Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute


Offered at: Pratt Logo

Course Description:
This course provides a background in the fundamental principles of evolution and explores how these principles can be used to explain a diversity of patterns in nature. Through the readings, activities, and dialogue supported by the course, students will learn how to apply evolutionary concepts to both the natural and human-mediated world around them.

Upon completion, this course is worth three (3) credits. This course fulfills the General Education requirements for a CORE Math & Science course as well as for a writing-intensive course.

Who Might Be Interested In This Course?
If you appreciate the diversity of the living world and wonder where all this diversity came from, this may be the course for you. We’ll explore the tree of life and learn how micro- and macro-evolutionary processes have shaped the biodiversity of the past and present. We will also make connections between the broader evolutionary principles we learn and human concerns, including how we evolved in the past and how an understanding of evolution may impact our present and future as a species. We discuss evolution as a kind of design process, so if you are interested in comparing how humans “design” to how nature “designs”, this course will give you a unique opportunity to make that comparison. Like other CORE and writing-intensive courses, Evolution requires a good amount of writing, but that writing is intertwined with the making of a creative work that incorporates scientific ideas. So if you are interested in becoming a better researcher and writer in service of your creative work, this course will support that interest.

What Are the Requirements of This Course?
This course requires weekly reading (mostly from a required textbook) and the completion of informal Reading Questions. Attendance in class is key to success, as there is a substantial amount of credit awarded for participation in regular discussions and for work completed in class. As a CORE Math & Science course, Evolution requires students to perform research into the scientific literature and to do formal, processed writing about what you have discovered. As a writing-intensive course, Evolution requires that students process two pieces of writing, both of which support the completion of a creative Term Project. The course concludes with a cumulative Final Exam, but that exam makes a rather moderate (20%) contribution to the final grade in the course.

What Background Should I Have Before I Take This Course?
This course requires no formal background in the biological sciences. It is nice if you have some memory of your high school biology class, but even that is not required.

Important Course Materials:

MSWI-260C (Evolution) Course Syllabus
MSWI-260C (Evolution) Term Project Guidelines
MSWI-260C (Evolution) Course-at-a-Glance
MSWI-260C (Evolution) American Museum of Natural History Field Trip Assignment (extra credit)

You can check out exemplary student Term Projects on the Evolution student work page.

Blog posts related to this course can be found here.

This course maintains an Open Information Environment.