The GSAS Graduate Student Council offers a series of noncredit mini-courses, taught by GSAS students for GSAS students, that will engage topics of discipline-spanning appeal.

These short courses, stimulating and smart, are designed for a diverse audience of nonspecialists, giving you a chance to step back from your own line of scholarly inquiry and step into other perspectives.


See the roster of GSC mini-courses, and get dates and registration information below or on the January@GSAS events page. Alternatively, you can also This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


GSC Mini Courses, January 2016

New Wave Cinema in Post-Communist Romania

Alina Lazar

This course will look at four contemporary Romanian films. Following the fall of communism in 1989, Romanian cinema experienced a revival, consolidating in the 2000s an austere, realist and often-minimalist style to great international acclaim. The films covered by this course deal with: the revolution of 1989; communism in the 1980s; the collapse of public services during democracy; and everyday life in present day Romania. The course will pay equal attention to subject matter and aesthetics in order to explore how these films are representing the 21st century Romanian experience, and pushing the boundaries of international cinema.

Dates: 11 January – 22 January

Times: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am-12pm (plus four screenings)

Location: tbc 

Enroll here.


How to Make a Book: a Practical and Historical Overview

Dakota McCoy

 From tomb inscriptions in Ancient Egypt to the Kindle sitting in your hand, books have taken many forms over the history of humanity. In this course, learn how to books came to be: how language and writing evolved in our ancestors, how ancient human societies recorded information, how technology for the preservation of information developed (from papyrus to movable type), and how the meaning of “book” is changing before our eyes in the digital age. Conclude by learning how to make your own hand-bound book over a series of three workshops, using traditional materials and techniques.

January 19, 20, 21, 22, 23: 2:00-3:30 (with optional discussion 3:30-5:00)

The lectures and discussions are open to anyone (Jan 19, 20), but the book-making workshops (Jan 21, 22, 23) are limited enrollment due to material cost.

Enroll here


Ghosts in the Machine: Computers and Film

Devin Kennedy

This discussion-based course explores select themes in the cultural history of the computer through an examination of classic and not-so familiar cinematic representations of computers and selected readings from computer pioneers, philosophers, historians, and science fiction authors. Films offer a window into the wider cultural life of computer devices: as banal machines, imaginative technologies, and objects of criticism and philosophical contemplation.

The class alternates between discussions and in-class screenings, meeting January 11-22: MTWThF in Science Center 469 (with no meeting on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday). 

Enroll here.


Myths of the Mind and Madness - A Scientific Review of Abnormal Psychology

Dianne Hezel and Christopher Rutt

Despite the high prevalence rates of psychological disorders in the United States, the topic of mental health is frequently misrepresented in the media and popular culture. This mini-course, offered by two advanced graduate students in the clinical psychology doctoral program, is designed to provide a practical perspective of abnormal psychology as informed by scientific research. Goals of this course will be (1) to introduce a range of mental health disorders, (2) to dispel common myths about psychopathology and psychotherapy, and (3) to provide an introduction to the leading evidence-based interventions for mental illness.

January 12-13, 19-21 from 3-5pm in William James Hall, Room TBD. This class is open to everyone.

Enroll here


When Art Makes Music, When Music Makes Art…

Hayley Fenn

What if the Harvard Art Museums had a musical accompaniment? If every instance of visual artistic expression had a sonic, a musical, analog? How would one go about realizing this project? In what ways to visual art and music in create, inform, make each other? What technology is required? What paratextual information? Is this a meaningful enterprise? What are the precedents? What are the downfalls? Join us as we explore possible answers to these questions in pursuit of a larger project: the curation of a playlist for the Harvard Art Museums. 

January 15, 18, 20, 22, 3pm-5pm in Harvard Art Museums and Harvard Music Department, Paine Hall, Room 4. Optional field trips on January 16, 19 and 21.   

This course is open to everyone but pre-registration is recommended as we will need to contact you about some logistics. Enroll here


The Beasts Within

Jack Boyle and Seth Donoughe

Animals are never alone: inside and out, our bodies are home to an incredible number diversity of other organisms. In this course, we will cover just what our microscopic tenants are doing, and why it matters. Many of these organisms are harmful to their animal host: we will discuss pathogens of humans, feminizing parasites in arthropods, the Alien-chest-burster-like habits of parasitoid wasps, and more. But there are beneficial symbionts, too! Many animals rely on bacteria to help them digest their food, escape their predators, colonize harsh environments, or fight off competitors. We will discuss both harmful and beneficial symbionts, as well as how the line between the two is often blurry.
MWF, January 11th through 22nd
Enroll here

Animation + Revolution: World Cinema and the Animated Avant-Garde

Julia Alekseyeva

This course attempts a broad survey of animation in the global context of the avant-garde, with a particular emphasis on the former USSR and Japan, as well as former Czechoslovakia, the US, and the UK. In particular, the course looks at a fascinating range of animations that are often unknown to contemporary audiences, especially those which might seem a little strange, or a little “off”-modern: films such as Svankmajer's Alice (1988), Yuri Norstein's Hedgehog in the Fog (1975), or Yamamoto Eichii's Belladonna of Sadness (1973). The films shown in class are often surreal or bizarre, yet always visually mesmerizing and aesthetically revolutionary. After screening films, the class will discuss such questions as: why did these directors choose animation over live action as a mode of expression? How was the form of each film affected by its political climate? How can both the form and content of an animation be politicized, and what does it mean for an animation to be truly “avant-garde”? Such concepts will be considered in what aspires to be both a relaxing night watching films, accompanied by dinner (brought by one's self) and/or light snacks (provided), and an intriguing discussion about the revolutionary potential of animation. Jan 11-15, 18-19. 6-9 PM Location: Dana Palmer Seminar Room

Enroll here


Why haven`t we cured cancer yet? Insights from evolution, ecology and paleontology

Maurizio Fazio and Ellen van Rooijen

Every passing second an American dies of cancer. Why is this disease so hard to cure? Evolution, ecology, and paleontology offer us new paradigms to tackle this complex problem. We will explore what geographical speciation of birds can teach us about metastasis, how studying species extinction can help us design more potent and less toxic cancer treatments, why new immunotherapies are successful despite tumor heterogeneity, and how post-apocalyptic TV shows like The Walking Dead parallel emergence of drug resistance.

January 11, 13, 15, 20, 22, 6.30-8 PM room TBD.

Enroll here


Improving Presentation and Communication through Improvisation

Sam Dillavou

This course aims to give an introduction to improvisation as a foundation for a variety of presentational and communication skills. Giving a talk, teaching a course, and participating in a discussion all benefit from improved clarity, specificity, and accessibility, all of which are skills that spring directly from improvisational training. No experience necessary! This class is entirely based on participation, so come ready to perform (only for each other.) January 11-15(MTWThF) 1-3pm, location TBD.

This course is open to everyone! However, due to the limitations of this format, the class will be capped 14. Enroll here.


Introduction to Argentine Tango: Culture, Music, and the Dance

Thomas Wisniewski


MagicalMonstrous: Fantastical Adolescence in Japanese Animation

Zoe Eddy