Signature Courses Available by Term

Spring 2020

UNIV 1402 Signature Course vary by topic and integrated disciplines. Below are the courses offered during this term.

Growth, grit, and grace: What brain plasticity can do for you
(Service-Learning Course)
  • PROFESSOR: Gabriela Medina, M.S. 

  • Seminar Instructor: Gabriela Medina, M.S. 

  • “Fire and fury!” Words or weapons? Heart or fist? How we choose to handle difficult situations is influenced by the world around us and the world within us. However, is it possible to “train the mind” and change the brain to become more resilient, persistent, and compassionate? In other words, is it possible to grow grit and grace? And, if so, how? Join us for the Signature Course Growth, Grit, and Grace: What Brain Plasticity Can Do for You! We will explore connections between brain plasticity and psychology in order to tackle questions about social issues, such as can our brains be manipulated to dehumanize others, and is it possible to program our brains to develop more kindness and compassion? We will also create a service-learning project that encourages others in our community to learn about and celebrate the brains' amazing ability to change in ways that lead to positive and productive outcomes.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: Psychology, Neuroscience, Sociology
  • BOOK ADOPTION:  Healthy Brain, Happy Life by Wendy Suzuki


gabriela medina

Gabriela Medina, M.S. 
Professor & Seminar Instructor

Climate change and sustainability 
(Service-Learning Course)
  • PROFESSOR: Puneet Gill, Ph.D.

  • Seminar Instructor: Abby Garza, M.S. 

  • ABSTRACT: Climate change is an often-discussed issue in the news, politics and in local communities. Recent events have indicated meaningful discussions about climate change can be strengthened with sustainability discussions. In Half Earth: Our Planets Fight For Life, Dr. E. O. Wilson puts forth the proposal that if we commit half of the planets surface to biodiversity we will be able to stabilize the environment necessary for our survival. Paired with the documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, you will evaluate evidence claims through a lesson plan methodology, evaluate the long term impacts of climate change and the fragile relationship between biodiversity and the impacts of climatic events. Towards the the end of the course, you will argue in defense or support of the Half- Earth proposal set forth by Dr. E.O. Wilson and analyze the feasibility of sustainable solutions to issues that relate to your major or future career aspirations.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: Science, Environmental Sustainability
  • BOOK ADOPTION:  Half-Earth:  Our Planet's Fight for Life by E.O. Wilson
  • Unavailable for Education majors 
puneet gill

Puneet Gill, Ph.D. 
ruth garza

Abby Garza, M.S. 
Seminar Instructor

an"other" perspective
(service-Learning Course)
  • PROFESSOR: Hayley Kazen, Ph.D.

  • Seminar Instructor: Hayley Kazen, Ph.D.

  • ABSTRACT: Why do we fear the “other”? How does fear impact policy? How are groups negatively impacted? In this course, students will learn the negative consequences and ethical issues that fear of the “other” has on marginalizes groups. We will examine how forced relocation, assimilation attempts, discrimination and religion has had a lasting negative impact on marginalizes groups’ physical and mental health, culture, and educational attainment. With both nationalism and immigration on the rise, nationally and globally, it is important to understand how nationalistic attitudes and policies have affected people historically.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: Sociology, Public Health, Education
  • BOOK ADOPTION:  Moral Relativism:  Big Ideas/Small Books by Steven Lukes

hayley kazen

Hayley Kazen, Ph.D. 
Professor & Seminar Instructor

Media literacy 
  • PROFESSORS: Daniel De La Miyar, Ph.D. and Jonathan Martinez, M.A. 

  • Seminar Instructors: Daniel De La Miyar, Ph.D., Jonathan Martinez, M.A., and Daniel Gonzalez, M.A.  

  • ABSTRACT: Signs and symbols tell a story the viewer may be able to understand its meaning and purpose. This course will teach the diverse uses of semiotics, its applications, forms of use in non-textual style (messages), non-sounding (memes) signs and symbols and how individuals encounter semiotics on a daily basis. Western hegemony, however, has established dominance through the acquisition and control of goods that have certain value. Throughout history, cultures have developed unwritten rules to establish classism, which, arguably, has evolved into racism. Hispanic—with particular emphasis on Mexican-American—culture, demonstrates how they place and label individuals within their respective societies.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: Semiotics, Culture, Language, Media Literacy
  • BOOK ADOPTION:  NONE-readings will be provided on Blackboard
de la miyar 2

Daniel De La Miyar, Ph.D. 
Professor & Seminar Instructor
jonathan martinez

Jonathan Martinez, M.A. 
Professor & Seminar Instructor
Daniel Gonzalez

Daniel Gonzalez
Seminar Instructor

Becoming resilient: positive minds, active bodies  
  • PROFESSORS: Brett Nickerson, Ph.D. and Ediza Garcia, Ph.D. 

  • Seminar Instructor: Destine Holmgreen, M.A. 

  • ABSTRACT: This course provides students with an overview of the factors that constitute resilience and examines the interchange between physical fitness and psychological health. The course reviews how one’s physiological responses to specific physical activity programs lead to improvements in physical fitness. Students also learn about common mental health disorders within a prevention framework. Through a careful examination of the relationship between physical fitness and psychological health, students obtain knowledge and skills for promoting positive change within themselves, thereby, increasing their levels of resilience. This course utilizes an applied approach in teaching the concepts and include practical steps for improving well-being.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: Mental Health, Psychology, Physiology Performance
  • BOOK ADOPTION:  Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges by S. Southwick & D. Charney

  • Unavailable for Non-Certification Kinesiology and Psychology majors 
brett nickerson

Brett Nickerson, Ph.D. 
Ediza Garcia

Ediza Garcia, Ph.D. 
destine holmgreen

Destine Holmgreen, M.A. 
Seminar Instructor

The politics of Food Culture
(Service-Learning Course)
  • PROFESSOR: Deborah Scaggs, Ph.D. 

  • Seminar Instructor: Stephanie Martinez, M.A. 

  • ABSTRACT: What we choose to eat is shaped by several factors: cultural traditions, social surrounding, economic status, geography, advertising, and federal laws. Known as “food politics,” the intersection of these factors shapes with what we actually eat, and what we “choose” to eat is not as democratic as we think. Not only is human health at stake, but also the impact on our environment. Examining food politics as the reflection of one's individual, national, and global identities will allow students to consider the interconnectedness of several components of food beyond what is on their plate.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: Dietary Science, Sociology, Political Science, Rhetoric
  • BOOK ADOPTION(S):  The Battle over the Future of Food and Farming in America by Wenonah Hauter, A Pocket Style Manual by Diana Hacker & Nancy Sommers, and Socrative-free for students in Google Play

  • Unavailable for English majors | Limited to 60 Students

Deborah Scaggs

Deborah Scaggs, Ph.D. 
Stephanie Martinez

Stephanie Martinez, M.S. 
Seminar Instructor

Social justice
  • PROFESSOR: John Kilburn, Ph.D. 

  • Seminar Instructor: Karla Linero-Reyes, M.S.

  • ABSTRACT: Each of us has our own definition of what is socially just in society. Various types of people appear to be competing for finite resources. In most cases, this competition manifests itself through a form of individuals looking out for their own self-interest and offering less regard to the interests of others. This course examines how basic needs are regulated in terms of opportunities for employment, educational attainment, access to health care, and governmental benefits. Public perception of unfairness leads to significant discord that ranges from petty interpersonal incivilities to violence and war.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: Sociology, Business & Economics, Political Science, Philosophy, Public Health, Criminology

  • BOOK ADOPTION:  NONE - readings will be provided on Blackboard
  • Unavailable for Sociology and Criminal Justice majors 


John Kilburn, Ph.D. 
karla linero

Karla Linero-Reyes, M.S. 
Seminar Instructor

Clickbait / Dr. Google
  • PROFESSOR: Virginia Watkins-Grayson, M.S. 

  • Seminar Instructors: Veronica Juarez, M.B.A. and Sharon Harris, M.A. and Rebekah Aranaz Kirby, M.A.

  • ABSTRACT: Today’s online environment provides a world of information at our fingertips; unfortunately, this world is polluted with falsehoods, fake news, and misinformation and disinformation: a “digital swamp.” Furthermore, with so much polarizing information in the digital ecosystem, students must responsibly evaluate digital content as well as their sharing of information, whether in academic or social media settings. Therefore, this course invites students to examine connections between skills they need to identify fake news, misinformation, or disinformation, and psychological factors. Student will build digital literacy by completing an interdisciplinary research project to fact-check, analyze, annotate, and provide context to digital information.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: Social Behavioral Sciences, Communication Arts

  • BOOK ADOPTION:  Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers by Mike Caulfield

Virginia Watkins Grayson

Virginia Watkins-Grayson, M.S. 
Vero juarez

Veronica Juarez, M.B.A. 
Seminar Instructor
Sharon Harris pic2

Sharon Harris, M.A.
Seminar Instructor
UC Logo

Rebekah Arenaz Kirby, M.A. 
Seminar Instructor

Leadership Lessons Through Good, bad, and ugly times
  • PROFESSORS: Joe Gutierrez, M.A.

  • Seminar Instructors: Joe Gutierrez, M.A. and Rolando Gallegos, M.A.  

  • ABSTRACT: We live in a time of prosperity but also in a time of deep divisiveness in America. People often distrust our political leadership at all levels; thus having a low desire to participate in civics. However, when we think of virtuous political leadership several names come to the forefront: - Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt – but what made these leaders great? Were they actually considered great during their time? We will explore some of these well-known figures, by examining at what challenges they faced, how they overcame times of adversity, and led America to greatness.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: History & Leadership, Mindset, Politics, Psychology

  • BOOK ADOPTION:  Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

UC Logo

Joe Gutierrez, M.A. 
Professor & Seminar Instructor
Rolando Gallegos 2

Rolando Gallegos, M.A. 
Seminar Instructor

History of Laredo from the coahuiltecans to NAFTA
  • PROFESSOR: Jerry Thompson, Ph.D. 

  • Seminar Instructors: Daniela Rodriguez, M.A. and Juan F. Espinoaza, Jr., M.P.A. 

  • ABSTRACT: The course will present the rich cultural uniqueness and history of Laredo from the earliest times. The original Native Americans, the Coahuiltecans will be studied as well as the establishment of Laredo as part of Jose de Escandon’s “Villas del Norte” in the province of Nuevo Santander Tomas Sanchez de la Barrera y Garza’s struggles to keep the village safe will be discussed. Mexican independence and a series of wars that swept over the town and region will be presented, especially the struggle between the Centralists and Federalists that lead to the creation of the Republic of the Rio Grande. The 1846-1848 war between the United States and Mexico and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo that made the Rio Grande the boundary will be emphasized as well as the Civil War that followed. The difficult era of Reconstruction and how Samuel M. Jarvis named the streets and changed the city will be another topic of discussion. The bloody election riot in 1886 between the Botas and Guaraches is another topic to be explored. The origins of the patron system and the domination of the Independent Club (Partido Viejo) should be of interest to students. The collapse of the Old Party in 1978 and the emergence of Aldo Tatangelo and the paving of the streets will be another topic. The course will end with NAFTA and the emergence of Laredo as a major city. The course will include guest lecturers, class presentations, and walking tours.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: History, Economics, Sociology
  • BOOK ADOPTION:  Laredo; A Pictorial History by Jerry Thompson
  • Unavailable for History Majors
Dr. Jerry Thompson

Jerry Thompson, Ph.D.
daniela rodriguez

Daniela Rodriguez, M.A.
Seminar Instructor
Juan Espinoza 2

Juan F. Espinoza, M.P.A.
Seminar Instructor

Job opportunities with data
  • PROFESSORS: Geoffrey Hubona, Ph.D.

  • Seminar Instructor: Janet Carrillo, M.S.
  • ABSTRACT: This course introduces students to the accelerating use of data analytics in both contemporary American society as well as in other countries around the globe. It is a survey course designed to present a sampling of the myriad of data analytics applications from a non-technical point of view. The course traces the history of date analytics and emphasizes contemporary uses of data analytics in business, in government, and in the international community. Course content informs on the pervasive applications of data analytics, at home and in the community, and within various professions. Virtually all large organizations use data analytics today to strategically extract business intelligence from raw data: trends, patterns, and actionable information which serves to better align and move the organization towards designated goals and objectives. These organizations include for-profit businesses, as well as not-for-profit organizations, such as healthcare and government at the state and federal level.

  • DISCIPLINES EMBEDDED: Data Analytics, Data Science, Business, MIS, Data Mining, Big Data
  • BOOK ADOPTION:  NONE---readings will be provided on Blackboard
  •  Unavailable for Business majors
Dr. Hubona

Geoffrey Hubona, Ph.D
Janet Carrillo

Janet Carrillo, M.S.
Seminar Instructor

University College 
Zaffirini Student Success Center 223 
Phone 326-2134 
Fax 326-2129