Learning Communities

Fall 2016:

Promoting Equity and Well-being in Public Education

This learning community examines the intersectionality of diversity, privilege, oppression, and well-being in public education systems. Students will examine the impact these factors have upon school performance, and how the structure of public education systems may promote or inhibit students’ development and success. Through service learning experiences, students will experience firsthand the intersection of these factors. 8 credits total; A. Ballin and P. Gould.

  • Course 1: Critical Issues in Education (SH)
    This course will look at the history and current practices in education through a critical lens that highlights how race, socio-economic class, gender, and ability affect students’ access to education. In addition, we will examine ways in which social justice activism has worked to counter systems of social reproduction. Finally we will explore concepts such as rights and privileges in education. 3 credits; Ballin. 
  • Course 2: Behavioral Health in Children & Adolescents (SH)
    This course will examine the relationships among behavioral health, community systems, and child / adolescent development. Students will explore the impact of mental health conditions in children and family systems, including early childhood trauma, upon physiological and psychological development and functioning. 3 credits; Gould.
  • Integrative Seminar: Promoting Equity and Well-Being in Public Education
    This seminar will examine the intersectionality of mental well-being, race, gender, oppression and privilege, as it relates to educational performance and opportunities. Students will relate their service learning experiences to the concepts presented in both courses, and strategize how best to resolve disparities in public education. 2 credits; Ballin and Gould. 

Art, Politics and Revolution: Mexico and its Neighbors, 1900-1960

The complex relationships between art and politics and among artists and political elites in Mexico and the United States dramatically influenced Mexican national identity. This LC examines the connections between Mexican and American modernists and their patrons as they traveled in each other's countries, influenced one another, and engaged in political movements. Students will also learn about the political context of these relationships by exploring the political development of Mexico, including the Mexican Revolution, Communism in Mexico, one-party rule by the PRI, and the influence of the United States and American elites (creative, economic, political) on Mexican politics and identity. 8 credits total; H. Hole and B. Cole.

  • Course 1: Modern Art in Mexico and the United States, 1900-1960 (GC)
    Explores connections between Mexican and American modernists (including Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keeffe, Diego Rivera, Marsden Hartley and Charles Alston) between 1900 and 1960. In addition to shared networks, patrons, and political movements, these artists also shared parallel ambitions to define homegrown visual styles and distinct national cultures. Fulfills elective in Art History major; fulfills elective in Arts Administration major; 3 credits; Hole. 
  • Course 2: Politics of Mexico: Revolution, Governance, and US Relations (SH)
    Investigates Mexico's revolutionary and democratization experiences beginning with the Mexican Revolution and proceeding through the consolidation of the PRI regime. We focus on nation-building, but also pay particular attention to Mexico's neocolonial relationship with the United States, when communism was flourishing among creative classes in Mexico and around the world. Fulfills POLS elective; Fulfills International Relations elective in the Latin America, Security concentrations; Fulfills POLS elective; fulfills elective in IR Latin America and Global and Security concentrations; 3 credits; Cole.
  • Integrative Seminar: Art, Politics, and Revolution: Mexico and its Neighbors, 1900-1960
    Synthesizes courses 1 and 2 through application of analytical tools from art history to politically relevant artwork, and application of political inquiry to political symbolism in such creative works. Includes field trips to galleries and discussions of related topics (e.g. gender roles in art and Mexican revolution). 2 credits; Hole and Cole.


This course is an interdisciplinary approach to integrating Biology and Computer Science. We will use bioinformatics to examine the intimate relationship between the estimated 30 trillion microbes living in our bodies and human biology. This course explores the numerous ways in which the Human Microbiome contributes to the normal biological function of the body and the role it plays in disease. Using tools from multiple scientific disciplines, will design and implement bioinformatics based research projects in Genomics and Proteomics to answer biological questions. 8 credits total; Canfield and Menzin.

  • Course 1: The Microbiome and Disease (SCI; prerequisite BIOL 113)
    This course is an interdisciplinary science experience that explores the microorganisms that live in our bodies and how they affect human biology. Using modern chemical, biological, mathematical theory, and bioinformatics tools we will illustrate core topics in general biology, genetics, microbiology, and biochemistry through the human microbiome. 3 credits; Canfield.
  • Course 2: Computing for Bioinformatics (QL)
    This course provides an introduction to computing in python, but with an emphasis on the problems that are important in bioinformatics (notably pattern matching and a consideration of the efficiency of algorithms.) The course includes the material in CS112, but goes beyond it to cover algorithms not normally taught in a first computing course, such as those for Least Common Substring and Levenshtein distance. It also includes regular expressions and an introduction to biopython. Fulfills CS 112; 3 credits; Menzin.
  • Integrative Seminar: Bioinformatics
    We will use tools from both courses to answer biological questions about molecular evolution and the impact it has on the development of the body’s microbial community. We will design and implement bioinformatics based research projects in genomics and synthetic biology. In the integrative seminar we will use the insights of course 1 and the methods of course 2 to examine the relationship between the human microbiome and disease. 2 credits; Menzin and Canfield.

Spring 2017 

Community Food Systems

What policies and practices are needed to develop sustainable and just community food systems? This LC offers an interdisciplinary approach to community food systems with particular emphasis upon urban areas, using Boston as an example. We examine the many ways food shapes urban sustainability, public health, community, and economic development. We also consider federal, state and municipal food policies along with urban planning initiatives for community-based food systems. Course readings are supplemented by films, field trips, and guest speakers. 8 credits; Biewener and Pechulis.

  • Course 1: From Farm to Table: The Political Economy of Food Systems
    Using New England and Boston as examples, we look at the political economy of the food chain, from farms and factories, to retail, restaurants, and homes. Throughout, justice and sustainability are emphasized, as well as the interplay between the conventional, “industrial” food system and alternative regional and local initiatives. 3 credits; Biewener.
  • Course 2: Food Policy: Understanding How Policy Affects What We Eat
    We will look at how the government influences what we eat by looking at a variety of policy and legislation, including dietary guidelines and public health, nutritional assistance programs, policies that affect food justice and insecurity, how laws and regulations for the environment affect food production, and laws regarding food retail, including location of retail outlets and calorie count requirements. We will look at how governmental laws, regulations and the decisions and actions of governments influence food production, distribution and consumption. 3 credits; Pechulis.
  • Integrative Seminar: What policies and practices are needed to develop sustainable and just community food systems? 
    This integrative seminar will serve as an incubator lab for students to develop proposals for initiatives that would contribute to creating a more sustainable and just community food system – at Simmons, in the greater Boston area, or elsewhere. 2 credits; Biewener and Pechulis.

Designing Community-Based Learning Programs

How do you design a learning program that involves the community and really improves peoples’ lives? This learning community helps answer this question through focusing on the foundational knowledge and skills behind two areas that often impact a program’s success: promotion and non-formal education. In the integrative seminar, students will draw upon their learning in both courses to help solve a real problem faced by a health promotion-focused community partner. Working in teams, students will design a non-formal education program that effectively uses strategic communications planning and marketing communications approaches and materials, including the steps of project design, implementation and measurement from both disciplines. At the end of the course, teams will present their final group projects to the community partner. 8 credits; Herman and Porter.

  • Course 1: Non-Formal Education (SH)
    In this course, students will explore the historical origins and theoretical foundations of non-formal education and discuss its applications in a variety of professional settings. Students will gain practical, hands-on experience in the basic components of non-formal education design and implementation, including needs assessment, program design, and evaluation tools. 3 credits; Herman.
  • Course 2: Writing for Public Relations and Integrated Marketing Communications (ALA)
    In this course, students will learn how public relations and marketing communication can help an organization achieve its goals. We will look at the role of planning, understanding an organization’s vision and objectives, identifying audiences, developing the most effective promotional tactics and measuring success. Students will gain practical experience in branding and writing. Fulfills COMM 281; 3 credits; Porter.
  • Integrative Seminar: Designing Community-Based Learning Programs 
    Students apply the knowledge and skills gained in the 3-credit courses to undertake an application project with a health promotion-focused, community-based partner. In teams, students work on a semester-long project to design a non-formal education program for the community partner that effectively uses marketing communications materials and includes the steps of project design, implementation and measurement from both disciplines. 2 credits; Herman and Porter. 

Health Promotion and Informatics: Using Data for Optimal Health

Students will be able to discuss the insights and the limitations of models which they develop for epidemics, medication levels in the blood, and other health related topics. They will be able to compare what the mathematical models predict with what happens in “real life” when we examine the behavior of not necessarily rational populations. Using insights from both parts of the LC they will be able to compare how various epidemics (ebola, measles in California, etc.) progressed and how they might have predicted that they would behave. 8 credits total; Teeley and Menzin, Staff. 

  • Course 1: Health Promotion (GC; Prerequisites NURS 228 and NURS 295)
    An overview of theoretical concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention. Students will gain skills and knowledge in assisting individuals in making choices that promote health and wholeness. There is emphasis on wellness, prevention, health promotion and health education as well as a focus on populations and their environment as a unit of service. Fulfills NURS 229; 3 credits; Teeley, Staff.
  • Course 2: Health Care Informatics and Analysis (QL)
    In this course students learn to analyze data related to health care and to use modeling tools to make forecasts and to understand theoretical models for epidemics, population models, etc. They also learn how to use the appropriate tools to convey that information and about how to find reliable information both for themselves and for their patients. In addition, working with databases students understand how health care data is organized, stored, protected against physical and computerized threats, how privacy is maintained, and the challenges in making data available across multiple health care entities. Finally, students learn about electronic health records (EHRs), how their design impacts clinical care, and how they interact with such trends as telehealth and mobile apps. 3 credits; Menzin, Staff.
  • Integrative Seminar: Health Promotion and Informatics: Using Data for Optimal Health
    What are the best ways to improve the overall health of different populations? Students will examine traditional face-to-face methods, mobile apps, and clinical information systems. They will ask which approaches are most effective for various tasks in this overall goal, what are the pros and cons of the approaches in different contexts, and how their effectiveness may be measured. For a final project, students will select a health promotion issue and compare and contrast various methods of synthesizing information and presenting quantitative information graphically. 2 credits; Teeley and Menzin, Staff.

Health Promotion and Nutrition: Essentials for Optimal Health

This learning community will explore factors associated with the promotion of health of individuals and communities, with a special emphasis on how nutrition can promote optimal health and prevent disease. The Health Promotion course will examine all factors and behavior choices that promote optimal health and prevent disease. The Nutrition portion will provide a foundation in nutrition science with special emphasis on nutrients/diets that promote health throughout the lifecycle. 8 credits total; Teeley and Metallinos-Katsaras.

  • Course 1: Health Promotion (GC; prerequisites NURS 228 and NURS 295)
    An overview of theoretical concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention. Students will gain skills and knowledge in assisting individuals in making choices that promote health and wholeness. There is emphasis on wellness, prevention, health promotion and health education as well as a focus on populations and their environment as a unit of service. Fulfills NURS 229; 3 credits; Teeley, Staff. 
  • Course 2: Nutrition for the Health Profession
    This course provides a foundation in nutrition science, with a special emphasis on nutrition principles in health promotion and disease prevention. It provides an overview of the functions of the nutrients, their requirements in the body and effects on health and nutritional needs during different stages of life. It also covers principles of nutrition and diet in the prevention of disease complications. 3 credits; Metallinos-Katsaras, Staff. 
  • Integrative Seminar: Health Promotion and Nutrition: Essentials for Optimal Health
    The integrative seminar will have an applied focus, through the use of case studies. These will promote critical thinking, and problem solving skills using real life scenarios in which students will develop health promotion strategies using the principles learned in courses 1 and 2. 2 credits; Teeley and Metallinos-Katsaras, Staff.

Individual and Community Health

This learning community will explore factors associated with the health of individuals and communities and the ways in which those factors interact.. Health is explored across the spectrum, with an examination of factors that promote optimal whole person well-being, including behaviors associated with both the prevention and management of chronic disease. The Community Nutrition portion will explore designing a community environment that facilities healthy behaviors, and the Health Psychology portion will explore individual behaviors and lifestyles that affect a person’s physical health. In the integrative seminar, students will reflect on hands-on activities designed to give insight into the nature of health behavior change. 8 credits total; Brown and Donovan.

  • Course 1: The Practice of Community Nutrition (prerequisite NUTR 111 or 112, or permission of the instructor)
    This course explores the influence of policy on health care delivery, nutrition education and food availability; the programs that support community nutrition and serve as a safety net, and the application of behavior change models to influence individuals to adopt better lifestyle behaviors. Fulfills NUTR 237; 3 credits; Brown.
  • Course 2: Health Psychology (prerequisite PSYC 101)
    This course explores the biological, psychological, and social factors related to health and illness. Discussion centers around biological factors involved in prevention and treatment; the role of personal factors such as lifestyle choices, stress, addictions, and coping mechanisms; and social factors related to compliance and health care delivery. 3 credits; Donovan. Fulfills PSYC 232.
  • Integrative Seminar: Individual and Community Health
    The integrative seminar will draw together the two perspectives on health with a student-centered approach built around weekly out of class readings or activities. During the seminar, students will be encouraged to reflect on their experiences and to discuss their insights in the context of theories of community and individual health behavior change. 2 credits; Brown and Donovan.

Mathematical Ecology

An exciting journey into the fields of Ecology and Differential Equations, and how each of these fields can be used to inform our understanding of the other. How do animals and plants interact? What if they are competing for resources, or cooperating in a symbiosis? What is the make-up of the predicted climax community? These and other questions will be discussed via the use of mathematical tools adapted to the ecological context. 8 credits; Aguilera and Grigoryan.

  • Course 1: Differential Equations in Life Sciences (QL; prerequisite: Math 121)
    Introduction into the quantitative and qualitative study of differential equations. Starting from simple exponential growth/decay models we will move on to the logistic model and its generalizations, and then study systems of first order differential equations, with applications to multi-species interactions. Fulfills MATH 225; 3 credits; Grigoryan. 
  • Course 2: Population and Community Ecology (SCI; prerequisite: BIOL 113)
    Examines the interactions between organisms and their environment. We will explore the factors that determine single-species population growth and decline. We will then discuss how populations of different species interact. We will discuss interactions ranging from competition and mutualism, to predation and parasitism, with attention to factors that can tip the scales from one type of interaction to the next. Fulfills BIOL 245; 3 credits; Aguilera.
  • Integrative Seminar: Mathematical Ecology
    We will see and lead a transformation of ecological processes into differential equations, which will in turn be analyzed and used towards understanding, quantitative description and prediction of interacting animal and plant populations. 2 credits; Aguilera and Grigoryan. 

Reading the Word and the World: Understanding Media and its Impact

This learning community will explore how we make sense of the world through our interactions with mass and social medias. Building on the two courses described below, this integrative seminar will examine how information is produced, disseminated, and evaluated through traditional and new medias with a focus on how power structures impact information. Students will develop an informed skepticism by learning to interrogate information sources and content, understand when absence of information is meaningful. Topics include intellectual freedom, censorship (including self-censorship), misinformation, propaganda, and the continued influence effect. The class will explore the space between intellectual freedom and censorship to analyze questions of hate speech, comedy, historical representations, etc. 8 credits; Selod and Saunders. 

  • Course 1: Mass Media and Popular Culture (SH)
    This course explores how representations are constructed in the media. Students will examine how film, television, print media, and social media influence American culture. In this class students will become critics of the media that surrounds them and examine ways that media enables compliance and resistance. Fulfills a SOCI elective; 3 credits; Selod.
  • Course 2: Communities of Discourse: Information Socialization (SH)
    Students will analyze information behavior theories (information poverty, information insiders and outsiders, etc.) to understand information as a social construct and how communities/cultures influence its understanding and use. Topics will include the information life cycle with an eye to how power structures impact information production and use. The course will also consider questions of intellectual freedom and censorship, and how power structures that influence production and dissemination of information can also impact people’s willingness and ability to engage with information. 3 credits; Saunders.
  • Integrative Seminar: Reading the Word and the World: Understanding Media and its Impact
    We will draw on examples of media representations (news stories, Twitter feeds, movie clips, etc.) as case studies to examine people and communities are portrayed, how the production and dissemination of information influence those representations, and how our own communities of discourse impact our understanding and interpretation of the information. 2 credits; Selod and Saunders.

Visualizing Cultural Change Using Social Network Analysis: The Birth of the Modern Era

The transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century was a period of tremendous innovation in the arts, science, and technology; correspondingly, it was also a period of profound societal transformations affecting everyday life. Using the computational and analytical tools of social network analysis, students will identify the key actors in this transitional period, to detect the invisible communities of these individuals and their interactions, and to gain a deep understanding of the complex dynamics that brought about our modern era. 8 credits total; Beers and Berger.

  • Course 1: Introduction to Social Network Analysis (QL)
    Social networks are everywhere today, and the mathematical model for a social network is a graph. With graphs we visualize the actors within a community and any connections between them. This course introduces students to graph theory and to important tools for analyzing networks, e.g., metrics for measuring the centrality of each actor, and algorithms for detecting communities within a network. The course is self-contained, without prerequisites. Fulfills an elective requirement in the Math major; 3 credits; Beers.
  • Course 2: Innovation at the Intersection of Art and Science 1890-1920 (SH)
    We will explore the parallel revolutions in art and science from 1890 - 1920 in the context of the concurrent cultural and social dynamics of that period. We will also understand how advances in technology played a key role in stimulating and facilitating change. The groundbreaking work of Einstein, Picasso, Freud, and others will be examined through the lenses of their disciplines to better understand the social and cultural structures of their times. 3 credits; Berger.
  • Integrative Seminar: Visualizing cultural change using social network analysis: The Birth of the Modern Era
    The goal of the integrative seminar is for students to use the computational tools of social network analysis in order to arrive at an understanding of the drivers that led to the dawn of the modern era. In particular, students will analyze the cultural changes of the period 1890-1920 from the perspective of art, science, and technology, and uncover those individuals and communities that were most influential as agents of change. 2 credits; Beers and Berger.