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UF 100: Foundations of Intellectual Life

What Does Every UF 100 Course Have in Common?

Each UF 100 course is designed to help you become a more active and expert learner as you investigate and communicate about important ideas that affect everyone.

In UF 100, you will further develop two complex skills that successful students continue to sharpen throughout college and life: critical inquiry and oral communication.

Choose any ONE on the course themes below and register for BOTH sections of the class: a plenary lecture (about 100 students) AND a breakout discussion group section (about 25 students).



Does life exist beyond Earth? We are living through an age of rapid discovery, and scientists are developing new and exciting answers to this age-old question. In this course, students will learn about the science behind planetary exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life—and even have the opportunity to conduct their own astronomical observations. We will also explore how astronomical discoveries have shaped and been shaped by the societies in which they occur. Lead Instructor: Brian Jackson.


Given the rivers of data flowing through the world, the ability to find meaningful messages and communicate them is rare and valuable. This introduction to data science will familiarize you with modern tools for the collection, analysis, and visualization of data and teach you how to build and interpret informational displays. Along the way, you will explore ways to effectively use data to support and refute claims, teach or persuade others, gather insights, and generate new questions. Lead Instructor: Leslie Atkins Elliott.


A traveler decides to throw a plastic water bottle in the trash. A mountain biker decides to ride in a wilderness area. A developer decides to build homes in a flood zone. What is the economic impact of individual decisions like these? This course explores fundamental concepts of economic theory and applies them to decisions people make every day. Through experiments, observation, and a final, culminating project, students will gain greater insight into how our everyday choices affect the environment. Lead Instructor: Guido Giuntini.


Climate change is one of the most complicated and challenging problems the world has ever faced. In this class, we will interrogate both its causes and consequences. Are you ready to evaluate how climate change will influence ecosystems, natural resources, food security, and energy use? Have you considered what part human nature or culture plays? A diverse group of educators, citizens, and scientists will join us as we construct a rich, many-sided portrait of climate change. Expect to rigorously evaluate the scientific and cultural insights offered by our guest speakers as you read, write, present, and become an expert learner. Lead Instructor: Jennifer Pierce.


All human beings are concerned with big questions about their lives: What is a good life?  How shall I live? What is a good society? Throughout human history, great minds and civilizations have grappled with important questions like these. In this course, you will examine different answers thinkers from ancient to contemporary have given to enduring questions about life and the universe. Lead Instructor: Andrew Cortens.


Why is America a capitalist nation? Too often, commentators from both the political left and right see “capitalism” as the mere “order of things”—an extension of human nature itself—taken completely for granted. This course, however, begins with the opposite premise: it explores the history of how (and why) capitalism came to be the United States’ dominant economic order. How has capitalism shaped America? How have our nation’s political institutions shaped both capitalism and the development of American business? And, most importantly, how did a relatively minor node in the Atlantic marketplace like the United States transform into the world’s largest economy? Lead Instructor: Shaun Nichols.


Some of our identities are given to us, while others are chosen, and each of these identities is either thin (of minimal importance) or thick (of greater significance). These thin and thick identities help define who we are individually and collectively. In this course, students will explore the complex and layered nature of identity through case studies that will include: the university (change and continuity of institutional identity), Basques (change and continuity of ethnic and collective identity), and America (origins of the present American identity crisis: Red v. Blue America). Lead Instructor: John Ysursa.


How can we use the past to help us understand and respond to the present? History can often reveal the origins and development of current events and situations that seem completely  new, strange, and confusing.  History also shows us similarities between the past and the present, and how people acted or reacted in the past—for better or worse.  Ultimately, developing skills and tools that help us investigate, explore, and make sense of the past can help us make better decisions in the present and future. Lead Instructor: Bob Reinhardt.


“He was not of an age, but for all time!” wrote Ben Jonson of his friend William Shakespeare in 1623. So how is Shakespeare relevant to life in 21st-century America? In this course, we will use critical thinking and performance to explore plays and poems that have resonated with readers and viewers around the world for over 400 years, looking specifically at the way Shakespeare’s works offer life lessons that can help us navigate the complex world we live in.  Lead Instructor: Jennifer Black.


Everyone asks questions; some are more important than others. Civilizations and cultures (Eastern, Western, Buddhists, Moslems, Christians, Materialists) ask the same key questions: Where is happiness found? Why is there so much evil and sorrow in the world? What’s wrong with me? What is behind the universe? This class, taught by an Eastern scholar, examines all the major worldview responses to life’s biggest queries, while exploring our assumptions. Lead Instructor: Shelton Woods.


From ancient cities to Roman baths, to steel foundries and Tupperware parties, to virtual communities, smart phones, and nanomedicine, materials have affected every aspect of our lives. This course explores the science, engineering and societal impact of materials. It includes hands-on activities where the student will work directly with a variety of materials. Lead Instructor: Amy Moll.


Medieval quest stories inspire our movies, games, and fantasy novels. As you encounter grail quests from the past and present, you will explore shifting ideas about spiritual purpose and changing notions of community. Your imaginative responses to grail literature will empower you to explore your assumptions, your ideals, and your life goals. Lead Instructors: Elizabeth Cook.


This course will introduce the students to the literary journey of Thousand and One Nights–stories that have traveled across the world, come in contact with other cultures, gathered cultural dust, reshaped themselves, and become an archive about human connection. The reading materials include Buddhist Jataka Tales, Alf layla wa-layla, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, La Fontaine’s fables, and the Hollywood production of Aladdin. Lead Instructor: Reshmi Mukherjee.


Why is “the media” the way it is? Like fish immersed in water, we live in a world dominated by media products and messages, and it can be hard to take a step back and examine this environment. That is why we need to develop media literacy: the ability to analyze media messages and their social contexts. In this class, you will learn how to sort fact from fiction, how to separate reality from its representation, and how to use media to be an active participant in public life. Lead Instructor: Seth Ashley.


Engaging in productive and healthy conflict requires the ability to foster dialogue and to explore differences in a productive and respectful way.  How do we start to have respectful conversations when our polarized views and communication patterns lead to distrust and broken relationships?  This course focuses on the skills necessary for managing conflict and having dialogue with your friend, family, coworkers, and community.  You will learn the fundamentals of conflict management.  Plenaries and Discussion Sections are highly interactive with group and individual exercises. Lead Instructor: Ashley Orme.


What are the economic, political, and cultural causes of violence around the world? At the start of 2018, dozens of active conflicts raged throughout the globe, including: civil wars in Syria and Yemen, drug violence in Mexico, an endless conflict in Afghanistan, and terrorist insurgencies in Nigeria and Somalia. In this course, students will explore global political violence through an interdisciplinary mix of political science, history, economics, and anthropology. We will consider innovative ways governments and societies can respond to political violence. Lead Instructor: Isaac Castellano.


Many people predicted the decline of religion in modern society, yet it has continued to flourish around the globe. Religion is clearly not going away anytime soon, but its function is a subject of debate. Some see religion as the foundation of societal morals; others condemn it as the source of societal violence. In light of these conflicting claims, this course asks the following question: What was the role of religion in the past, and what should it be in the future? If we critically engage the complexity of religious history and belief, we can better address the pressing questions about religion in our shared future. Lead Instructor: Matt Recla.


How do we make sense of the human sexual experience? From romantic and sexual partners to friends, enemies, and everything in-between, how can we best understand the great diversity of intimate relationships across cultures and time? This course will help you make sense of our ever-changing social world as you learn about the evolutionary history of our species and cross-cultural variations in behavior. You will also investigate how anthropological approaches help us understand human behavior and the challenges we face as a species. Lead Instructor:  John Ziker.


Between 1960 and 2015, the amount of trash Americans produced each year rose from 88.1 million tons to 262.4 million. Where did all that trash come from and where did it go? This course examines the role of trash in modern human society, tracking its production, management, disposal, and re-use. You will analyze historical, political, economic, and environmental aspects of trash–and explore innovative solutions for managing our trash on a global, regional, and campus level. Lead Instructor: Mari Rice.


Do you love animals? Ever wonder how we came to domesticate so many species? Are we becoming domesticated ourselves? What can domestication teach us about our relationship with the world around us? In this course, we will think about what it means to be wild or domestic—and how domestication processes have shaped us, our relationship with nature, and the cognitive and emotional lives of other creatures. Beginning with domestic dogs and their cousins, the wolves, we will expand to consider a wide range of species impacted by human activity. This conversation will have implications for our own species, the animals and ecosystems around us, and our rediscovery of a place in “the wild.” Lead Instructor: Shelly Volsche.


This course investigates how mass media and information technology shape the way we understand the world around us. We will address the following questions: Is all this information making us more informed? Why has ‘fake news’ become such an issue? And how does advertising and social media curate our choices, values, and identities? Lead Instructors: Erik Hadley or Tim Guill. (Online only. Limited space available.)


What should college be for? This course plunges students into an examination of higher education and its role in society. Students are expected to dig deeply into a wide range of readings and to explore the purposes of college from multiple perspectives. Students work extensively in teams to research and share ideas about how to make the most of their own university experience and how to shape higher education for the future. Lead Instructor: Corey Simpson. (Online only. Limited space available.)


Stories pass to and through us in many forms — through writing, images, songs, voice, architecture, etc. Some stay with us and shape the way we understand ourselves and the world. In this class, we will read, discuss, and research in order to reflect on the role significant stories have played in our own lives, how they impact what we know, what we can do, and who we become. Lead Instructor: Stephanie Cox. (Online only. Limited space available.)