Explore Seminars

The JSU Explore Seminar program provides seminar-style classes that allow for an academic response to current events and trending issues, so that students may take advantage of faculty expertise, join others in critical analysis, collaborate to create solutions, and participate in healthy debate about today’s problems. Explore Seminars are designed for first-year and other students interested in a theme selected annually.

The Explore Seminar Program, begun in Fall 2020, was created to provide courses that allow for an academic response to current events and trending issues, so that students may take advantage of faculty expertise, join others in critical analysis, collaborate to create solutions, and participate in academic debate about today’s problems.

These 1-credit hour, 100-level courses can be offered by every department in response to a university-level theme. The Explore Seminar course number is 195.

Explore Themes:

  • 2020-2021: Diversity and Multiculturalism
  • 2021-2022: Resilience and Grit
  • 2022-2023: Misinformation, Conspiracy, and Truth

Regardless of discipline, Explore Seminars have common objectives, which include helping students to:

  • Think critically about a current issue or event through a disciplinary lens,
  • Understand a variety of responses to that current issue or event,
  • Communicate understanding of the issue and the discipline’s contribution effectively through both oral and written responses, and
  • Collaboratively create potential solutions to that current issue or event.

Spring 2023 Theme: Misinformation, Conspiracy, and Truth

Satanic Panic
Lying with Maps

EH 195: The Satanic Panic

Wednesdays, 3:30-4:30pm with Tanya Sasser

During the Satanic Panic of the late 80s and early 90s, vast numbers of Americans believed that their country was being infiltrated by Satan worshippers seeking to convert—and even sacrifice—their children. The panic targeted music, games, and even daycares; resulted in the longest and most expensive court case in American history; and sent three innocent men to prison and almost cost one of them his life. What led to the hysteria that gripped America? And is Satan rearing his spectral head again amongst dark web conspiracy theorists and mainstream “news” media?

EH 195: Rhetoric of Misinformation

Mondays, 3:30-4:30pm with Cara Messina

From the political memes your grandma shares on Facebook to questionable experts profiting off our fears, what makes misinformation so persuasive and pervasive? In this class, we will examine why misinformation mystifies, the manipulative rhetorical appeals and fallacies of misinformation, and how we can challenge misinformation in our everyday lives.

INS 195: Racial Truths

Mondays, 3:00-4:00pm with Staci Stone

“You didn't just find a self out there waiting. You had to make one. You had to create who you wanted to be.” Brit Bennett

How is identity informed by race, and what can we learn from those who “cross the line” to pass as another race? We will analyze race as a social construct that is destabilized by passing narratives in literature and film. What happens to characters who pass, and what does that suggest about our constructed identities and society?

RDG 195: Propaganda Devices

Mondays, 8:00-9:00 am with Christie Calhoun

"If you order within the next 20 minutes, we will send NOT ONE, but TWO...." "Four out of Five people recommend..."

"This product is safe for the environment..."

Persuasive information bombards Americans at every turn. How do we filter the plethora of information that comes our way? What do we do with this information? How can we learn to be critical listeners, critical viewers, and critical readers? In this Explore Seminar, we will investigate different types of propaganda devices, learn the power of their influence, and learn how to avoid the pitfalls often associated with these persuasive tactics.

GY 195: Lying with Maps

Tuesdays, 1:00-2:00pm with Mark Sciuchetti

Maps are used to construct fake news, twist conspiracies, and produce misinformation. Throughout this course, we will explore how mapmakers have contributed to the fabrication of world news and events, and how they tell a truth through one point of view. Students will learn how to read current maps and create maps connected to current events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, political struggles, food shortages, and others. Students will think critically about the world around them and how maps have been used to alter their view of the world. By the end of the course, students will be able to critically examine maps and know how to remain skeptical of the biases they find in maps.

COM 195: Propaganda-Disinformation Then & Now

Wednesdays, 10:00-11:00am with Chris McCollough

“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” – William Randolph Hearst

In a telegram to artist Frederic Remington, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst offered a powerful example of the relationship between media depiction and public action. Propaganda is the use of powerful messaging and visuals that has a dark history full of manipulation leading to terrible actions by politicians, despots, and businesspeople alike. In this course, we will look at the evolution of the use of misinformation and disinformation to shape the public mind, and how we still see it at work today. Students will engage each other in a conversation about where they see propaganda at work, its impact on us, and how we can combat it in our daily lives.