From Autumn 2018, the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge is delighted to announce an unprecedented set of new courses: XCAP, The Experimental Capstone. Designed for upper-level undergraduates, a new XCAP class was debuted each quarter in 2018-19, and will continue throughout the 2019-20 quarters. XCAP courses, team-taught by faculty from different Divisions or Schools, are designed to challenge students to build upon their UChicago educational experience by adding practice, impact, and influence as important dimensions for undergraduate education.

XCAP courses incorporate a variety of topics and frameworks, but inherent in each of these courses are the following three elements:

  • an element of practice, a result in a product, or a measurable impact;
  • an appeal to students from all the College divisions for maximal interaction of different points of view; and
  • a part of the college experience with particular relevance to post-college life.

The XCAP courses may be taken pass/fail or for a quality grade, and students may take one, two, or all three quarters of XCAP, as the courses are not part of a sequence. Each course is taught by a different team of faculty, and provides a distinct perspective on the three core elements above.

See what UChicago News has to say about XCAP!

2019-20 XCAP Courses

Autumn 2019

KNOW 29901: XCAP: The Experimental Capstone -The Art of Healing: Medical Aesthetics in Russia & the US

Instructors: William Nickell, Associate Professor, Chair of the Slavic Department; Brian Callender, Professor, Dept. of Medicine; Elizabeth Murphy, Assistant Professor of Medicine

What makes a medical treatment look like it will work? What makes us feel that we are receiving good care, or that we can be cured? Why does the color of a pill influence its effectiveness, and how do placebos sometimes achieve what less inert medication cannot? In this course we will consider these problems from the vantage points of a physician and a cultural historian. Our methodology will combine techniques of aesthetic analysis with those of medical anthropology, history and practice. We will consider the narratology of medicine as we examine the way that patients tell their stories—and the way that doctors, nurses, buildings, wards, and machines enter those narratives. The latter agents derive their meaning from medical outcomes, but are also embedded in a field of aesthetic values that shape their apperception. We will look closely at a realm of medical experience that continues to evade the grasp of instruments: how the aesthetic experience shapes the phenomenon of medical treatment.

Winter 2020

KNOW 29941: XCAP: The Experimental Capstone - The Affect System

Intructors: Stephanie Cacioppo, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences Division, Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience, Adult Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience; Eric Oliver, Professor, Political Science and the College.

The Affect system in Medicine and the Political Science is a multidisciplinary course that aims to explore the concept of “affect” from different angles and unique perspectives. Drawing broadly from Medicine, philosophy and the political science, this course seeks to understand the affect system in different cultures and environments. The term “affect” typically refers to feelings beyond those of the traditional senses, with an emphasis on the experience of emotions and variations in hedonic tone. The structure and processes underlying mental contents are not readily apparent, however, and most cognitive processes occur non-consciously with only selected outcomes reaching awareness. Over millions of years of evolution, efficient and manifold mechanisms have evolved for differentiating hostile from hospitable stimuli and for organizing adaptive responses to these stimuli. These are critically important functions for the evolution of mammals, and the integrated set of mechanisms that serve these functions can be thought of as an “affect system.” It is this affect system – its architecture and operating characteristics, as viewed from neural, psychological, social, and political perspectives, that is the focus of the course.

Spring 2020

KNOW 29971: XCAP: The Experimental Capstone - What is an Intervention (for Mental Health)?

Instructors: Eugene Raikhel, Associate Professor, Social Sciences Division, Comparative Human Development; Dr. Michael Marcangelo, Director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences Division, Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience, Adult Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience.

What does it mean for a practice to be understood as an intervention in the domain of mental health? Interventions in mental health can be carried out with tools ranging from chemicals and electrical impulses, to words, affects, and social relationships, to organizations. They can involve acting on a range of distinct targets -- from brains and bodies to psyches and emotional conflicts to housing and employment. This course will use a focus on mental health interventions to introduce students to a range of conceptual and practical issues surrounding mental health and illness, as well as to raise a set of broader questions about the relationships between knowledge formation, practice, ethics, and politics. The questions we will ask throughout the course will include: What does it mean for an intervention to be successful? How is effectiveness understood and measured? Are mental health interventions ethically-neutral or do they contain embedded within them assumptions about the normal, the pathological, and the good life? We will think through these questions vis-a-vis readings drawn from psychiatry, psychology, and the social sciences -- but more importantly, through weekly practical and experiential activities. Each week will focus on one kind of mental health intervention, and will involve a particular kind of practical learning activity.

2018-19 XCAP Courses

  • Autumn 2018: KNOW 29900 – XCAP: The Experimental Capstone – The Body in Medicine and the Performing Arts
  • Winter 2019: KNOW 29940: XCAP: The Experimental Capstone:  Knowledge Claims: Theory/Praxis
  • Spring 2019: KNOW 29970: XCAP: The Experimental Capstone: Experiencing the Real - Nature, Culture, Society