Hypothetical: Matter of Course

AU experts put their creativity to the test. No wrong answers. 


Illustra­tion by
Traci Daberko

An illustrated teacher points a stick at a map image protruding from a typewriter

You’re teaching a class in your field—what is it called?

Living, Dying, and the Meaning of Life

The global community has suffered significantly in the last few years—not least from the pandemic, the effects of climate change, and war in Ukraine. In a pluralistic society, how are we to think about our lives, our mortality, and what gives us meaning? This course introduces texts from the fields of philosophy, medicine, ethics, and religion to provide students a rare opportunity to consider how a variety of thinkers have approached these questions and how the questions themselves might be relevant to our contemporary context.

Lydia (Stickney) Dugdale, SIS/MA ’99, is director of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at Columbia University and author of  The Lost Art of Dying: Reviving Forgotten Wisdom

Conflict Resolution: Lessons from a Soccer Referee

Do you ever disagree with your boss or colleagues but struggle to express it, or worry that doing so will escalate into an unwanted conflict? Step into the world of a soccer referee, where dissent and confrontation are routine and expected with every decision. Learn how to embrace dissenting viewpoints and use authority to make the final call.

Chuck Decker, SPA/BA ’21, is an executive assistant with the National Farmers Union and has been a US Soccer Federation–licensed referee since 2011.

Grassroots Democracy 101: Creating Community in an Age of Distrust and Discord

This course introduces students to the demanding but critical task of strengthening neighborhoods by creating or revitalizing civic associations and increasing citizen participation in local government decision making. Students will be assigned a neighborhood of between 200 and 500 homes and will—through door-to-door engagement—learn the history, stories, dreams, frustrations, and needs of the residents; create a neighborhood agenda; and organize weekly meetings to advocate for a specific project. Required reading: A Bell for Adano by John Hersey.

David Meyer, SPA/MPA ’77, is in his sixth year as mayor of the City of Fairfax, Virginia.

HLTH 123: Turning Passion into Progress

This 3-credit class will provide students with an in-depth understanding of the complex interaction between ideas, beliefs, and future career goals by placing emphasis on exploring cultural, social, and psychological determinates of health, health-related behaviors, and health disparities. Students will develop a greater understanding of and sensitivity to these factors by shadowing health professionals—an experience that can contribute to a more focused college career path. Students will also research a cultural group to understand its health beliefs and behaviors and collaborate with classmates to design culturally competent health education and promotion programs.

Andie Rowe is AU’s director of employee wellness and work-life and an instructor in the Department of Health Studies.

Persuasion in Two Americas: Understanding Red versus Blue in Modern Politics

In this class, students will learn about the shifting cultural divide between the US’s two major tribes. We will examine how modern political messages must weave together multiple frames to persuade a majority of voters. This course will also analyze how modern media and advertising impact and shape political attitudes and behaviors.

Max Glass, SPA/MA ’08, is a veteran Democratic campaign manager.

Strategies to Mitigate the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Workforce Shortage

Students will identify and propose strategies to address the ECE workforce shortage at the federal, state, and local levels by engaging directly with current and former early childhood educators to better understand how to support their work. They will also meet with federal and local policymakers and agency leaders from the Administration for Children and Families and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. 

Shayna Cook, SOE/MEd ’14, EdD ’22, is director of early childhood systems at the Bainum Family Foundation.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusivity without Disability: You’re Doing It Wrong

Students delve into a historical analysis of disability discrimination to discover its role in discriminatory laws and policies regarding race and immigration. They will wrestle with what is “normal,” and how that informs policies in our education and workplace systems. Finally, students will examine how to address DEI goals without indirectly promoting an ableist environment of continued barriers.

Kate Branson Gmuer, SOE/MA ’06, MEd ’19, EdD ’23, is director of accessibility services at Hood College and a former K–12 special education teacher.