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Skidmore College

IdeaLab Courses

The IdeaLab course designation (IL) creates a place in the Skidmore curriculum for innovative courses that fall outside or reach beyond the scope of the College’s departments and programs, for a variety of reasons. 

What makes an IdeaLab course? IL courses push the boundaries of tradition teaching in at least one of the following ways:

  • Reimagined student/professor dynamics (e.g. student-led courses)
  • A new temporal course structure (e.g. weekend courses, intensive courses)
  • Between disciplinary boundaries (e.g. co-teaching, industry or community/scholar, maker/scholar)
  • New or emerging fields
  • For Pop-Up Courses only: time sensitive subject (e.g. major event, something that will disappear or go away, situation where conditions are changing quickly)

Courses may be cross-listed with IdeaLab, or can be taught exclusively under an IL designation. 

Faculty interested in teaching an IdeaLab course can download the course proposal form here. Please reach out to Jess Sullivan for more information.

Select IdeaLab Courses

PourMore: Skidmore Lava Project 
Taught by John Galt (Art) and Jennifer Cholnoky (Geosciences)
Spring 2022, Spring 2020

Basalt is one of the most common rocks in Earth’s crust. It underlies all of our ocean basins. Tremendous eruptions of flood basalt coincide with some of Earth’s largest extinction events. It is the bedrock of many locations including Hawaii, Iceland, and the Galapagos Islands. It has also been used to create sculptures across cultures and millennia up to the present day. In this course, we will learn how basalt melts, flows, and solidifies under different conditions. We’ll study the physical and chemical properties of basalt lava and rock; we will learn how to create the tremendous heat needed to melt basalt using a furnace; and we will learn how to manage the flow and solidification of lava. The course will culminate in a Lava Pour event that will be managed and run by students.

Study and Struggle 
Taught by Dominique Vuvan (Psychology) and Lucia Hulsether (Religious Studies)
Spring 2022, Fall 2021 (Pop-Up Course)

This course is an abolitionist reading group, offered with the support of the Mississippi-based political education and abolition project called Study and Struggle. Specific topics and readings change semester-to-semester in response to political, economic, social and activism-relevant factors. Participants will become part of an international network of learners who are studying, reflecting on, and organizing in dialogue with a shared curriculum. This course involves novel pedagogical approaches, and may include opportunities to connect with study groups from outside Skidmore. 

Pandemic Bardo
Taught by Benjamin Bogin (Asian Studies), Adam Tinkle (MDOCS/Media and Film Studies), and Thomas Yoshikami (Tang)
Fall 2020, Spring 2021

Students in this course will contribute to the creation and production of an original six-episode podcast that explores the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of the Tibetan Buddhist concept of the bardo. Through remote online instruction and collaboration, students will study the philosophical, ritual, literary, and artistic expressions of the classical bardo tradition and explore the strange history of its interpretation in the United States. Students will also develop skills in engaging in critical dialogue and discussion in online settings, digital audio editing and production, collaborative design and social media publishing.

Testing the Limits of Documentary Practice
Taught by Cecilia Aldarondo (English)
Spring 2018

Part workshop, part visiting artist series, this 5-session experimental course explores boundary-pushing documentary practice in the United States, through a series of immersive exchanges between Skidmore students and prominent leaders in the field of documentary arts. Each session involves a Thursday night public presentation by the visitor and a six-hour Friday workshop.

Math/Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling
Taught by Lucy Oremland (Mathematics and Statistics) and Csilla Szabo (Mathematics and Statistics)
Fall 2017, Spring 2018

This course provides students with a unique opportunity to study open-ended interdisciplinary problems in a format that more closely represents the types of projects they might encounter in their careers.  The main objective of this course is to prepare for the Mathematical Contest in Modeling and Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (MCM/ICM), an international competition where teams of students propose solutions to open-ended problems. Upon successful completion of the course, students will have practiced several past MCM/ICM problems, including model set-up, analysis, simulation, formal write ups, and oral presentations. Some examples of previous contest problems include:  create a sustainable city and a metric for “smart” growth, optimize the passenger throughput at airport security, and model refugee immigration policies.

Historic Preservation Theory and Practice
Taught by Amber Wiley (American Studies)
Fall 2017

Historic Preservation is a necessarily interdisciplinary field. Born of grassroots efforts to safeguard our country’s early heritage and to create a sense of “national lineage,” this field has expanded to include city planning, public history, archaeology, landscape studies, and economic development, to name only a few allied fields. As such, this yearlong course composed of one semester of History and Theory of Preservation (4 credits) and one semester of a Preservation Practicum (3 credits), with an option to attend the National Park System Advisory Board Landmarks Committee Meeting (1 credit) should appeal to upper-level students in the fields of American Studies, Art Administration, Art History, Business, Environmental Studies, History, and Political Science, etc. The course will take advantage of the local resources in the Capital Region. Guest lectures from specialists from the Saratoga Battlefield National Historic Park, Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor and the New York State Historic Preservation Office will be central to the class structure, in addition to site visits. Students will also have the chance to attend a National Park Service meeting in Washington, D.C. in the fall.

What Now?
Facilitated by Sarah Sweeney (Art) with Cecilia Aldarondo (English), Katherine Ball (Chemistry), Ian Berry (Tang), Sarah Goodwin (English), Gabriel Kristal, Brooke McConnell, Crystal Moore (Social Work), Bradley Onishi (Religious Studies), Minita Sanghvi (Management and Business), Adam Tinkle (MDOCS/Media and Film Studies), Jamin Totino (SAS), Dominique Vuvan (Psychology), and Erica Wojcik (Psychology)
Fall 2016 (Pop-Up Course)

In this pop-up course, students, faculty, staff and community were invited to come together to talk about, think about, and react to the 2016 presidential election. The course was a student-led experience, co-facilitated by faculty members from different disciplines. The class provided context for the election and offered a space to formulate collaborative responses. The course was the result of a public brainstorming session, and was facilitated the IdeaLab and the Tang Teaching Museum.