Among foundational courses championed by PSF

Spring 2015

AAS 223/ ENG 232: Literature, Food, and the American Racial Diet

Anne Cheng

Food, like books, is the site of our greatest consumption of and most vulnerable encounter with “otherness.” This course explores how “taste” informs the ways in which we ingest or dispel racial otherness. Through novels and cinema largely in Asian American and African American cultural production – and in the Asian and African diaspora– we study how the meeting of food and word inform categories such as race, nationhood, gender, ecology, and family, and class. Topics include: “Transcendental Primitivism,” “Modernist Orientalism,” “Chocolate Women on the Edge”, “Parenting/Consuming”, “Ecology and the Humanimal,” and more.


Spring 2015, Spring 2017

EBE 202/ARC 208/EGR 208/ENV206: Designing Sustainable Systems – Applying the Science of Sustainability to Address Global Change

Forrest Meggers

Integrating the process of design and system thinking with an understanding of fundamental environmental and societal principals of sustainability is necessary to enact sustainable societal changes. This course starts with a study of the science related to sustainability and how open-ended sustainable development problems can be addressed through a process of design, and leads to a major group design project focused on devising and demonstrating an opportunity for sustainability on campus. Fabrication, simulation, sensor and graphical tools will be incorporated into the design process learning and deployed in precept.


Fall 2015, Fall 2017

CHV 310 / PHI 385: Practical Ethics

Peter A. Singer 

Should we be trying to live our lives so as to do the most good, and if so, what would that involve? Does a human embryo have a greater claim to protection than a chimpanzee? Should we be able to choose to end our own life, if we are terminally ill? Are we ethically required to limit our greenhouse gas emissions? What is an ethical diet? Are we justified in eating animals? Why should we act ethically, anyway? You are encouraged to question your own ethical beliefs on these and other issues, and to explore the extent to which reason and argument can play a role in everyday ethical decision-making


Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017

ENV/AFS/GHP 407: Africans Feeding Africa

Tim Searchinger

Explores the economic, environmental, and social challenges of meeting growing food needs in sub-Saharan Africa. The region today has the lowest crop yields, the highest percentage of hungry people, and the highest population growth rates, and relies heavily on firewood for energy. The region also has vast areas of environmentally valuable forests and savannas. It has technical opportunities to produce crops better but faces challenges from high rainfall variability and climate change. The course will balance instruction, guest lectures and presentations by student teams.


Fall 2015

ITA 401: Seminar in Italian Literature & Culture – Italy: The Land of Slow-Food

Pietro Frassica 

Combining an analysis of Italian literary texts with works of visual art, this course studies the art of cookery in relation to people’s environment and history. From Middle Ages to the 21st-century (Dante, Boccaccio, Michelangelo, Goldoni, d’Annunzio, Magris), topics will explore the conceptual preconditions that in recent years have generated the Slow-Food movement, its recycling of its own old traditions as well as its worldwide impact. This course examines food as a window into gender, class and traditions, where food is defined in terms of nutritional health and taste as well as social and ethical phenomena, such as the value of nature.


Spring 2016
ANT 204 / ENV 208: Food and Power

Carolyn M. Rouse 

Why do we drink “venti” coffee out of paper cups? Why is sugar consumed in large quantities in some parts of the world? The mundaneness of having to eat every day hides the powerful role of markets, ecologies and culture in shaping our consumption choices. From slavery to contemporary artisan and fair trade markets, food choice and food taboos offer us a way to express our ethical and cultural identities. Using several key anthropological theories, this course explores food economics, environmental sustainability, and consumption at the nexus of desire and repression.


Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

ENV 305: Hormonally Active Pollutants

Joan Ruderman

A large number of common chemicals designed for one purpose are now known to have a second, completely unexpected ability to mimic or interfere with estrogen or testosterone. Examples include bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates that leach from many plastics, DDT and other pesticides, and tributyltins in marine anti-fouling paints. Many of these end up as personal or environmental contaminants. There is growing evidence that exposure to hormonally active pollutants can interfere with health and reproduction in both humans and wildlife. This seminar examines landmark discoveries, explores current research, and looks at emerging regulatory action.


Spring 2016

FRS 138, Science, Society & Dinner

Kelly Caylor and Craig Shelton

A course featuring hands-on culinary lab classes and resultant communal dinners that illustrate and amplify lectures in science, engineering, public policy, humanities and social sciences — while teaching students self-reliance and food literacy. Dinner labs were supervised by Associate Professor Kelly Caylor (CEE-ENV) and taught by him and other faculty across campus. Working closely with each instructor, Chef Craig Shelton, as a guest lecturer, co-taught each class. Chef Shelton, Yale ’82 MB&B (molecular biophysics and biochemistry), is a five-star chef/farmer/restaurateur and a James Beard Best Chef award recipient. Students under Chef Shelton’s direction, prepare curriculum-specific meals together to exacting standards, learning basic (and not-so-basic) technique, background and critical thinking as applied to gastronomy, culinary theory, seasonality, palate development, human physiology and across academic disciplines. (The course drew 98 first-choice applications for 15 spots – setting a record in the freshman seminar offices; it now awaits a new faculty lead, since Prof Kelly relocated to UC-Santa Barbara.) The course was supported by the Gordon Douglas MD’55 and Sheila Mahoney Fund for food systems education, and the Shelly and Michael Kassen ’76 Freshman Seminar in the Life Sciences.


Fall 2016, Fall 2017

ENV 327: Investigating an Ethos of Sustainability at Princeton

Shana Weber

Students meet with faculty and staff of diverse expertise to examine global sustainability issues and how they manifest locally on the Princeton campus. For the final assignment, students propose demonstration-scale sustainability recommendations for campus with the overall goal of strengthening the sustainability ethos at Princeton.


Spring 2017, Spring 2018

ENV 200: The Environmental Nexus

Steve Pacala, Rob Nixon, Marc Fleurbaey, Lori Gruen

Introduction to the scientific, technological, political, ethical and humanistic dimensions of the nexus of environmental problems that pose an unprecedented risk at mid-century: food and water shortages for 9 billion people, climate change, biodiversity loss. All sections of ENV 200 will meet together for lecture each week, but students will enroll in one of six possible precepts that will meet separately and pursue a particular disciplinary focus and earn credit for the corresponding distribution area.

  • 200A: Welfare economics of environmental policy, the treatment of uncertainty, inter- and intra-generational inequalities, complications arising from variable and changing population size, valuation of the environment, valuation of life, equity criteria, co-benefits and economic discounting.
  • ENV 200B (STL): Greenhouse gases, analysis of carbon isotopes, carbon storage in trees and soils, climate models, methane emissions, each student’s energy use and carbon footprint, agriculture, satellite remote sensing and fresh water availability.
  • ENV 200C (EM): Individual ethics, citizenship, cosmopolitan duties of humanity, fairness and equity, responsibility and the ethics of civic engagement. What is each student’s personal responsibility to help solve problems of the Environmental Nexus? Introduction to normative analysis.
  • ENV 200D (QR): Mathematical models and calculations that underpin our understanding of the Environmental Nexus, from global models of the climate, carbon and hydrologic cycles, to economic models that predict optimal mitigation policies.
  • ENV 200E (LA): Imaginative challenges of the Environmental Nexus, and the international cast of artists and writers who, through environmentally engaged images and storytelling, are reframing the emergencies of the long term that stretch our imaginative capacities.
  • ENV 200F (STN): Comprehensive scientific introduction to the Environmental Nexus. The precept will focus on climate, greenhouse gases, the carbon and hydrologic cycle, scientific agriculture, biodiversity and its effect on ecosystem function, and mitigation technologies.


Spring 2018

ENV 303: Agriculture, Human Diets and the Environment

Dan Rubenstein

Food fuels us and our diets connect us with nature at many scales. Yet most of us poorly understand how food is produced and how production processes impact our diets, health, livelihoods and the environment. By the course’s end, students will better understand the ethical, environmental, economic, social and medical implications of their food choices. Food production methods ranging from hunting, fishing and gathering to small and large scale crop and animal farming will be examined through lenses of ethics, ecology, evolutionary biology, geography, political economy, social dynamics, physiology, climate change and sustainability. Each week a movie is previewed prior to class. Class involves a mix of lectures, interactions with foods, role playing, writing and number crunching and discussions of the movies and conversations with authors of key readings. (For this course, Dining Services was contracted to provide some samples of curriculum specific foods, as well as snacks).


Spring 2018

FRS 112: Consuming America: Five Food Puzzles

Tessa Desmond

This seminar examines closely five persistent puzzles in the American food system and provides students with an opportunity to discuss, debate, and evaluate possible solutions to issues of food insecurity, food-related disease, farm labor, regulation, and the environment. Through these sets of puzzles and problems students will consider class, race, and gender disparities as well as themes of paternalism and judgment, food as a human right, and concepts of freedom.


Fall 2018

CEE 471/GEO 471 /URB 471: Introduction to Water Pollution Technology

Peter R. Jaffé 

An introduction to the science of water quality management and pollution control in natural systems; fundamentals of biological and chemical transformations in natural waters; identification of sources of pollution; water and wastewater treatment methods; fundamentals of water quality modeling.


Fall 2018

ENV 405: Meeting the Global Land Use Challenge

Tim Searchinger

People have plowed up, cut down and otherwise heavily manipulated more than 75% of the world’s land, and the degree and extent of this manipulation continues to expand to meet rising demands for food and wood products. This course will explore the consequences for biodiversity and climate change, the drivers of change and scenarios for the future. Students will think through the complex issues behind conservation planning for biodiversity and gain understanding of what is known and not known about the global carbon cycle.


Spring 2019

FRS TBD: American Agrarians

Tessa Desmond

Explores the complex landscape of agriculture in the United States with special attention to both agrarian thought and racial justice. Our agriculture, landscape, and food ways did not emerge in a vacuum. They connect integrally to philosophical, economic, and theological convictions – some explicit and some implicit. Agrarianism has historically elevated rural life, simplicity, self-sufficiency, and cooperation. What might we learn about our contemporary context and responsibility by examining the history, underpinnings, and omissions of agrarianism? Students will consider agrarian thought in the US while working on a farm and sharing meals at the Farminary, a 21-acre farm belonging to Princeton Theological Seminary. Course offered jointly with Princeton Theological Seminary.


Spring 2019

FRS TBD: Consuming America: Food, Fiction and Fact

Tessa Desmond

This course uses food studies as a lens for understanding how it is we know what we know and how different kinds of arguments and narrative choices work to sway our ideas about fact, fiction, and knowledge.  Food is a particularly useful site for examining the line between fiction and fact because the field of food writing is saturated with arguments from across the ideological spectrum, and these arguments matter for people daily as we decide what to eat.  How can we make sense of research, history, science, and spin to decide what to purchase at the grocery store or grab from the dining hall? The seminar will consist of two units that move through a wide range of writing on two topics in food studies: meat production and labor.  The units take their inspiration from two classic American novels: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.  Students will consider these works of fiction in conjunction with other forms of writing including journalism, history, science, social science, and government documents.   As a class, we will delicately sift and winnow fact and fiction in an effort to understand our contemporary food system.  This course will involve Community-Based Learning.  Students will complete one investigative project that closely examines their personal food consumption.  We will visit at least one farm to discuss issues of meat production with a local farmer.  We will also host guests.