Liberal Arts Initiative Summer Seminars

An Intellectual Conversation Between
Liberal Arts Professors and China's Future Leaders

About LAISS

LAISS (Liberal Arts Initiative Summer Seminars) is a non-profit program run by Amherst College students, officially recognized and sponsored by Amherst College, and taught by professors from Amherst College. LAISS offers a variety of liberal arts classes on multiple disciplines to Chinese students who are interested in liberal arts education in the U.S.

Our Aims

  • Provide first-hand experience of liberal arts education to students in China.
  • Promote a better understanding of liberal arts education among future Chinese intellectuals and current Chinese educational institutions.
  • Incite intellectual exchanges, which in turn might lead to researches in various disciplines among students and professors.
  • Serve as an affordable and rigorous platform for intellectual exchanges among professors and outstanding students.

About Amherst College

Founded in 1821 as a nonsectarian institution for “the education of indigent young men of piety and talents,” Amherst College is now widely regarded as one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the nation, enrolling a diverse group of approximately 1,800 young men and women.

Renowned for its talented students, committed faculty and rigorous academic life, Amherst offers the B.A. degree in 41 majors. With a faculty-student ratio of 1 to 7, Amherst’s classes are characterized by spirited interchange among students and acclaimed faculty skilled at asking challenging questions. Students participate in sophisticated research, making use of state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. And Amherst’s open curriculum allows each student—with the help of faculty advisers—to chart an individual course through the more than 800 courses offered at the college; there are no distribution requirements. Honors work is encouraged and in recent years has been undertaken by nearly half of the graduating class.

Amherst is a member of the Five Colleges, a consortium with nearby Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Students may take courses at any of the colleges, and the schools’ proximity adds to Amherst’s rich social and extracurricular life.

Diversity, defined in its broadest sense, is fundamental to Amherst's mission. The college enrolls students from nearly every state and from more than 40 countries, and for the past several years more than 40 percent of Amherst's students have been students of color. Amherst is one of the few truly need-blind colleges in the nation; students are admitted without regard to financial aid, and each admitted student is guaranteed financial aid equal to financial need. The College’s financial aid packages are consistently among the most generous in the nation, and among its peer universities and colleges Amherst has the most economic diversity. By any measure of accessibility and quality, Amherst is consistently ranked among the top schools in the country. Its outstanding resources, dedicated faculty and rigorous academic life allow the College to enroll students with an extraordinary range of talents, interests and commitments.

As of today, Amherst has an endowment of $2.25 billion, as well as extensive physical resources. The college's scenic 1,000-acre campus is near the center of the Town of Amherst.

Amherst has a distinguished group of alumni. The college has more than 20,000 graduates, who are represented in almost every walk of life. Many are or have been prominent on the world scene (including four Nobel laureates, numerous Pulitzer Prize winners, the president of the National Urban League, a chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, several National Book Award winners and a U.S. president), and countless others contribute to society in important but less public ways. More than 60 percent of Amherst’s alumni make a gift to Amherst each year—among the highest alumni participation rates in the country.

College Hall

Fayerweather Hall

Freshman Quad

Memorial Hill

LAISS in the past

The year 2021 marks the eighth year of the, now extremely sought-after, Liberal Arts Initiative. In the past three years, the dialogues that had taken place between American professors and Chinese students have initiated and promoted a reciprocal learning process beyond the classrooms. Among the 300 global LAISS alumni, most are continuing their pursuit of the liberal arts tradition at top US colleges with an inquisitive and resilient habit of mind gained through the LAISS program. The 2021 Curriculum consists of three academic courses. The students will participate in two courses according to their indicated preference and the writing workshop. All of the courses include lectures and liberal arts style small group discussions. The students will work closely with the professors on better understanding the provided academic topics and improving their writing.

2019 Faculty

Faculty

Jeffers Engelhardt

PhD, University of Chicago. Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Amherst College, where he is an affiliate of Film and Media Studies, European Studies, and the Five College Certificate in Ethnomusicology

Professor Engelhardt teaches courses in ethnomusicology focusing on community-based ethnography, music and religion, voice, and analytical approaches to music and sound. His research deals broadly with music, religion, European identity, and media. His books include Singing the Right Way: Orthodox Christians and Secular Enchantment in Estonia (Oxford, 2015) and the co-edited volume Resounding Transcendence: Transitions in Music, Religion, and Ritual (Oxford, 2016). His current book project is Music and Religion (under contract with Oxford University Press), and he is Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Journal of Music and Religion and incoming (2020) Digital and Multimedia Editor of the Journal of the American Musicological Society.

Listening

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? From the perspective of this course, the answer is no. The falling tree produces vibration in the air, but there is no sound without a listener. This course takes a listener-centered approach to studying music and sound. We will develop active, critical listening skills to explore how the senses and technologies shape our understanding of music and the world of sound. We will also work with case studies (texts, films, and recordings) to understand how ways of listening are situated in different historical, cultural, and musical contexts. Finally, we will study the work of musicians and sound artists who put listening at the center of their creative practices.

Faculty

Ellen Boucher

Ph.D., Columbia University. Associate Professor of History and Chair of European Studies, Amherst College.

Trained as a social and cultural historian of modern Europe, Professor Boucher teaches and researches on a variety of topics related to the history of empire, childhood, and warfare in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her first book, Empire’s Children: Child Emigration, Welfare, and the Decline of the British World 1869-1967 (Cambridge University Press, 2014), explored the intersection between imperial politics and child welfare policy through the story of Britain’s child migrants: the roughly 90,000 poor or orphaned children who were sent by charities and government officials to start new lives in the “white dominions” of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Rhodesia. She is currently writing a new book, Be Prepared: Empire, War, and the Risk Imagination in Modern Britain, which examines how people’s understandings of risk – and their ability to prepare for it – changed in the modern era, as civilians experienced new and sometimes apocalyptic forms of warfare, such as aerial bombing, gas attacks, and the nuclear threat.

The French Revolution

Often viewed as one of the defining events in modern history, the French Revolution has been debated and discussed, criticized and celebrated by generations of politicians, activists, and historians. This course examines the nature of the revolutionary process as it unfolded in late eighteenth-century France and its empire. Beginning in the “old regime” of kings and commoners, it untangles the social, political, and intellectual roots of the Revolution and investigates the extent to which these factors contributed to the overthrow of the French monarchy in 1789. It then follows the expansion of the Revolution throughout French society and across the ocean to the Caribbean, analyzing how popular and colonial upheavals influenced the revolutionary new order of “liberty, equality, and brotherhood” that was taking shape in France. Finally, the course explores the aftermath of the Revolution by tracing its varied legacies for Europe and the world. Through open discussion and the critical reading of primary documents from the period and secondary sources written by scholars, students will also practice the skills of argumentative writing and debate.

Faculty

Lyle McGeoch

Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University. Brian E. Boyle ’69 Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Computer Science, Amherst College

Professor McGeoch is a theoretical computer scientist who works in the area of data structures and algorithms. His interests include heuristics for NP-hard problems and dynamic graph algorithms, and he is best known for his research on competitive on-line algorithms. He teaches a wide range of courses at Amherst, from introductory courses on programming and algorithmic thinking to advanced electives on topics such as theory and combinatorial optimization.

Computation

"What problems can be solved by computers? How long would it take to solve a given problem?" This course will consider some of the fascinating questions and results that arise when thinking about these issues. Students will learn about different models of computation, including finite automata, Turing machines, and quantum computers. We will together explore ways of proving that particular problems can or cannot be solved by particular kinds of computers, and we will discuss ways of reasoning about algorithm efficiency. Students do not need to have programming experience, and no particular math background is required. The most valuable prerequisites are curiosity and analytical aptitude, the ability to apply reasoning to solve problems.

2018 Faculty

Faculty

Catherine Ciepiela

Ph.D., Yale University, Howard M. and Martha P. Mitchell Professor of Russian, Russian Department and Creative Writing Program, Amherst College

Professor Ciepiela studies and translates Russian literature, especially Russian poetry. She is an acknowledged expert on the poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941), whose epistolary romance with Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) was the subject of her award-winning book The Same Solitude (Cornell, 2006); the book follows the poets’ conversation across the widening divide between the Soviet Union and émigré Russia in the 20s and 30s. With Honor Moore, she co-edited The Stray Dog Cabaret, a poetry anthology which frames a group portrait of the Russian modernists. The volume appeared in the Classics series published by New York Review of Books and was a finalist for the PEN Poetry in Translation Award. She also edited the anthology Relocations: Three Contemporary Russian Women Poets (Zephyr, 2013). At Amherst she teaches courses on Dostoevsky’s novel, Russian life-writing, Soviet culture, the artistic avant-garde, and literary translation. Professor Ciepiela currently directs the Amherst Center for Russian Culture.

After the Revolution: Soviet Society in Literature and Film

The Russian empire was launched on a unique path by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917: it was intended to become the first Communist society in history. The new Soviet state sought to remake institutions and even persons in the name of realizing a classless society. We will study the social history of the Soviet Union as it was represented and imagined by its poets, fiction writers and filmmakers. Moving from the 1920s to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, we will consider pivotal events – the Revolution itself, the “internationalizing” of non-Russian peoples, collectivization and famine, Stalin's purges, World War II and the Chernobyl disaster – for what they reveal about the experience of large-scale social transformation.

Faculty

Jason Robinson

Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, Associate Professor of Music, Affiliated Faculty in Black Studies and Film and Media Studies, Department of Music, Amherst College
Music and Culture

Regardless of national or cultural context, musical expression is central to the human experience. Why is this? And what does music reveal about the experiences, hopes, and fears of those who coalesce around specific musical styles, repertoires, and sounds? Using these and similar questions, this course encourages students to examine how music helps establish and maintain identities in myriad cultural and social contexts. We will develop “active listening” skills that enable students to hear music as sound coded with profound meanings that reflect broader aspects of the modern world. Using a series of case studies, we will bring specific musical examples from around the world into dialogue with ideas from reading assignments that position music within cultural, national, and transnational contexts. From this, we will discover the deep connection between sound and humanity.

Faculty

Anston Bosman

PhD, Stanford University, Associate Professor of English, Department of English, Amherst College

Born in South Africa and trained in Comparative Literature, Professor Bosman teaches a variety of courses including the history of drama, the literature of Renaissance Europe, and literary and critical theory. His special interest is the globalization of Shakespeare from the sixteenth century to the present day. He has worked as a dramaturg for the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company in Boston and is currently writing a book on the element of fire in texts, performances, and films of Shakespeare's play Macbeth.

Writing About Illness

How do writers imagine illness? This course will follow poets, novelists, and autobiographers as they try to make meaning out of diseases, disorders, or disabilities. We will explore what words and forms writers use to give voice to the experience of bodily and mental suffering, and we will ask how the literature of illness can help to illuminate a wide range of human experiences. In addition to analyzing readings, students will experiment with writing essays and memoirs, testing the power of stories to shape distress, to ease reflection, and to guide healing.

2017 Faculty

Faculty

Daniel Barbezat

Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ward H. Patton Professor of Economics, Department of Economics and of European Studies, Amherst College

Professor Barbezat's early work was on international cooperation and rivalry in inter-war Europe. That work led him to a study of the development and economics of the European Union, resulting in a book published by Oxford University Press and co-written with Larry Neal on The Economics of the European Union and the Economies of Europe. Recently, Professor Barbezat has been interested in the many ways in which contemplative approaches can be used throughout higher education. He is also interested in the relationship between awareness and decision-making.

Happiness

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson riffed on John Locke's famous statement on fundamental rights and placed the “pursuit of happiness” at the core of what Jefferson thought of as god-given rights (“inalienable rights”). He replaced Locke's “property” with “happiness,” creating an interesting connection between ourselves as citizens, consumers, and as agents of well-being. In this seminar, we will examine happiness through several lenses – through art, psychology, philosophy, economics and our own experience. I have organized the course around the book Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. We will read each of the chapters of that book, as well as supporting material.

Faculty

Amelie Hastie

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Professor of English, and of Film and Media Studies, Department of English and of Film and Media Studies, Amherst College

The author of Cupboards of Curiosity: Women, Recollection and Film History (Duke UP) and The Bigamist (a BFI "FIlm Classic"), Amelie Hastie is founding Chair of the Film and Media Studies Program and Professor of English at Amherst College. Her research and teaching focus on film and television theory and historiography, feminism, and material cultures. Currently she is both the author of "The Vulnerable Spectator” column in Film Quarterly and is finishing a book on the 1970s television series Columbo for Duke University Press. She has edited special issues of Film History, Journal of Visual Culture, and Vectors, and she was a proud member of the Camera Obscura editorial collective for over a decade. Of late, she has published essays on Ida Lupino's television work, Tomboy (Céline Sciamma, 2011), and film criticism in the first decade of Ms. magazine.

America on Screen: Cinematic representations of the US

Focusing on a range of depictions of US life, this course will introduce students to the history and language of film. We will consider a range of cinematic explorations of regions in the United States: from Washington DC to the rural South, from the Great Northwest to New York City, from California to Florida. Through this focus, we will investigate how film imagines the geography, culture, and even the very concept of "America.”

Faculty

Rick López

Ph.D., Yale University, Professor of History, and of Environmental Studies; Dean of New Students, Department of Environmental Studies, of History, and of European Studies, Amherst College

Rick López is Professor at Amherst College in the departments of history and environmental studies. He teaches courses on environmental history and Latin American culture and politics, US Latino studies, and global/comparative history. López completed his PhD at Yale University in 2002, is author of Crafting Mexico: Intellectuals, Artisans, and the State after the Revolution (Duke UP, 2010), and co-edited a collection on political violence in Southern Mexico. López has published numerous articles and essays on race, aesthetics, and nation formation in Mexican history. He is working on two new books. Science, Nationalism, and Aesthetics in the Shaping of Mexico's Environmental Imagination analyzes the role science and aesthetics in the development of Mexico's nationalist ecological imagination. A Territory Cleaved: Nation, Nature, and Ethnicity on the Frontier asks how people living on the US-Mexican border changed their relationship to nature during the nineteenth century, and what these changes can teach us about the dual processes of nation formation and environmental transformation. Since 2014 has served as Dean of New Students, with a focus on integrating the College's diverse student body into a unified community in which members of all backgrounds thrive academically and personally.

The Mexican Revolution

Shortly before his death in the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1921, the indigenous peasant general Emiliano Zapata declared "I would rather die standing than live on my knees.” What inspired peasants such as Zapata to take up arms and what goals did they die for? This course will consider what popular social revolution looks like, how it unfolds, and to what degree it was attained in Mexico. In the process, we will consider fundamental questions such as: Is genuine social revolution possible? How did isolated acts of resistance transform into a massive popular revolution?  It is easy to identify the year when a revolution began, but how do we know when a revolution is over? Given the chaos created by grassroots revolution, how did post-revolutionary intellectuals and political leaders define what exactly "The Revolution” had fought for? The ruling party that dominated Mexico from the 1920s until 2000 referred to itself as the "institutionalized revolution.” Can a revolution be institutionalized and still be popular and revolutionary? As we seek answers to these questions, student will learn the Liberal Arts skills of critical reading of primary documents and secondary studies, argumentative writing, and interpretation through open discussion.

2016 Faculty

Faculty

Kristin Bumiller

PhD., University of Wisconsin –Madison George Daniel Olds Professor in Economic and Social Institutions (Political Science) Department of Political Science, Amherst College

Professor Bumiller has taught at Johns Hopkins University and Amherst College in the Political Science Departments. Professor Bumiller is the author of the award-winning book, In an Abusive State (Victoria Schuck Book Prize, American Political Science Association, 2009) which examines the relationship between the feminist movement against sexual violence and criminal justice policy. She is also the author of a seminal book on employment discrimination, The Civil Rights Society (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988). Her numerous articles, which span a broad range of interests in anti-discrimination policy, feminist theory, gender and punishment, and disability rights, have been published in major journals in her field.

American Civil Rights Movements: Race, Gender, and Disabilities Issues

This course explores the role of civil rights in addressing inequality, discrimination, and violence in democratic societies. This course will trace the evolution of rights focused legal strategies used in the United States aimed at addressing injustice coupled with race, gender, disability, and citizenship status. We will evaluate when and how rights are most efficacious in producing social change and the possibility of unintended consequences.

Faculty

C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander

PhD., St. Andrews University, U.K. Emily C. Jordan Folger Professor of Black Studies and English Department of Black Studies, and English, Amherst College

Professor Cobham-Sander teaches Caribbean and African literature at Amherst College. She came to Amherst in 1986, after working as a research associate in African Literature at the University of Bayreuth in Germany for four years. Professor Cobham-Sander is coeditor of Watchers and Seekers: Creative Writing by Black Women in Britain (The Women's Press, 1987) and her critical essays on Caribbean and African literature have appeared in such journals as Callaloo, Transition, Small Axe, and Research in African Literatures. Her new book, I and I: Epitaphs for the Self in the Work of V.S. Naipaul, Kamau Brathwaite and Derek Walcott (The University of the West Indies Press), is due out the summer of 2016.

Childhood in Caribbean and African Literature

This course introduces students to the work of some of the best known writers in Caribbean and Africa through their stories about childhood. We will read and discuss stories by such writers as V.S.Naipaul, Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat, Ben Okri and Chimamanda Adichie. Students will work in groups to research the communities from which the writers come. There will also be opportunities to write short reflections on the stories we have read and imitate these writers' styles.

Faculty

Trent Maxey

PhD., Cornell University Associate Professor of Japanese History Department of History and Asian Languages & Civilizations

Professor Maxey teaches a broad range of courses related to intellectual and cultural history, including the urban history of Tokyo, the historical invention of religion, a global history of the Second World War, and surveys of Japanese history. His research explores the relationship between religion and state-formation in nineteenth-century Japan; and his most current is on the social history of ‘driving automobiles' in twentieth century Japan. Professor Maxey has published several articles focusing on Japanese cultural history, and has translated academic articles written by prominent Japanese scholars.

Samurai as Myth and History

The most iconic and mythic figure of pre-modern Japan are the samurai. Were they solitary and honor-bound? Or were they more complex? Beginning with idealized depictions of the samurai in recent Hollywood film and 18th-century text of bushidō, we will use the figure of the samurai to ask how we sift myth from history. We will investigate and debate the historical realities behind the mythic image of the samurai from primary sources (through translation) including chronicles of war, illustrated scrolls, bureaucratic documents, and even an autobiography. The aim of the course will be to introduce the discipline of history and the key liberal arts skills of critical reading, discussion, and argumentative writing.

2015 Faculty

Faculty

Amrita Basu

Ph.D., Columbia University, Domenic J. Paino 1955 Professor of Political Science and Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, Department of Political Science, Amherst College

Amrita Basu is the Paino Professor of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies at Amherst College. Her main areas of research are South Asian politics, with a focus on women's activism, social movements and religious nationalism in South Asia. She teaches such courses as Rethinking Post-Colonial Nationalism, Social Movements and Democracy in India, Research Methods in Gender Studies, and the Home and the World: Women and Gender in South Asia at Amherst College.

Faculty

Lawrence Douglas

J.D., Yale Law School, James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought

Lawrence Douglas is the James J.Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought, at Amherst College. With degrees from Brown University, Columbia University and the Yale Law School, Douglas is the prize-winning author of several books, including The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust (Yale, 2001), a widely acclaimed study of war crimes trials, and two novels, The Catastrophist (Harcourt 2007) and The Vices (Other/Random House 2011). He has lectured in many countries, and has served as a visiting professor of law at University of London and at Humboldt Universititat, Berlin. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including, The New Yorker, The Times Literary Supplement, and Harper's and has been translated into numerous languages. His most recent book, The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial, is published by Princeton University Press in 2016.

Faculty

Christian Rogowski

Ph.D., Harvard University, G. Armour Craig Professor in Language and Literature In the Department of German

Christian Rogowski is G. Armour Craig Professor in Language and Literature in the Department of German at Amherst College, where he teaches courses on a variety of issues within and beyond the German-speaking world: cultural and intellectual history (the Medea myth; Romanticism and the Enlightenment; Nietzsche and Freud; fin-desiècle Vienna; the Nazi Olympics); literature (modern German drama; Brecht; Rilke; post-World War II literature; comedy and humor); opera and music (the German operatic tradition; Richard Wagner; Nietzsche as a composer); and film (popular German cinema; Weimar Cinema; Nazi Cinema; New German Cinema). His publications comprise two books on Austrian author Robert Musil, a CD-ROM on teaching German Studies, and numerous essays on Germanophone literature, opera, film, drama, and intellectual history. His current research focuses on the cinema and popular culture of the Weimar Republic, especially in terms of the politics of "race” (the legacy of German colonialism, the impact of African American culture, the German-Jewish dynamic etc.). He is the editor of The Many Faces of Weimar Cinema: Rediscovering Germany's Filmic Legacy.

2014 Faculty

Faculty

Javier Corrales

Ph.D., Harvard University, Dwight W. Morrow 1895 Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Amherst College

Professor Corrales taught the course Latin America's Role in the Global Economy and the Rise of BRICs, which discusses the debates on how the rise of BRICs is impacting Latin America's economic relation to foreign markets, internal development models, and political relations with the United States.

Faculty

Thomas Dumm

Ph.D., Cornell University, William H. Hastie'25 Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Amherst College

Professor Dumm taught the course Political Ideas and Practices in the United States, which studies some of the most important political thinkers and political documents that have shaped the American understanding and practices of politics.

Faculty

Jyl Gentzler

Ph.D., Cornell University, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Philosophy and Co-director of the Writing Center, Department of Philosophy, Department of Black Studies, and Writing Center, Amherst College

Professor Gentzler taught the course Money, Meaning, and Morality, which reflects on what has value through an extended reading of Michael Sandel's book What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Instructor of the Writing Workshop.

2013 Faculty

Faculty

Geoffrey Woglom

Ph.D., Yale University, Richard S. Volpert'56 Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Amherst College
Faculty

Paola Zamperini

Ph.D., Univerity of California at Berkeley, Associate Professor of Chinese Literature (Now teaching at Northwestern University)
Faculty

Prakarsh Singh

Ph.D., London School of Economics Assistant Professor of Economics Department of Economics, Amherst College

2021 Faculty

Faculty

Catherine Sanderson

PhD, Princeton University. Poler Family Professor and Chair of Psychology at Amherst College.

Professor Sanderson teaches a range of different courses in psychology, including the introduction class, intermediate classes in social psychology, health psychology, and sports psychology, and a seminar in close relationships. Her research is based in social psychology, and specifically on issues within close relationships and health-related behavior. Professor Sanderson has published over 25 journal articles and book chapters in addition to four college textbooks, middle school and high school health textbooks, and a book on how mindset influences happiness, health, and even how long we live (The Positive Shift). Her latest book, published in North America as Why We Act: Turning Bystanders Into Moral Rebels (Harvard University Press) and internationally as The Bystander Effect: The Psychology of Courage and Inaction (HarperCollins), examines why good people so often stay silent or do nothing in the face of wrongdoing and provides strategies we all can use to help people act, even when those around them are not.

Faculty

Maria Heim

PhD, Harvard University. George Lyman Crosby 1896 & Stanley Warfield Crosby Professor in Religion; Chair of Religion.

Professor Heim, a Guggenheim Fellow, teaches about the intellectual, philosophical, religious, and literary history of ancient India and South and Southeast Asian Buddhism, and has authored four books and numerous articles in this area. Her current projects are focused on emotions in classical Indian thought across many genres, and she is currently translating the Questions of Milinda for the Murty Classical Library of India. She works in two classical Indian languages, Sanskrit and Pali.

Faculty

Patricia O’Hara

PhD, Columbia University. Lisa and Amanda Cross Professor of Chemistry at Amherst College; Chair of the Program in Biochemistry and Biophysics

After a post- doctoral appointment at Stanford University, Professor O’Hara came to Amherst College in 1983 where she is approaching her 40th year. Her research interest is in biophysics; her lab uses fluorescence spectroscopy and single molecule microscopy to study protein homeostasis. Her more than two dozen scientific publications appear in journals such as Biochemistry, Molecular Immunology, and the Journal of Physical Chemistry. Her research students have presented and published more than thirty Conference Proceedings (over 30) in the Biophysical Journal. She has also contributed to the literature on curriculum development in chemistry and biochemistry. She is most proud of the 70 Honors Theses students she has had the privilege of supervising and hundreds of students who have learned how to do research in her lab. Most recently, she has expanded her interest in food science, developing a course in Molecular Gastronomy and writing and teaching about Olive Oil Chemistry. Her belief that food science can be used to motivate the teaching of science is the basis of an upcoming chapter in the Handbook of Molecular Chemistry (in press) and the foundation of her book “The Chemical Story of Olive Oil: from Grove to Table” published in 2017 by the Royal Society of Chemistry and translated into Turkish in 2019.

2021 Curriculum

LAISS 2021 Curriculum consists of three academic courses. Students will participate in two courses according to their indicated preferences. All of the courses include interactive lectures and liberal arts style small group discussions. Students are expected to actively participate in class discussions and work on course assignments, which will be graded and commented by the professors.

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    Positive Psychology

    Catherine Sanderson

    For many years, the field of psychology focused on understanding and resolving people’s problems. Ground-breaking new scientific research in the relatively new field of positive psychology now examines ways in which people can live happier and healthier lives. This course will start by reviewing the concept of mindset, meaning how we think about ourselves and the world, and how our mindset influences health, memory, and aging. Next, we’ll turn to examining factors that influence our mindset, such as personality, our environment, and the experience of adversity. Finally, the course will describe strategies we can use to shift our mindset and experience between psychological and physical well-being, including spending time in nature, giving to other people, and building close relationships. Students will read a book (The Positive Shift), written by Professor Sanderson, complete brief practical exercises and writing assignments, and conduct their own research project.

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    Religion in Ancient India

    Maria Heim

    This course explores central ideas and practices in the religious and intellectual traditions of India up until the medieval period. We consider the range of available archeological, art historical, and textual evidence for religion in this period, though the course focuses mostly on texts. We will read the classic religious and philosophical literature of the traditions we now call Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

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    Liquid Gold: The Science and History of Olive Oil

    Patricia O'Hara

    For millennia, the olive and its precious oil have been fundamental to the Mediterranean region. This course will begin with the history of olive trees and their symbolic importance in ancient art, culture, and religion. We will explore methods of production, the chemical composition, and the biologically active nutraceuticals contained in the oil. Is extra virgin olive oil really the healthiest oil one can consume? We will critically read the studies that have led to these claims, particularly focusing on the Mediterranean diet. How does the chemistry of the oil affect its use in the preparation and tasting of foods? We will also consider uses of olive oil outside the kitchen and explore its ritual incorporation in the ancient world and its usefulness in the making of soap. Olive oil fraud is a major concern for modern consumers in the U.S. What are the parameters by which oils are graded and evaluated? Can we imagine ways in which the industry might be better regulated and consumers be better educated?

Positive Psychology

Catherine Sanderson
For many years, the field of psychology focused on understanding and resolving people’s problems. Ground-breaking new scientific research in the relatively new field of positive psychology now examines ways in which people can live happier and healthier lives. This course will start by reviewing the concept of mindset, meaning how we think about ourselves and the world, and how our mindset influences health, memory, and aging. Next, we’ll turn to examining factors that influence our mindset, such as personality, our environment, and the experience of adversity. Finally, the course will describe strategies we can use to shift our mindset and experience between psychological and physical well-being, including spending time in nature, giving to other people, and building close relationships. Students will read a book (The Positive Shift), written by Professor Sanderson, complete brief practical exercises and writing assignments, and conduct their own research project.

Religion in Ancient India

Maria Heim
This course explores central ideas and practices in the religious and intellectual traditions of India up until the medieval period. We consider the range of available archeological, art historical, and textual evidence for religion in this period, though the course focuses mostly on texts. We will read the classic religious and philosophical literature of the traditions we now call Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

Liquid Gold: The Science and History of Olive Oil

Patricia O'Hara
For millennia, the olive and its precious oil have been fundamental to the Mediterranean region. This course will begin with the history of olive trees and their symbolic importance in ancient art, culture, and religion. We will explore methods of production, the chemical composition, and the biologically active nutraceuticals contained in the oil. Is extra virgin olive oil really the healthiest oil one can consume? We will critically read the studies that have led to these claims, particularly focusing on the Mediterranean diet. How does the chemistry of the oil affect its use in the preparation and tasting of foods? We will also consider uses of olive oil outside the kitchen and explore its ritual incorporation in the ancient world and its usefulness in the making of soap. Olive oil fraud is a major concern for modern consumers in the U.S. What are the parameters by which oils are graded and evaluated? Can we imagine ways in which the industry might be better regulated and consumers be better educated?

Program Information & Application

Location, Time, and Program Cost

2021 LAISS will be hosted online from August 2nd to August 13th. Please find information regarding program fee and scholarship award in our WeChat Official Account: Amherst_Laiss

Application

Applicants need to provide TOEFL iBT or IELTS language proficiency exam results or one competition result that would demonstrate the applicant’s English speaking skills. We also encourage our applicants to submit at least one SAT, AP, or IB scores along with their applications. Applicants should upload screenshots of their test scores in the application portal. Standardized test scores are not a must, but we strongly encourage applicants to submit scores if possible.

Applying to LAISS is free! After you submit your application, you will receive an email confirming your submission. If you are selected for the next round, you will receive an interview request in two weeks of the decision. First-round application deadline is June 20th, 2021 and the second-round application deadline is July 4th. Admissions decisions are made on a rolling, first-come, first-served basis, and the selection process is very competitive and we encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible.

    选课服从分配选课不服从分配

    Please answer ONE of the following prompts. 300 words maximum. *

    1. A translation of Li Bai's famous work A Tranquil Night (《静夜思》) by Xu Yuanchong (许渊冲) reads: "Before my bed a pool of night/Can it be hoarfrost on the ground?/Looking up, I find the moon bright;/Bowing, In homesickness I'm drowned."
    What is lost and made in the translation of literature or poems? You may analyze the works of different translators to support your argument.

    2. How do you define happiness? How does happiness relate to satisfaction, sensation, service, or even suffering? What makes you happy? You may respond to any of the quotes/poems below, or formulate your own thoughts.

    • “Our happiness in daily life, the state of our physical health, and even how long we live are largely determined not by external events, but rather by the way we think about ourselves and the world around us.” -- Catherine Sanderson, Professor of Psychology at Amherst College
    • “The relationship between consumption and well-being is not a fixed mechanist relationship. Happiness is as much an inside job as it is an outside job.” --Daniel Barbezat, Professor of Economics at Amherst College
    • “May happiness/pursue you//catch you/often, and,//should it/lose you,//be waiting/ahead, making//a clearing/for you.” “Salute” by A.R.Ammons, quoted by President Biddy Martin of Amherst College in Class of 2012 Commencement Address


    3. In Sonnet 18, Shakespeare writes: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?", but on the very next line argues that the analogy fails to truly capture his lover's qualities. If you were to compare yourself to something else, be it an emotion, a food, or anything you desire, what would you choose? Why?

    4. Respond to the following quotation:" we seek to live in our comfort zones...'Sorting' or segregating ourselves into such 'clusters' of the like-minded, in our real or self-selected online neighborhoods, we lull ourselves into a complacency and confine our diet of knowledge within these limitations, wrapped in 'information cocoons.' Soon, as in the words of our own poet James Merrill, 'we grow nonchalant' and 'pleased to be stirred by the drone of our own voices.' We slip, without a conscious realization, from mere respite among friends to the lassitude of unexamined belief, of error made easy, of conformity." Then Amherst College President Anthony W. Marx at 2010 Convocation Address

    FAQ

    Please visit our Chinese website www.laiss.us for FAQ information.

    TEAM

    Zhiyuan Jia
    UWC Changshu China '17
    LAISS '15 '16
    Amherst College '21

    Frantic cats and fruits lover; Found passion in Psych and Computer Science. Glad to meet you during summer!

    Chun Tak Suen
    Amherst College '21

    文理教育作为liberal arts education是一个非常不淮确的翻译,听起来是文科理科教育,没有说出liberal arts的本质。我想在这裡给一个我的解读:如果liberal arts中的liberal 取自由义,arts取艺术义那麽liberal arts字面意思指追求自由的艺术。但是这个翻译又太绕口,同时我也不想彻底捨弃大家已经用习惯的文理教育这个词,于是我觉得liberal arts可以翻译成纹理教育,更淮确地说是追求自由纹理的教育。
    我认为自由不只是一个高高在上的学术概念,同时也是一种强烈的生命体验。经历过自由的人再也忘不掉自由的感觉。LAISS每年带来的人文课程都是探究自由体验的切入口。我希望学生们能够从他们热爱的课程中切入他们所热爱的事情,自由地思考,自由地探索,感受到我在Amherst强烈地感受过的自由。

    Meizhong Hu
    Amherst College '21
    Lexi
    Amherst College '21

    I'm Lexi, a rising sophomore at Amherst College, prospective cs and (probably) history majors. In love with indie rock and the Hamilton sound track. I've heard so much about LAISS since high school and I'm excited to join the team this coming summer!

    李天诚
    上海外国语大学附属外国语学校 2019届
    LAISS ’18

    热衷研究戏剧、音乐和有关人的一切。喜欢:词典,游荡在夜间的城市街道,咖啡馆里的谈话,《汉密尔顿》,独立摇滚,自由体诗歌,王尔德的格言,卡林、宋飞、CK的观察派喜剧,科幻,太空,游泳,做梦。憧憬着潜心做学问的大学生活。工业文明大行其道,劳动分工的逻辑已经渗透入知识创造的领域,俨然是又一座巴别塔拔地而起。学术专科化、隔行如隔山的大趋势下,我们需要掌握一门通行的语言——我们需要通识教育。

    Jonna Zhang

    Constantly inspired by the people around me. Currently tortured by math. Still struggling to find the true passion of my life - glad I found the starting point in LAISS.

    Hannah Zhang

    一只伪装淡定理性的infp。喜欢文学,电影,写东西,聊天,潜水,有点理想主义的浪漫和倔强来源与对事物有着最原始的好奇。对很多东西感兴趣,但总是三分钟热度。喜欢收集不同图案和颜色的袜子,喜欢所有天马行空的冒险,还喜欢在人山人海的城市里戴上耳机自我脱离。

    蒲治中
    Middlebury ’24
    LAISS '18

    是巴扎罗夫,是默尔索,也是Sisyphe。在户外运动中追求自我解放,在旅途中与世界相遇。致力于用科学探索真理,也愿在艺术和哲学中“醒着活”。大梦谁先觉?平生我自知。一瓶汽水喜相逢。

    文欣蕊
    UWC Atlantic College
    LAISS '17, '18

    喜欢具有独特韵味的国画,喜欢在旅行中探索不同的文化习俗,喜欢各种各样的美食。在威尔士爱上了water-based sports,感受到了户外运动的神奇魅力。2017年时第一次参加了LAISS,于是逐渐从了解LAISS,到走进LAISS,再到爱上LAISS。希望这个夏天,LAISS与文理教育能够成为启发、引导你对某个学术领域或是社会问题深入思考的第一步!

    夏妍冰
    上海外国语大学附属外国语学校,2018
    世界联合书院(常熟),2020

    喜欢大海,阳光,美食,和一切能让心情变好的事物。喜欢看各种各样的电影和书,没有固定喜欢的类型。有些念旧,总是怀念曾经也总是不懂得珍惜当下。还有些理想主义。

    王子琪
    武汉外国语学校附属武外英中,2019
    LAISS '18

    最终没能用写作征服世界,我只是没有被世界征服。一个热爱发展经济学的普通女孩,常年出入在各种无wifi之地,用文字和镜头呈现真实;‘恭喜生命,胜在虚度’的反对者,总是马不停蹄的举办各种活动,践行着理想主义改变世界的方法。闲来在楼下清吧弹弹琴,做做永生花,非要说的话,也算是个freelance writer。

    Crystal Zhou
    Amherst College '21

    辗转住过五个城市,在高中时迷上了陶艺,捣鼓过结晶釉,音乐剧和长曲棍球。阿莫的多元教育鼓励我探索未知的学术领域,不同的教育背景可以激发出很多非常有趣的碰撞,希望LAISS 能在这个暑假带给你一个相似的文理教育体验。

    朱睿仪
    Amherst College 24’
    LAISS 19’

    目前只有心在阿莫,遨游快乐学术海洋中的夜行动物。最近喜欢古希腊悲剧和莎士比亚不是很喜的喜剧,以及把悠闲自在的田园诗歌分析成让自己毛骨悚然的东西。我自打高中初步了解liberal arts后,就对博雅教育中的单纯的对知识的追求就心生无限向往,在LAISS的体验更是让我充分感受到了小课堂充分的互动以及不同领域的关联的妙处,这次希望能把这种体验带给大家。

    Haoran Tong
    Amherst College ‘23

    我坚信文理教育的价值源于对未知的不懈探索、与他人的平等沟通,由自我的持久内省。从古希腊的“παιδεία”到《论语》中的“君子不器”,这种教育理念在东西方文明中蓬勃发展,交融互鉴。我有幸得以在大学阶段浅尝况味,概观其繁。歌诗为伴,静水流深,我希望通过laiss这个平台将所思所学与大家分享,共同进步。

    陈帅初
    Vanderbilt ’24
    LAISS ’19

    文理教育信仰者。喜欢政治哲学、天文、文学,但同时也在不停尝试探索不同的领域,打破自己的局限性。self-love & positivity传播者,也正在努力成为一名更好的聆听者。平时爱好发呆,写文章,看电影,最喜欢在夏天的街头骑单车。

    夏天
    Amherst ’23

    我在杭州和加拿大长大,高中在家里蹲中度过,目前在麻州西部的小山沟里学习CS和历史。平日里喜欢鼓捣电子设备,读诗词,研究一切和历史地理有关的东西。最近沉迷于二战舰船(主要是IJN)以及舰载机中,不能自拔。

    汪汇辰
    Amherst ’23

    我在Amherst学心理学和计算机。文理教育很不错,推荐大家尝试一下。

    王思淇
    New York University ’24
    LAISS ’19

    Fantast of fantasy. Dream levitating enthusiast.

    Life patterns and people's thoughts can be intricate. I found the world so marvelous when unsolved coincidences happen, and I am so eager to know why. I thought that many life cases were random and displayed with no traces before attending Laiss. Later, everything about myself and the world becomes meriting pondering after enlightened by liberal arts studies.

    杨子艺
    UCLA ’24

    我喜欢读侦探小说,阴谋论,摄影,和做白日梦。我对周围世界充满了好奇心并且有强大的欲望去观察,探索和了解它们。在19年夏天LAISS的经历鼓励了我去真诚的追寻探索让自己感兴趣的事情。希望更多的中国学生可以有机会去接触和体验这样的教育方式,进而对他们的人生产生更加积极的影响。

    赵欣怡
    Amherst ’24
    UWC ’19

    I am Xinyi Zhao from the big, chaotic city of Beijing. But I have always had a soft spot for the “middle-of-nowheres” on this planet. From the quiet little town in Germany to the “run-down” castle of UWCAC, I spent the past 4 years studying and living in Europe. I spent another 7 months in Belgium on my gap year before it was cut short by COVID-19. Now I am a rising sophomore student at Amherst College! I have a weird sense of humor and I change a lot so my interests and passions are TBA. But I like ice skating, learning languages and going on outdoor adventures. Can't wait to get to know you all!

    顾馨悦
    JHU ’24
    LAISS ’19

    19年夏天的傍晚,看着金桔色的天空慢慢蜕成各种各样的蓝,在苏州老城里钻来钻去,踏进各种各样的小店,无忧无虑地徜徉于从一个新角度观察万物的欣喜中。无限是个有趣又迷人的概念,分秒只是相对的永恒。不是什么「者」,也没有什么定性,希望这个夏天能和你们一起体验文理教育给予灵魂的流动性。

    赵雨萌
    The University of Chicago ’24
    LAISS ’19

    喜欢雨后的散步和无人的小巷,间歇性热衷于尝试新食物,热衷于weird fiction和experimental rock,读诗困难但喜欢庞德,不擅长与猫相处的infp。

    陈馨兰
    Amherst ’24
    LAISS ’18

    喜欢在冷冷的冬天泡一杯热茶琢磨纸雕和刺绣,惊叹于简单一刀一针一线的反复带来的繁复图案;也喜欢学习小语种,收集不同语言间细微联系带来的惊喜。感恩阿莫的文理环境让我得以接触和探索不同的学术领域,学习如何从多角度去思考并不断发现和认识自己。希望LAISS 2021能带来一个相似的平台,让大家在这个暑假收获更多对世界与自身的了解。