Spring Breakthrough 2020 Courses



John & Kimberly Blackshear

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

Hugh Thomas

Introduction to Mobile App Development for iOS

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

Charmaine DM Royal

Race in America and at Duke

In 2020, the United States will conduct its 24th decennial census and its 59th quadrennial presidential election. Given the current sociopolitical climate characterized by misinformation and racial division, this course will utilize the lens of the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation movement underway nationwide and at Duke. We will explore how the census and electoral politics have been and will continue to be influenced by notions of race and racial hierarchies. Students will have the opportunity to dialogue with census and election experts. Students will also learn about and participate in racial healing strategies and will envision transformation in terms of race. In collaboration with DukeArts, students will work with artists to design and decorate a racial healing space that reflects the transformation envisioned. This space will be open to all on campus. No prior demonstrated artistic ability is required for this course. As they say, creativity is simply intelligent fun! 

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

Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods


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


I Love the Eighties: Modern US History in Popular Culture

What can “Magnum, P.I.” have to say about the legacies of the Vietnam War? Do Salt N’ Pepa tell us something about black women’s cultural politics in the 1980s? In this course, we will explore U. S. history from Ms. PacMan to Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Things.” Students will watch iconic television shows, make their own soundtrack to the decade, and learn to treat the arcade as an archive.

  • Adriane Lentz-Smith, Associate Professor, Department of History

Eric Spana

The Biology of Popular Science Fiction TV & Movies

How is the use of magic inherited among people in the Harry Potter universe? How and why are there so many humanoid species on Star Trek (or planets with plants, for that matter)? How could The Doctor look completely different after regeneration? Come explore the entertaining intersection of science with science fiction and research potential biological explanations to your favorite Science Fiction media. Course is aimed for students with an interest in sci-fi/fantasy, a healthy imagination and little to no biology background. 

  • Eric Spana, Associate Professor of the Practice, Department of Biology

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, Continuing Studies and Center for Documentary Studies

Neil S. Siegel

Law and Ethics in the Movies

This Spring Breakthrough course will consider timely problems of law and ethics through the medium of film.  Those problems include, but are not limited to, potential conflicts between law and morality, racism in the criminal justice system, the proper role of the lawyer in American society, the subordination of women to men and status hierarchies, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the perils of eyewitness testimony and circumstantial evidence.  Before we gather, we will read short academic commentaries and critical reviews of a number of movies that implicate such problems.  We will then view the films together, after which we will discuss them from diverse perspectives in an informal, non-hierarchical learning environment.  We will engage several dramas (Judgment at Nuremberg, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Few Good Men, and On the Basis of Sex), as well as comedies that teach valuable lessons (My Cousin Vinny and Legally Blonde).

  • 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

Emily Bernhardt and Brian Silliman

Mucking About in the Marsh – Salt Marsh Ecology

Students in this field course will spend five days at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC, exploring the diversity of the coastal wetlands, their ecological functions and the critical services they provide humans.  Students will design and carry out short term field experiments in the marsh and will compare the biodiversity of the salt marsh to nearby oyster reefs, sea grass beds and sandy beach habits. Students should expect to get their feet wet and their hands muddy as we chase fish, crabs, snails and microbes around the NC coast.

  • 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