Current Semester


American Exceptionalism from a Public Policy Perspective

Start: March 2
Time: 1:30 P.M.-3:30 P.M.

Instructor: Zsofia Barta, Assistant Professor, Political Science, University at Albany

How does the United States compare to other countries in health care, education, housing, social welfare, and taxation? What are the reasons for some of the stark differences between the U.S. in these areas and other prosperous countries?
The U.S. is famous for having the best universities and hospitals in the world. Yet, it lags behind other countries in international student assessment tests and health indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality. The U.S. does not provide universal government sponsored health care, and, yet, it spends more on health care than any other country. The U.S. also has historically enacted progressive tax rates, but after-tax inequality is still far greater than in other industrialized nations. This course will explore the politics of health care, education, housing, social welfare, and tax policies to help explain why United States’ policies in these areas fail to achieve the expected results.


Global Warming: Impacts, Uncertainties, & Challenges Ahead

Start: March 3
Time: 10:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M.

Instructor: Mathias Vuille, Professor, Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences, University at Albany

Climate change is having an increasing and alarming impact on the planet and its inhabitants. Despite a strong consensus within the scientific community about humanity’s role in climate change, it has become a divisive topic in the public arena, used by diverse interest groups to advance their particular agendas. Here we will discuss the current scientific understanding of climate change and focus on what we know and where uncertainties remain. We will discuss impacts of climate change that are already being observed today and how they will affect aspects of our daily lives over the coming decades, both locally and globally. This course will examine how we can reduce our vulnerability in the light of such changes by transforming our infrastructure, cities, health system, and energy production. The course will review some of the major technological, socioeconomic, and political challenges our society is facing as it confronts climate change impacts. Finally, we will consider the very real benefits to be obtained by developing and implementing new and innovative adaptation and mitigation strategies.


Latin America: Its People and Its Music

Start: March 3
Time: 1:30 P.M.-3:30 P.M.

Instructor: Max Lifchitz, Professor, Music & Theater, University at Albany

Today's Latin America is home to rich and varied musical manifestations. Some evince ancient Pre-Hispanic traditions. Others are newer products that demonstrate indigenous thinking while combining European, African and even North-American influences.
Lectures will discuss examples of native music; genres, such as concert music, which is clearly based on European forms; dance music with strong African ties; and mestizo music, which is an amalgam of the above elements.
In addition, lectures will explore the broader cultures of the people that reside in Latin American and the Caribbean that produced a rich and diverse musical world. We will begin by briefly examining the historical development of Latin American cultures from pre-colonial days to the 20th century with an emphasis on those forces that influenced the rich musical traditions of this vast geographic region.
I hope that in a few weeks, course participants will develop an informed acquaintance with Latin America cultures, its people, and the wonderful music they produced.


Latin America from its Conquest to Independence

Start: March 4
Time: 10:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M.

Note: This class will not meet on Wednesday April 8th, beginning of Passover. Last class will be Wednesday April 15th

Instructor: John Schwaller, Professor, History, University at Albany

Latin American nations, despite being our hemispheric neighbors, are very poorly understood by people in the United States. Many of us forget that a full century prior to English colonization of North America, Spanish settlers had been living in what is now Mexico and South America. When Harvard College was founded, three major universities in the Americas were preparing to celebrate their centennials. Understanding colonial Latin America prior to independence in the early 19th century is critical to understanding why our southern neighbors are at the same time similar to us and yet so completely different. This course will examine Latin America, focusing on areas colonized by the Spanish, from the pre-Hispanic civilizations to the creation of the political, social, and economic systems that Spain developed to govern its colonies. We will also investigate the complex interplay between the Spanish and the native peoples of the Americas, Africa, and Asia that resulted in what one scholar has characterized as the “Cosmic Race."


Shakespeare's Comic Vision

Start: March 4
Time: 1:30 P.M.-3:30 P.M.

Note: This class will not meet on Wednesday April 8th, beginning of Passover. Last class will be Wednesday April 15th

Instructor: Martha Rozett, Professor Emerita & Collins Fellow, University at Albany

Shakespeare’s comedies were shaped by a long and rich dramatic tradition, and for centuries they have provided writers with character types, comic situations, and very witty jokes and wordplay. This course will focus on five plays from the beginning of Shakespeare’s writing career to the end, along with occasional references along the way to memorable comic figures from other plays. After an introduction and overview at the first session, we will devote one class to each of the following, in this order: The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, and The Tempest. Participants are encouraged to read or watch a performance of each week’s play before coming to class and to bring a copy of the play (they can be easily read on your electronic device).