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Courses and Teaching Expectations

The COLLEGE Lecturership is a teaching-based position within a first-year general education requirement program. Teaching in the COLLEGE program is highly collaborative. In fall and winter, there is a shared syllabus across the entire program and weekly small-group instructor meetings. In the spring quarter, faculty and lecturers work collaboratively on courses designed by the faculty. As a first-year requirement, we emphasize a student-centered pedagogic approach. Seminars are largely discussion-based, with up to 16 students, and lecturers offer multiple opportunities for one on one and small-group student meetings at key points in the quarter. Lecturers also attend between 2 and 3 evening events every quarter that are part of the curriculum and intended for all first-year students ("frosh"), part of creating a shared intellectual experience for the first-year class. See Courses for more information. 

Course Formats and Schedules

Lecturers teach in person and teaching is their primary responsibility. Lecturers teach two sections of the same course each quarter, in sections of about 16 students, and serve as the official instructor of record in all courses.

  • "Why College? Your Education and the Good Life" and "Citizenship in the 21st Century" in Autumn and Winter are both discussion-based seminars in which the lecturer will meet with their section of 16 students twice a week for 80 minutes each session (3 units). Lecturers teach two sections, usually scheduled on the same days. All lecturers teach both "Why College?" and "Citizenship".
  • All Spring Global Perspectives courses are designed by Stanford faculty and are taught in a lecture-discussion section format. The faculty deliver the lectures (usually twice a week) and lecturers facilitate discussions (usually twice a week). Attending both lecture and teaching two sections means that lecturers frequently have a 4-day teaching schedule in spring quarter. Each course team has between 3-5 lecturers who work collaboratively with one or two faculty. 

The role of instructors in the “Why College?" and "Citizenship" seminars, as well as in the spring discussion sections, is primarily to facilitate student conversations, not to provide additional content. The courses focus on building the cognitive and communicative skills students need to get the most out of a residential learning experience, and to participate successfully in civic life. 

In Your Application

Your cover letter should address how you might teach a class session that engages the course materials provided in the course descriptions to first-year students in a discussion setting. We would like you to discuss at least two courses:  1) either "Why College?" or "Citizenship in the 21st Century" and 2) one of the spring Global Perspectives courses. See course details below.

Courses listed below reflect preliminary plans for the next year, but are subject to change even after the search opens in December. You will also be asked to rank your top two spring courses in Interfolio.

Autumn: Why College? Your Education and the Good Life | Multiple Faculty

What is the purpose of college? How is education related to the good life?

Some argue that the purpose of higher education is to train you for a career. Others claim that college is no longer necessary—that you can launch the next big startup and change the world without a degree. In the face of such critiques, this class makes a case for an expansive education that has traditionally been called “liberal education” (from the Latin word for freedom, libertas). Together we will explore the history, practice, and rationales for a liberal education by putting canonical texts in conversation with more recent works. We will consider the relevance of liberal education to all areas of study, from STEM to the arts, and its relations to future careers. And we will examine the central place that the idea of “the good life” has historically enjoyed in theories of liberal education.

In your cover letter: Please review the Why College? syllabus and choose a single day to describe how you might prepare and conduct an 80-minute discussion seminar. (Be sure to write either on Why College or Citizenship--there is no need to write on both)

Winter: Citizenship in the 21st Century | Multiple Faculty

Who is (or ought to be) included in citizenship? Who gets to decide? What responsibilities come with citizenship? Is citizenship analogous to being a friend, a family member, a business partner?

Citizenship is not just what passport you hold or where you were born. Citizenship also means equal membership in a self-governing political community. We will explore some of the many debates about this ideal: How have people excluded from citizenship fought for, and sometimes won, inclusion? These debates have a long history, featuring in some of the earliest recorded philosophy and literature but also animating current political debates in the United States and elsewhere.

In your cover letter: Please review the Citizenship in the 21st Century syllabus and choose a single day to describe how you might prepare and conduct an 80-minute discussion seminar. (Be sure to write either on Why College or Citizenship--there is no need to write on both)

Spring: Global Perspectives Courses

In your cover letter, be sure to discuss how you might teach one of the selected course materials listed under your top-ranked spring course, and rank your top two spring courses in Interfolio.

Utopia, Dystopia, and Technology in Science Fiction | Ban Wang 

How can humans of diverse cultures harness technoscientific innovations while preserving humanist values and maintain a sustainable economy and civilization? How do narratives of utopia and dystopia depict the anthropocentric domination of nature and the exploitation of working classes through the misuse and abuse of technology? We live immersed in technology but are uncertain about where technology is taking us—to a dead end or a better place? 

Technology has helped create utopian visions of good society while plunging societies into dystopic nightmares.  Science and technology have been a universal path for all societies to join the modern world, but divergent cultures approach technoscientific modernity differently. The Enlightenment of the West conceives scientific modernity as emancipation from religion and superstition and as a power over nature. In overlapped and contrastive ways, the traditional Chinese worldviews incorporate technology into a sacred cosmos where humans use science and technology to stay in tune with Heaven and Earth. Today, technoscience discourse has become a dominant power and ideology. Technoscientific agendas are generating class disparity, eroding the social fabric, undermining the humanist traditions, and damaging nature and climate. Science fiction thinks about how science and technology transform human society, values, and everyday experiences in ways good or bad. By projecting both utopia and dystopia, sf reveals and critiques technology-induced social malaises and keeps hopes alive by projecting better futures, testifying to the ceaseless human potential for self-renewal in sustaining civilization on Earth. 

Selected Course Material: Liu Cixin, The Three Body Problem; Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia; Lewis Mumford, The Story of Utopias. Films Avatar, dir. James Cameron; Wandering Earth, dir. Frant Gwo; Snowpiercer, dir. Bong joon-ho. 

The Ethical Challenges of the Global Climate Crisis | Mikael Wolfe

What are the ethical implications of the fact that those who least contributed to the climate catastrophe are suffering the most from it? Can Western-style industrial development occur without reliance on fossil fuels? Does acting ethically in response to climate change mean giving up luxuries like driving and flying?

Climate change is now a global crisis. Yet the international community has time and again fallen far short of what the global scientific community warns is necessary to stave off catastrophe. Thanks to massive global activism, especially among youth and people on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and a revolution in ever more affordable and scalable clean energy, especially solar, wind, geothermal, electric vehicles, and battery storage, the global political climate surrounding what is “economically and technologically” possible is rapidly changing. How can climate justice as an intersectional issue of unequal class, race, and gender relations be made central to addressing the climate catastrophe? If Western-style industrial development can now occur without reliance on fossil fuels, is merely transforming the global energy regime into a low-carbon one sufficient for redressing climate injustices? If fossil fuels must still be used for a period of time, is geoengineering the planet--or colonizing space--now an ethical option? In this course, we will learn what ethics are, how we reason based on our understanding of what they are, and what compromises we have to make when we are faced with a difficult ethical challenge like the global climate crisis. We will explore this ethical challenge from historical, social, economic, political, cultural, and scientific perspectives.

Selected Course Material: Sarah Dry, Waters of the World; Byron Williston, The Ethics of Climate Change; Dina Gilio-Whitaker, As Long as Grass Grows

The Rules of War | Scott Sagan & Allen Weiner

When, if ever, is war justified? How do we determine what limits, if any, govern how wars are fought and who may be killed? Are these rules still relevant in light of the changing nature of warfare?

We will examine seminal readings on just war theory, explore whether ethical values can and do govern our judgments about war, investigate the legal rules that govern the resort to the conduct of war, and study whether these rules remain viable in the context of wars today. Students will appreciate the complex process of how moral intuitions are converted into rules and regulatory frameworks governing war. This course will develop historical thinking skills, ethical and evaluative reasoning and judgment skills.

Selected Course Material: Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations; Mary Ellen O’Connell, “The UN, NATO, and International Law after Kosovo”; Asa Kasher and Amos Yadlin, “Military Ethics of Fighting Terror: An Israeli Perspective”; Mahatma Gandhi, “How to Meet a Japanese Invasion”; The 1949 Geneva Conventions.

The Spirit of Democracy | Larry Diamond & James Fishkin

What has led to the remarkable spread of democracy around the world? And why do freedom and democracy now appear to be receding in the world? How are the original debates on the design of constitutional democracy in the United States relevant to the current challenges it faces?

This course provides an overview of the aspirations and challenges of making democracy work. It analyzes competing visions of what democracy might be and how democracies actually function and decay, in the U.S. and around the world. We begin with the debate over the founding of America. Then we survey the “third wave” of global democratization around the world in the late 20th century and its more recent retrenchment. The problems of democratic reform are continuing and recurrent around the world. Democratic institutions are subject to a living dialogue, and we will engage in these debates as they involve both democratic theory and alternative institutional designs.

Selected Course Material: Robert Dahl, How Democratic is the American Constitution?; Larry Diamond, Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency; James Fishkin, Democracy When the People Are Thinking; Francis Fukuyama, Political Order and Political Decay; James Madison et al, The Federalist.

Environmental Sustainability  | William Barnett & Chris Field

How do we balance the benefits of industrialization against environmental justice? Is technological innovation a reason for optimism about the future of the environment? What do we lose as the biodiversity of the planet declines?

This course will survey our planet’s greatest sustain­ability challenges and some of the possible ways that humankind might overcome each. The course material will include introductory-level science, social science, and business studies material, and give students a basic understanding of the global biological, cultural, social, and economic processes involved in environmental sustainability. There is a special focus on looking at the ability of leadership to change the constraints created by natural and scientific processes—how environmental policies, social movements, or market responses might affect the future.

Selected Course Material: Bill Gates, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster; Catherine Flowers, Waste; Mitchell Thomashow, To Know the World; Vincent Ialenti, Deep Time Reckoning.

Preventing Human Extinction | Stephen Luby & Paul Edwards

Killer epidemics, climate change, nuclear war, hostile artificial intelligence: is human extinction inevitable? Is it necessarily bad for the planet? What might we do to prevent it?

99.9% of all species that have ever inhabited Earth are now extinct, yet we refuse to fully face the implications of this—namely our own possible demise. We will explore approaches to assessing these risks, strategies that could reduce them, and better ways to think and act as we move toward an uncertain future. Students will engage these issues through academic reading, apocalyptic fiction, group discussion, writing, and role-playing. We will consider the role of human agency in the evolution of these “wicked problems” and their prevention, and our responsibilities as 21st-century citizens.

Selected Course Material: Nick Bostrom and Milan Cirkovic (eds), Global Catastrophic Risks; Nina Tannenwold, “How Strong is the Nuclear Taboo Today?”; Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow; Max Tegmark, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence; Twelve Monkeys (film, dir. Terry Gilliam).

Where Does It Hurt? | Karl Lorenz & Nicole Martinez-Martin

How can physicians best prevent or relieve pain? What is suffering?

The relief of pain and suffering is considered one of the primary aims of medicine. However, what suffering is and what physicians must do specifically to prevent or relieve it is not well understood or explained. While suffering may be inherent to the human experience, the ways that suffering is perceived, experienced and addressed are heavily influenced by culture, beliefs and local resources. This course examines how patients and medical practitioners in different countries make meaning from the experience of pain and suffering of illness. Course materials draw from anthropology, philosophy, medicine, literature, religion and bioethics, and include perspectives of patients, caregivers and family members, and clinicians. Drawing primarily on examples from cancer and palliative care, we will use case studies and live interviews to illustrate examples of how diverse individuals and environments shape the experience of illnesses, including recovery and loss. Through an examination of personal, cultural and social practices related to suffering and medicine, we also develop skills for reflecting upon how one’s culture and personal context influence how they make meaning of illness and suffering.

Selected Course Material: Suleika Jaouad, Between Two Kingdoms; Arthur Kleinman, The Illness Narratives; Good MJD, Brodwin PE, Good BJ, Kleinman A, eds. Pain as a Human Experience; Scott Stonington, "On the (f)utility of pain;" Hippocratic (film dir. M. R Rajogopal); D Lamas and L Rosenbaum, "Painful Inequities — Palliative Care in Developing Countries."

Living with Viruses | Julie Baker

What is a virus? How do viruses affect our lives? Does the virus make us distinctly human?

This course begins by considering our changing understanding of viruses and the continuing question of whether or not they are alive. Yet what is uncon­testable is that the billion-year war between cells and viruses has profoundly shaped our genomes and our world. Our own bodies are constituted by viruses and viral outbreaks have profoundly transformed popula­tions, landscapes, and basic social structures. Students do not need to have a background in biology but rather a willingness to think beyond conventional disciplinary distinctions to question how biology shapes human behavior (through outbreaks) as well as the potential of humans to shape biology (through genetic engineering). We will begin by exploring the diversity of viral species and the scientific and social responses to outbreaks, from HIV to Ebola to COVID-19.

Selected Course Material: And the Band Played On (film, dir. Roger Spottiswoode); Eula Biss, On Immunity: An Inoculation; Luis Villareal, “Are Viruses Alive?”; Carl Zimmer, A Planet of Viruses.