - conceptualization - foresight - stewardship - commitment to the growth of people - building community) developed by Larry Spears (1995, 1998b). Course participants will be asked to identify servant leadership concepts demonstrated by individuals and organizations. Students will explore their personal leadership, learning, and communication styles in relationship to servant leadership through course readings, personal reflections, writing prompts, and skill assessments.  The course materials will assist in the improvement of students’ skills to determine the leadership, learning, and communication styles of others. This course requires students to participate in discussions and activities with respect for others, an eagerness to engage, and an open mind.   

  Hard-Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People

Cathy Thomas-Grant  | Hard-Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People

“Songs are the statements of a people. You can learn more about people by listening to their songs than in any other way, for into the songs go all the hopes and hurts, the angers, fears, the wants and aspirations.”   -John Steinbeck

We will study the political power of song from the civil rights movement up through the current gun violence epidemic in the U.S.  From the Freedom Singers, Barbara Dane to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, John Legend and Childish Gambino, to name a few, we will study the social power of song and explore our own abilities to incite activism and engagement through art. If you love to sing folk, rock, blues, gospel, hip-hop, rap and/or play an instrument, guitar, fiddle, violin, banjo, harmonica, a horn of any kind, or if you write your own songs, I am interested through the collaborative process in  creating a performative project based upon our exploration of songs of peace and protest.  Events we will be addressing will include but will not be limited to the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Women’s Movement, the Aids Epidemic, 9/11 and March For Our Lives, A Rally to End Gun Violence.

  Tell Me Your Tale

  Paul Dufresne | Tell Me Your Tale

Storytelling as a Means of Understanding 

A course focused on the individual student and their role in the story of their own life. This class will investigate and seek to discover the power and forms of storytelling throughout history and encourage a personal reflection about how we as humans use storytelling tools in order to gain understanding and empathy for those around us. 

  American Characterization

Julie Quarles  | American Characterization

In American Characterization, students develop an awareness of America as a "character" through the exploration of key contemporary media. They identify key features of modern culture and analyze their depiction in film, television, and other entertainment through the frameworks of tradition, subversion, and self-comparison. The course promotes cross-cultural understanding and aims to encourage deep insight into American identity from a global perspective.

  The European Witch Hunt

Bryan Givens | The European Witch Hunt

This course will examine the European witch-hunt in the period from 1400-1700.  While the subject of witchcraft will obviously be addressed, this class is not about witchcraft but rather of the historical phenomenon surrounding the investigation and prosecution of witchcraft in Europe in the late medieval and early modern periods.  It will, therefore, discuss the rise of witchcraft prosecutions in the fifteenth century; the development of scholastic demonology and the inquisitorial procedure in those prosecutions during the sixteenth century; the period of the witch-craze’s greatest intensity in the early seventeenth century, and the causes leading to the end of the witch-hunt in Europe in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

  Spiritual Autobiography

Lisa Smith | Spiritual Autobiography

As humans, we enjoy sharing our experiences with others—whether they relate to sports, family, media, or God.  This class will examine some of the ways individuals process and share their experiences with God by studying spiritual autobiographies that span time, gender, and class.  We will also discuss our own spiritual experiences and explore how to process and communicate them. Emphasis will be on Christianity, but all faiths will be represented in the readings and are welcome in the class.

  Baseball as American History

Loretta Hunnicutt | Baseball as American History

This class reflects the idea that "everything you need to know about American History, you can learn from studying baseball."  Baseball history serves as both a mirror of the nature of social structures and institutions and as a factor in their development. This First Year Seminar is designed for baseball fans and neophytes alike to explore how sports shape and reflect our culture.  No knowledge of baseball is required--only a desire to participate in an engaging but challenging study of American culture and history.

  Civil Rights Soundtrack: Jazz and the Debates of the 1960s

KC Anderson | Civil Rights Soundtrack: Jazz and the Debates of the 1960s

From its hard bop rhythms to its avant-garde forms, jazz of the mid-twentieth century functioned as an important soundtrack for the growing political and social sentiment that characterized the Civil Rights Movement. Most importantly, jazz provided space for Black Americans to express their critique of American social structures and history in the pursuit of transformation.

This course traces the numerous debates (both local and global) circling the jazz scene during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and analyzes the ways in which these debates mirrored broader societal discussions of race, justice, equality, Black Power, anticolonialism, and spirituality.

  TikTok, Tech, & Teaching

Stella Erbes | TikTok, Tech, & Teaching

How much time do you spend on TikTok a day? Would you consider it a time of leisure or learning? If you answered either, you’re right. TikTok and other technological applications not only entertain, but educate. Technology holds a transformative power and can disguise learning as an entertainment experience. People scroll on TikTok for hours, taking in mass amounts of information. The addictive, engaging videos are underhandedly teaching the viewer something; whether it be a recipe, a true-crime case, or learning about current events. When used appropriately, technology combined with educational psychology can optimize learning and increase greater retention of knowledge. This seminar course will challenge students to look beyond the entertainment aspect of technology, and further into its educational power. In this course, we will examine the relationship between teaching, learning, and technology through applications like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and more. Students will be asked to harness the power of technology and educational psychology to maximize learning experiences.  

  Building Your Life on Purpose: Tools for Holistic Health and Flourishing

Carrie Wall | Building Your Life on Purpose: Tools for Holistic Health and Flourishing

What do you envision for your years at Pepperdine and beyond?  What do you desire to accomplish and who do you hope to become?  In this seminar, you will grapple with two pivotal questions: Who am I? and Who do I want to be?  Through readings, classroom discourse, reflective writing, and personal examination, you will gain helpful tools related to identity formation, vocational clarity, academic success, relational flourishing, mental health, and spiritual vitality. Emphasis will be placed not only on self-understanding, but also on goal setting and intentional living.

  Thinking Well, Living Well

Carrie Birmingham | Thinking Well, Living Well

How well you think makes a big difference in how well you live. This seminar will explore questions at the intersection of thinking, learning, and living, including these: 

  • How can I navigate the transition to college-level learning and adult life?
  • How can I prepare well for college level discussions and participate with confidence? 
  • How can I tell if something I read online is true, and what difference does it make? 
  • How can I make decisions about complex personal, professional, and public problems? 
  • How can thinking well elevate my emotional, social, and spiritual life?

If you are ready to examine your own thinking and the thinking of others in a way that will make a difference in your life, this discussion-based, community-oriented seminar is for you.

  Vocation and Calling

John Peterson | Vocation and Calling

Our life paths are shaped by turning points. Entering college is one such turning point, and the questions we ask during our college years tend to shape the course of our lives in the years to come. Although we may not fully answer these questions, at least not right away, it is important that we ask—and keep asking—the right questions. I believe that one of the most important questions students can ask during this time is: What is the nature of my calling? Although popular conceptions of the word “calling” tend to focus on the work one is paid to do, calling is a far more expansive concept than this definition suggests. While inclusive of paid work, calling also encompasses our relationships to God, self, family, community, course study, and even the nature of our leisure time. To whom and to what are we called? This question animates the heart of this course. My hope is that in taking this class it will animate your time at Pepperdine and in the years to come.

  Disagree to Agree: The Foundations of Liberal Reasoning

Jennifer Smith | Disagree to Agree: The Foundations of Liberal Reasoning

This class will take a historical approach to debates on what it means to be free by examining the limits of our freedom: familial, political, economic, religious, and material. What is the golden mean between anarchy and order, choice and coercion, individualism and responsibility? How much can we determine ourselves? And how much should we change when we're able to? How have people in the past answered these questions? And how can that knowledge inform how we conduct ourselves today? 

Seminar discussants should expect to read the assigned source texts carefully, learning their content and context (provided in class) well enough that they can debate the ideas in those texts credibly. Respectful disagreement as a critical component of discernment is expected. Sometimes, things will get heated. We will not always reach consensus. Students will demonstrate proficiency in the material both through oral and written assessments without the use of memory aides.

  Great Books Colloquium I
  • GSHU 121.01   Jonathan Riddle
  • GSHU 121.02   Jacqueline Dillion
  • GSHU 121.03  Jonathan Koch
  • GSHU 121.04   Michael Gose
  • GSHU 121.05   Michael Gose
  • GSHU 121.06   Michael Ditmore
  • GSHU 121.07  Michael Ditmore
  • GSHU 121.08  Jeffrey Schultz
  • GSHU 121.09  Jeffrey Schultz

Using the shared inquiry method, this course considers works of philosophy, literature, religion, and political thought of the ancient world. Authors include Greek tragedians, Plato, Aristotle, and Virgil. The course requires intensive work in writing and participation in discussion. Prerequisite: Eligibility for entry in English Composition 101.

   Social Action & Justice Colloquium (SAAJ)
  • SAAJ 121.01  Chad Duffy
  • SAAJ 121.02   Kate Bonnicci
  • SAAJ 121.04  Terrelle Sales

A seminar focused on issues of social justice. Students examine how each of the following has affected social justice in the United States from the eighteenth century to the present: the social construction of racial identity, the role of gender in social equality, and the influence of socioeconomic background. The seminar actively promotes the development of academic and “real world” skills such as critical thinking, research, writing, oral presentation, and use of technology. Students explore strategies for promoting social justice and engage in service-learning experiences.

  The Meaning of Life

Tomas Bogardus | The Meaning of Life

At bottom, what is the world like and what is our place in it? We’ll consider the three answers that dominate the university: Naturalism (only what’s physical is real), Supernaturalism (God determines what’s true), and Postmodernism (truth is a “social construct”). By the end of the course, each student will be in a better position to understand, state, and defend her own worldview. At the same time, each student will develop a deeper sympathy and appreciation for those views she does not accept. Our conversations of each view will focus on the existence of God, the nature and value of life, what makes us human, what grounds morality, and what the goal or purpose of life is. So, this course will be particularly useful for students interested in medicine, law, religion, or philosophy.

  What Actually Matters 

Mason Marshall | What Actually Matters 

What makes life good—in other words, what matters enough to shape your life around it—and how can you tell?  Major thinkers over the years have had a lot to say in response to these questions.  We’ll consider their various responses, weigh the evidence, and together try to figure out what the correct answers are.  The course will be heavy on joint discussion and light on lecture, but all our conversations will be informed.  They will take us into issues as diverse as whether there is a God, what the relation between the body and the mind is, and how to decide whom to marry.  Issues like those are philosophical issues, and the course content reflects the academic discipline of philosophy, but the course is designed for students who have no background in that discipline at all.

  Thinking Well

Garrett Pendergraft | Thinking Well

Thinking well pays off: it helps you succeed in college, and it helps you live a richer, more rewarding life. So this course is designed to strengthen your thinking skills. It won’t teach you what to think (figuring out what to think will be up to you), but it will show you how to think clearly and deeply about important issues—issues like truth, beauty, goodness, freedom, and justice. Together we’ll acquire and sharpen some vital intellectual tools and then apply those tools to big ideas and to specific real-world situations. This course will pay dividends in almost any field, but it will be especially useful to students interested in graduate school (including law school). 

  Jesus the Teacher

David Lemley | Jesus the Teacher

This seminar considers the life and teaching of Jesus as a model for meaningfully engaging the Christian liberal arts education students receive at Pepperdine. We will consider Jesus's approach to his students (i.e., "disciples") which provides an integrated, multidisciplinary foundation for learning well and living beautifully. We will develop skills for seeking understanding and developing wisdom, in the classroom and beyond. We will look at the way Jesus lived and taught as a model that extends beyond ethical or religious instruction, and fosters learning habits that can educate the heart, soul, and mind. We will practice essential skills for thinking, inquiry, and discernment that support academic success across disciplines, as well as the pursuit of “the good life.”

  The Power of Story: Christ’s Parables and Your Story

Jeff Walling | The Power of Story: Christ’s Parables and Your Story

Storytelling is an essential skill for every effective leader. But understanding your own story is paramount in your development as a leader.  Where is your story leading you?  How do you prepare to write the next section of it?  Using the timeless stories of the world’s most effective leader, this class will enhance your written and verbal communication abilities.  Through critical examination and modern reframing of Christ’s parables you will learn the craft of storytelling. By understanding how to shape and share impactful stories you will discover how to communicate your own story more powerfully and passionately in both business and personal settings.  This a highly experiential seminar, allowing students to practice the skills and principles learned through the semester.

  The Theory and Practice of Living Well

Dusty and Cecily Breeding | The Theory and Practice of Living Well

The Theory and Practice of Living Well challenges students to consider the question "What does it mean to live well?" Over the course of the semester the classroom discussions will explore academic research, wisdom literature from the past and the present, and various disciplines and practices related to the pursuit of a meaningful life. Discussions will be augmented by the thoughts and insights from various Christian theologians, psychologists, real world stories, and the student's own life experience.

  An Introduction to Joy

Joel Foster | An Introduction to Joy

It does not take much to see that the currency by which our human culture tends to operate is cynicism - the understanding and expression that there is something at fault to be found in all areas of life. Cynicism is easy because it is actually quite lazy. Joy is a subversive and revolutionary choice that we can all make to be present and honest in the midst of all of life’s circumstances, the good and the bad. Joy is our exploration and our choice to move into. Joy is something you can get good at. This semester we will explore a multi-faceted view of joy, so that we can all become Joy-Mongers.

  Spiritual Practices for Flourishing in College and Beyond

Falon Barton | Spiritual Practices for Flourishing in College and Beyond 

This course focuses on developing spiritual resources that promote holistic flourishing. Students will learn about various kinds of spiritual practices, both historical and contemporary, that they can use during their college career and throughout the rest of their lives to decrease stress, increase resilience, and connect better with God, themselves, other people, and creation. This course is taught from the Christian tradition, but students of all faith backgrounds and religious or a-religious identities are encouraged to apply the spiritual practices we learn together in a way that makes sense to their own journeys and perspectives.

  How to Change the World

Karie Riddle | How to Change the World

There are two ways to achieve social change: through violent force, and through nonviolent argument and mobilization. This course is going to advocate for the second path of nonviolent persuasion, teaching the skills that you will need to read, think, and argue effectively as an engaged and ethical participant in a democratic society. We will begin by learning concrete skills related to self-awareness, reasoning, asking good questions, examining evidence, and handling disagreement. Then, we will apply those skills in two ways: first, by jumping into academic debates on long-contested questions such as the meaning of justice and how to alleviate suffering. Second, we will really challenge ourselves by discussing difficult contemporary political issues, with the goal of increasing our capacity to respectfully disagree yet live well together.

  Concepts of Positive Psychology

Nivla Fitzpatrick | Concepts of Positive Psychology

This seminar will explore concepts in positive psychology.  Students will be challenged to think critically about three key areas of study: subjective experiences (e.g., happiness, pleasure, fulfillment), individual traits (e.g., strengths of character, interests, values), and resilience.  Using written texts, film, and experiential exercises, students will increase their knowledge and experience of positive psychology in everyday life. 

  Research, Resilience, and Life

Connie Horton | Research, Resilience, and Life

Stress and anxiety are increasing in the United States, especially among college students.  People vary in their ability to “bounce back” and be resilient when faced with challenges.  This seminar will examine factors and skills that predict better resilience.  Research will be reviewed; guest faculty, staff members, and administrators will share their stories of hardship and resilience; practical cognitive, physical, social, spiritual, service, and life-skills strategies and practices will be taught and practiced.  Students will understand the field academically but also learn how to implement very practical skills that will help them be more resilient at Pepperdine and beyond.

  Strengthening Self for Service

Matt Ebeling | Strengthening Self for Service

Pepperdine is where purposeful servant leaders discover their calling and are equipped to embrace it. Even those with the biggest hearts will struggle to realize their full power as helpers if they do not first intimately understand and embrace their own narrative and learn how to sustain themselves with good self-care and coping skills for life’s inevitable adversity. Through research-driven methods of interpersonal dialogue, reflection, and experiential learning activities in and outside of our meetings, this class will explore the impact of self-care and personal development on our capacity to thrive in the face of challenge and serve others more powerfully.

  Psychology of Close Relationships

Dori Lansbach | Psychology of Close Relationships

According to Erik Erikson’s psycho-social stages of development, young adults are simultaneously experiencing the development of their identity and relationship formation. Now more than ever, relationship education on both healthy and unhealthy relationships is needed. This course will provide students the opportunity to learn about the psychology, biology, and theology that underlies how to build healthy relationships with yourself, God, romantic partners, family, and peers. Special emphasis will be given to romantic relationships, and students will be given the opportunity to explore topics such as intimate partner violence, communication and conflict, developing a healthy self-image, and relationship formation and dissolution. By learning different skills to generate and maintain healthy relationships, students will ideally leave this course feeling more empowered as they transition into their university experience at Pepperdine.

  Thinking Well

Paul Begin | Thinking Well

Thinking well pays off: it helps you succeed in college, and it helps you live a richer, more rewarding life. So this course is designed to strengthen your thinking skills. It won’t teach you what to think (figuring out what to think will be up to you), but it will show you how to think clearly and deeply about important issues—issues like knowledge, freedom, and justice. Together we’ll uncover and sharpen some vital intellectual tools and then apply those tools to big ideas and to specific real-world situations. 

  Human Dignity and Flourishing, Italian Style

Fiona Stewart  | Human Dignity and Flourishing, Italian Style

This first year seminar, 'Human Dignity and Flourishing, Italian Style', engages with the thought and creative output of Italians from across the centuries with the goal of understanding how the classical Christian understanding of human nature has shaped Italians' perspectives on human dignity and flourishing. You'll read literature, examine paintings, listen to music, and watch films that continue to speak to each new generation around the globe. And as you do, you will be given the tools to equip you in your own pursuit of virtue and knowledge.

  Becoming a Wave: American Life & Culture Adjustment 

Sharon Wakio | Becoming a Wave: American Life & Culture Adjustment 

The purpose of this class is to cater to the needs of First year International students. The complexities of adjustment for International students, specifically in the first year can be overwhelming causing a general sense of uncertainty and anxiety. This class hopes to provide skills and tools to help students adjust, it hopes to provide a space where they can share experiences, while learning about structured support systems and resources made available to them here on campus. This class will provide a good opportunity to create meaningful connections with other international students, while crafting a sense of belonging within the cohort which would be foundational to the success of their academic journey here at Pepperdine. 

  Holocaust in Film and Literature

Joanna Stimmel | Holocaust in Film and Literature

In this seminar, we explore how the horrifying events of the Holocaust have shaped cultural memories in diverse national contexts from the postwar years through the present. We read seminal texts by survivors as well as the testimonies of perpetrators and bystanders, and we watch and discuss documentaries and features by Lanzmann, Spielberg, Begnini, and more. 

  A Global Perspective: Justice, Human Rights, and Why It All Matters

Cameron McCollum | A Global Perspective: Justice, Human Rights, and Why It All Matters

It doesn't take turning on the news or social media for more than 60 seconds to realize that injustice is everywhere. There are more people enslaved around the world today than ever before in human history. Millions of people will die this year alone because of inadequate access to clean water, ample food supplies, or simple life-saving medicines. The list of injustices happening every day around the world and right here in our backyard goes on and on. As college students, how do you become informed about these issues? What should you think about them? What should you do about them? This seminar will explore all of these topics and more as we explore justice around the world, where this idea of human rights even comes from, and what it is that we can do about injustice.