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Week of October 3, 2011

LSA Sophomore Initiative offers food for thought

In a U-M classroom 70 sophomores studied the effects of doughnuts on their health and the environment. This month, they will write an essay on what it was like to eat on a daily budget of $3.50, the average allowance for food stamp recipients.

The students are enrolled in a new course in LSA titled “Twenty Two Ways to Think About Food.” It offers students a multidisciplinary learning experience, using food as the organizing principle.

Throughout the semester students will hear lectures from top professors in economics, physics, chemistry, political science, sociology, biology, women’s studies and American culture. They also will get a chance to watch cooking demonstrations, sample food, produce videos and create blogs about what they are learning.

The course encourages students to develop critical thinking skills and analyze issues from diverse perspectives, says Phil Deloria, LSA associate dean for undergraduate education, who is teaching the course. The course is one of several offered through the LSA Sophomore Initiative, a new pilot program that helps students explore different topics and avoid the “sophomore malaise,” as they try to determine a major.

“Food offers an excellent organizing principle for this course because it nourishes our bodies, defines our environments, shapes our economies and lubricates our social interactions,” says Deloria, the Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Chair of History and American Studies. “The production and consumption of food has always been a central human issue, and it makes a perfect problem for the kind of multi-sided contemplation we’ll take up in this class.”

The course also offers a chance to explore the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities, and explore an interdisciplinary program in action, Deloria says.

Numerous courses in political science, humanities, economics, history, languages, music and health also are offered as part of the initiative, as well as mini-courses explaining the value of a liberal arts education and helping students prepare for internships.

“Liberal arts degrees are great for all kinds of futures,” Deloria says. “In a world in which many future jobs have not yet been created, the flexibility of mind and problem-solving skills of the liberal arts offer some of the best preparation for what is to come.”



Katherine Weider, creative arts producer, School of Art & Design, on offering advice for students: “You can’t always imagine your future. I think you have to trust that your loves and your interests will eventually lead you to the right place.”


“Photographer as Witness: Proof Enough?” with Jill Vexler, 7-8:30 p.m. Oct. 11, Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery in Room 100

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