Skip to main content

Session 1

Go to comments.

A word about Class Placement…

Classes fill quickly! Please consider your course choices carefully. While we will do our best to place you in your first choice class, it may be filled and we often have to place students in 2nd or 3rd choice classes. As you review these course descriptions, please rank-order as many classes as you’d like, knowing that you may not get your first choice. Your deposit becomes non-refundable once we place you in a class that you have ranked. So, only rank classes that you are truly willing to take, and pay for!

Courses marked with an * are waiting list only. View the VSA waiting list policy.

Parody and Wit –

From James Joyce to Stephen Colbert, from Monty Python to The Onion, parody has become one of the most common forms of artistic expression. In this course, you will explore the role of parody in contemporary political and social discourse, and, more importantly, use your own creativity and wit to comment on the world around you.David Kumler


A great course for those who like being told they have a “dry wit.”

Computer Modeling and Protein Therapeutics –

Using proteins to treat disease is a fast-growing area of medical research. Students in this course will experience how biochemists use advanced Linux software to view and manipulate real proteins in 3-D in order to make new discoveries about protein structures and guide the developments of new medicines for patients.Brittany Allison


A great course for computer enthusiasts and future chemists.

Theatre: Playing the Page and Reading the Stage –

Playwrights write plays to be seen and heard, not read silently from a book. So in this course students will delve deeply into dramatic fiction by discussing, viewing, and performing works explored in class. Students will investigate how extra-textual elements, such as costuming, blocking, sound effects, movement, and gesture interact to shape how we understand the words on the page. Since the best way to analyze drama is by performing it, students will also put themselves on stage, working in groups to write adaptations and perform scenes from the plays we read. No prior theatre experience is necessary. Break a leg! Rosie Seagraves, Ph.D.


A great course for writers and readers with a flair for the dramatic.

The Art of War in Ancient and Modern China –

Sunzi’s (Sun-Tzu) Art of War is a touchstone of modern American popular culture that invokes the mystery and profound strategic wisdom of ancient China. But what did Sunzi really say and, just as importantly, what did he mean? Students in this course will find the answers to those questions by not only reading Art of War but also contextualizing the environment in which it was written. This in-depth examination will illuminate how Sun-Tzu approached strategy, and how his approach continues to shape the geopolitical landscape. Peter Lorge, Ph.D.


A great course for history buffs, book lovers, and young conquerors.

The Moving Parts of Stories

Like watches, short stories are made up of pieces which can be disassembled and examined in order to tell us more about the story as a whole. In this course, students will spend time dissecting, reconstructing, and thinking creatively about short stories from a diverse group of authors. Students will also write and share their own short stories; from six-word memoirs to novellas, we all have a story to tell. John Maddox


A great course for avid writers and readers with an eye for detail.

Puzzles and Problem Solving –

Explore challenging math and logic puzzles with solutions that pose even more interesting questions. In this course, students will wrap their minds around counterintuitive solutions and tease their brains with apparent contradictions. How does a group of logical pirates agree to distribute their loot? If a car changes its speed according to its distance from its final destination, how long does it take the car to reach its goal? To answer these questions, students will work in small groups to learn principles of probability, logic, game theory, and more. Dawson Gray


A great course for people who view math as challenging entertainment

Combinatorics and Graph Theory –

How many ways are there to scoop three different flavors of ice cream? Now, what if you want your two favorite flavors stacked on top of the third? Combinatorics starts with simple questions like these to build powerful techniques used throughout mathematics. This exploration will lead us to Graph Theory, which covers everything from the fastest way to send information through a network to the best way to schedule events without conflicts. Melding the tangible with the abstract, Combinatorics and Graph Theory explore the beauty and function of advanced mathematical ideas, revealing how abstract constructions can be natural tools for describing our world. Zachary Gaslowitz


A great course for playful and practical mathematicians alike.

Reading Bones: Forensics and Bioarchaeology – 

Scientists who study human remains at modern crime scenes (forensics) and ancient burial sites (bioarchaeology) can tell a lot from bones. This fast-paced course will teach students the methods and techniques forensic anthropologists use in the lab and the field to determine age and sex and analyze blunt force and projectile trauma. Students will work with real human bones in Vanderbilt’s Osteology Lab and participate in model field assignments. By the end of this course, students will be able to weave together multiple lines of evidence – skeletal, chemical, and contextual – to read the stories written in our bones. Matt Velasco


A great course for people suspicious of crime scene T.V. shows.

The Hidden History of Slavery –

For most of us, the word “slavery” conjures the same image: displaced Africans toiling under brutal conditions in the cotton fields of the southern United States. But that picture is only one truth of many inside a grim history. With a comparative eye on slavery throughout the Americas, students in this course will study maps, photographs, and historical documents from Vanderbilt’s archives to explore the cultural and economic factors that influenced the slave trade, the diverse experiences of slaves, and how such complexities have shaped the world we live in today. Angela Sutton


A great course for budding historians looking for a deeper dive into a complex topic.

Writing Short Stories –

In the world of literature there’s hardly anything as satisfying–or as difficult to create–as a well-crafted short story. William Faulkner called the short story “the most demanding” form of prose, but students in this course will develop the skills necessary to rise to Mr. Faulkner’s challenge. Aspiring writers will exercise the creative process, develop plot, craft complex characters, and explore ideas of narrative and voice. They will read and discuss short stories, and they’ll try out concepts in their own daily writing prompts. By the end of the class, students will have completed short stories of their own. Marysa LaRowe


A great course for young writers with stories to tell.

Antisemitism and Comic Book Heroes

Did you know that comic book heroes have fought more than just crime? In the early days of comics, talented Jewish artists drew upon symbolism from the Bible and Jewish lore to battle anti-semitism at home and abroad. Students in this course will traverse this little-known history of the graphic novel. They will learn essential skills of literary analysis, so they can venture into the world equipped to engage with the works of modern authors and artists. Students will see how modern artists draw upon the tropes, not only of Judaism, but also many world religions, in the battle for truth and justice in our own time. Chris Paris, Ph.D.


A great course for justice seekers with a penchant for modern mythology.

Astrobiology: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life –

How did life originate on Earth? Is our Solar System unique, or do other planets like ours exist? Has life evolved elsewhere in our Galaxy? Can we detect and communicate with an alien civilization? Astrobiology is a developing scientific discipline with countless open-ended questions. This course will sample a range of topics, including: the search for extrasolar planets, the origin and evolution of life on Earth, and the search for life on other Solar System bodies. The course will culminate with student designs of alien lifeforms complete with adaptations appropriate for their host world.Lauren Pallandino


A great course for “starstruck” scientists who revel in the unknown.