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Triple-I: Ideas, Information, & Inquiry


Each Triple-I course brings together three outstanding professors from different departments across the university so that students can study a common theme from several perspectives. These courses offer unique opportunities for students to join some of UNC’s top scholars as they investigate big ideas, while making connections and drawing distinctions between diverse disciplines and approaches. Students will develop key critical-thinking skills with lasting impacts on their future studies and life experiences. Triple-I courses demonstrate the power of multi-disciplinary thinking in an increasingly complex world.

Learning Outcomes

These are the learning outcomes that are expected of students after completing a Triple-I course.


Gain exposure to the three disciplines and their methods of inquiry.


Compare and contrast different ways that scholars address a question, problem, or theme.


Understand the power of approaching a topic from multiple perspectives.


Learn how different disciplines understand and use data and evidence.

Data Literacy Lab

When students register for the three-credit Triple-I, they will also register for a corresponding one-credit Data Literacy Lab. This largely workshop-style class introduces students to the ways in which professional data analysts think about and manage data, as well as the techniques and considerations that are involved in transforming data into information to support a claim, perspective or proposition.

This class introduces students to some important concepts that can help them make more informed decisions about how to work with data, while at the same time, getting them familiar with some of the tools professionals use when working with data. Students practice on datasets that have been put together by past students in this class, and through that practice, they learn how to prepare data for analysis and explore data through visualizations.

Student Feedback

logo“Going into my freshman year, I was very unsure of what I was interested in and thought I would be undecided in my major far into my journey at UNC. Taking the III course that was offered to me in my first semester completely changed this belief as I found myself studying two subjects that I started to fall in love with, and was even able to see how they could connect and work together. Thanks to the experiences and opportunities provided in Humans and the Cosmos, I was able to confidently (and eagerly!) declare philosophy and data science as my major and minor courses of study, and I have not looked back since!”

L. M.
Student in IDST-190 & IDST-190L

logo“While some might be hesitant to take part in a data literacy class their freshman year, the knowledge I gained from this one-credit course has proven invaluable. From gaining a sociological standpoint on the impact of information and data to grappling with excel formulas, Professor Lang’s videos are advantageous resources helping me in my current role as an intern and will indeed support me for many years to come.”

K. P.
Student in IDST-190 & IDST-190L

logo“Before this class, I had no experience organizing or visualizing data and didn’t realize how many different ways I’d utilize the skills this course taught me. Over half of my classes including gen eds and my specific classes for my major incorporated at least one of the platforms we learned about, like Excel. This course included a wide range of information without it being overwhelming by keeping the content relevant to ways college students could employ the information and I would recommend it to every student in a heartbeat.”

A. D.
Student in IDST-190 & IDST-190L

Course Offerings

Check Connect Carolina for the most up-to-date information about offerings, meeting times, Instructional modes, and availability.

  • Seats are limited to first-year students (and transfer students in their first year at UNC-CH who transfer in fewer than 24 hours of post-college class credit).
  • Students must enroll in both the Triple-I and it’s corresponding Data Literacy Lab.
  • Students may only register for one (1) Triple-I + (1) Data Literacy Lab during their time at UNC-CH.

There are a variety of courses you can take to meet the Triple-I requirement:

IDST 112-001: Death and Dying

MWF, 10:10 AM – 11:00 AM | Instructors: Seth Kotch, Jocelyn Chua, Jennifer Larson | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 112L-001

Death and dying are universal human experiences. Yet there is immense cultural variation and historical fluidity to the ways we define, understand and treat death, dying and relations between the living and the dead. This course explores the concepts of death and dying from three different disciplines (examples may include, but are not limited to, Anthropology, English and Comparative Literature, and American Studies). This course will consider similarities and differences between the three discipline research methodologies and will also introduce students to data literacy and principles of evidence.

Seth Kotch

Seth Kotch, associate professor in the Department of American Studies, conducts research in modern American history (specifically the social history of the criminal-legal system in the American south) and directs the Southern Oral History Program.

Jocelyn Chua

Jocelyn Chua earned her PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University and is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology. As a medical anthropologist, Dr. Chua is broadly interested in people's lived experiences of suicide, death, and violence in the contemporary world, and particularly how mental health professionals and therapies intervene to reshape how people respond to these experiences. She has conducted research in India on suicide, and is currently working on a new project examining the use of psychiatric medications in war by the United States military.

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson earned her PhD in English from the UNG-Chapel Hill and is a Teaching Associate Professor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of English & Comparative literature. Her research interests include African-American literature (especially African American drama), Film Studies (especially race in contemporary cinema), American literature, and Composition (especially writing in/about law). She teaches courses such as Film & Culture, Literature & Law, and ENGL 105.


IDST 113-001: The Idea of Race

TTH, 8:00 AM – 9:15 AM | Instructors: Michael Terry, David Pier, Daniel Matute | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 113L-001

This course, taught by a biologist, a linguist, and an ethnomusicologist, focuses on the idea of “race.” Historically, the idea that humans can be divided into distinct races has been a singularly pernicious one, having been used to justify the persecution, enslavement, and extermination of groups based on their presumed biological inferiority. Today, scientists agree that race is a false and distorting concept for understanding biological diversity among humans: what we describe as races are in fact social constructs, not genetic realities. Nonetheless, the idea of biological race persists in the popular imagination. In this course, students learn why race is not a viable human biological concept, how the idea of race arose historically (and continues to be maintained), and what alternative concepts exist for understanding human diversity and change over time.

Michael Terry

Michael Terry is an associate professor in the Department of Linguistics and adjunct associate professor in the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. He researches the structure of dialects and the implications of dialectal differences for linguistic theory and educational practice.

David Pier

Dave Pier specializes in music, art, literature, and cultural politics in Africa and the African diaspora. His book, Ugandan Music in the Marketing Era, is an ethnographic study of folklore performance, corporate arts sponsorship, branding, and grassroots entrepreneurialism in contemporary Uganda. Currently, he is researching kadongo kamu, a Ugandan guitar-based pop music genre. He is also writing about the development of modern/contemporary dance in this country. Pier serves on the editorial board for the journal African Arts, as well as on the advisory board for UNC’s Process Series. He teaches Introduction to Africa, Music of Africa, Music of African Diasporas, Politics of Cultural Production in Africa, and a freshman seminar on Afrofuturism. As a jazz pianist, he has performed and recorded with Clark Terry, Jane Monheit, Roswell Rudd, Marcus Belgrave, and other jazz luminaries.

Daniel Matute



IDST 121-001: Performing and Imagining the American South

TTH, 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM | Instructors: Martin Johnson, Jocelyn Neal, Fitz Brundage | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 121L-001

The Mason and Dixon line marks a physical boundary, but beyond geographic location, what is the US South? Did its swamps spontaneously produce the blues? Did bluegrass music arise magically from the hills? What does the history of slavery in the US South have to do with the emergence of country music, R & B, or Soul? How did Gone With The Wind recreate the plantation myth for global audiences? In this course, we will examine the South in its cultural and historical incarnations to examine how it both generated and was generated by economic, technological, and political factors. Through textual and data driven analysis, we will come to understand how the South can be simultaneously the birthplace of rock and roll and the origin of the “Southern Strategy” — at once the seat of American authenticity and origin of Coca Cola, America’s first global brand.

Martin Johnson

Martin L. Johnson is an associate professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Main Street Movies: The History of Local Film in the United States (Indiana, 2018), and has published journal articles in Film History, Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, Early Popular Visual Culture, and The Moving Image.

Jocelyn Neal

Jocelyn Neal joined the faculty at UNC in 1999. She teaches courses on the analysis of popular music, songwriting, bluegrass, and music theory. Her research specialization is American country music, and she has written books and articles about music and dance, Southern culture, and more. She also directs the UNC Bluegrass Initiative.

Fitz Brundage

I have taught at UNC since 2002. My broad area of interest in the United States since 1865, with a particular interest in the American South between 1865 and 1930. I teach courses on the social history of American popular music and on American film. I seem compelled to write books on somber topics, including lynching and torture. Currently I am writing a book on prisoner of war camps during the American Civil War. These topics undoubtedly have contributed to my fascination with American popular music, which provides therapy for my soul.


IDST 124-001: Pandemics: Ethics, Literatures, and Cultures

MWF, 8:00 AM – 8:50 AM | Instructors: Rebecca Walker, Michele Rivkin-Fish, Jane Thrailkill | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 124L-001

For many people alive today, the COVID-19 pandemic created a new way of life different to anything they had previously experienced. Yet these new realities – social distancing, quarantine, protective masks, job loss, education disruption, anxiety, loneliness and death, among so many others, have been part of many peoples’ lives in pandemics – and epidemics – across time and global space. The Spanish flu of 1918 is a well-known example, as is the black death of 1346-1353. This course addresses the ties that bind, and ruptures between, experiences of pandemics. In so doing, we bring three specific lenses and sets of methods to bear – those of literature, anthropology, and philosophy. Approaches will hone skill sets including analysis, argumentation, close reading, and comparative thinking. Themes that will be weaved throughout the course are those of care, resources, and knowledge production. Care of patients, families, local and global values; Resources of medical interventions, social connection, political structures, and financial means; Knowledge produced through science, narrative, myth, metaphor, and argument.

Rebecca Walker

Rebecca Walker is Professor of Social Medicine and of Philosophy, and in the Center for Bioethics. She is a philosopher of medicine whose primary focus is on the relationship between moral theories and concepts and various biomedical practices. Her publications include over 30 original research articles and book chapters and her co-edited books are: Working Virtue: Virtue Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems (2007), Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice: New Conversations Across the Disciplines (2016), and The Social Medicine Reader, third edition, Volumes 1&2 (2019). Prof. Walker teaches medical students during the foundational phase of their curriculum and ethics courses for undergraduate and graduate students.

Michele Rivkin-Fish

Michele Rivkin-Fish is Associate Professor of Anthropology. Her research focuses on health and gender in late Soviet and post-Soviet Russian societies, and on notions of justice in US health care reform. She is the author of Women’s Health in Post-Soviet Russia: The Politics of Reproduction (2005), and is currently writing a monograph entitled “Unmaking Russia’s Abortion Culture: Family Planning and the Search for a Liberal Biopolitics.” She is a co-editor of Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice: New Conversations Across the Disciplines (2016). Her teaching in medical anthropology focuses on the symbols, meanings, and political-economies of health and justice globally.

Jane Thrailkill

Jane F. Thrailkill is Bank of America Honors Distinguished Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. A scholar of American literature and health humanities, she publishes widely on the connections among literary study, the sciences, medicine, and philosophy. Her books are Affecting Fictions: Mind, Body, and Emotion in American Literature Realism (Harvard UP, 2007) and Philosophical Siblings: Varieties of Playful Experience in Alice, William, and Henry James (UPenn Press, 2021). Since 2016 she has taught third-year medical students at UNC’s School of Medicine. With Prof. Jordynn Jack, she co-founded HHIVE Lab in 2015 and collaborates with colleagues in the health sciences on interprofessional education projects. She has received recognition for her teaching, including UNC-Chapel Hill’s Board of Governor’s Award.


IDST 125-001: The Art and Science of Expertise

TTH, 12:30 PM – 1:45 PM | Instructors: Jeff Greene, Erianne Weight, Anson Dorrance | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 125L-001

The purpose of this course is to provide students with a practical framework of expertise development and self-regulation to pursue mastery in their personal passions. Through collaborative discussions and interdisciplinary instructor perspectives on expertise scholarship and course material, students will gain an understanding of the things that are most important to them, what it takes to become extraordinary in these areas while maintaining their psychological well-being, and a personalized plan to maximize their potential. Topics covered include deliberate practice, the psychology of motivation and positive functioning, accountability, competitiveness, leadership, resilience, happiness, flow, performance measurement, and well-being. The course will include both lectures and collaborative discussions, supplemented by research articles, Ted Talks, books, case studies and experiential exercises. Ultimately, at the end of the semester students will walk away from this class with a better understanding of the things that are most important to them, what it takes to become extraordinary in these areas, how to maintain students’ psychological and emotional well-being, and a personalized plan to do just that.

Jeff Greene

Jeff Greene is the McMichael Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology and Learning Sciences in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology in 2007 from the University of Maryland at College Park. In his research, he studies the ways people learn using digital resources, and how to help them use those resources more effectively. Specifically, he studies how people can learn to self-regulate their learning, as well as how they can become better critical consumers of what they encounter online and in the world. He has published three books and over 60 book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles. Currently, he is the co-Editor of the American Psychological Association (APA) journal Educational Psychologist. He is the recipient of the Richard E. Snow Award for Early Career Contributions in Educational Psychology from Division 15 of APA, and he is an APA Fellow.

Erianne Weight

Erianne Weight is a Professor of Sport Administration who studies the intersection of sport and higher education, college sport organizational structure and culture, and the pursuit of expertise. She is the Director of the Center for Research in Intercollegiate Athletics, President of the North American Society for Sport Management, Chair of the UNC Faculty Athletics Committee, and consultant for LEAD1 Association and Collegiate Sports Associates. She earned her Ph.D. in Sport Marketing and Management from Indiana University, and her Master of Business Administration and B.S. in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of Utah where she also competed as a heptathlete and graduate assistant track coach. She is a Research Fellow for the College Sport Research Institute, has published 3 books, over 100 refereed articles and book chapters, has consulted for over 30 organizations, and has given roughly 150 invited and refereed research presentations. She is married to Matt Weight and has two daughters – Aleah and Lillian.

Anson Dorrance

Anson Dorrance is the legendary women's soccer coach at the University of North Carolina. His program is commonly referred to as "The Dynasty." Under Dorrance's leadership at the University of North Carolina, the Tar Heels women’s soccer teams have won 21 of the 38 NCAA Women's Soccer Championships with a .88 winning percentage over 41 seasons. He has led his team to a 101-game unbeaten streak and his players have won 20 National Player of the Year awards. He is not only the most successful coach in the women's game—a six-time National Coach of the Year—but an ambassador of the game, a highly sought-after motivational speaker, a major force in training young players through wildly popular soccer camps, and a successful television broadcaster. Many of his former players have gone on to become the most accomplished players in the world, including superstar Mia Hamm.


IDST 126-001: Values and Prices

TTH, 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM | Instructors: Patrick Conway, Kristin Wilson, Geoff Sayre-McCord | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 126L-001

It is common today to use the price of a product or service as shorthand for its value. There is reason for this substitution, but it can be misleading as well, and too often leads people to ignore crucial questions about value in critical thinking and decision-making. In this course we will explore the distinction between:

What people happen to want, prefer, or value and
What people should want, prefer or value.

Observing peoples’ choices often puts us in a good position to understand why they do things they do and also helps us make sense of how markets work, how prices arise, and how various incentive structures influence our behavior. Thinking about what people should value, in contrast, is the necessary first step in evaluating what people do, making sense of how markets should work and what is involved in their failure, interpreting when a price reflects the true value of a product or service (or not) and designing incentive structures to encourage citizens to make the right choices.

Lord Darlington, in Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windemere’s Fan” warned against being someone “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” In this course we will investigate the degree to which price and value are related. One theme we will be pursuing is that a society’s choices, as reflected through the pricing system of markets, often differ from what seems truly good, or just, or right. In light of this contrast, we will examine how and when economic, social and political systems can work to take advantage of, or even forge, a connection between what people choose and what they should value.

Patrick Conway

Patrick Conway is Professor of Economics. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University, a Masters in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, and his undergraduate degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. He teaches introductory economics and international economics courses on campus. He has received the William A. Friday Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Professorship.

Kristin Wilson

Kristin Wilson is Clinical Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Kenan-Flagler Business School. She received her Doctorate in Business Administration in strategy from Harvard Business School. She earned a BA in economics and Latin American Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. She currently teaches courses in business strategy and business ethics to undergraduate business students.

Geoff Sayre-McCord

Geoff Sayre-McCord is the Morehead-Cain Alumni Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) Program. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh, and his undergraduate degree with honors in Philosophy from Oberlin College. He has held visiting positions and fellowships at Princeton University, the University of Edinburgh, the Australian National University, Auckland University, and the University of California at Irvine. Dr. Sayre-McCord is widely published in moral philosophy and the history of philosophy (with a focus on David Hume and Adam Smith). He regularly teaches an introductory ethics course — Virtue, Value, and Happiness, among others. He is the recipient of several teaching awards at UNC including three Tanners and, most recently, the Board of Governor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.


IDST 132-001: Science for Hyperpartisan Times

MWF, 3:35 PM – 4:25 PM | Instructors: Molly Worthen, Jeffrey Warren, Christian Lundberg | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 132L-001

Science for Hyperpartisan Times’ is a course about the place of science and scientific argument in public life. Specifically, it focusses on the ways that public discourse, debate, and discussion around how science and the presentation and interpretation of science influence our understandings of the world. Our goal is both to think carefully about how partisan public politics influence public debates around science policy, and to analyze how arguments about science shape contemporary public discourse and debate. We will pursue both goals with a careful eye for the ways that claims about the science and/or the authority of science can advance or detract from productive public debate.

Molly Worthen

Molly Worthen teaches courses in the history of religion and ideology, primarily in the U.S. and Canada. Dr. Worthen’s last book was a history of recent conflicts among American evangelicals, and Dr. Worthen is currently writing a book about the history of charisma as a religious and political idea (Dr. Worthen recently released an audio course on Audible called “Charismatic Leaders Who Remade America,” which ranges from the Puritans to Donald Trump). Dr. Worthen is also a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and writes mainly about religion, politics and higher education.

Jeffrey Warren

Formally trained as a marine geologist, Jeff Warren has spent the past 17 and a half years in State-level science policy positions including the coastal hazards policy specialist for the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management (2004 to 2010), the science advisor for the North Carolina Senate (2011 to 2017) and, most recently, the research director and now executive director for the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory headquartered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2017 to present). Warren earned his BSc in geological sciences from the University of Arizona (1994), his MSc in geology from Auburn University (1997), and his PhD in geological sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2006). Warren’s academic research included field sites in the southeastern US, northern Mexico, the East and South China Seas, and Antarctica for which he received the Antarctica Service medal of the United States of America from the National Science Foundation. In addition to his primary duties at UNC Chapel Hill with the Collaboratory, Warren has also been appointed a Professor of Practice in the Department of Public Policy.

Christian Lundberg

Chris Lundberg is a professor of rhetoric, a political consultant, and a corporate communications strategist. He is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at UNC Chapel Hill, where he writes about and teaches courses in public speaking, debate, persuasive communication and political rhetoric.
His academic work includes multiple books and award-winning articles on rhetoric, speech, and persuasion, including: The Essential Guide to Rhetoric (Bedford St. Martin’s, 2008, 2e 2017); Public Speaking: Choices and Responsibility (Cengage Publishers, 2014, 2e 2016, 3e 2022); and a book about the psychology of public persuasion called Lacan in Public: Psychoanalysis and the Science of Rhetoric (University of Alabama Press, 2012). He has served as a debate and messaging consultant for numerous US Senate races, gubernatorial campaigns, and cabinet-level confirmation processes. His international work features extensive work in the United Kingdom, including work on the UK Prime Ministership, the Scottish leadership election, and consulting services for the “Vote Leave” campaign during the EU referendum. He is also the founder and CEO of Vocable Communications, a speech focused and data-driven communication consultancy serving senior leadership at multiple fortune 500 corporations. He received his Ph.D. in rhetoric from Northwestern University’s School of Communication in 2006, and his Master of Divinity from Emory University in 2000. In addition to his experience in the classroom and with consulting clients, he has over fifteen years of experience in speech and debate coaching, serving most recently as a coach and argument consultant for Harvard University. He has coached national championship intercollegiate debate teams at four separate universities (Liberty University, Emory University, Northwestern University, and Harvard University), and has coached multiple competitors to the top individual speaker award at the National Debate Tournament.


IDST 116-001: Gender

MWF, 1:25 PM – 2:15 PM | Instructors: Maxine Eichner, Elizabeth Olson, Cary Levine | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 190L-116

What is gender and where does it come from? Is gender something that people are born with? Or are they socialized into gender roles? Is gender in the eye of the beholder? To what extent do artists represent gender issues differently? How might one best critique or challenge gender norms? Are gender differences legal ground for treating men and women differently? Or should the law prohibit treating people differently based on gender? This course will consider these questions and more through the lenses of psychology, art, history, and law. The class will explore gender-related experiences across the lifespan, consider how gender has been represented and challenged in art throughout history, and discuss the differing ways that courts and lawyers have approached cases involving gender. This course will establish a foundation from which students can think critically about gender from multiple perspectives—personal, social, cultural, political, and juridical.

Maxine Eichner

Maxine Eichner, the Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor of Law, writes on issues at the intersection of law and political theory, focusing particularly on family relationships, social welfare law and policy; feminist theory; sexuality; and the relationship of the family, the workplace, and market forces. Professor Eichner is the author of The Supportive State: Families, Government, and America’s Political Ideals (Oxford University Press, 2010).  She is now finishing a second book, The Free-Market Family: How the Market Crushed the American Dream (and How It Can Be Restored), which considers the harsh effects that market forces are having on American families today, and which argues that the government’s role is to shield families from these forces.  She is also an editor of Family Law: Cases, Text, Problems (eds., Ellman, Kurtz, Weithorn, Bix, Czapanskiy, and Eichner, 2014). In addition, she has written numerous articles and chapters for law reviews, peer-reviewed journals, and edited volumes on law and political theory.

Elizabeth Olson

Elizabeth Olson is Professor of Geography and Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds an M.A. in Political Science/Public Policy and a Ph.D. in Geography, both from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She was previously on faculty at Lancaster University, England, and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She researches care, ethics, and geographies of inequality. She has published widely on topics related to normative ethics, the geographies of religion and spirituality, and youth and young people, and is co-editor of Religion and Place: Landscapes, Politics and Piety (2012) and The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Feminist Geographies (2020). She loves teaching and offers classes related to global inequality and global theory, cultural landscapes, and geographies of religion.

Cary Levine

Cary Levine is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His recent book, Pay for Your Pleasures: Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Raymond Pettibon (University of Chicago Press, 2013), examines the work of three important Southern California artists. He has also written criticism for several magazines and has published numerous essays for exhibition catalogues. His current scholarship focuses on the intersections of art, politics and digital technologies.


IDST 118-001: Fake News, Real Science

TTH, 8:00 AM – 9:15 AM | Instructors: Troy Sadler, Megan Plenge, Deen Freelon | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 190L-118

Students often come into science courses with preconceptions about how the world works. These preconceptions are often retained even if the course content illustrates that they are incorrect. The role of educators then is not only to teach students new content, but also to help them to dismantle pre-existing misconceptions so that they can create new foundational ideas for understanding science.

This course will explore how news media’s portrayals of controversies (or perceived controversies) in science affects how students learn in the classroom. Students will be taught science content using passive and active instructional techniques and will analyze the data to explore how each teaching technique addressed their own misconceptions. They will also explore best practices for conveying potentially controversial science information in the news media and analyze how objective science information can become biased prior to media dissemination.

Troy Sadler

Troy Sadler is the Thomas James Distinguished Professor of Experiential Learning in the School of Education. He studies how people learn science and how to improve the teaching of science. He is particularly interested in how people think about complex societal issues that connect to science such as climate change, food security, and genetically engineering. He is also interested in how technologies can support learning experiences and has led efforts to design and test two serious games, one related to biotechnology and another related to water resources. He has taught science in middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate contexts.

Megan Plenge

Megan Plenge is a Teaching Assistant Professor of Geological Science. She has always loved teaching science, and particularly loves increasing science literacy by helping people understand the nature of science. She thinks the best way for students to learn how to think like scientists is to address real-world problems. Her approach to science research has been interdisciplinary, including environmental geochemistry, microbial ecology, and water-rock interactions. She loves drinking coffee, reading science fiction books, and commuting on bike or by foot.

Deen Freelon

Deen Freelon is an associate professor at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina and a principal researcher at the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP). His theoretical interests address how ordinary citizens use social media and other digital communication technologies for political purposes, paying particular attention to how identity characteristics (e.g. race, gender, ideology) influence these uses. Methodologically, he is interested in how computational research techniques can be used to answer some of the most fundamental questions of communication science. Freelon has worked at the forefront of political communication and computational social science for over a decade, coauthoring some of the first communication studies to apply computational methods to social media data. Computer programming lies at the heart of his research practice, which generates novel tools (and sometimes methods) to answer questions existing approaches cannot address. He developed his first research tool, ReCal, as part of his master’s thesis, and it has since been used by tens of thousands of researchers worldwide. His scholarship has been financially supported by grantmakers including the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Spencer Foundation, the Knight Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation; and published in top-tier journals including Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Freelon earned his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2012 and formerly taught at American University in Washington, D.C.


IDST 119-001: Food: People, Politics, Policy

TTH, 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM | Instructors: Sarah E. Dempsey, Melinda Beck, Lindsey Smith Taillie | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 190L-119

Have you ever really thought about the meal that you just consumed? If you ate a hamburger, fries and milkshake, or a kale salad, where did that meal come from, and what does it mean to you? If you were living in a different country, what might that meal look like? Who are the laborers who made the meal possible? What are the ethics surrounding the work that went into that meal? How does that meal interact with your body? Is your body designed for this food? How do we make policies about food in the US? Is it any different in other countries? What are the ethical concerns of food policy? All of these questions and more will be discussed in this course.

Sarah E. Dempsey

Sarah E. Dempsey is a critical organizational communication scholar who thinks, writes, and teaches about work, labor, and the dynamics of communication and power. Her current research examines the values and practices animating the living wage movement and its impacts on the restaurant industry. Before becoming a professor, she worked as a: dishwasher, restaurant server, river boat ticket seller, salesperson, tractor driver, environmental educator, and web site developer. If she could be anything in the world, she’d be a detective.

Melinda Beck

Melinda Beck is a Professor in the Department of Nutrition. Her PhD is in microbiology and immunology. So why is she a faculty member in a Nutrition department? Because she learned that what you eat can have a profound effect on your body’s ability to fight off infections. She loves teaching undergraduates, and she wants to instill a life-long passion for learning in all students. One of her sons graduated from UNC and he now works for a non-profit that assists the homeless with obtaining permanent housing. Professor Beck’s hope is all students find careers in an area they are passionate about.

Lindsey Smith Taillie

Lindsey Smith Taillie studies the impact of policies on diet and health. In the US, she conducts experiments using the convenience store lab (UNC Mini Mart) to examine how changes in the food environment affects what parents and children buy and eat. Internationally, she works in Mexico, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and South Africa to examine the impact of policies like bans on junk food marketing to kids and taxes and warning labels on sugary drinks. She has two daughters (5 and 2) whose favorite foods are sauerkraut and olives, and an enormous poodle whose favorite food is microwaved hot dogs.


IDST 190-012: Humans and the Cosmos

TTH, 3:30 PM – 4:45 PM | Instructors: Molly Worthen, Joaquin Drut, Gabriel Trop | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 190L-012

This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to some of the most essential and exciting debates about humanity’s relationship to the universe. We explore such topics as the beginning of existence, the nature of time, contact with the supernatural world, and predictions about the end of all things–from the perspective of philosophy, physics, history, and related disciplines.

Molly Worthen

Molly Worthen teaches courses in the history of religion and ideology, primarily in the U.S. and Canada. Dr. Worthen’s last book was a history of recent conflicts among American evangelicals, and Dr. Worthen is currently writing a book about the history of charisma as a religious and political idea (Dr. Worthen recently released an audio course on Audible called “Charismatic Leaders Who Remade America,” which ranges from the Puritans to Donald Trump). Dr. Worthen is also a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and writes mainly about religion, politics and higher education.

Joaquin Drut

Joaquin Drut is a quantum many-particle theorist by training. That means that Dr. Drut spends most of his time thinking about how to calculate and predict the physics of systems of many particles, when they are governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. Some of those systems are studied in labs on Earth, but the most interesting ones are deep inside the most massive stars, where the elements are created at unimaginably high densities and temperatures. Dr. Drut regularly teaches a course on computational and mathematical methods for physics majors, where the importance of abstract linear algebra and generalized Fourier analysis as concepts underlying physical laws are emphasized.

Gabriel Trop

Gabriel Trop has intellectual interests in philosophy from antiquity to the present focusing on theories of art (aesthetics), science, and literature, with a special emphasis on German and French literature in the long nineteenth century. In his teaching, he tends to explore resonances between literature, film, politics, and philosophical existentialism; Dr. Trop has taught previous courses on Freedom and Terror in German Philosophy, and on the films of Christopher Nolan and German Romanticism, for example. As a classical musician (cellist), he is also interested in the aesthetics of music.


IDST 190-013: Borders and Boundaries

TTH, 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM | Instructors: Nadia Yaqub, Jennifer Gates-Foster, Banu Gökariksel | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 190L-013

What are borders and boundaries? Have they always existed? How do they come into being and how have conceptualizations of borders and boundaries changed throughout human history? What can people do when borders and boundaries impinge on their lives? How do people experience borders and border-crossings? These are some of the questions we will address in Borders and Boundaries, particularly through case studies anchored in the Middle East. We will consider ancient theories of borders and boundaries as material objects and in relation to human bodies and political institutions. We will also consider the role of borders and boundaries in the formation of culture, identity, and the state. By studying the cultural and political meaning of both ancient and modern borders and boundaries, we will examine the role these geographical structures play in producing differences between groups of people, particularly in situations of displacement and migration. Throughout the course our study of specific historical and political cases will be supplemented with analysis of imaginative works (literature, films, and art) that arise directly out of the creation and maintenance, as well as the crossing, of borders and boundaries. This interdisciplinary framework will encourage students to consider borders and boundaries at the level of theory and of the lived experiences of specific communities and individuals.

Nadia Yaqub

Nadia Yaqub is professor of Arab culture in the Department of Asian Studies and adjunct professor in the department of English and Comparative literature. She received her Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research has treated Arab cultural texts ranging from medieval literature and contemporary oral poetry to modern prose fiction and visual culture. Her recent publications include Bad Girls of the Arab World (University of Texas Press 2017), a volume of essays co-edited with Rula Quawas, and Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution (University of Texas Press, 2018), a monograph about Palestinian cinema of the long 1970s. She is currently working on a book about engaged cinema from the Arab world of the 1970s and 1980s and an edited volume about visual representations of Gaza.

Jennifer Gates-Foster

Jennifer Gates-Foster is Associate Professor in the Department of Classics and Curriculum in Archaeology at UNC Chapel Hill. She received her PhD at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2005 and has been at Carolina since 2013. Her primary research interest is in the archaeology of the Hellenistic and early Roman Eastern Mediterranean, especially Egypt, with a focus on the construction of identity in border regions.

Banu Gökariksel

Banu Gökarıksel is Professor of Geography and The Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education at The Graduate School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She also has an appointment in the Curriculum of Global Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and adjunct appointment in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University. She received her PhD in Geography from the University of Washington, Seattle and MA in Sociology/Anthropology from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey. Her research analyzes embodied and lived experiences of religion and secularism, the production of social difference, and the formation of subjects, borders, and territory.


IDST 190-017: What is Art? Where is Art?

TTH, 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM | Instructors: Victoria Rovine, Meta DuEwa Jones, Gabrielle Berlinger | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 190L-017

What is art? And where is it found? Museums are devoted to it, scholars study it, collectors spend millions to own it. And yet, definitions of art reveal more about the people doing the defining than they do about the creative expressions themselves. By asking the question—rather than by answering it—this class will explore why art matters as a category, what roles artists play in their societies, and what changing conceptions of art tell us about people, cultures, and values around the world.

Victoria Rovine

Professor Rovine loves all kinds of art. She teaches African art history courses, with a focus on dress and adornment. Her current research is on the roles of textiles in the French colonial West Africa, when they were important as symbols and as commodities. Her first book is on a type of cloth from Mali whose patterns and techniques were adapted to new markets and meanings in the late 20th century. Her second book is about African fashion design, looking at how designers reimagine styles from their own cultures to create new artistic statements that both preserve and transform the past.

Meta DuEwa Jones

Professor Meta DuEwa Jones is a researcher, creative scholar, poet, and professor. She believes writing and teaching about art and literature can transform the way we read, see, and think and thus can influence how we live. She currently researches and teaches courses focused on African American literature, music, visual art and graphic novels. Her first book was about innovations in American poetry that were influenced by blues, jazz and hip hop. Her research also illuminated how central gender and sexuality are to writing about music and its attendant visual cultural aspects. Her current book explores how writers and visual artists transform their experiences living or traveling within Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas into expressive media.

Gabrielle Berlinger

Professor Gabrielle Berlinger is a folklorist who studies creative expression in everyday life. She considers the ways we speak, dress, dance, make music, design homes, cook, perform rituals, and observe religious faiths, all to be artful acts of communication. Her first book focused on the nature and significance of urban folklife, Jewish material creativity, and ritual practice. Currently, she is researching the poetics of everyday object collection, preservation, and use in alternative house museums.


IDST 190-020: The Future of Food: Technology, Policy, Culture

MWF, 9:05 AM – 9:55 AM | Instructors: John Bruno, Caela O’Connell, Anna Krome-Lukens | Data Literacy Lab: IDST 190L-020

The course will explore a range of topics around the food we eat before shifting focus to how we might grow food in the future. We will cover different disciplinary perspectives including science fiction, anthropology, public policy and marine ecology. The course begins with a history of food gathering: how has our love of and need for food influenced our social and political structures, trade and conflict among cultures, and the exploration of the planet? Students will learn about the impacts of feeding 8 billion humans on the natural world and strategies for reducing these impacts. A survey of recent innovations in food tech will be supported by historical background of how technology has shaped our relationship with food. We will use short fiction, one novel, films, and primary literature (journal articles) to compile, contrast and synthesize diverse perspectives on food systems of the past, present and future.

John Bruno

John Bruno is a marine ecologist and Professor in the Department of Biology. His research is focused on marine biodiversity and macroecology, coral reef ecology and conservation, and the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. He earned his Ph.D. from Brown University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University in disease ecology. His lab group primarily works in the Galápagos and the Caribbean – including Belize, the Bahamas, and Cuba. He is also a science communicator and co-developer of the oceans website SeaMonster.

Caela O’Connell

Caela O’Connell is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and the Environment, Ecology, and Energy Program. She got hooked on researching farmers and the environment in particular while studying Spanish at the Universidad de Habana in Cuba. Dr. O’Connell runs the Socio-Ecological Change Research Lab (SECR Lab) at UNC investigating different aspects of sustainability, agriculture, inequality, water, disasters, adaptation, crisis and environmental conservation and partnering with community organizations for engaged scholarship. Her work is primarily in the Caribbean and North and South America. When not thinking about the future for farming and our global environment, Caela enjoys baking for friends, hiking (nothing too steep), taekwondo, tracking hurricanes, and traveling with her family.

Anna Krome-Lukens

Anna Krome-Lukens completed her PhD in U.S. History at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on the history of social welfare and public health policies, particularly the history of North Carolina’s eugenics and social welfare programs in the early 20th century. Her current book project, The Reform Imagination: How Eugenics Built the Southern Welfare State, demonstrates the lasting influence of eugenics in shaping welfare policies and conceptions of citizenship. She also directs the UNC Public Policy Capstone program, facilitating the work of student teams who do policy analysis for non-profits and government agencies.