Learning Communities at LaGuardia Community College • Overview • Home
Liberal Arts & Science Academy Clusters| ESL Academy New Student House| ESL Academy Pairs & Clusters | First Year Academies|Quantum Leap Math Academies|
Click on Cluster Title to View Individual Schedule

The A.A.and A.S. Introductory Cluster is a grouping of four different courses in the liberal arts and/or sciences connected by a common theme. It will introduce you to connections among disciplines and enable you to develop techniques in thinking, reading, researching and writing.

Extended day students and non-liberal arts and sciences majors may enroll in a cluster if they wish. Check to be sure the courses meet core or elective requirements for you.

Spring 2011 Cluster Descriptions


HIV/AIDS is a modern pandemic that has affected societies and nations globally and will continue to be a challenge throughout the 21st Century.  The impact of HIV/AIDS has been profound, forcing human cultures to confront sensitive topics such as human sexuality, drug use and social justice. In the Urban Studies course, AIDS in New York City students will learn about the science of HIV/AIDS encompassing biology, public health, and anthropology.  Through examination of creative and historical works students will explore how HIV/AIDS has affected and continues to affect individuals situated within different human cultures and how human societies have responded to this global pandemic. In ENG 101 and ENG 103 students will write expository essays and research papers that relate to the theme of the cluster. Additional readings will support students in addressing various elements of an epidemic such as HIV. Writing courses in the cluster will contribute to student ability to successfully complete all cluster courses as well as future college courses that emphasize research and writing. Humans beings vary cross-culturally: the way in which they perceive and organize themselves differs sociably, political, economically, and ideologically. The assumptions people make regarding such matters as life, the nature of reality, and health beliefs vary significantly. Yet, despite their dissimilarities, humans are much more alike than they are different. The first part of the Cultural Anthropology course will explore the culture concept and anthropological theories. The second section will focus on health beliefs, and the final section will examine issues such as gender, social inequality, and globalization.


Living history is an innovative way of learning of history though the voices of those who lived it.  The history of Queens is one of hope and diversity.  Students in this cluster will examine life in Queens County and the history of the borough through the use of primary documents, oral interviews, basic sociological research, field trips and films.  Students will create histor9ical, sociological and written projects based on research that reflects the experiences of those who came to Queens and created the mosaic that we see today


How can we begin to understand the complex, globalizing world we live in? Why do some countries prosper while others are plagued by poverty? How does access to strategic natural resources produce or reduce conflict in certain nations and regions? To what extent do decisions and choices made in one part of the world affect lives in another? In this cluster, we will study classical and contemporary texts that explore social, political, and philosophical aspects of global issues such as war, terrorism, genocide, security, peace-building, integral development, human rights, global trade, natural law, morality, free will, responsibility, justice, and the search for viable political systems. Through their research projects, students will have an opportunity to focus their study on topics and case studies that interest them the most. Each section of the cluster will allow students to read complementary texts in order to compare perspectives, learn new points of view, and understand intersecting themes. In the English course, students will practice critical reading and writing skills, such analyzing texts for meaning and learning, and to organize their own thoughts for argumentative essays. In the Global Politics course, students will analyze contemporary global issues through the lens of various international relations theories.  The course in Philosophy invites students to engage classical and contemporary texts as well as a variety of notable documents and addresses including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and speeches by Pericles.   Its research projects will include an archives project in which students will work with primary sources to develop their logical reasoning and critical thinking skills as they read and analyze primary sources. We will focus on issues of global concern against the backdrop of a broad account of the main arguments and concepts in social and political philosophy.   


How do the various media present our world to us?  Does the medium shape the subject matter which it presents?  How do we know what we see in network or cable news is true?  Are fictional films just “entertainment” or do they harbor hidden messages which influence how we think about such matters as gender, race and class?  Case studies will include how Native Americans have been represented in the Hollywood Western, the little known tradition of movies by African American filmmakers for African American audiences, the Rodney King videotape, mass media coverage of the World Trade Organization demonstrations and the role of simulation technologies in society.


Children play, sleepers dream, artists conjure up new ideas and businesses everywhere compete for creative innovations.  In the 21st century, most of us spend a huge amount time in fantasy worlds.  We dream when we are asleep and “daydream” often  daydream in our waking hours. Technologies like Facebook and cybergaming allow us to socialize and compete in virtual worlds.   Every day, we have to come up with new ideas and solutions at school and in the workplace.   This course will ask several questions: 1) How do humans create and imagine?  2) How do we know the difference between things that are “real” and the things we imagine? 3) Are some people’s imaginations more powerful than others?  Are artists different than other people in other ways? This class will approach these questions through introductory psychological reading and discussions of art, performance, films, novels, short stories.  These will include Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, James’s The Turn of the Screw, Poe’s “The Telltale Heart,” and the film, Pan’s Labyrinth.  In addition to looking at art, we will go on a field trip to the Museum of Modern Art.


In this liberal arts cluster students will examine intersections of the gothic and the spiritual in literature, philosophy and film. In the English Composition and Research Paper courses, students will examine the Victorian obsession with the occult, spiritualism and mediums, tales of child possession, stories of spectral incognizance, romance and love across dimensions as well as stories of the unstable female and mental illness. We will consider the home or castle as a place of terror or entrapment, and the new urban gothic in which the haunted castle or house is replaced by the computer as a means of supernatural mystery and communication with spirits.  Readings include Poe, Conan Doyle, O'Henry, and DuMaurier.  The film course will address such traditional subjects as the haunted house and the traveling carnival.  We will explore modern ghosts in the machine, including the haunting of technological and computer systems, as well as teen witches and 'goth' subcultures.  Films include RINGU, THE SIXTH SENSE, THE HUNGER, and DRACULA.  In  the Philosophy of Religion course, students will learn about beliefs regarding death and dying in major world religions.  We will examine the validity and rationality of religious experience and belief, the concepts of a person and personal identity, and religious beliefs about the after‑life.  Philosophers studied include James, Kierkegaard, Russell, Geach and Price.


In this cluster, we will examine gender, race, class and sexuality to discover new ways of thinking about them and how they shape every aspect of our lived.  What is gender?  How is your gender shaped by your culture, class, religious tradition, and family life?  How does being female or male change the way you see the world and how the world sees you?  What differences do women and men experience socially, politically, and emotionally as they interact in the world?  What affect does culture, popular or otherwise, have on your expectations of women and men and the roles they play?  Are you more affected by your family life?  Or does your community play the greatest role in shaping who you are?  What happens when your ideas about identity do no match cultural norms?  In English, Philosophy and Argumentation and Debate, students will explore the themes of gender and identity construction.  Readings include Revolutionary women writers, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Moises Kaufman’s play The Laramie Project.


This cluster will explore how cultural myths and fairytales are translated into works for the theatre.  Plays to be studied include INTO THE WOODS, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, STORY THEATRE and DRACULA ALMA.  In addition, students will explore how storytelling is an integral part of theatre; each student will prepare an original story to present for an audience and to record for the E-Portfolio in both audio/visual and digital formats.
This cluster is an intense introduction to theatre.  Students in the ART OF THEATRE class will work on designing and producing their original stories for a live audience.  In ACTING I the students will develop their performance skills as they work on scenes from the mentioned plays and their original stories.  And in the two English classes, the students will study the four plays as representative of the fantasy genre and engage in a research project that compares and contrasts former productions of fantasy with the College’s Spring Production of INTO THE WOODS.  In addition, the students will examine how elements of fantasy go from conception to actual production by producing their own stories for theatre and by journaling about the College’s Spring Production of INTO THE WOODS. In the English Composition and Research paper courses, students will explore fairy tales, myths, and urban legends that capture and embody the cultural values of a society, and find theatrical expression.   Students will be exposed to the tragic myths of Ancient Greece like Oedipus Rex, the heroic tales of the Norse, the medieval folk tales of dragon-fighting saints, Shakespeare’s fairy tale classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle.   We will investigate how these myths and legends relate to modern-day forms of fantasy and the current theatrical season.  And, most importantly, we will, as Joseph Campbell suggests, “venture forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder.” 


One of the reasons that literature has endured and continues to matter is that it teaches us about the world and ourselves.  Through its unflinching lens, we develop a more profound understanding of the human condition.  While the more severe psychological conditions—such as schizophrenia and psychosis—do not affect the majority of people, other conditions may.  These include depression, post-partum depression, panic attacks, phobias, anorexia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Even though the stigma surrounding such conditions has lessened, we tend not to look at such difficult issues.  But, as Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  Through the vehicle of fiction, memoirs, plays and poems, we will examine these issues, gaining a deeper comprehension of both the human psyche and literature.  Readings and films may include Sigmund Freud: Analysis of a Mind, Hamlet, The Glass Menagerie, A Beautiful Mind, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, ‘Night, Mother, The Tell-Tale Heart, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and A Rose for Emily.
LaGuardia Community College (CUNY), 31-10 Thomson Avenue, L.I.C., New York, NY 11101
Contact: Phyllis van Slyck, 718.482.5660, vanph@lagcc.cuny.edu