Course Descriptions


Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

Instructor: Anastasia Dakouri-Hild 

This course will guide students (especially those without prior background to geospatial analysis) through key geospatial analysis concepts, the structure of a GIS project, and the process of setting one up. This includes building basemaps and other feature layers from extant data, creating new layers with various contained geometries, combining extant datasets to create new layers and information, and exploring the potential of the combined data for the purposes of visualization (2D and 3D), analytical scrutiny and computational analysis based on real life research problems. We will also learn how to leverage and build a custom cloud-based GIS (AGOL) to deploy our data in online mapping applications (web maps).

Cloud Computing Fundamentals 

In this introductory course, students will develop an understanding of cloud computing concepts, independent of specific technical roles. The course covers cloud concepts, Amazon Web Services (AWS) core services, security, architecture, pricing, and support. It helps provide a basic understanding that students may build upon to later take the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam.  

Aligning Professional Goals and Social Values

Instructor: Mary Ruth Robinson 

Every day across the globe, young people are leading the charge for social change. Recent years have seen youth activists on the frontlines of movements including Black Lives Matter, the March For Our Lives, and the School Strike For Climate—and this activist spirit has shaped the ways that young people engage professionally, with a striking 49% of Gen Zs reporting that they make choices about the organizations they’re willing to work for based on their values. Reconciling our personal values and professional lives can be incredibly difficult.

For college students with limited career stability or financial security, it can be especially hard to focus on “doing good” while also pursuing career goals (“doing well”). But doing good and doing well aren’t incompatible. This course invites students to explore how they might align the two in order to achieve greater professional success and increased personal fulfillment. We’ll analyze the business case for doing good across sectors; we’ll consider new ways students can become advocates for social change throughout their future careers; and, more broadly, we’ll explore the way that our identities—our whole, authentic selves—shape our professional lives.


Climate Summit: Communicating and Acting on Climate Change

Instructor: Justin McBrien 

This course uses the lens of one of the most urgent issues of our time to develop post-graduate skills in public communication, scientific literacy, critical thinking, and community engagement. We will do so by learning how to effectively communicate issues of climate justice—and general issues concerning the intersection of scientific knowledge and social justice—through exercises in opinion writing, data mapping, and using basic climate models. Classes will be divided into short survey lectures, discussions, small group collaborations, and instruction in critical writing, research, and data analysis. A course-long climate summit simulation will allow for a variety of ways to engage and participate in a manner most suited to students’ interests and give them perspective on the complex relationship between local community engagement and global coordinated action in addressing the climate crisis in our everyday life and labor. 


Liberal Arts Courses

Ethics in the Digital World

Instructor: Alexander Wolfson 

Suitable for students across the academic spectrum, this course will address what is meant by ‘ethics’ in the technologically driven world of today. What kind of ethical questions and considerations emerge due to new online and digital technologies. Does the contemporary technological world aid us or hinder us in living ethical lives? The class will engage new and old digital technologies to look at the ways in which technology affects how we think about ethics, both in our everyday life and in the working world.

Combining research, writing, analysis, and group activities, each student will try to understand the ways in which our thinking on how we should live with others has been affected by the technological world. Students will have the opportunity to think through these issues using examples from everyday life, the workplace, and new virtual and digital spaces. The aim of the course is both to get a better understanding of how our thinking about ethics is affected by the technologies in the world around us but also to develop new and innovative skills to engage with others using these very same new technological resources. 

Talking and Listening with Presence

Instructor: Tovah Close 

Have you ever struggled to feel like yourself speaking in front of a crowd? Or made a bid for connection with someone only to feel your efforts fall short? If, as Brené Brown says, humans are hard-wired for connection, why is it sometimes so difficult to be present with others? Drawing on researched techniques from actor training, public speaking, and embodied contemplative practice, students will explore a range of tools to develop a habit of presence. The class will include daily opportunities to practice mindfulness, readings/videos/discussions about the research on vulnerability, resilience, and self-acceptance, and hands-on activities that target improvisation, breath work, and physical and vocal awareness. 

Societal Breakdown and Cultural Repair

Instructor: Andrew Ferguson 

The core of this class is a series of fictional, critical, and sociological readings on various modes of brokenness and attempted cultural repairs in contemporary society, along with exercises designed to allow students to break down and rebuild their own creative and analytical processes. The aim is to prepare students for professional (and, increasingly, pedagogical) environments in which the old Facebook dictum “Move fast and break things” has become sufficiently pervasive that many organizations now find themselves devoting substantial time and resources to figuring out how to fix what they’ve broken along the way. Ultimately, the class will present malfunction and its counterpart, repair, as the results of socioeconomic choices about what we as a body politic ultimately value sufficiently to maintain, and what we allow to fall into disrepair.


Project-Based Course

Complex Problem-Solving and Strategic Decision Making 

This interactive project-based learning course is designed to help students navigate complex and ambiguous problems. Complex problems range from choosing a major or career path to solving world poverty, climate change, and ethical dilemmas. During Launchpad 2023, students will engage with a partner company on practical case studies drawn from the company's operations. Overall, students will build problem-solving skills, teamwork skills, presentation skills, self-awareness, and gain new insights about career interests and workstyle preferences that will set them up for success in their next steps beyond UVA. In addition to the case study preparation and presentations, students will attend workshops on career resources such as resumé writing.  

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