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College of Arts and Sciences

  • Shakespearian actor reading from a scroll.


    The Spring 2023 Theme Semester will explore interdisciplinary aspects of the word play.

Theme Semester

Events and courses for the Spring 2023 Theme Semester on Play will be announced later in 2022. For now, enjoy this archive of the Fall 2021 Theme Semester on Climates.

Theme Semester Keynote with Richard Alley


Richard Alley

A Climate of Progress: Finding the Good News on Energy and Environment

Richard Alley, a renowned geoscientist and host of the PBS documentary Earth: The Operator's Manual, gave the Theme Semester 2021 keynote address on November 10. His talk explores the opportunities of responding to the climate crisis, including economic growth and greater national security.

Watch the recording here.


Thank you for joining us for film screenings, lectures, and a field trip to explore the climates we inhabit.

Public lecture and experiential event focused on integrating climate consciousness into professional creative practice and opportunities that the climate emergency presents to adapt the ways we live, love and learn. With designer Marc O’Brien, graphic designer and strategist from climate-focused creative studio The Determined.

Examines the dynamics of abuse and intimate partner violence in the lives of transgender people. Led by Xavier L. Guadalupe-Diaz, associate professor of sociology at Framingham State University. Part of the virtual Violence and (In)justice Lecture Series on Hostile Climates.

Virtual event.

Note: This event has been rescheduled for February 2022. Lecture about improving equity and addressing the lack of diversity in museum staff, exhibitions and collections. Led by Stephanie Johnson-Cunningham, an American for the Arts American Express Emerging Leader Award winner and the founder of Museum Hue, an arts organization advancing Black, Indigenous and other people of color in the cultural field.

Location: Columbia Museum of Art

Scholar-led presentations and panel discussion about the contributions of Latin American ecocriticism, activism, and public scholarship to the environmental humanities. Includes scholars from the University of Illinois, Rice University and Wofford College.

Virtual event.

UofSC faculty lecture with Nick Peng, assistant professor in the School of the Earth, Ocean, & Environment, on microorganisms — the often unseen (and often overlooked) majority of our living world — and their role in shaping, recording and responding to climate change.

Location: Capstone, Carolina Room

Discusses youth violence, why LGBTQ youth and youth of color experience higher risk of victimization and the consequences of this victimization. Led by Dr. Lindsay Kahle Semprevivo, teaching assistant professor of criminology at West Virginia University. Part of the virtual Violence and (In)justice Lecture Series on Hostile Climates.

Virtual event.

Lecture and discussion on why it might be best to expect the worst of the dramatic crises in physical, geopolitical and civil climates. Led by Roy Scranton, director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative and an associate professor of English at the University of Notre Dame.

Location: Gambrell 153.

Join CinéCola, Columbia’s annual French-language film festival, on Zoom for a discussion of Home, a documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and produced by Luc Besson. Watch the documentary for free on YouTube.

The film is almost entirely composed of aerial shots of various places on Earth. It shows how tightly linked humans and nature are, and how humanity is threatening the ecological balance of the planet.

Virtual event. Additional details at the Alliance Française Columbia website.

Explores how social institutions restrict mothers of color from equal opportunities while simultaneously penalizing them for surviving their circumstances. With Dr. Janet Garcia-Hallett, assistant professor in the University of New Haven’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Part of the virtual Violence and (In)justice Lecture Series on Hostile Climates.

Virtual event.

Climate change does not have to be a partisan issue. Richard Alley, host of the PBS documentary Earth: The Operator’s Manual, highlights opportunities to strengthen the economy and national security while improving health in a cleaner environment.

Virtual event.

Join CinéCola, Columbia’s annual French-language film festival, on Zoom for a discussion of Human, a documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Watch the documentary for free on YouTube.

What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. Working with a dedicated team of translators, journalists and cameramen, Arthus-Bertrand captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all.

Virtual event. Additional details at the Alliance Française Columbia website.

Presentations from School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, Biological Sciences, Geography and Philosophy faculty highlighting ongoing interdisciplinary research on characterizing and managing climate change.

Location: Close-Hipp, Lumpkin Auditorium.

Join CinéCola, Columbia’s annual French-language film festival, on Zoom for a discussion of Terra, a documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot. Watch the documentary for free on YouTube.

How do we now wish to interact with other species that live around us? The power of Terra resides in this very question. This documentary shows how our own image and representation of nature has always been decisive in human history, and how it can still change the course of events to come.

Virtual event. Additional details at the Alliance Française Columbia website.

The town of Mossville, Louisiana, was founded by freed and enslaved African Americans. But many of the town's residents are being forced out by chemical companies whose environmental impact endangers human health. Join us for a symposium including a screening of the film Mossville: When Great Trees Fall and a conversation with Michelle Lanier, the film’s executive producer. A reception will follow.

Location: Booker T. Washington Auditorium.

About Theme Semester

Our annual Theme Semester unites scholars throughout the College of Arts and Sciences in exploring a common theme relevant to daily life and global issues. Innovative undergraduate courses and events for students and the public showcase our commitment to education both in and outside the classroom. 

The theme for our Fall 2021 Theme Semester was "Climates" and our Fall 2020 Theme Semester was “Justice.  



More than 30 courses throughout the College of Arts and Sciences and South Carolina Honors College explored aspects of Climates, ranging from ethics and the environment to race and gender. 

Core Theme Semester Courses.

ITAL 330 / 398 | By Pia Bertucci 
Climate change poses a potential threat to food systems globally, as droughts affect food supplies. But food culture affects climate change, too, as food waste in landfills increases the levels of methane gas. 
This course will examine this relationship and explore how the basic tenets of Italian Foodways — sustainability, eating seasonally and cucina povera — in tandem with progressive Italian movements such as "Slow Food" and "Food for Soul" effectively navigate these challenges. 
Through research projects and a final paper, students will incorporate the specific lessons in the class with broader lessons from Theme Semester events to further their understanding of the global relationship between climates and food systems. 

MSCI 311 | Erin Meyer-Gutbrod 
This marine science course examines how aquatic organisms are involved in cycling materials and energy through marine food webs. During Theme Semester, the course will dive deep into exploring the impacts of warming, acidifcation, ice melt and sea level rise on marine biological processes. A new lab component will introduce hands-on experience. 

HIST 360 and GERM 295 / ENVR 295 | By Lara Ducate and Thomas Lekan 
Green Technology in Germany and Into the Wild: Conservation since 1800 will be taught side-by-side in the Green Quad learning center to facilitate collaboration. 
These courses historically focus on both the natural and cultural Climates that have shaped sustainable practices inside and outside the US. Taken together, they offer students a unique interdisciplinary opportunity to engage sustainability topics through humanistic perspectives. 
This Fall the courses will explore how global warming and climate justice are reshaping the environmental movement to be more inclusive of local, indigenous and urban communities and perspectives. Several field trips will be offered to allow students to see climate action close to home. 

ENGL 439 | By Greg Forter 
This course asks what literatures from across the globe can teach us about the causes, effects and potential solutions to global climate change. 
We'll discuss a series of novels in which the disasters of such change are explored with great complexity and power. These works invite questions about the local experience of global transformations, why are devastations unevenly distributed around the world? What does the emphasis on dystopian futures reveal about the task of imagining alternatives to our current order? 

MSCI 599 | By Lori Ziolkowski 
Climate change is happening whether we accept it or not. Therefore, we need to understand why it is happening, what the impacts of it will be, and how we can stop it? But for some, a science class can be intimidating. 
This course bridges the gap by using science fiction — or climate fiction — to discuss the physical basis of climate change, the impacts on society and how we can cool a future planet. Literary works from the late 19th century through today explore scenarios of extreme global warming and cooling, widespread drought and flooding due to projected sea level rise. 

RUSS 319 | By Alex Ogden 
Russian authors discussed climate and the environment more than 100 years ago. During Theme Semester, this course will introduce new units that explore passages of Russian literature in which the country’s climate is mapped onto the mental, moral and emotional life of its citizens. 


Affiliated Courses 

Note to students and advisors: Pay attention to the faculty member listed for each course in order to sign up for the section that will connect to the Climates theme. 

AFAM 397 / SOCY 398 | Unpacking Whiteness | Deena Isom 
ANTH 381 | WGST 381 | Gender and Globalization | Drucilla Barker 
ARTH 321 | History of Northern REnaissance Art | Anna House 
BIOL 570 | Principles of Ecology | Joshua Stone 
BIOL 571 / ENVR 571 | Conservation Biology | Carol Boggs 
CHEM 542L | Physical Chemistry Laboratory | Andrew Greytak 
CHEM 623 | Introductory Environmental Chemistry | John Ferry 
CRJU 591 / AFAM 397 | Miscarriages of Justice | Deena Isom 
ENGL 102 | Anthropocene Composition: Climate Changes, Climate Crises | John Purfield 
ENGL 439 | World Literature and Global Climate Change | Greg Forter 
ENVR 501 / GEOG 510 | Special Topics: Socionatural Coastlines | Robert Dean Hardy 
FAMS 310 / GEOG 310 | Special Topics in Popular Media: Climates of Disasters | Mark Cooper 
GEOG 105 | The Digital Earth | Jory Fleming 
GEOG 202 | Weather and Climate | Greg Carbone 
GEOG 380 | Global Geography of Human Rights | Meredith DeBoom 
GEOG 573 | Climate Change and Variability | Greg Carbone 
GEOG 735 | Seminar in Political Geography | Meredith DeBoom 
GEOL 325 | Stratigraphy and Sedimentary Basins | Dave Barbeau 
GERM 295 / ENVR 295 | Green Technology in Germany | Laura Ducate 
HIST 360 | Into the Wild: Conservation Since 1800 | Thomas Lekan 
LING 305 | Ethics in the Language Classroom | Lesley Smith 
LING 305 / WGST 389 | Language, Gender, and Sexuality | Archie Crowley 
MSCI 750 / GEOL 750 | Advanced Analytical Methods: Chemical Climate of the Urban River | Howie Scher 
MSCI 752 | Marine Biochemistry | Xuefeng Peng 
PHIL 370 | The Ethics of Climate | Matt Kisner 
SCHC 311 | Tracking Climate Change: Discovering the Mathematics Behind Weather | Scott Dunn 
SPAN 575 / SPAN 783 | Ecological Cultural Studies in Latin America | Andrew Rajca 



Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.