Mathematical Thinking: Patterns, Puzzles and Exploration


Chris Kottke, Associate Professor of Mathematics

Prof. Kottke received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from MIT in 2010 and has been at NCF since 2016. Outside of mathematics, he enjoys cooking, playing jazz on the piano and trumpet, biking, and climbing rocks and trees.

Course Description

Are you a creative problem solver? Someone who likes puzzles? Do you prefer collaboration to competition? Do you like to learn by exploring and making your own discoveries? This is the class for you! We do away with lectures and instead work together as a team to explore and solve challenging problems in a range of topics across pure and applied mathematics. We also examine social ideas and norms around math and mathematical ability. No background is required beyond high school algebra and interest.

You will get to:

  • Hone your critical thinking skills.
  • Work collaboratively with your peers.
  • Discover mathematical truths organically.
  • Solve complex problems by creating conjectures, exploring examples, and testing theories.
  • In other words, think mathematically!

Writing about Writing


Jennifer Wells, Director of Writing

Dr. Jennifer Wells is the Director of Writing for New College of Florida. She has 20 years’ teaching experience at both the college and high school levels, so she understands where first year students are coming from as well as where they are going next. In addition to her teaching career, Dr. Wells has also driven a Christmas tree farm train, acted in one episode of a reality TV makeover show, and flown around the country as a pet nanny. When she’s not working, Dr. Wells loves to travel, especially to her home state of California, and spend time with her dog, Caspian.

Course Description

Imagine that you and writing are in a relationship. How would you describe that relationship? If you answered, “it’s complicated,” then you aren’t alone! Many NCF students have complex histories with writing — some good, some not so good — and as a result, bring a lot of beliefs about writing and themselves as writers to college.

  • Learn from 60 years of research on writing in order to change any beliefs and related behaviors that limit you.
  • Read essays like “Shitty First Drafts” by Anne Lamott, unlock the secrets to analysis by playing around with Instagram filters, and consider new ways of thinking about research by looking for what is hidden in plain sight.
  • Develop a whole toolkit of strategies for reading one time and remembering what you read; staying motivated when you aren’t feeling it; breaking large projects into small pieces; and getting the most out of apps like Forest and Habitica.

By the end of the class, you and writing may not be BFFs, but you will be able to get along and enjoy each other’s company.

Exploring Science


Katie Walstrom, Associate Professor of Biochemistry

Dr. Walstrom is a biochemist who studies gene regulation and proteins involved in metabolism. She loves the integration of research and teaching with students at New College, and she enjoys working in the lab and showing students how to do laboratory experiments.

Levente Pap, Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Levente is looking forward to meeting you in person. He has been teaching here at NCF for two years. He is particularly interested in instrumental identification of certain materials and developing new instrumental systems, so do not be surprised if he talks about these interesting topics in class.

Course Description

Have you ever noticed an event in nature or at home and wondered why the event occurred the way it did? Have you ever thought about how analyses work in the world of forensic sciences? How many times have you seen a movie where the characters encounter radiation? If you have ever had such a moment, this course is for you! In this seminar, we will introduce you to a variety of scientific topics that help explain why things happen the way they do. No prior scientific class or experience is required. We’ll also show you how to read and assess the scientific literature, and how to design, perform, and interpret your own experiments. You will be gaining hands-on learning experiences since this seminar mainly includes a variety of do-it-yourself projects.

We will provide background information about the topics, which will relate to cooking, forensics, dye molecules, radiation, DNA tests, and polymers. We will provide readings and videos about the topics and engage in discussions, problem solving, and laboratory experiments during each class session.

Beginnings & Endings: A Beginning Creative Writing Workshop


Emily Carr, Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing

Dr. Emily Carr is committed to creating charismatic, emotionally-resonant spaces where intellectual discourse is warmed by the heat of feeling. Her experience teaching music to Quaker children early in her career encourages her to think of all of her classes as laboratories: spaces for exploration, imagining together, sharing what we’ve created, and thinking metacognitively about what happens in these inventive moments.

Course Description

Our climate story thus far has been frightening and inspiring, infuriating and empowering. It’s been suspenseful in some ways and all too predictable in others. But we get to craft our own ending. And that ending, fortunately, has yet to be written. ~ Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Senior Strategic Advisor, National Resource Defense Council

In this mixed-genre Creative Writing workshop, we will experiment with a variety of ways to begin and end stories, poems and anything and everything in between! Our theme this term is climate change; we’ll start by exploring strategies professional writers have used to help readers make an emotional connection with recent and predicted manmade disasters and natural hazards. Then, we will write! The vast majority (70-100%) of your creative work for this class will involve creation, generation, recreation, transcendence, experimentation, and other process-oriented exploration; a smaller amount of energy (0-30%) will be given to crafting, revising, polishing, tweaking and other product-oriented tasks. Along the way, you’ll develop a deep understanding of your own artistic process, grow the practical discipline that is a necessary complement to artistic discipline, learn how to give and receive painful feedback, and experience the joy of transforming writing from a private endeavor into a public act of communication. This course will not only stimulate your development as a writer but will also—and perhaps more importantly—catalyze personal growth: as a maker, as a thinker, as a literary citizen, and as an essential member of the New College community. This workshop is open to writers who identify as poets and storytellers, as well as folks who don’t yet know how they identify as a writer but want to recover the writerly self they have not forgotten but have forgotten how to remember! Course texts include excerpts from McSweeney’s 2040 A.D. anthology and the Guardian’s “Keep it in the Ground” project.

Role-Playing Politics & Religion in the Renaissance


Carrie Beneš, Professor of History

Carrie Beneš is a cultural historian of late medieval Italy whose research focuses on landscape, urban identity, and the classical tradition. Along with more general survey classes, she teaches courses on urban history, the ancient Mediterranean, medieval manuscripts and book history, the Black Death and the history of disease, medieval travel, and spatial history/GIS.

Ciara Suarez, Assistant Director – Center for Career Engagement & Opportunity

Ciara Suarez joined the team in the Center for Career Engagement & Opportunity as an Assistant Director and Career Coach in October 2019. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of South Florida and a M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Adams State University and enjoys supporting and empowering New College students throughout their career journey!

Course Description

Have you ever wanted a time machine that could put you right into the middle of crucial moments in history? Are you curious about, or do you enjoy, role-playing games like D&D, LARPing, or “historical” video games like Assassin’s Creed? Students in this seminar will “become” historical characters in a series of role-playing games that will re-enact some of the most famous conflicts in the history of early modern Europe—such as the Reformation, Henry VIII’s break with the church, or the trial of Galileo. We’ll even go back to 1492 and elect a pope. Winning will require research, persuasiveness, collaboration, negotiation, and (sometimes) deception. As these games immerse us in the complexities of history, they will demonstrate first-hand the intertwined nature of church and state in early modern Europe. Along the way, you’ll practice the key skills of critical reading, teamwork, and public speaking.

Introductory Psychology: Motivated Minds Learning In and Out of School


Michelle Barton, Associate Professor of Psychology

Professor Barton is a developmental psychologist with special interests in young children’s curiosity and language development. In addition to teaching, she enjoys biographies, ballet classes, long walks, and photography.

Course Description

Have you ever wondered what entices children to be active learners at school, eagerly participating in classroom activities to master new skills? Or, have you ever wondered what turns students off, leading to disengagement in a topic or even all of school? Similarly, why are some children willing to devote hours to practicing skills for activities such as sports, performing arts, hobbies, or even video games, but others have to be cajoled and coaxed to practice?

By exploring the psychology of motivation to learn we will discover insights on what supports (and what thwarts) learners in a variety of academic and extracurricular contexts. We will…

  • Learn how psychologists study motivation
  • Read what students (including you!) say about their own learning experiences
  • Design a research project about motivation
  • Learn how to manage our beliefs and behaviors so learning is a positive experience, even when it is new, challenging, or not entirely successful at first

Cities for All: Placemaking, Public Space & Building Inclusive Communities


David Brain

Professor Brain started out to be an architect before a fascination with urban issues drew him to sociology, with a particular interest in the relationship of placemaking to community building in contemporary cities. He is a professor of sociology and environmental studies, as well as the director of the Urban Studies program.

Course Description:

When we move into a new home, we usually take for granted that we can transform it to meet our needs or reflect our identities. Have you ever wished you could transform your neighborhood or city in this way? In this course, we will explore placemaking, a practice that uses the re-making of urban public space as a means to build strong community relationships and create more livable, sustainable and equitable cities.

  • What makes a good (or a bad) place? We’ll apply current ideas regarding the physical and social character of public space to the direct observation of places we visit. You’ll learn techniques for documenting and analyzing what you see.
  • Why is change so hard? We’ll investigate the concept of public space and its relationship to social and economic conditions such as racial and economic segregation, houselessness, and displacement of low-income populations by urban redevelopment.
  • What are the tools and techniques for this kind of change? It’s not as difficult as one might think, but it requires collaborative design as well as a strategic approach to initiating action with minimal resources. You’ll explore techniques for facilitating collaboration and you will apply these techniques to places on and off campus.

What is Philosophy? Global Perspectives on Philosophical History


Chris Noble, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Professor Noble is a historian of philosophy whose research focuses on the work of German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. His further interests include experimental music, science fiction, and the board game Go.

Course Description

What is philosophy? What does a philosopher look like and what is it that they do? Is philosophy a specifically “Western” or European phenomenon or is it something in which all human beings (or all intelligent life forms) participate? In this course, you will think about these questions as you investigate similarities, differences, and points of contact between world philosophical traditions. In addition to studying figures, texts, and ideas from the classical Indian, Chinese, and Ancient Greek traditions (among others), you will examine more recent case studies of cross-cultural philosophical interaction and investigate the role philosophy has played in global struggles for justice. In your final project, you will collaborate with other students to develop and apply your own approach to studying the history of philosophy from a global perspective.

Music and Your Creative Practice


Mark Dancigers, Assistant Professor of Digital Media and Music

Professor Dancigers teaches courses in music composition, production, theory, and performance with the goal of strongly connecting students to their interests and creativity. As a composer, his music has been performed by the New York City Ballet, at the Sundance Film Festival, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Spain, and in venues around the world.

Course Description:

Every musician has a “practice”: a mode of everyday engagement on the challenging path towards a goal. Songwriters develop their skills with lyrics, cellists play through a suite by Bach, electronic producers refine their mixes and recordings. Whether you are starting to learn guitar, practicing for a concerto competition, or getting ready to post your original tracks online, your work in this class will give you a foundation and method for consistent, self-defined progress. In this course we will explore:

  • What are the shared mindsets, daily habits, and practices that define these musical paths?
  • How can we get on our own paths as practicing creative musicians?
  • How do we stay on the path as we move towards our individual goals?

To answer these questions, we will engage with the writings of creativity gurus, life hackers, meditators, psychologists, journaling advocates, and of course, practicing musicians. Our goal is to pull and integrate new insights from creative thinkers and artists to create our own solid foundations in a daily musical practice. Students of any musical level and experience, from beginner to advanced, on any instrument, with any kind of current musical practice, are invited to join this course community of dedicated creative artists.