From our fascination with pets to the many other roles that nonhuman animals play in our world, student and faculty researchers at Southwestern explore animal behavior and advocacy.
Devon Lucero and Chantal Gonzalez, both ’19, conduct research in Southwestern's Animal Behavior Lab. (Photo credit: Carlos Barron)
Professor of Psychology Fay Guarraci researches the effect of ketamine on sexual behavior in female rats. (Photo credit: Â© 2013 Lance Holt)
Students and faculty in the SU animal studies minor tackle the foundational questions from classic studies of animal behavior: How do certain traits help organisms and their offspring survive in particular environments? How and why might animals be conditioned to respond to various stimuli? They explore animal communication, emotions, instincts, culture, and learning to better understand how animals—including human beings—behave and interact. But students and faculty in the minor are also helping to shape the lively new discipline known as critical animal studies, an interdisciplinary field that examines ethical theories of human–animal relations and then applies them through social activism and political advocacy.
Continuing the Paideia practice of making connections across different disciplines, the minor comprises courses across the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. Among other topics of inquiry, students
- Explore the historical and cultural development of the categories of “the animal” and “the human.”
- Engage in the scientific study of animals in their natural habitats.
- Analyze representations of animals in history, literature, film, and pop culture.
- Examine the relationship between the “animal” and other categories of social difference, such as race, gender, sexuality, class, and disability.
Students seeking a focus on animals in their education will have the opportunity to examine animal physiology and ecology in a biology course as well as animal behavior in a psychology course. They will also critically analyze the use and understanding of animals in a social context in two other required courses.
Introduced in fall 2017, SU’s animal studies minor encourages students to invent new ways of thinking about human–animal interactions by connecting the perspectives of biology, psychology, neuroscience, veterinary medicine, and social justice. Graduates will be well prepared to explore 21st-century careers from ecological conservationist to wildlife rescuer, from animal protection lawyer to vegan fashion designer, from animal therapist to animal visual-effects artist.
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