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UTSC’s new courses are cause for excitement

This year, UTSC students can take new courses that teach them to write like a philosopher, watch a movie like a literature professor or think about the environment like an ethicist. The new courses are being introduced as UTSC revamps some programs and offers a number of new majors and minors.

The new offerings are part of continuing growth and development at UTSC, says Rick Halpern, dean and vice-principal, academic. “Growth means a number of things. It’s most clearly manifest in the built environment. But there’s also program growth, growth in the number of students and in faculty. We have some of the most outstanding faculty imaginable.”

Among the more significant changes, the Department of Biological Sciences is adding two new major programs – a major in human biology and a major in biodiversity, ecology and evolution. Both already exist as specialist programs. But Andrew Mason, associate chair, undergraduate of biological sciences, said that the major programs will leave more room for students to study other subjects as well.

With fewer subject-specific requirements, the human biology major will allow students to pair it with programs in psychology or neuroscience, for instance. The biodiversity, ecology and evolution program might pair with an interest in environmental science, or even social science or management, Mason says.

At the Department of English, students will be able to examine 20th Century literature and culture through the lens of cinema, with a minor program in literature and film studies.  “The need for this as a program is paramount to what we’re trying to do. It gives access to a way of thinking about cultures,” says Garry Leonard, professor of English.

By the beginning of the 20th Century cinema was already well established. Studying the dialogue between literature and film will give students a way to understand the effects of globalization, new technologies of communication and industry, and other changes that occurred during the century.

The Department of Humanities will also introduce a minor in media studies. “Because media is central to all of our lives, because we live in a mediated time, it’s important to study media,” says Charles Petit, lecturer in new media studies.

Students in the program will study the effects of media, such as how they influence society, culture and issues of identity. At the same time they will get practical training in how to use new media, such as shooting video, blogging and using other social media.

Petit will also teach a new course called Inquiry and Reasoning in the Humanities (HUMA02H). The course will concentrate on the skills of inquiry and reasoning, with an emphasis on research methods and data analysis. For instance, students might conduct a survey of the music on fellow students’ iPods, and from that attempt to draw conclusions about the student population.

The Department of Philosophy, which spun out of the Humanities Department just last year, is also introducing a number of courses. One is environmental ethics, which will examine ethical issues raised by human actions and policies. For instance, students will consider whether the environment has moral value and whether non-human animals have moral status.

There will also be a new course on Writing Philosophy. “A lot of students have no idea how to write philosophy,” says Philip Kremer, chair of the department of philosophy. “Writing philosophy is quite different. It has its distinctive features. The emphasis is on analyzing and argument.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough