Some of the Most Underrated Science Electives for Non-Science Majors at UWindsor
As part of their degree requirements, most humanities and social science students at UWindsor are required to take at least two science courses. Just when you thought you had finally escaped science after getting your grade 10 SNC2D credit in high school, your postsecondary institution has swooped in and required you to once again face the world of numbers, cells and atoms!
Based on personal experience, I find that most non-science students at UWindsor opt for the same science electives—usually Introduction to Astronomy I and II (PHYS-1000 and PHYS-1010), Computer Concepts for End-Users (COMP-1047), and Natural Hazards and Disasters (ESCI-1000).
Now, I’m sure these are all fantastic courses—they wouldn’t be so popular if they weren’t!—but because of their popularity and prominence on campus, other equally fantastic science electives get overlooked.
So, I’ve compiled a short, non-comprehensive list of some of the most underrated science electives for non-science majors at UWindsor. Next time you’re scrolling through UWinsite Student trying to decide what science elective to take, consider enrolling in the following courses in lieu of the more commonplace science courses at our school. Please also note that not all these courses are offered every semester, so make sure to check UWinsite Student regularly to see their availability.
FRSC-1107: Introductory Crime Scene Investigation
FRSC-1107, also known as Introductory Crime Scene Investigation, is taught by Dr. Pardeep Jasra, a full-time faculty member at the University of Windsor in the Forensic Science program. Before working at UWindsor, he was an associate professor at the University of Delhi, India. All in all, Dr. Jasra has more than 20 years of teaching and research experience.
His professional achievements include receiving a grant of over $200,000 from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, alongside another faculty member at UWindsor to develop online courses in Forensic Sciences. He has since co-developed 6 online courses in Forensics, which are listed on eCampus Ontario.
In 2018, Dr. Jasra was awarded the OPUS Teacher of the Year Award. In the same year, he was also given the Dr. Alan Wright Award for Exemplary Online and Technology-Enhanced Teaching by the Office of Open Learning at the University of Windsor.
Dr. Jasra tells me a little about the learning objectives behind his course FRSC-1107: “I developed the course FRSC-1107 to teach students about crime scene management and investigation and the role of the general public in preventing the contamination and/or alteration of forensic evidence at a crime scene.”
He mentions that the course includes many hands-on components to help students absorb the course material. “We discuss the concepts with case studies and many activities,” he says, “like matching of unknown fingerprints with those of suspects, finding the culprit, and crime scene reconstruction”. He concludes that “by taking this course, students become familiar with the importance of crime scene evidence and how to protect it”.
The Forensics professor finds that this course has been a big success among students. He adds that it was even recognized as a cool course by Maclean’s in 2016. His course Bioterrorism, Food, and Environmental Forensics (FRSC-4237) was also mentioned as a cool course in the magazine’s 2021 profile of the University of Windsor.
Students who are in a science or non-science program can take the course as an elective, and Dr. Jasra emphasizes that the course is useful regardless of one’s academic background, “whether it is accounting, psychology, criminology or business.”
But don’t take Dr. Jasra’s word for it! Hear it directly from Samantha, one of his former students in FRSC-1107. Samantha is a third-year student in the Bachelor of Social Work program who took FRSC-1107 as one of their mandatory science electives. From their point of view, “The course covers the basics of how to document different types of evidence, what to look for while at a crime scene, who to report to and who covers each area of evidence collection and processing, and how to cover the major points of a crime scene”.
Samantha would recommend the course to other students who are interested in the areas of crime scene investigation and forensics. “The activities are fun, the exams are fair, and the instructor is really clear with marking,” they say.
They find that the course has been particularly beneficial to them as a Social Work student: “I think it’s something a lot more interesting than most other science electives, and for social work students, it may help understand the criminal processing system further and help to explore an interesting part of the sciences”.
Samantha makes sure to add a quick disclaimer, however, for those who might be mislead into thinking that a Forensics course is anything like the dramatic crime shows shown on TV: “It should be noted that the course wouldn’t be like watching CSI, as there is a small focus on administrative processes, but nonetheless I think it’s an underrated course”.
For more information on FRSC-1107, check out the Registrar’s Undergraduate Course Calendar for Forensic Science.
WGST-2500: Women’s Bodies, Women’s Health
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Health (WGST-2500) is taught by Dr. Rita Haase, who began teaching in UWindsor’s Women’s and Gender Studies department as a sessional instructor in 2008. In addition to WGST-2500, Dr. Haase also teaches the course WGST-3530: Women, Power, and Environments. Dr. Haase has a PhD in Biology, and after completing her Master’s thesis in Science Education in 2009, she started teaching in the Faculty of Education as well, mainly in courses related to Science Methodology at all educational levels.
She is the founder of the Campus Community Garden Project, launched in 2010 as an urban community garden open to both the campus community and the wider UWindsor community to help grow food in an ecologically sustainable way and alleviate poverty.
In sum, Dr. Haase’s background combines science with social science, biology with feminism. She considers herself an educator, a feminist, and an environmentalist.
But what is WGST-2500 all about? In a few words, the course discusses how female, trans, and intersex bodies have been viewed and constructed by the medical establishment and society at large from both historical contemporary points of view. “In this course, students can expect to learn about the physiology and social construction of female bodies as well as of trans and intersex bodies,” Dr. Haase tells me. “Students can explore the medicalization of the female, trans, and intersex body, meaning they can learn about how natural processes such as pregnancy, childbirth, menstruation, and menopause have been claimed and redefined by allopathic medicine”.
Ultimately, students engage in “a critical analysis of the social construction of the female body and its consequences for women’s physical and mental health,” according to Dr. Haase.
WGST-2500 touches on a wide range of topics that exist at the intersection of science and society. “On a rather basic level, students can learn about anatomy, genetics, hormones, chromosomes, and reproduction as related to the female body,” says Dr. Haase. But other concepts discussed in the course include gender and sex, gender identity, gender normativity, transgender identity, and intersex identity.
Dr. Haase emphasizes that she would encourage not only social science or humanities students to take this course, but all students. She believes that anyone could benefit from taking WGST-2500. “I would whole-heartedly recommend this course to all students because it explores the link between science and society from a feminist perspective,” she exclaims. “Like other Women’s and Gender Studies courses, WGST-2500 equips students with the tools and knowledge necessary for becoming a critical reader of scientific and social science texts, a proficient analyst of historical and contemporary works, a good team player, and a competent communicator at the interdisciplinary level. This course enhances their awareness of unjust social structures and sharpens their analytical skills through the application of a feminist lens.”
For Dr. Haase, this course can benefit social science and humanities students in particular by providing them with factual knowledge about women’s bodies and their health.
On the flip side, it can benefit science students by offering them a more socially-conscious and feminist perspective through which to view the construction of women’s health and dispel the misconceptions about women’s biology that scientific research on sex difference continues to partially (and wrongfully) corroborate.
Fiona, a third-year student in psychology who is currently taking WGST-2500, shares her appreciation for the course with me. “This is an excellent course, jam-packed with interesting and compelling information, and I would highly recommend it as a science elective to non-science students,” she says. “I believe that no matter your gender, this course provides excellent information to explain many issues women face related to their bodies and position in society. This course makes you really think about human biology and anatomy and the importance of equality and respect for all beings and bodies—something everyone can benefit from.”
For more information on WGST-2500, check out the Registrar’s Undergraduate Course Calendar for Women’s and Gender Studies. Please note that one credit in Women’s and Gender Studies is required to take the course or permission of the instructor. This course may be taken as either a Science or Social Science credit.
COMP-2097: Social Media Marketing for End Users
Professor Kristina Verner teaches COMP-2097: Social Media Marketing for End Users. Born in Windsor-Essex, she obtained her B.A., B.Ed., and MBA from UWindsor and has been a sessional instructor in the school’s Computer Science department since 2000. “I am continually looking into areas where technology and society are interwoven,” she tells me, “particularly as it relates to communities.” In 2012, she was asked to create the course COMP-2097, then called Social Media and Mobile Technologies, as part of the Minor in Applied Technology. “At that time, I was doing a lot of work with technology partners, looking at how social media could be used to empower communities, neighbourhoods and small businesses,” she says. “I continue to love teaching this course as it requires continuous refreshing of the material to keep it fresh and relevant.”
The course covers a variety of topics linked to social media and marketing. In Professor Verner’s words, “COMP-2097 provides an overview of the underlying concepts that are used in social media, ranging from the marketing considerations, analytics to assess the effectiveness of strategies, data law and ethics, as well as emerging technologies.”
She stresses that she is continuously updating the material to keep it relevant and useful for students. “Students get a chance to not only study the theoretical aspects,” she says, “but I continually augment the course with the most recent real-world developments so that there is practical knowledge that they can take with them at the end of the semester.”
When asked if she would recommend this course to non-science students, Prof Verner answers with a resounding yes. “Whether or not they are keen social media users already or curious about seeing if they want to engage, this course provides an opportunity to look at the benefits and pitfalls of sharing content online. Students will get a practical insight about important policy discussions that are taking place that will impact them as consumers,” she explains.
Another aspect of the course is personal branding, which could be especially useful for students looking for ways to effectively attract potential employers. Prof Verner elaborates: “I spend a significant amount of time focused on how students can create their own personal brand that will be valuable in the future for them to promote and differentiate themselves to a variety of audiences, including employers.”
What makes this course so appealing to students? “The real-time integration of emerging practical tactics and information,” says Prof Verner, “as well as a lot of flexibility in topic selection to allow students to explore the topics through areas they are interested in, are unique characteristics that I hope make this course interesting for them.”
Mya Bezaire, a second-year student in Communication, Media, and Film can confirm the appeal of COMP-2097. “Being a communications major, I personally found that finding a science elective is really hard,” she says, “but this class can apply to every major.”
The topic of personal branding resonated the most with Mya. In her words: “The main benefit of this course is that you get to learn how to brand yourself, which is so important in today’s world. With social media and the Internet, your employers can learn everything about you from a quick Google search, so it’s important to brand your pages for what you want your employers to see.” She adds: “There is an entire assignment in this course dedicated to creating a brand for yourself, which I found super useful, and I was able to use my own social media pages to do this.”
She also appreciated learning about branding from a computer science point of view. “A bonus benefit mainly applying to CMF, Business, or even Social Science majors—or just anyone who’s into media marketing, for that matter—” she elaborates, “is that you get a computer science perspective for how to market brands, which I found incredibly beneficial for the career I want to pursue.”
Mya describes COMP-2097 as a “hidden gem” in the Computer Science department. “Personally, I would’ve expected it to be a business or communications course, potentially only being open to those majors,” she reveals, “but it’s not, and there’s no prerequisite, which means anyone can take it.”
For more information on COMP-2097, check out the Registrar’s Undergraduate Course Calendar for Computer Science. Please note that “this course may not be taken to fulfill the major requirements of any major or joint major in Computer Science,” according to the Registrar.
There you have it, folks: three of the most underrated science electives for non-science majors at UWindsor. Know of any other underrated science electives we should discuss in a future article? Want a sequel where we flip the script and talk about the most underrated arts and social science electives for science students? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.
Students who requested to remain semi-anonymous are only referred to by their first name.