Signature courses

These small seminar-style courses provide opportunities for students to discuss engaging issues while developing critical thinking, information literacy and both written and oral communication skills. Each class is focused on a unique subject but all classes are about intellectual curiosity, making campus connections and learning how to thrive in the SUNY Oswego community.

First Year Signature courses

Signature Courses Available in Fall 2020

(ANT 198) The Talking Dead: Understanding Life from Human Skeletal Remains

When: MWF 9:10 - 10:05
Instructor: Dr. Kathleen Blake

Course description
They help forensic anthropologists investigate murders, bioarchaeologists reconstruct life in the past, paleopatholgists examine past disease and trauma, paleoanthropologists study human evolution, medical students learn the framework of the human body, and museum visitors marvel at exhibits. They are the bones of the human skeleton and they have stories to tell. Students will learn the scientific techniques for evaluating skeletal remains, estimating age and sex, diagnosing pathology, and reconstructing diet and migration patterns. This course emphasizes the integration of biology and culture to understand past individuals and societies as well as to examine the skeletal remains in the modern world. This course is for anyone keen to learn what human skeletal remains can teach us about life, including those with an interest in archaeology, history, anthropology, biology, medical sciences, forensics, and more.

About Dr. Kathleen Blake
Kathleen Blake, a forensic anthropologist and bioarchaeologist, is currently an assistant professor at SUNY Oswego. In addition to teaching, Dr. Blake is the advisor to the Women in STEM club, a consulting osteologist and forensic anthropologist, and faculty sponsor for student research and internships. Recent research has been conducted at the Maricopa County Forensic Science Center in Phoenix, AZ, and the Centre for Anatomy & Human Identification at the University of Dundee, Scotland. When not looking at bones in a lab, she is spending time with family, walking her Australian cattle dog, doing yoga, and traveling. In particular, she loves taking students to the Czech Republic to see bone churches and ossuaries in her course “Dead but not Buried”.

(CAS 198) How to Think About Weird Things: Science Confronts Pseudoscience

When: MWF 12:40 - 1:35
Instructor: Dr. Kristin Croyle & Dr. Paul Tomascak

Course Description
Are UFO's evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence?
Are there legitimate arguments against biological evolution? the use of vaccines?
Can a person read another's thoughts? Or influence their behavior with words?
Can we predict the future? Or see objects otherwise obscured to sight?
Do spirits persist after people die?

Science is the pathway by which we try to answer these kinds of questions. Unfortunately, another pathway, pseudoscience, is also used. Unlike science, pseudoscience takes short cuts and lacks rigor. It pretends to answer questions through science-like practices and attempts to convince those who lack a skeptical mindset.

In the words of Carl Sagan, "Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires vigilance, dedication, and courage. But if we don't practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us--and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, a world of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who saunters along."

About Dr. Kristin Croyle
Kristin Croyle is the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a Professor of psychology.  Kristin became a psychologist because she is interested in applying scientific principles and research to help people figure out how to make better choices and live more satisfying lives.  After living in sunny south Texas for 17 years (until 2019), she is enjoying beautiful Oswego with all four seasons! Kristin enjoys spending time with her family and dog, cooking, reading (especially mysteries), and movies. 

About Dr. Paul Tomascak
Paul Tomascak is a Connecticut native whose academic travels range from the desert of central New Mexico to the frigid plains of Manitoba to the bustling DC metropolis. He is an isotope geochemist, a fancy term for a geologist who studies how and when rocks form and where they come from. He has had a life-long curiosity with strange phenomena and took over teaching an earlier version of this course after arriving in Oswego in 2004. When not reading about weird things he runs long distances (slowly), plays hockey (poorly), and does his part to eliminate food waste (frequently by disregarding expiration dates).

(CRW 198) I Have Something to Tell You: The Spoken Word

When: MWF 9:10 - 10:05
Instructor: Stephanie Pritchard, MFA

Course Description
Spoken word poems are meant for a crowd. Performance poetry (spoken word and slam) became popular in the United States in the 1980s, and this genre of writing and speaking emphasizes word choice, rhythm, repetition, and storytelling to address issues related to social justice. 

This course will introduce you to contemporary spoken word poems and performers as well as the social problems they address in their writing: sexism, civil rights, poverty, body image, LGBTQ+ rights, rape culture, mental illness, religious freedom, and more. You will also compose, workshop, and perform your own spoken word poem.


About Stephanie Pritchard
Stephanie Pritchard is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English and Creative Writing department at the State University of New York at Oswego. She received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2011. Stephanie teaches poetry writing, digital storytelling, and English composition courses, is Assistant Director for Writing Across the Curriculum and the Director of The Creativity Lab. She is the recipient of the Provost's Award for Teaching Excellence. In addition to teaching and writing, Stephanie enjoys going for long walks with her two beagles, watching the same shows over and over on Netflix, instructing group exercise classes at the Oswego YMCA, and trying to convince her toddler to wear pants.

(EDU 198) Mindful Living Through Yoga

When: TTH 11:10 - 12:30
Instructor: Dr. Barabra Beyerbach

Course Description
Who am I? What is reality? What is mindfulness? How can mindfulness practices help me
explore the questions that humans have grappled with across the ages?

Mindfulness practices can help re-unite body and mind in the present moment, allowing us to examine connections between our inner experiences (thoughts, feelings) and our physical
experiences (restlessness, anxiety, physical sensations, energy, relaxation, sleep), and the world. Everyone has the capacity to cultivate mindfulness and experience life more fully.

In this practice-based course, we will experience various mindfulness practices including yoga and meditation, and investigate the impacts on our awareness, emotions and thoughts. We will explore the ancient roots of yoga in India and look at ways eastern and western practices have co-mingled and influenced one another in modern yoga and meditation practices. We will use these cross cultural explorations to reflect on and examine our own cultural beliefs. Together we will discover the fascination of exploring our interior spaces.

About Dr. Barbara Beyerbach
Dr. Beyerbach is an education professor, a certified yoga teacher, and Professional Development School Coordinator for the School of Education. A faculty member in Curriculum and Instruction, she teaches Culturally Relevant Teaching and supervises student teachers. She has visited India to explore the roots of yoga and works with area schools to bring mindfulness practices to teachers and children. She has walked the Camino de Santigo, and has visited and worked with schools in Benin, China, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica and India.   She, Davis and Ramalho most recently published the second edition of the edited volume, Activist Art in Social Justice Pedagogy (Beyerbach, B., Davis R. D , & Ramalho, T.,  2017, Peter Lang Publishing).

(EDU 198) New Adult Literature: Exploring Books about Early Adulthood

When: TBD
Instructor: Dr. Sharon Kane

Course description
Where can readers who loved Young Adult literature as teens turn for pleasure reading as they leave adolescence behind? “New Adult” literature targets an audience ranging from about 18 to 25 years old. In this course, we will use a book club format to discuss characters negotiating academic and social aspects of college life. We’ll get to know characters as they explore intellectual passions and careers; forge new relationships; accept challenges; and construct a future. We’ll read biographies and memoirs focusing on the early years of famous people in several fields, as well as informational texts about approaching the age of “twenty-something.”

About Dr. Sharon Kane
Sharon Kane is a Professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, where she teaches literacy and methods courses. She is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She loves hiking, bicycling, and skiing, as well as reading and teaching about Young Adult literature. She has been an active member of a writing group for more than 20 years. Her publications include Literacy and Learning in the Content Areas, 4th Edition (Routledge, 2019) and Integrating Literature in the Disciplines, 2nd Edition (Routledge, 2020). She is currently working on a book about “New Adult” literature.

(HSC 198) B. Well at OSWEGO: Laying the Foundation for a Lifetime of Good Health!

When: MFW 11:30 - 12:25
Instructor: Dr. Amy Bidwell

Course description
B. Well at OSWEGO is a behavior change course specifically geared at addressing a student’s well-being as they transition from high school to college. Particular focus will be on learning daily coping skills necessary to thrive in the area of emotional, social and intellectual well-being.  Special attention will be given to how the use of daily goal-setting, mindfulness, positive psychology, healthy eating, physical activity and stress management can enhance resilience in college.

About Dr. Amy Bidwell
Dr. Amy Bidwell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness.   She received her M.S. and PhD from Syracuse University in Exercise Physiology and Science Education with a research emphasis in nutrition, physical inactivity and disease progression. Dr. Bidwell teaches nutrition and exercise physiology at Oswego. Her aim is to increase the overall health and wellness of all college students by educating them on ways to incorporate physical activity, maintain stress levels and practice a healthy diet every day.  Dr. Bidwell enjoys involving her students in her research and has often been spotted sharing a healthy meal with her student at Lakeside. Dr. Bidwell practices what she preaches by running and doing yoga on her free time.  She has completed 3 half marathons and a Tough Mudder!

(HSC 198) Sexual Health in the Media

When: MFW 11:30 - 12:25
Instructor: Dr. Jessica Harris

Course description
Sexual Health in the Media is a wellness course that uses popular media such as

reality television, pop & hip-hop music, movies, Instagram, and other media
sources to explore themes related to sexual health, relationships, communication,
and prevention. The course focuses on giving college students the tools and
strategies needed to navigate the college culture and empower students to make
healthy life decisions. Some core modules of the course will include: 

  1. Understanding Health on Campus
  2. Study and Lifelong Learning Skills
  3. Introduction to Sexual Health 
  4. The Media and Perspectives of Sexuality 
  5. Communication and Collaboration

About Dr. Jessica Harris:
Jessica Harris is a full-time Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness at SUNY Oswego. She received her Ed. D from St. John Fisher College in Executive Leadership, where her research focused on “Knowledge, Behavior, and Attitudes of College Students Regarding HIV/AIDS.” Her M.S. was in Health Science from the University of Arkansas, where her

research focused on sexual health. Dr. Harris is passionate about teaching and is very active on the SUNY Oswego campus, you may see her at several student events such as OZFEST, ALANA fashion shows, or simply chatting with students in the lounge. Dr. Harris is very approachable and has an open-door policy. Her goal
is to help her students succeed whether that be by going on to graduate school or helping students into flourishing career paths.

(JLM 198) Navigating News: Fake & Fact

Instructor: Professor Catherine Loper

Course description
Do you think following the news is something just your parents or grandparents do? Ever wonder if that news story in your social media feed is fake or fact? And why is everyone yelling on cable news? Following the news doesn’t have to be boring. It can actually be fun if you know the language of news and find sources that are interesting to you. And, being an informed citizen can help you in your career and your personal life. 

This course sets out to help students learn news literacy -- what different news outlets and platforms are intended to do, and not do. Students will learn from a seasoned journalist what goes into reporting and producing news stories. We’ll explore the difference between “fake news,” opinion journalism and news reporting. Students will learn about news online, television radio and social media. That means the class involves watching TV, listening to podcasts and using Twitter. This class is meant for students who have never read a news story before, those considering a media career and everyone in between.

About Professor Loper
Catherine Loper is a visiting assistant professor of broadcast journalism. She started teaching full time at SUNY Oswego in 2017 after a 25+ year career in broadcast news, primarily in Washington, D.C.. Professor Loper has worked for a variety of broadcasters including ABC News, Fox News Channel and WRVO, the NPR affiliate based on the SUNY Oswego campus. She’s traveled to over 40 states and 20 countries covering presidents and presidential candidates. Professor Loper has a B.A. in broadcast journalism from the University of Southern California and a M.A. in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Professor Loper left the whirlwind world of news to live with her husband and two stepchildren in northern New York. When she is not watching, listening and reading the news, she enjoys cooking, eating, traveling and watching (but not participating in) sports.



(MUS 198) Trip,Trap,Grime & LoFi; History and Practice in Electronic Music

When: TTH 3:55 - 5:15
Instructor: Dr. Paul Leary

Course description
Humans have been writing music with computers since they were first introduced in the 1950s, and in many ways, the principles and practices of this genre of music haven’t changed since. This first year signature course will introduce you to the history and practice of creating electronic music. Students will have the opportunity to survey and critique electronic music of the past 70 years and learn the basic principles involved in its composition. Part of the course will involve writing your own music!

About Dr. Paul Leary
Paul Leary has been a professor of music at SUNY Oswego since 2014. He is an active composer of acoustic music, EDM, and other more experimental electronic music. Dr. Leary teaches songwriting, electronic music, and music theory. He also incorporates visual media and animation in much of his work. In his spare time, he likes to build his own instruments in his woodshop, do arts and crafts and other projects around the house. Dr. Leary is an avid road cyclist as well. 



(POL 198) The Politics of Disaster

When: MWF 1:50 - 2:45
Instructor: Dr. Lisa Glidden

Course description:

About Dr. Glidden:

Why take a signature course?

  • Opportunity to work with our very best faculty in your first semester
  • Class size smaller than 20
  • Thought-provoking subject matter
  • Supportive learning environment that will prepare you well for additional college work
  • Students who take these courses engage in the campus quickly and deeply

About the faculty

The faculty members teaching these courses are full time and have a proven record of excellent teaching and interest in the success of first year students. All courses will feature collaborative and active learning as you examine an interesting topic about which each faculty member is passionate.

How do they count toward my degree?

  • All incoming first year students are required to take a first-year class (denoted with an "F" on your schedule) and these sections would count.
  • These are not courses for any specific major but are opportunities for you to explore an area of interest
  • All students need 120 credits minimum to graduate and some of those credits will be outside your General Education and Major requirements – we call these “electives”

Learning objectives

Critical thinking and information literacy
Students will identify and critically evaluate information related to the course content.

Oral and written communication
Students will communicate meaning using oral and written language appropriate to the topic and the target audience.

Intercultural knowledge and competence
Students will examine alternative cultural perspectives / worldviews related to course topics.

Campus engagement
Students will describe opportunities to become engaged members of the campus community.