SINQ and Cluster Themes

Each of our fifteen Sophomore Inquiry (SINQ) courses acts as a gateway to its Upper Division Cluster (Junior Cluster), introducing you to concepts, questions, methods, and other content that you can explore more deeply in thematically linked cluster courses. SINQ is an opportunity to explore topics of interest that are different from or complementary to your major. While each SINQ course is different, they all emphasize communication skills through class dialogue, individual and group presentations, and writing/research projects, as well as diversity, inquiry and critical thinking, and ethical and social responsibility. There is corequisite weekly 50-minute Mentor Session, led by a Graduate Peer Mentor connected with each SINQ course.

You can double dip your UNST courses and your minor. So think ahead and explore the connections between (SINQs/Clusters and minors ) before deciding which SINQ courses to take.

All students who began UNST with FRINQ are required to take three different SINQ courses. SINQ requirements for transfer students are determined by the number of credits transferred upon admission to PSU. Please see your adviser if you are transferring credits to PSU.



SINQ Themes

Understanding Communities (UNST 220)

This course introduces the Community Studies Cluster. This course explores the nature of the communities we live in, whether defined spatially (such as a neighborhood) or as a set of ties based on sharing a common interest. Building community has become a central debate in a number of social sciences, including sociology, political science, economics, and psychology. In a culture emphasizing individualism and individual rights, how can we balance the needs for community and responsibility to others with individual needs for personal development? In this course, students have the opportunity to gain practical as well as theoretical experience with understanding communities.

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Natural Science Inquiry (UNST 286)

This course introduces the Science in Social Context cluster. Natural Science Inquiry is designed to engage students in scientific inquiries of problems of the sort they might encounter as an attentive citizen. Using case studies and research, the course explores what it means to engage topics "scientifically.” Students conduct scientific investigations using the skills developed in the course, from defining how to go about framing questions, interpreting articles, obtaining data, doing the necessary library research, and arriving at substantiated (thus persuasive) conclusions. Investigations involve the use of collaborative inquiry and takes account of the fact that the modern sciences, as well as the questions they address, require teamwork both within and between specific disciplines. Learning in NSI is accomplished through inquiry-based projects on a variety of topics. The successful completion of these projects requires: 1) working independently and collaboratively, 2) using the PSU library and associated databases to access scientific articles, 3) collecting and/or obtaining data, 4) using spreadsheets to organize, analyze, and present data, and 5) interpret, make, and defend knowledge claims through oral and written presentations.

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Leading Social Change (UNST 242)

This course introduces the Leading Social Change cluster. This course will provide a foundation of understanding social change through both exploration of personal identity as well as historical, social, and political contexts.  Participants will have opportunities for practice, application, and documentation of leadership, and reflection on individual responsibility for and potential in leadership roles. Students will explore concepts of leadership, collaboration, civic engagement, and social justice. This course is a community-based learning course in which students will work on an issue facing their community and use that work to inform their analysis of leadership and social change.

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Knowledge, Values, Rationality (UNST 239)

This course introduces the Knowledge, Values, Rationality cluster. This course invites students to think critically about their value decisions, factual beliefs, policies that govern local institutions, and the norms and principles of the culture and society they represent and inhabit; it is designed to develop students’ meta-cognitive skills and encourages the use of these skills throughout students’ academic experience; it introduces students to an interdisciplinary perspective on rationality, one that employs methods, concepts, insights, and perspectives from philosophy, history and philosophy of science, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, economics, physics, and systems science. The class uses a case study to evaluate how critical thinking skills can be used to negotiate the interrelationship among equity, economics, and the environment.

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Interpreting the Past (UNST 236)

This course introduces the Interpreting the Past cluster. In this course, students will learn about methods of interpretation in the humanities. Such study compels students to take a nuanced and sympathetic approach to past cultures whose standards and ideals are often remote from our own. Through the interrogation of primary sources and analysis of evidence -- whether texts, images, or artifacts -- students learn to set aside modern assumptions and biases and instead engage issues in their historical context. At the same time, by studying the past, students will come to understand the historical foundations of our contemporary world, to perceive both the continuities and disruptions in our relationships to previous generations.

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Families and Society (UNST 228)

This course introduces the Families and Society cluster. The purpose of this course is to explore family issues from diverse perspectives. Current social, cultural, and political forces will be emphasized in creating a knowledge foundation for the study of human development from varied academic disciplines, including history, sociology, psychology, education and social work.   University Studies (UNST) goals focus on increasing skills in critical thinking, communication and writing.  This course will provide opportunities to increase these skills and will explore the diversity of human experience in the context of the family and community and promote social responsibility through addressing contemporary issues and facilitating resilience in families and communities.

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Examining Popular Culture (UNST 254)

This course introduces the Examining Popular Culture cluster. In this course students will become more active, informed, and self-aware observers of the media that saturate our world. Students will analyze how popular culture artifacts reflect and influence the social, cultural, historical, and commercial contexts of our everyday lives. Students will examine how the concept of "popular culture" has evolved, and might continue to evolve, with the emergence of new media forms, in local, national, and global contexts. Employing a variety of scholarly approaches, students will engage critically and creatively with media-driven consumer culture, and the ways in which it speaks to different social identities. As students study the ever-expanding role that popular culture plays in global communities, they will develop as engaged readers of text, proficient researchers in the many scholarly approaches to popular culture, and persuasive writers and speakers. By treating popular culture as a subject of rigorous scholarly inquiry, students will be in a better position to treat the texts of popular culture skeptically, critically, and with awareness of their contextual implications.

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Environmental Sustainability (UNST 224)

This course introduces the Environmental Sustainability Cluster. A sustainable human society is one that satisfies its needs without jeopardizing the opportunity of future generations to satisfy theirs.  The challenge of how we achieve a sustainable society is a vital theme that unites the various disciplines within environmental studies.  A balanced combination of natural and social sciences is required if an adequate understanding of human interactions with environmental systems is to be achieved.  The course is designed to help students bridge the scientific approach to analyzing and solving environmental problems, the socioeconomic concerns involved in formulating and administering environmental policy, and the historic and philosophical basis of humanity’s relationship to ecosystems.  With the common goal of defining, characterizing and understanding environmental sustainability, the course identifies how each participating discipline can creatively contribute towards this end.

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Design Thinking (UNST 222)

This course introduces the Design Thinking/Innovation/Entrepreneurship Cluster. In this course students will learn the foundations of Design Thinking and how to apply them to real-world problems. This course intends to excite students about the power of Design Thinking through hands-on experiences and equip them with basic skills needed to use it. Students will experience the intersection of diversity, ethics/social responsibility, critical thinking and communication as they identify problems to address, craft their design challenge, engage in field research, synthesize their findings, brainstorm solutions, and present their concepts, while expanding their personal and professional networks.

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Freedom, Privacy, and Technology (UNST 230)

This course introduces the Freedom, Privacy, and Technology cluster. Privacy and freedom are highly valued, and are to some extent protected by the U.S. Constitution. Recent rapid advances in science and technology, combined with compelling motives to use this technology to control and exploit aspects of human life that have heretofore been left to chance or to individual choice, make urgent the questions about what uses of technology should be encouraged or permitted. This class is an opportunity to step back and consider the question what is privacy? How is privacy constructed culturally? How do our values about privacy relate to our behaviors? How do our privacy concerns intersect with technology? In this students explore theories and concepts that they then apply to contemporary issues and use to reflect on their own relationship to privacy.

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Gender and Sexualities Studies (UNST 231)

This course introduces the Gender and Sexualities cluster. This course provides a framework for thinking critically about the historical and contemporary applications of gender and sexuality—a simple endeavor in other arenas, students will find  navigating gender and sexuality terminologies (e.g., sexualities, sexual orientation, what constitutes ‘sex’ in particular places and times, sexual identity, gender and gender identity) may also be a rigorous historical, political, philosophical, sociological, and anthropological study. The course will follow lines of inquiry such as: What does gender mean and how can it be used as a tool of analysis? What is the relationship between gender and the sexed body? What does it meant to say that sexuality is socially constructed? how do gender and sexuality intersect with, and indeed rely on, race, class, ability, nation, and religion? How are identity categories and normative systems of behavior socially and historically produced? How have groups resisted oppressive systems of power? How does one build alliances across differences related to social location?

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Healthy People/Healthy Places (UNST 234)

This course introduces the Healthy People/Healthy Places cluster. This sophomore inquiry will examine the nature and state of healthy individuals in their various environments. A dynamic approach will be used to study the places in which people live and interact, such as the community, the workplace and the natural environment. Topics will focus on ways to solve and prevent problems that may affect the health and wellbeing of the individual, the local environment and/or the global community. Individual behavior change, social policies, community development and social responsibility will be explored.

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Global Perspectives (UNST 233)

This course introduces the Global Perspectives cluster. Each Global Perspectives SINQ will focus on the culture, history, geography, politics and economy of a specific region of the world, working to understand how the history, culture and geography inform the present situation in a specific region of the world. However, in any Global Perspectives SINQ, students will explore the forces of tradition and modernity, nationalism, colonialism and empire, and globalization and development. Learning about the perspectives, attitudes and beliefs of another culture or region will help students the interconnectedness of human experience that frames contemporary global interactions.

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Global Environmental Change (UNST 232)

This course introduces the Global Environmental Change cluster.The course will take an interdisciplinary approach to global environmental change. It will discuss the physical, chemical, and biological changes of the earth’s environment in the past, present, and future. The past will concentrate on the physical, chemical, and biological changes that are recorded in the rock, ice, and sediment record. The present will concentrate on recent changes in the oceans and atmosphere and discuss the human dimension. The future will cover the merits and limits of global models.

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American Identities (UNST 212)

This course introduces the American Identities cluster. Using historical and contemporary voices, this class explores how traditions and tensions within the United States and North America shape its cultures and sense of being "American."  The specific focus of individual American Identities SINQ classes may differ, but each will examine the significance of key American narratives, artifacts, policies, and places, and will apply perspectives ranging from the arts and humanities and social sciences.  Each class will also apply the methods of cultural, historical, and other modes of analysis.

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