Feel like discussing women who rattled societal cages in the Middle Ages? How about taking an overnight backpacking trip? Or maybe you’re interested in the connection between women and ecology?

All those subjects and more are offered in the upcoming Spring Semester. If you haven’t decided on all your classes, here are descriptions of some that may be of interest. Registration is now open for all spring classes.

Making waves

Ask most folks to name rabble-rousing women of the Middle Ages and Joan of Arc tends to be No. 1 on the list.

Yes, she was a major figure—successful soldier, military advisor, political negotiator, religious figure. And she was burned at the stake when she was 19 years old on a trumped-up charge of heresy.

Tough to be a strong woman in the Middle Ages.

But Joan of Arc is only the best-known of women who made waves in the Middle Ages; there are many others who, through their religious practices and political savvy, reached levels of authority not usually attained by women during that era.

Amy Huesman, an adjunct professor in the Department of History, will highlight some of those women in “Holy Women and Heretics in the Late Middle Ages.” And some of them were a bit on the wild side.

“Women got away with some behaviors that seemed almost bizarre because people in their communities believed they had a special connection to the divine,” she says.

Those connections ran through such practices as mysticism, devotional writings, heretical sects, accusations of witchcraft, even sacrificing their lives as a form of piety.

“I want the students to see the various ways in which religious practice served as a source of power for late medieval women in their respective communities,” Huesman says. “We will look at the lives of women who gained positions of authority—both spiritual and political—because of their deep, sometimes extreme, devotion.

“And they were often able to dance on the fine line between orthodoxy and heresy.”

Writing and the Watershed

What exactly does an English class have to do with keeping an eye on garbage in our local streams?

“I am a believer in stewardship—both of our places and of ourselves,” says Clayton Jones, the adjunct professor of English leading “Environmental Rhetoric and Composition II.” “I want students to leave my class with a profound sense of responsibility to their writing and to their environment.”

Much of the course’s writing is based on the fieldwork, including a research paper on endangered and invasive species in the Tennessee River Watershed, he says. Students also will publish an e-portfolio account of their findings, critical reflections, journals, data and photographs on Weebly.com.

The class is full at this point, but interested students  can put their names on a waiting list in case another one opens up. For questions on how to put their name on the list, students can email Jones at at clayton-jones@utc.edu.

Students in the course are also awarded Beyond the Classroom points, which can lead to priority registration the following semester, an invitation to a special dinner and an award signed by Chancellor Steve Angle.

Jones admits that doing “citizen science” through an English class is kind of odd, but he calls it “refreshing.”

“Students will be surprised to discover how interconnected humans are—not just locally, but globally.”

The city has created an app to track data while the Scenic City Beautiful Commission will help students with a plan for the findings. Conservationists from the Tennessee Aquarium also have signed on.

“It seems to me that Chattanooga is microcosm for the study environmental issues since so much has happened here,” Jones says. “So, I hope that we will learn to make arguments about the local issues that can transcend into global solutions.”

Out and about

To heck with the classroom, Alana Retseck-Coulter wants to take students out into the fresh air and wilderness.

That’s the plan for her “Backpacking and Hiking” class. Books and research papers aren’t on the syllabus.

“This class isn’t your typical class, so it’s not really about themes and topics, it’s about experiences,” says Retseck-Coulter, an adjunct professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance.

Students will meet in late February and will have one—“maybe two”—day hikes in March and an overnight hike in early April, she says. At the end of the semester, students hopefully will know how to “appropriately plan and pack for a basic, two- to three-night backpacking trip,” she says.

She expects some students in the class, especially if they’re beginners at backpacking, don’t know “how minimally you can pack and still make it in the woods for a week.”

Before her daughter was born, she was an avid backpacker, Retseck-Coulter says, with trips along the Appalachian Trial, Abram Falls in the Smokies and Joyce Kilmer State Park in North Carolina. She says about 98 percent of UTC students haven’t sought hiking opportunities around Chattanooga, “and that’s OK.” But she believes students who take advantage of the hiking and backpacking opportunities in the area will find benefits they didn’t expect.

“I feel that everyone needs to find a healthy outdoor escape, and I’m not talking outdoor sports. I’m talking a natural place where the distractions are minimized and the noises are soothing. College students need to get away and calm their minds; they will come back feeling better and ready to refocus.”

A quote by American physician and cardiologist Paul Dudley White sums up her philosophy: “A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.”

For more information about this class, contact Alana Retseck-Coulter at alana-retseck@utc.edu.

 Environmentally weaving

The environment. Society. Politics. Sustainability. Consumption. Materialism. Justice.

Wide-ranging topics but all interwoven, all critical when it comes to the forces that affect the environment and even the steps we take to protect it, says Shawn Trivette, assistant professor of sociology who’s teaching “Environmental Sociology.”

Students know about electric cars, solar energy, clean water efforts and other high-profile environmental efforts, he says, but they generally aren’t aware of the social pressures also are in play.

“I think what often surprises students the most are the ways in which our environmental choices are so profoundly shaped by other forces in the world around us,” Trivette says.

“For example, we may want to source our energy from renewable sources, but that depends upon such an option being available where we live and, if it is, being able to indicate that preference to whatever entity provides our power. Or we may want to drive less, but that requires transportation alternatives to exist such as reasonable bike routes or reliable public transportation infrastructure.”

The course will examine how capitalism, overconsumption and materialism enter the equation. Discussions also will focus on fracking, climate change and environmental disasters—the huge coal ash spill in 2008 at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant, for example.

Questions about environmental justice will be raised, including how socioeconomic factors often mean environmental problems hurt the poor more than the wealthy.

But it’s not all gloom. On an optimistic note, the class will try to come up with ways to build a more-sustainable world also are part of discussion.

“I think it’s super important to seek solutions, not just document problems,” Trivette says.

“I hope students will become more engaged and aware environmental citizens through taking this course,” he says. “That means not just living their lives in a more ecologically-oriented mindset, but also interfacing more intentionally and directly with the many social systems that have a significant impact on our environment.

Liberation: Women & Earth

What do you do with a “problem child”?

If you’re Dr. Michael Jaynes, you bring the child out in the open.

Senior lecturer in English and Women’s Studies, Jaynes is leading a class in “Ecofeminism,” a term that was in vogue back in the 1980s and early ’90s, went out of fashion.

“However, it has re-emerged with different names—ecological feminism, feminist ecology, etc.—in the 2010s with the emergence of a popular focus on ecological, environmental, and ecological concerns,” Jaynes says.

At its core, “ecofeminism is a much-maligned subset of feminism that looks at the intersection of environmentalism and feminism,” he explains. “These two spheres share many commonalities, and it’s cool to see how they relate and influence each other.”

While the term still has a certain amount of controversy about it because it’s considered by some to be a liberal mindset, Jaynes says that’s short-sighted.

“Environmentalism, concern for animal ethics and feminism need not be considered ‘liberal’ issues,” he says. “Though they often are, these areas don’t need to be politicized. They retain near-universal power and importance independent of politicization.

Discussions in the course range from American, European, and Indian environmental movements, animal rights in Europe and the U.S., how “women’s lib” morphed into women’s studies and the “greening” of capitalism.

Students also will study the differences between Materialist, Spiritual and Deep Ecology camps of ecofeminism.

“It posits valuing the Earth and women inherently, independent of social value placed upon them by the patriarchy.

“Many students are surprised at how intersectional women’s liberation and Earth liberation is.”



Media Relations Contacts: Email UTC Media Relations or call 423-425-5119.

Shawn Ryan is the executive staff writer in the Office of Communications and Marketing at UTC.

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1 Comment » for Heretics, Hiking, Helping the Environment: Spring courses veer off beaten path
  1. These sound like great courses. I’m glad to see UTC making the connection to enjoying our environment and growing our healthy future!