Anticipating ‘Contagion’—Next Year’s Theme Semester

May 7, 2012
By: Worcester State University News

Worcester State University’s upcoming theme semester for the 2012-2013 academic year will be “Contagion: How Things and Ideas Spread and Evolve.”

The topic of contagion was chosen to highlight how ideas and opinions spread and relate to all subjects, not just the health discipline.

The current list of classes being offered next fall as part of Theme Semester includes: Art Since Mid-Century, Medical Microbiology, Patterns in Criminality, Planned Change in Criminal Justice, Crime and the Media, History of Criminal Justice, Contagion: People and Crime, International Trade, Social Studies and Multiculturalism, Geographic Information Systems, It’s Going Viral, Food in America, Dictatorship and Revolution in Latin America, Modern Latin America, American Revolutionary Period, Calculus I, Probability, Integrated Science, Genocide and Human Rights, History of Modern Philosophy, The Psychology of the Simpsons, Fads and Fashions: Innovation and Diffusion, Research Methods, Social Networks and Social Network Analysis, Rehearsal and Performance, Theatre Practicum, Devised Theatre, and Technology, Public Policy and Urban Society.

“Having a wide variety courses will hopefully encourage students to connect the topic of contagion to many different subject areas,” said Dr. Robert Brooks (Criminal Justice), director of Theme Semester.

In addition, the common book for first-year students will be The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. According to, “this New York Times bestseller takes readers on an extraordinary journey, from the ‘colored’ ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.”

The purpose of Theme Semester is to integrate student learning around a single topic, while making connections across courses, Brooks explained. Cross-departmental learning is also key to this program. Faculty and students alike also get to know each other better, even though they are in different fields of study.

Written by Chelsea Tougas ’12, a communication major, president of WSU’s Omega Psi chapter of Lambda Pi Eta, student worker in the Student Affairs Office, and intern with the WSU Public Relations and Marketing Office.

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