Advanced Entry Seminar


Office of the Dean of the Faculty

Office of the Dean of the Faculty

The Advanced-Entry Seminar Program (AES) brings new students into the Southwestern community. Each seminar cultivates a sense of belonging and inclusion among students, and exposes them to SU’s expectations for their academic work. Though each faculty member organizes a seminar around a different topic, all of the seminars work towards developing a common set of skills. These include information literacy, reading critically, writing cogently, and participating in informed discussion and debate. In their seminars students engage in a liberal arts mode of learning, which exposes them to a wide array of disciplinary approaches and topics. AES is the student’s first introduction to the Paideia philosophy of making connections. They learn how seemingly disparate ways of thinking can be fully interwoven and how to connect liberal arts learning with the extra- and co-curricular activities and organizations in which they engage. 

As you read the AES summary, you will discover that the topic is engaging and sometimes even edgy. But don’t be fooled. Seminars are real courses designed to introduce intellectual skills common to the liberal arts: formulating cogent questions, forging connections between methods of inquiry, recognizing and challenging assumptions, seeking out and listening to multiple perspectives, and rethinking the role of reading, writing, and discussion in inquiry and student-centered learning.

Questions related to your Advanced-Entry Seminar assignment should be directed to 512.863.1567.

Fall 2024 Seminar Summaries

Intergenerational Communication: Leaving Notes about the Climate and Other Important Issues

How do we communicate effectively about climate change and important justice issues across generations? What kinds of notes can we find and what kinds of notes do we leave behind? We will investigate fascinating “notes” and analyze their power to invite audiences to see, to care, and to act. Such notes include a “letter to the future” left on a plaque by Texas anthropologists to commemorate the death of an Icelandic glacier; or a message from an endangered parrot in Puerto Rico. How can those notes connect us across generations and cultures? Together we will explore what we can learn about intergenerational communication from international climate fiction, art projects, or science communication.

Food, Health, and the Environment

Many Americans are preoccupied with healthy eating, yet are plagued by food-related health problems. Concurrently, the industrial agriculture we rely on for most of our food production is undermining our precious environment, which in turn further hurts people’s health. In this seminar, students actively research how unhealthy ingredients found in processed foods affect human health. They also study how industrial agriculture wreaks havoc on ecosystems, and what solutions or alternatives exist.

Cultural Masks: Festivals, Tribalism and Identity

Masks are worn for many reasons such as: spiritual rituals, predatory protection, entertainment, and disguise. Many of the masks we wear are not new; however, how they are understood and the cultural identity they represent changes over time. Facial makeup, tattoos, scarification, body enhancement and prosthetic pieces applied to the body are forms of masking or a modification of identity. While we often connect masks with masquerade and Halloween, does the wearing of a mask help identify who we are, or do they hide who we are? We will explore our relationship with masks while researching and discussing masks as art pieces, identity modification, as well as their use in the biological sciences and in diverse societies.