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Synthesis

The Synthesis requirement is designed to serve as a synthesizing experience for the general education program. It will provide an opportunity for students to integrate and reflect on their learning and thus lend greater significance to that learning. Junior or senior status is required to enroll in a Synthesis course. It will address primarily the “understanding the world” goal of the general education curriculum. The function of this course is to move beyond disciplinary boundaries to a new understanding of a theme or topic. In other words, the course will encourage students not only to see the relationships among the disciplines but to pull out of these relationships an understanding of the subject that no single discipline offers. The emphasis is less on how two or more disciplines can each provide a perspective on an issue or object of study and more on how the issue or object itself requires us to combine perspectives for a more holistic understanding. Such understanding is achieved by addressing contrasts and perhaps even contradictions in methods and ways of knowing.

The Synthesis course requirement engages the student in critical and creative thinking. One particular goal is to adapt knowledge and skills from other components of the general education curriculum. Other general education goals served by this course include: comparing different fields; interpreting and conveying information; demonstrating information literacy; and critiquing, adapting and applying ways of knowing.

SYN 302
Reading about Reading
This course will teach you to reflect critically on one of the most important skills you use in the course of your college education: reading. How did the modern shape of a book develop? What exactly happens when an individual engages with a text? Why do human beings have such an interest in reading about the lives of made-up people? How does reading affect our brains? What will the future of reading look like?  To address these questions and others, you will reflect, in writing and in oral presentations, on your own experiences of reading on your own and in other classes at Albright and on your understanding of the relationships among the disciplines you have encountered in your general studies classes and your particular major. We will approach the study of reading through different intellectual discourses, such as history, philosophy, cognitive science, and literary criticism. While the course readings are weighted toward Anglo-American perspectives and contexts, as well as emphasizing the reading of imaginative literature, there will be many opportunities to consider other topics and approaches of interest, in particular in research project of your own design. “Reading About Reading” is a Synthesis course in the General Education program. This means that we will move beyond disciplinary boundaries to come to a new understanding of our topic, reading, and of the value and necessity of interdisciplinary thinking.  We will focus not only on how a historian is different from a philosopher, but also how a literary critic uses cognitive science, how a philosopher uses literary criticism, how a scientists uses history. We will consider the opportunities and limitations of different disciplinary methods as well as what can be gained and seen anew through the joining of those disciplines. The culminating research project will provide an opportunity to think strategically about using different disciplinary methods to answer specific research questions.

SYN 303
Food and Culture
This course explores why we eat what we eat. What affects you in your eating decisions? We will examine all the factors that go into these most significant decisions for all humans. We will find that there is a complex group of influences starting with our biological adaptations for hunger and appetite, extending through ecology, and culminating with cultural influences. This process will require you to draw from your past courses, which have exposed you to a variety of perspectives about reality. You will need to synthesize these different ideas and apply them to the specific questions about food use. You will find that this more comprehensive perspective used in combination with critical thinking will enable you to understand the complexities to the answer of why we eat the foods we eat and why cultures differ.

SYN 304
What is Grit?
A call to very hard but vital work in the liberal arts college classroom, this interdisciplinary course, in raising the historically persistent question, what is resilience (aka grit)?, seeks to understand better resilience as a character trait and its impact on those who cultivate it. The course will employ substantial, comparative readings of ancient and modern literary, historical, philosophical, psychological, and religious texts in conversation with a specific focus on the role the quest plays in the cultural development and value of resilience as a simultaneously personal, collective, and intensely character-driven endeavor that shapes and is shaped by societies. Students will examine a range of cultural and multidisciplinary perspectives on resilience engendered by scripture, the epic, film, and the adventure narrative, among others, to the end that they develop new knowledge, research skills and a wide-ranging yet cohesive set of perspectives on the relationship between virtue building, mindfulness, concentration, wisdom, and “personal hardiness.”

SYN 305
Religion, Magic and Witchcraft
How do people distinguish between religion and magic? What makes them decide which term to use? How does the name they choose affect the way they respond, who is a witch, who is a religious leader and who is a magician doing parlor tricks? This class will explore these questions in different historical and geographical settings. It will consider the Salem witch trials, Indian illusions, and Victorian séances. It will give students new intellectual tools to consider questions of reality, belief, power, and performance.

SYN 310
Crime, Culture and Conflict Resolution
This course introduces students to the "law ways" of different societies, in particular non-industrialized societies.  The goal is to explore the extent to which different societies employ coercion, punishment and consensus in order to maintain order and resolve conflicts.  Topics include rules and crime, the cultural basis of right and wrong, informal and ritualized disputing, conflict theory and conflict resolution (avoidance, community action, ritual reconciliation, negotiation and mediation), oaths, ordeals and punishment, adjudication and codified law, feuding, raiding and warfare.

SYN 312
Satire and the State
Satire has become as important to our political process as stump speeches and political spin. Candidates and politicians regularly appear on shows such as Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and The Tonight Show to enhance their image and sell us new policies and ideas. Candidates and politicians also regularly appear as the targets of satire as “we the people” use comedy as a way to debate and evaluate ideas and policies, as well as the politicians themselves. This course will examine the ways that comedy is created and used, with specific emphasis on the unique relationship between satire and politics. From the ways that satire influences our views on politicians and political issues, to comedy’s role in reinforcing and subverting gender and racial stereotypes, satire has been used in a variety of ways to shape our culture and our politics. We will be exploring this unique relationship from a variety of perspectives to come to a more complete understanding of the ways in which satire feeds and/or disrupts the political state, as well as the ways in which the state uses or subverts satire. We will be reading critical studies of comedy, viewing and critiquing comedic performances, as well as developing and performing our own satiric material.

SYN 315
Baseball and American Culture
As you might have guessed from the title, this course examines baseball and its relationship to American culture. From its beginnings as a folk game, to an organized sport, to a commercial business, baseball has been one of America’s most popular and enduring institutions – you might even say it’s as American as apple pie. Baseball’s unique place in American history and mythology allows us an accessible lens through which to view many facets of American history and life, including but not limited to: The impact of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration on American life; performances and expressions of national identity; the tension between labor and capital; racial prejudice, segregation, and integration in American society; gender roles in both private and public life; the evolution of quantifying baseball (i.e. Sabermetrics vs. the “Old Scout”); and the role of folklore and mythology in American culture. In short, we will be making connections between baseball and the larger tapestry of American culture. We will not only look at how baseball has mirrored American life, but also the ways it has influenced American identity, beliefs, and society.

SYN 318
Business, Government and Society
This course engages a variety of disciplines in a holistic approach to examine business sustainability in terms of the “triple bottom line”:  financial sustainability; environmental sustainability; and all aspects of social sustainability, in particular, ethical decision making as integral to corporate social responsibility as it pertains to all stakeholders.  In examining these issues, students consider: the synergistic relationship between a business and its various stakeholders; global issues of economic inequality; governmental regulation; and, devices used by businesses to affect governmental regulation, including lobbying, Political Action Committees and industry self-regulation, and technological advancements and their increasing social ramifications.  Forms of Deontological and Teleological Ethics, and Normative Ethical reasoning are examined and applied to business case studies.  The specific disciplines integrated into this course are management theory and corporate governance (Business), ethics (Philosophy), regulation (Law and Political Science), Environmental Studies and Information Technology.
The course will allow students to integrate and reflect upon their learning to date.  They will use various methods of inquiry and analysis to examine and critically analyze the complex agenda of internal and external pressures faced by businesses and understand that business management extends past what is learned in core business courses.

SYN 320
Self Awareness
Self-awareness is the ability to understand that you are an individual with a mind. It is critical to every mature cognitive skill involving learning, thinking, and comprehending. It is acknowledged to be one of humans’ most sophisticated cognitive capacities, linked to our metacognition, self-agency, consciousness, and our theories of the mind. We will discuss philosophical, psychological, and practical aspects of self-awareness using current academic journal articles and direct demonstrations. Topics for this course might include: Experimental paradigms for self-awareness, metacognition, self-agency, morality, animal consciousness, neural correlates, problem solving and decision making, how self-awareness can improve performance in health and clinical settings, free will, philosophy of mind, epistemology, ontology and metaphysics, and the ethical implications of research findings. This is a capstone to the General Education sequence and will require you to reflect on the whole of your learning, on the relations among academic disciplines, and on your own growing understanding of the world. You will think deeply and existentially.

SYN 325
What is Life?
What is life? is a question that scientists, including biologists, chemists, physicians, and even physicists have asked.  It is also a question posed by psychologists, theologians and philosophers.  This course is a study of views concerning this question and will seek to synthesize answers to it from the natural sciences, humanities and social sciences.  While a broad spectrum of views from antiquity to the present will be included, What is Life? will also examine issues of contemporary interest, such as genetic determinism and artificial life. 

SYN 326
Constructing Reality
The course will trace modes of constructing reality from Ancient, to Modern, and to Contemporary, times. At each historical intersection, we will analyze how "reality" is constructed (imagined, constituted, and instituted) via social and cultural meanings, values, and affects along with associated teleological and eschatological constructs. With modern forms of constructing reality, epistemological theories start supplementing anthropological and evolutionary approaches, before contemporary (postmodern) modes of constructing reality start relying on ontological structures and on trans-individual relations—using constantly changing but inter-connected environmental, biological, neuro-chemical, psychological, linguistic and sociological axiomatic assumptions among others. Counts in the Knowledge & Reality Area for Philosophy Majors.

SYN 328
Corporate Crime and Punishment
This class provides a corporate crime and punishment education to students exploring an interdisciplinary interest.  Basic accounting, audit theory and the legal environment as it relates to fraud schemes as well as internal control to deter fraud is presented.  This course examines fraud as it relates to financial statements and financial reporting.  It examines management’s response and preventative measures.   Emphasis is given to elements of investigation including interviews, gathering evidence, tracking transactions, evaluating deception, and reporting results.   Special emphasis is provided in the areas of institutional and occupational fraud. Students read, review, report discuss and analyze cases, which encompass financial reporting, criminology and ethics, forensic reporting and audit engagements. They will prepare and present formal original independent research in their area of major or concentration.  Examples may include accounting, business or criminal justice law or the humanities. This course is to introduce Corporate Crime and Punishment plus develop competencies to prevent them.  The course will provide the student with an introduction to the various concepts associated with fraud examination as well as providing skills in order for the student to navigate areas of understanding fraud, the role of the professionals, resources to assist in the detection or prevention of fraud, and the reporting of fraud examination findings.  Prerequisite: ACC101

SYN 330
Politics of Global Life
This course is designed to offer an introduction to major issues in public health by analyzing these issues from national and global perspectives.  A review of case studies and theoretical approaches will help illustrate the challenges - and solutions - involved in addressing diseases and illnesses in the 21st century.  This course will give special attention to the relationship of health to globalization, poverty, identity, and conflict.

SYN 335
God & Money
Drawing on the academic literature from Economics, Religious Studies, History and Sociology, this course will investigate the interplay between religion and economics. How do religious values influence economic actions?  How are economic systems shaped by religious views?  How are certain religious movements produced by economic cultures? Specific topics will include comparative analysis of the commandments of tithing and the prohibitions against charging interest common to Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The Protestant work ethic and American exceptionalism as well as the interplay between religious ethics, social justice and economic systems will be discussed.  In addition, issues of economic prejudices and injustice such as economic antisemitism, the Caste system and the impacts of Islamophobia will be studied.

SYN 352
Aesthetic Rebels
This course has several academic goals: it offers the student a global survey of the strides made from ca. 1900-2015 in the visual arts and filmmaking.  The filmmaking part includes both experimental film and the classic forms of commercial cinema, such as the Classic Hollywood Cinema, German Expressionism, Film Noir, and so forth.  It is hoped that the student will not only acquire a general survey knowledge of these developments, but might be inspired to pursue the course subject matter in a creative way in student filmmaking or studio courses in art. The core subject matter of the course is the influence of the visual arts on both commercial and experimental filmmaking.  There is also analysis of the way in which a literary narrative is translated into film or the visual arts (i. e. painting and sculpture).  The course recognizes that "movies" are the most wide-spread and global forms of narrative in the present age, and it is important for every educated person to have some sophistication in approaching them.

SYN 380
Religion and the Environment
This course examines how the teachings and practices from various world religions have affected the human understanding of our relation with natural world.  It examines both the positive and negative impact of religious communities.  In doing so, the course attempts to clarify to what extent, if any we might turn to religious systems as a foundation for environmental stewardship.This course examines how the teachings and practices from various world religions have affected the human understanding of our relation with natural world.  It examines both the positive and negative impact of religious communities.  In doing so, the course attempts to clarify to what extent, if any we might turn to religious systems as a foundation for environmental stewardship.

SYN 384
Food History
As a Synthesis course, Food History draws upon your unique trajectory through General Studies and your work in your major(s) to investigate, in an interdisciplinary way, human relationships with food in the past and the present.

SYN 386
Democracy in America
We all know that we live in a democracy. But what it has actually meant to be citizens in a democratic republic has changed dramatically over the course of American history—as have the bounds of citizenship. In this course, we will look at how new ideas, social movements, and technological changes have reshaped American democracy. We will examine how founders such as Benjamin Franklin and James Madison envisioned the relation between the people and the government; how workers, African Americans, and women fought to participate in American politics; and the ways in which new technologies such as Facebook and Twitter are reshaping democratic participation in the 21st century. We will ask: Who, exactly, has been permitted to participate in American politics, and on what terms? How has the relation between the governors and the governed changed over time, and what factors and events have shaped those relations? How have those in power been “connected” to the people, and vice versa? How has America’s democratic experiment compared with (and interacted with) democracy elsewhere in the world? This is an explicitly interdisciplinary course which makes interdisciplinarity itself an explicit focus. We will be looking at how different disciplines—political science, history, sociology, media studies, and more—examine the same historical/political phenomena, which provide students with a comparative basis for understanding the different analytical tools, questions, and methodologies of different disciplines. Because Synthesis courses ask students to reflect on their academic experiences at Albright, we will also look backwards to those experiences as a way to inform the phenomena that we encounter.  Students will therefore also be asked to bring their own disciplinary backgrounds into class discussion, as well as what they have learned in their general studies courses, from First Year Seminar through Connections; the instructor will highlight how these disciplinary perspectives help us see the question at hand more fully. Students will reflect on those experiences and report to the class, in writing and orally, on the way in which their Albright education helps to frame and explain key aspects of American democracy.

SYN 391
Space
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first human spacewalk outside a spacecraft and of the first human-built Probe to hit another planet (Venera on Venus). This synthesis course will provide you with an overview of the history, politics and cultural significance of the space programs undertaken thus far. We shall frame this effort in the context of the Cold War and the global interest in space. Topics will include the astronautical pioneers of the turn of the century, popular fascination with the moon, the German rocket program up to and during World War II, the moon race, the European path to space, space business, and the appearance of new space faring nations.This course does not require any prior knowledge about space. Because it is a Synthesis course it calls on you to engage in critical and creative thinking.  One particular goal is to adapt knowledge and skills from other components of the general education curriculum as well as your own major(s) to answer some of the questions raised. By comparing different fields through readings as well as class discussion, you will be expected to interpret and convey information.

SYN 392
The Nuclear Age
This course offers an examination of the atomic age through three prisms: historical, political, and cultural. Through the reading of primary documents and secondary texts, we will look at the circumstances in physics and international affairs that prompted the development of nuclear power. We shall also look at the impact of the bomb on international relations. We will consider examples of nuclear diplomacy, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, and their implications for the control of the spread of nuclear weapons. We will also treat the European and American peace movements of the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, we shall consider the cultural impact of the bomb through a selection of cinematic pieces, and discuss the future of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

SYN 397
Cross-Cultural Diversity
The primary purpose of this synthesis course is to examine human diversity from an academic, interdisciplinary, interpersonal, and intrapersonal view.  Students will seek to understand the importance of diversity and the role it plays in the human experience from business management, to health care, to human resources, and to human behavior through the interdisciplinary lenses of psychological and sociological perspectives, yielding a more holistic understanding of a complicated topic. The contributions of academic research and personal reflection in these disciplines will be applied as students analyze and critically examine the combinations in which each of us is different and similar to others.  Cultural competence will be attained by comparing and contrasting approaches to understanding differences and similarities between various groups and also the individuals within the groups, such as it applies to ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nation of origin, gender, and health (both physical and mental). Throughout the course students will reflect upon– through writing projects, in-class discussions, online discussion posts, oral presentations -  their personal understanding of diversity as it applies to both individuals (psychology) and groups (sociology). Comprehending the interdisciplinarity of diversity is core to this course. As such, it serves as a capstone to the requirements of a liberal arts education.