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Walking in Nashville…For Class

Posted by on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 in Academics, Freshman Life, Nashville.

In my opinion, a huge difference between high school and college is the greater opportunity for academic creativity that college courses offer, and just the sheer range of options available. The days of only having “English” as a course option are over; Now you have to choose from “The Bible in Literature,” “Representative British Writers” and “Poetry since World War II.”

As an opportunity to choose creative classes and enhance writing skills, every incoming student in the College of Arts and Science is required to take a first-year writing seminar. Before you start groaning, however, take a look at some of the ones offered this year.

Disney in America

Cryptography: the History and Mathematics of Codes and Codebreaking

Nationalism and Nation Building in Africa

Shakespeare and Music

Chemistry of Everyday Things

Stress, Health, and Behavior

Controversies in the Practice of Medicine


Hollywood Hanoi: Representations of the Vietnam War

And, my personal favorite, Walking in Nashville: Art, Landscape, and Urbanism

In this class taught by Jana Harper, an artist and one of the coolest people I have ever met, we talk about the art of walking (which is actually a legit thing, check out Solnit’s and Thoreou’s work for proof) and practice it ourselves. In addition to a lot of interesting readings, our homework consists of different walks to take — some where we just wander in a direction for an hour, observing our surroundings, and others where we have to go to specific places such as nearby parks.

We just finished submissions for the upcoming “People’s Guide to Nashville,” a guide modeled after similar ones made for Los Angeles and other cities. The project is headed by two Vanderbilt professors and one professor at Tennessee State, and focuses on “the opportunity to challenge dominant representations of place with counter-narratives that reflect the complexity of place-making.” Each student in the class chose one “place” in Nashville to research (the Toll Bridge, A Confederate Statue, etc) in a light that reflects the different roles that these places have played for various populations over time.

Now, we’re each studying artists who have shaped their whole careers around incorporating walking into their works (check out Kimsooja, Sophe Calle, Francis Alys and Christian Nold). It’s crazy for me to think that there are artists who make a living out of walking on landscapes and standing still in crowded cities, but I guess that’s the point — this class has taught me to break down my own preconceptions of what “art” is and appreciate the ingenuity of people who think very differently from me.

This class essentially highlights the themes of freshman year thus far — expanding the mind, deepening / diversifying experiences, and appreciating those who have different, more innovative, creative minds than I do!

When I'm actually focusing on my surroundings while walking I'm able to see awesome things like adorable couples holding hands!
These beautiful grandparents accompanying their grandchild on an admissions tour! (These pictures don't exactly fit in but something so beautiful must be shared).

Wherever you go to college, make sure to take classes that not only challenge you “academically” but also creatively (if that makes sense) — don’t just keep taking higher and higher levels of chem (although totally do that if orgo and physical chem is your pot of tea) but also try taking a pottery class or one that focuses on the Alexander Technique, and enjoy letting your mind get stretched and pulled in ways that go beyond solving problem sets.

As always, feel free to e-mail about classes, or anything else!

Smiles upon smiles,


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