Posts tagged #Seminar


Students working on an activity in COLL 104.

Title of the Course – Understanding Asian America Through Food

Instructor – Bo Kim

Department - Student Taught Course

Course Number - COLL 104

Intended Student Audience- Undergraduates with an interest in Asian-American history

Course Description: This 1-unit course will use food as a framework for understanding both the history of and contemporary issues facing the Asian-American community. The popular understanding of “Asian food” in the U.S. encompasses long-held stereotypes of Asians eating dogs, the recent interest in upscale fusion restaurants that raise questions of cultural ‘authenticity’ and hybridity, and the rapid, nationwide rise of Korean-Mexican food trucks that challenge traditional notions of fusion food and cross-cultural interactions. This course will study how food and conceptualizations of food reflect larger historical and cultural issues that continue to impact the Asian-American community. Furthermore, this course will discuss the complex legal, political, and economic history of Asian Americans in the food industry through case studies of particular foods and historical events from both a production and consumption standpoint. Students will learn how to adopt an interdisciplinary, critical framework for understanding food and related issues of culture, ethnicity, diaspora, and identity. Learning and assessment will center on participation in class discussions, brief readings, in-class presentations, and weekend trips to Houston-area restaurants.


  1. Identify contemporary issues facing Asian-American communities (e.g. legacies of immigration, the model minority myth, economic disparities)
  2. Describe the history of Asian-American immi­gration and its ties to food and food practices
  3. Explain how food represents and reflects larg­er sociopolitical issues, ideologies, and histories
  4. Compare and contrast historical and contem­porary conceptualizations of Asian-Americans and, by extension, Asian food


Using food as a pedagogical tool encourages students to think more deeply about an already-familiar topic that they will continue to encounter in their lives. The course focuses on linking larger economic, cultural, and political issues to food-related topics in order to introduce these topics in a more accessible way. The course is organized to develop the capabilities by which students can understand their consumption of food, the restaurants that serve food, and how food reflects complex histories.


Student-taught courses (STC) are a unique opportunity at Rice University for students to teach and to take classes in non-traditional subjects that are not a standard part of the Rice curriculum. These courses are labeled COLL (college courses) and are offered for 1 credit hour on a satisfactory/non-satisfactory basis.

Students sitting on the floor discussing an activity in COLL 104.

During Kim's time as an undergraduate at Rice he had hoped to take at least one course on Asian-American history or contemporary issues in the Asian-American community. Since such a course does not exist at Rice, Kim decided to develop and teach his own student-taught course on the topic . Student-taught courses are a unique opportunity at Rice University for students to teach and to take classes in non-traditional subjects, and to thereby supplement the Rice curriculum. These courses are labeled COLL (college courses) and are offered for 1 credit hour on a satisfactory/non-satisfactory basis.


Kim uses a combination of readings-based discussions and mini-lectures during class meetings. To prepare students for fruitful in class discussion he assigns readings that are relatively short and accessible to encourage students to engage with the readings. These readings generally expand further on a historical event in order to provide a more detailed context for class discussions and lectures. Kim assigns readingsthat are argumentative in the sense that, in addition to expounding on historical details, they convey one or two main points about the topic in question. In class he encourages students to identify and challenge the arguments made in the assigned readings.

During the mini-lectures, he encourages students to interject with questions, and comments. As such he times these lectures so that he is able to move at a comfortable pace with sufficient time for unprompted discussion. Kim finds that turning a lecture into more of a two-way, guided conversation between himself and the students is a much better way to engage them with the topics at hand. He says he has always found that the questions and issues raised by students in the middle of lectures to be unique, insightful, and worthwhile ways of approaching different topics.

I love taking student taught courses at Rice because I enjoy learning from my peers about topics they’re passionate about, and Bo’s course was the epitome of this. My favorite part of Bo’s course was how it opened my eyes to the struggles different groups of Asians faced when coming to America and how those struggles shaped their unique cultures and food.
— Psychology Major, Class of 2017


Students are encouraged to engage with the course material in ways that deepen their understanding of the Asian-American community as well as themselves. For example, in a "Timeline" activity designed to accompany a short lecture on post-1965 Asian-American immigration students were asked to reflect on their or their parents migration to the US. The date of 1965 is significant because of immigration legislation that opened immigration to countries previously excluded or discriminated against in the immigration process. Notably, the vast majority of Asian-American immigrants migrated after this legislation, which also led to significant changes in the ethnic composition of the Asian-American community.

Students looking at a timeline on the whiteboard.

During this class session students are given three post-it notes and asked to write on them: (1) Date of their or their parents’ immigration to the United States; (2) date and description of one key event in their or their family’s history; and, (3) date of one future goal they would like to achieve. Next students are given a series of pre-printed stickers with landmark events and dates in Asian-American history. In groups they are asked to place the stickers on a timeline with the years 1800 to 2050 marked in 25-year increments. next students are asked to individually add their own post-it notes to the timeline. Finally students are asked to reflect on and discuss as a group the following questions:

  1. What trends do you seen in the timeline and what surprised you about the timeline?
  2. How does your generation fit into the larger history of Asian Americans?
  3. In terms of the development of Asian food and the Asian food industry, how do you see these events tying into specific histories described in class? Focus on comparing specific ethnic cuisines (e.g. longer history of Chinese immigration v. Vietnamese).

This activity is designed to help students contextualize their understandings of previous class discussions within a larger history of Asian-American immigration, discrimination, and success. Through this framework, students can understand the histories and differences between “Americanized” and “authentic” ethnic cuisines as influenced by the immigration histories of their respective communities. This activity asks students to place their personal and family histories within this larger history, challenging them to identify ways in with their own lives intersect with immigration legislation and larger trends in Asian-American history.

Almost every day now I will come across something that reminds of what I learned from class - that’s how much this course had an impact on my identity.
— Chemistry Major, Class of 2017


Teaching a STC is the first time that student instructors have had the opportunity to teach a college level course. Student instructors put their course together with help from a faculty sponsor, their college Master, and the instructors of the course COLL 300: Pedagogy for Student Instructors, which they are required to take as a prerequisite. Kim says that the process of identifying learning goals, putting together a syllabus, and getting feedback throughout COLL 300 was invaluable in helping him structure his course at the macro level. However, he said he learned that while there’s no real way to plan for everything, prior preparation of lectures, discussion questions, and activities go a long way in ensuring a smooth, effective use of class time. Kim taught the course two semesters in a row and after teaching the class the first semester he learned to plan beforehand for in-class flexibility. With adequate preparation he was better prepared to field questions and to guide discussions towards directions that he might not have explicitly anticipated.

If Kim was to teach the class again, he says that would try to vary the structure of classes a little more. There were days when the usual discussion-lecture format didn’t seem to work as well as previous class meetings. He would spend more time carefully choosing readings and discussion questions that could foster longer, more fruitful discussions. While the discussions were usually great, he believes that having more material to discuss would have been helpful in having students gain more from discussion.



Bo Kim

Bo Kim
Class of 2016, McMurtry College

Kim graduated magna cum laude from Rice University in 2016 with a degree in economics and art history. At Rice, he conducted asylum and energy policy research and co-founded the Asian Pacific American Student Alliance. His student-taught course, Understanding Asian America Through Food, received the inaugural Rice Student Taught Course Teaching Award. Bo is currently a health policy consultant for Acumen, LLC in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Posted on August 1, 2016 and filed under Student Taught Courses.


Picture of the class with professors and students holding a Rice University flag.

Title of Course: Jerusalem: Holy City in Time and Imagination
Instructor(s): Matthias Henze and Melissa Weininger
Department: Religion
Course Number: 392
Intended Student Audience: Undergraduates, non-majors


Course Description: This course covers the history of Jerusalem, exploring Jerusalem’s significance to the three major monotheistic religions and to the modern state of Israel. As part of the course students travel to Jerusalem over spring break where they encounter the sites they study in class. Students experience Jerusalem as a modern, living city. Through a study of the historical, cultural, religious, and political important of Jerusalem, coupled with students’ own observations and experiences from their visit to the city, the course aims to encourage students to develop analytical tools for understanding the place of Jerusalem in its contemporary contexts.

“These are exactly the types of classes that make a college experience.”
— Jeremy Reiskind, Sophomore, Sports Management & History Major


In this course students gain a basic knowledge of Jerusalem’s past and present, its religious meanings in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and its role in the modern conflict in the Middle East. Instead of simply “covering” the long history of Jerusalem in chronological fashion, this course aims to provide students with the critical tools necessary to develop their own analysis of Jerusalem today. Close attention is paid to how the history of Jerusalem continues to shape the city and life in the city today. The course distinguishes three progressive levels of teaching and learning:

Level A: Gain a basic knowledge about Jerusalem.

  • Geography: become familiar with Jerusalem’s urban geography;
  • History: study major periods and moments in the history of Jerusalem in the regional and international contexts;
  • Religion: study the basic histories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as they pertain to their respective (internally diverse) attitudes toward sacred space in general and toward the holy places in particular;
  • Urban development: gain a more detailed understanding of the urban development and political history of modern Jerusalem;
  • Politics: become familiar with the basic political issues pertaining to Jerusalem.

Level B: Become an informed reader of Jerusalem.

  • Writings about Jerusalem through time: practice mindful reading of sources from ancient Near Eastern to modern scholarly prose, attentive to their respective stated or unstated interests;
  • Religious literature: understand the historical-political contexts of different bodies of religious literature, including the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament;
  • The media: learn to identify bias in contemporary representations of Jerusalem in mass media as well as in scholarship, especially where bias is not obvious or hides behind the appearance of scholarly objectivity or scientific truth.

Level C: Become an informed visitor of Jerusalem.

  • The main goal of the trip to Jerusalem is to integrate and critically apply levels A and B;
  • Visit Jerusalem and its surroundings, explore how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam claim, create, and maintain sacred spaces, and experience first hand conflicting claims to authority and religious meaning;
  • Meet with representatives of different groups in Jerusalem and learn about their lives in the city today



Henze and Weininger designed the course with a pedagogical approach that seeks to provide multiple perspectives on the city of Jerusalem with an emphasis on the integration of the old and the new and the interconnection of history and modern life. The course is designed to provide students with the critical tools necessary to develop their own analysis of Jerusalem today. In order to achieve this, Henze and Weininger built the course around an experiential learning opportunity during the middle of the semester. The course is divided into a three-unit class with a one-unit week long ‘urban immersion’ in Jerusalem over spring break.

To prepare students for an intensive week of travel within Jerusalem, the first half of the course focuses on building a foundational knowledge of Jerusalem that prepares students for a mindful and critical engagement with historical-political context of contemporary Jerusalem. One of the primary ways that students prepare to become informed travelers to the city is through the collective production of a travel guide that each student bring with them on the Jerusalem trip. Each student produces one chapter of the travel guide highlighting a historical site the students are likely visit on their trip. In addition, prior to leaving for Jerusalem each student gives 20-minute presentation on their chapter of the travel guide.

According to the Henze, students’ coursework prior to the trip gives them “the confidence, when in Jerusalem, to ask questions and add to the conversation”. But Henze and Weininger say the real learning happened over the course the seven-days that they lead the students through key historical and contemporary sites in the city of Jerusalem. Each day’s itinerary includes tours, visits, and speakers that provide students with the opportunity to explore the city, its rich history, and the contemporary context. Henze and Weininger also carefully planned visits and opportunities for students to encounter a variety of people with different backgrounds, religions, and perspectives. For example, students spent one evening in conversation two family members from the Bereaved Families Forum – one Israeli and one Palestinian family– who have lost loved ones to violence in the city. 

In addition, there are daily opportunities for students to collectively reflect on their experiences in the city.  Henze and Weiniger say that regular opportunities for critical reflection with the professors and other students are essential for students to process their own emotional and analytical responses to what they are seeing, hearing, and experiencing during their time in the city. It is this reflection, they say, that enables students to construct their own knowledge, ideas, and values about the city of Jerusalem.

Once back in the U.S., students return to the classroom with Henze and Weininger where the second half of the course provides students with the opportunity to use the knowledge and experience they gained from the trip to analyze major political, cultural, and social issues in the classroom. Guest speakers from across campus and the Houston community, such an archaeologist working in Jerusalem and a former Ambassador to Israel from the Baker Institute, are brought into the classroom where students can ask questions informed by both their experiences in and studies of Jerusalem.



Henze and Weininger’s vision for the course was to create an atmosphere of respect for diverse ideas, opinions, and personal relationships to the course material. They began by selecting students with a variety of academic interests, religious backgrounds, and approaches to the material. In order to attract the best pool of applicants Henze and Weininger wanted to insure that the cost of travel to Jerusalem would not be a barrier to participation. Therefore, the students’ travel and lodging costs were paid for in part by supporters of the Program in Jewish Studies. In the end, fifteen students were selected to take part in the first offering of the course.

Screenshot of student blog post title

From the beginning Henze and Weininger focused on creating a community of trust, respect, and engagement among the students that facilitated peer-to-peer learning. All aspects of the course from assignments to the organization of student time while in Jerusalem were designed to help students develop the pedagogical skills to be each others instructors and to put those skills into practice. For example, Henze and Weininger asked students to keep an electronic journal by blogging about their learning, reflections, and experiences over the course of the semester. These blogs became a way for students to process their own learning, as well as, to learn from each other as students read and commented on each others blog posts. According to Henze and Weininger this assignment proved essential to creating a strong and coherent community of students once they traveled to Jerusalem as the interaction on the student blogs enabled the class community to extend beyond the more structured face-to-face interaction in the classroom.

“Class discussion are my favorite part of the course. I feel as though I actually have something to offer, intellectually speaking.”
— Sparrow Gates, Sophomore, Religion Major


Students listing to tour guide.

To learn about the city of Jerusalem in the 21st century poses a set of unique challenges as the city’s history spans four thousand years, is the center of three world religions, and there are conflicting perspectives that make the city highly contested. Henze and Weininger wanted not only the content and experiences afforded by the course to illustrate the challenges, but they wanted the course itself to challenge student’s ideas, perceptions, and emotions about the city of Jerusalem. With this in mind, they designed their team teaching itself as a way to model how to engage with and embrace these challenges. Drawing from their own academic backgrounds and study of the city, they were able to model for students how to engage in dialogue with others in a political context where it is impossible to be neutral.  Henze and Weininger said that in classroom discussions they focused on modeling good communication skills when talking about difficult topics and experiences. This helped students to feel intellectually and emotionally prepared to engage on “difficult conversations.”

“When I hear their differing interpretations and ways of addressing the issues it makes me more confident and comfortable to develop my own understanding and conclusions.”
— Eric Brighton, Junior, Computer and Electrical Engineering Major


Henze and Weininger plan to teach the course again in the spring of 2017 with some minor changes to the course design.

  • The class presents some logistical challenges. Traveling abroad to a region of the world that is frequently subject to travel advisories means that flexibility has to be built into the course design as well as the travel plans. While both the travel to and within Jerusalem worked out well this time around, for the next iteration of the course they will make minor changes to the itinerary for flexibility and to avoid repetition.
  • The most valuable experiences for students were the personal encounters they had with people in both formal and informal settings. For the next trip, they plan to increase the number of personal encounters on the trip.
  •  Students were attracted to this course for a variety of reasons but most of them held deep emotion connections – whether they were religious, intellectual, or personal - to the city. These emotions were brought to the surface and often intensified once in Jerusalem. For future iterations of the course, Henze and Weininger, want to focus on ways to not only provide for the emotional well-being of their students, but to enhance the support the students can offer each other.
  • The course provided students with the tools to reflect on their experiences, beliefs, and viewpoints, but for future iterations of the course they want to provide more opportunities for students to develop their critical research skills. In order to help students integrate their experiences in Jerusalem with research projects, they plan to (1) provide a framework beginning early in the semester for students to begin thinking about their final projects and (2) devote classroom time to teaching students how to approach a research project and reading scholarly texts and guide students through the process of research step by step.




Professor Henze

Matthias Henze
Founding Director of Jewish Studies
Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism
Professor of Religion

Dr. Henze's academic interests are broad, though the focus of his published work has been on the Jewish literature from around the turn of the Common Era, with an emphasis on early Jewish apocalyptic literature.  His most recent monograph, Jewish Apocalypticism in Late First Century Israel, is the first of two interrelated volumes he is writing on the Syriac Apocalypse of Barcuh, an early Jewish apocalypse. 

Professor Weininger

Melissa Weininger
Anna Smith Fine Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies

Dr. Weininger specializes in the study of modern Hebrew and Yiddish literature, with an emphasis on gender, nationalism, and ideology.  Her research includes work on Jesus in modern Jewish literature, gender and modernity, and nationalism in contemporary Israeli literature.  Her most recent publication is an article on A.A. Kabak's Hebrew novel about Jesus, The Narrow Path, and his development of an ethics of nationalism.  She is also working on a project on the role of gender and nation in modern Jewish literature and culture.