New courses, new ideas kick-start academic year

Breasts, cyborgs, storytelling and entrepreneurial ambitions: check out some of the newest UAlberta courses.


Feel that? September. The air is ripe with optimism and excitement over a new school year. There’s a lot to take in—campus, new friends, digs, threads and a course load stacked with cool and interesting classes.

Every autumn, the University of Alberta introduces courses that inject new ideas, change perspectives and challenge convention. Here’s a look at some of the newest offerings for students in our undergraduate, graduate and continuing education programs.

Critical Issues: Breasts

One, two or none at all? Breast cancer, transitioning, drag, and hyper-gendered bodies raise questions about what to do with this fatty tissue situated on chest muscles: reconstruct what was lost, create what was missing, enlarge what you’ve got? This course, part of the Women’s and Gender Studies department in the Faculty of Arts, explores all the forces that shape contemporary ideas and ideals about breasts—from film and advertising to music videos and medical representations. Memoirs, blogs, art productions and performances will offer other insights into living with or without breasts and shaping how breasted (or breastless) bodies can be and are self-represented.

Think like an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs have a rep for being bold visionaries who push the boundaries of innovation. But how does someone get to that point? Fortunately, the entrepreneurial method can be learned and creativity and innovation can be applied across many spheres—academic research, non-profits, government, big companies and small startups. This graduate-level course is offered by the Alberta School of Business but is open to any graduate student at the U of A interested in understanding and cultivating the entrepreneurial mindset.

What is sex?

That’s the question this graduate-level certificate program aims to answer through an online format that’s accessible for today’s health-care professionals, educators and counsellors working in sexual health and well-being. Students learn about sexuality from a variety of perspectives—personal, familial, societal, cultural and ethical—and the importance of a sex-positive approach that fosters openness and acceptance to forms of sexual expression.

One of the sections deals specifically with illness and disability—people with disabilities experience higher rates of sexual dysfunction and often have sexual health needs that go ignored by health-care professionals. This program was developed by the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine in collaboration with the Alberta Society for the Promotion of Sexual Health.

Every body has a story to tell

Whether you’re feeling great, sick or tired, you have a story to tell—or rather, your body does. Cultures of the Body – Medicine, Health, Life & Storytelling examines storytelling in text and other forms of media as it intersects with the body and the biological. Parts of the body are often isolated for treatment or study, and each part offers a different story and perspective. When an organ fails, like the heart after a heart attack, it changes our story and creates a separate narrative. But what does that do to our sense of character or sense of self? This course is part of the Modern Languages and Cultural Studies department in the Faculty of Arts.

Teachers and students as cyborgs

No, it’s not a class devoted to screening all five movies in the Terminator franchise or examining where Skynet went wrong. But the rise of technology and new media is definitely changing how we interact, view and learn about our world, from mobile devices to social media to computers to databases and software. Digital technologies have transformed how we teach and learn so much that we are becoming human cyborgs—hybrids fitted with technology that extends our abilities and influence. This course, offered by the Department of Secondary Education in the Faculty of Education, explores the implications of this technological shift to how we teach and learn.

Tell me a story

Storytelling, the act of orally telling a story, is an ancient communication art and one that Gail de Vos has taught to her students over the past 30 years. This is the first time she’s taught the course online. But hey, the times are a-changing, and that’s what many students in the online Master of Library and Information Studies program wanted. The classic methods of telling fables and folklore will still be used, but students can use newer forms of media such as YouTube or Instagram to share those stories.