Spring Breakthrough 2020 Courses

Bus Ad





Forensic Psychology: A Story of Mitigation

Within the field of psychology, forensic psychology has become an important focus of the criminal justice system and the clinical practice of psychology as well as scientific research. Forensic Psychology is the endeavor that examines aspects of human behavior directly related to the legal process and the professional practice of psychology within a legal system that embraces both criminal and civil law and their interactions. An essential component of Forensic Psychology is the utilization of mitigation, which is a factor that might ensure the legal process is informed about details that have both direct and indirect implications for adjudication. This course will explore how psychology, through mitigation, has become an essential tool for helping juries and the courts understand and consider the complex psychosocial, behavioral, neurological and socioeconomical aspects of a person’s life when dispensing justice.

  • John H. Blackshear, Academic Dean, Trinity College of Arts and Sciences; Instructor, Psychology & Neuroscience
  • Kimberly Blackshear, Assistant Director, Center for Child and Family Policy

Charmaine DM Royal

Race In America & At Duke

Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation. Frustrated by our sociopolitical climate characterized by misinformation and racial tensions? Join the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation movement underway nationwide and at Duke. Through the lenses of the 2020 census and presidential election, and science, we will explore the truths about race, racial hierarchies, and racism…and envision transformation. We will work with DukeArts and a local artist to create a mural that will hang in a designated racial healing space on campus. No artistic ability required! 

  • Charmaine DM Royal, Associate Professor of African & African American Studies; Director, Center on Genomics, Race, Identity, Difference and Center for Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation


Puppies tell us so much about ourselves. They can help us answer important questions like, how should we bring up babies? What makes us attractive? Why do others make us feel good? Puppies also have some startling similarities with children and have a particular social intelligence that is part of the reason why dogs are now the most successful mammals on the planet besides humans. We will visit a shelter and play cognitive games that might help puppies get adopted. We will go to the zoo and meet other baby animals that help us think about what makes puppies so special. We will meet puppies in training to help people with mental and physical disabilities. Spending time with puppies will allow us to explore concepts in cognitive neuroscience, veterinary science, evolution, behavioral economics and more. Come play with some puppies with us.

  • Brian Hare, Associate Professor, Department of Evolutionary Anthropology
  • Vanessa Woods, Research Scientist, Department of Evolutionary Anthropology

Misha Angrist and Barry Yeoman

Finding My Voice: Writing True Stories

Our stories demand creativity, precision and humanity. We are going to spend four intense days figuring out what those stories are, how to tell them and ways to make our readers laugh and cry. This, however, will not be a standard writing course: there will be blindfolds, and talking buses, and possibly ice cream cones and an old bank vault.

  • Misha Angrist, Associate Professor of the Practice in the Social Science Research Institute; Senior Fellow, Initiative for Science & Society
  • Barry Yeoman, Instructor, DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy

Neil S. Siegel

Law and Ethics in the Movies

Film can make us think and feel in ways that other media of expression cannot. What lessons can we learn about law, morality, and the relationship between the two from iconic dramas such as Judgment at Nuremberg and To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as classic comedies such as Legally Blonde and My Cousin Vinny? This mini-course tackles some of the legal and moral issues raised in these films, including potential conflicts between law and morality, racism in the criminal justice system, the roles of lawyers in society, sexism and sexual harassment in the academy and in the workplace, and the perils of eyewitness testimony and circumstantial evidence. Duke Law and Political Science Professor  Neil Siegel is a U.S. constitutional law expert who clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the subject of “On the Basis of Sex,” another movie on the course list.


  • Neil S. Siegel, David W. Ichel Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science; Co-Director, Program in Public Law; Director, DC Summer Institute on Law & Policy

Ingrid Byerly

EVERY SEAT A THRONE: Life Lessons not in the Curriculum

This course explores your understanding of your positioning in life, and appreciating the positioning of others in theirs. Through creative and intellectual investigations, we review the unique path you traveled to your current situation, and redefine the route that lies ahead. We examine the strategic approaches, decision-making techniques, intellectual pursuits, and creative ventures that can optimize your life. Focusing on living intentionally, and organizing your behavior to be practical, steady, and thoughtful, we explore the life-lessons most necessary for moving from an academic environment into the everyday – both professional and personal – while maintaining your intellectual rigor. We consider both the practical and philosophical approaches to living a memorable life; the importance of taking the right chances, keeping relevant documentation, foregrounding ethical decisions, staying true to your character, and rediscovering those creative pursuits that inspired and excited you as a child. We will discover life stories, and through an overview of imaginative processes – whether journaling to become writers, talking to become speakers, sketching to become artists, or singing to become musicians – we explore the avenues of immersion that will elevate us out of our seats and into our thrones.

  • Ingrid Byerly, Senior Lecturing Fellow of the Thompson Writing Program; Director, Humanitarian Challenges Focus Program

Hugh Thomas

Introduction to Mobile App Development for iOS (Course is full)

Ever had an idea for a mobile app, but didn’t know how to build it? This course is for you. This is a hands-on class intended to give you the basic skills necessary to build your very own mobile app for iOS devices (iPhones & iPads). Attendees will be introduced to the theory and get straight into the practice of designing, developing and publishing their own mobile apps using Apple’s latest development tools.

  • Hugh Thomas, IT Consultant, Mobile Applications Group, Office of Information Technology

Mucking About in the Marsh – Salt Marsh Ecology (Course is full)

Spend four days at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC, exploring the biodiversity of coastal ecosystems and learning about the critical services they provide humans.  Together we will carry out short field experiments and conduct field surveys to compare  the biodiversity of salt marshes, oyster reefs, sea grass beds and sandy beaches. Expect to get your feet wet and your hands muddy as we explore the coast. Want a peek at last year’s class? Margaret Gaw ’22 and Arianna Agostini ’22  said we could share their video. 

  • Emily Bernhardt, Professor, Department of Biology; Professor, Environmental Sciences and Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Brian Silliman, Rachel Carson Associate Professor of Marine Conservation Biology, Marine Science and Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Justin Wright , Associate Professor, Department of Biology