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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

WAYS 103: Speaking about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Seminar

Below is a list of WAYS 103 Seminars that will be offered in Spring 2021.

Algorithms of Oppression

Google Photograph automatically classified a portrait of two African Americans as "Gorillas". Was this grossly unacceptable result a bug or a feature of the Artificial Intelligence (AI)? How did a major corporation release such a flawed algorithm to the public and what steps should they have taken to avoid this? What other algorithms are doing the same – or even worse – behind closed doors and inside the black boxes of “machine learning”? During this course, we will explore these issues and expose the biases and discrimination that are inherent in many AI systems. 

Asian-American Families

We sometimes think of 19C immigrants to the US as primarily from Europe moving westward but hundreds of thousands of Asians immigrated in that same time period. This course will read novels about Asian-American families to think through some continuing legacies of “immigration eastward” both in terms of the people who travel and the cultures they bring with them.

Communicating in the North Country

This course is devoted to conversations and speeches to, for, and about the North Country community. The three primary goals of this course are to: (1) develop skills for communicating in a variety of settings such as interviews, interpersonal, intercultural, interracial, public speaking and other speech settings experienced in the course of our daily lived experiences; (2) explore and understand the identities, issues and experiences in and of the North Country; and (3) to discover the nuanced ways in which rural community members are discussed in our society.

French in North America

This course will examine issues of language identity, especially in Francophone and Indigenous communities, and its suppression by society and by the law; of forced migration (ethnic cleansing), chain migration, and immigration, especially in Maine, Massachusetts, Louisiana and New York City.

Poetic Justice

Poetic justice is “an outcome [in literature] in which vice is punished and virtue rewarded, usually in a manner peculiarly or ironically appropriate.” What injustices do we need to contend against as a society? How does literature provide us with models for justice? Will those who have repeatedly abused power pay for what they have done? Will communities demanding justice see it implemented and in action? We will listen to songs, watch spoken word performances, read poetry and fiction to examine and enjoy creative statements, mostly from underrepresented communities, on poetic justice.

Queer Theatre

This course offers an in-depth exploration of contemporary plays written by queer playwrights and how these plays reflect the viewpoints of these artist and how they reflect the larger society. Particular attention will be paid to how the rise in awareness of both LGBTQIA and Feminist theory has affected the way that we approach gender issues in the theatre. Together the class will read plays, explore the biographies of theatre artists, and the development of companies devoted to exploring the role of gender.

Race and Comics

In many ways, race is “seen,” with many people often identifying race – and making judgments about another person or group of people – based only on what they see. In this course, we will use images from comics and graphic novels to explore what people see when they “see race.” We will look at both positive and negative visualizations, exploring images that celebrate racial diversity as well as those that emphasize stereotypes, in order to better understand how race is seen. Further, we will use our discussions of these images as a way to begin talking about our own understandings of the visual nature of race: How do we see race? How do we want our race to be seen? What do we want others to see?"

Women of Color

Our inquiry is based on diverse women's critical perspectives and their own agency amid overwhelming systematic disparities and power struggles. We will discuss works by Toni Morrison, Sonia Sotomayor, Beyoncé, JLo and others. These works provide powerful material for students to elaborate and practice critical thinking in their own speeches. 


Sexual Violence is a pervasive and gendered problem in the United States. The problem of sexual violence against women is exacerbated by intersectionality. Women of color, younger women, and women with disabilities are suffering the disproportionate burden of sexual violence. In this course, students will learn about how patriarchal systems, practices and social structures in the United States put women at risk for victimization and then explore the ways in which women have worked to overcome those.