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Path@Penn on April 19, 2022. Credit: Avi Singh

As students finalize schedules for the fall 2022 semester, here are five interesting classes to be aware of. 

RELS 3560: “Living Deliberately: Monks, Saints, and the Contemplative Life”

Religious Studies professor Justin McDaniel is not teaching one of Penn’s most well-known courses, the seven-hour-long RELS 2560: “Existential Despair,” this fall. However, students will be able to experience the ways that monks and saints live in RELS 3560. The class — described as an “experimental course,” — restricts students’ dress, food, and speech, and allows students to wrestle with existential questions and learn about how everything from mind-altering chemicals to magic have been used in the religious world to remedy pain and suffering.

Unlike most classes at Penn, RELS 3560 has no formal papers or examinations, and it has “very little” required reading. Over winter break, enrolled students will travel to Thailand as part of the course’s Penn Global Seminar component. 

FNAR 1110: “The Big Picture: Mural Arts in Philadelphia”

In this course, students will have the opportunity to learn everything about murals — and help create one themselves. After learning about today’s mural arts movement and how it is used for social change, students will analyze the mural design process itself. They will then team up with Philadelphia high school students and community groups to paint a large outdoor mural in West Philadelphia. 

FNAR 1110 is taught by Jane Golden Heriza, the executive director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, and Shira Walinsky, a mural arts painter and the founder of the Southeast by Southeast project, a community center for Burmese refugees in South Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program is the nation’s largest public arts program and has produced nearly 4,000 murals. 

HIST 0012: “Why College? Historical and Contemporary Perspectives”

HIST 0012 is a first-year seminar devoted to everything surrounding the question in its title: college’s goals and objectives, and how those have changed in America over time. The course will also delve into discussions of modern-day hot topics on campus, ranging from affirmative action, campus politics, and “political correctness” to sexual assault, safety, and Greek life. 

The seminar is taught by Graduate School of Education History professor Jonathan Zimmerman, who has been outspoken in his support of unrestricted freedom of speech

ENGL 3308: “Cooking with Words”

Taught by New York Times Magazine food columnist and restaurateur Gabrielle Hamilton, ENGL 3308 is a writing workshop that is all about food. The course will take students through the works of authors who have written about food, and students will then have the chance to write prose on a non-food topic through the lens of food. One example, listed in the course description, is a story about the end of a friendship because of how someone spoke to the waitress at a restaurant. 

Course readings will include art critic John Berger, poet Ogden Nash, and Canadian singer-songwriter KD Lang. 

COMM 4630: “Surveillance Capitalism”

Have you ever wondered how Google knows to show you an ad about the thing you were just talking about with your friend? COMM 4630 delves into the term that is increasingly used to describe this encroachment of technology on our lives: surveillance capitalism. The course will examine how large companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon use surveillance capitalism — including artificial intelligence and “big data” analyses — to increase their profits, affect the job you are offered, customize the ads you see, and much more. 

COMM 4630 is taught by Communication professor Joseph Turow, whose research includes conducting national surveys on issues surrounding media and marketing.