HASS Inquiry


HASS faculty believe that the first-year experience is an exhilarating time when students begin to ask compelling questions about their future and the future of the world. At Rensselaer, we confront complex issues by collaborating across disciplines to address the key challenges and opportunities of our time.

The faculty have developed a suite of courses known as HASS Inquiry.  These courses are designed to help you develop cross-cultural empathy and a multiplicity of perspectives that can be brought to bear on the key questions facing society today. This year, we’re focusing on the theme: Criticality, Incisiveness, and Creativity.

Why Take a HASS Inquiry? 


Students examine social phenomena such as world religions, economic globalization, human identity, and the culture of technology from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Students are given the opportunity to interact closely with their instructors in seminar-style discussion sections, read and discuss the Community Read, and participate in forums for dialogue and debate. Central to our curriculum is a teaching philosophy that utilizes engaged learning strategies to add depth to a student’s awareness about themselves and the world. Our primary areas of pedagogic focus include the following: 

  • Critical Thinking and Critical Wisdom 
  • Writing and Communications 
  • Personal Instructional Attention 
  • Teamwork and Group Work 
  • Community Building and Awareness 
  • A Focus on Diversity 
  • Effective Use of Instructional Technology

Ask Questions. Seek Answers.

  • Can we create Artificial Intelligence with human-level intelligence? 
  • Are some ways of acting and living more ethically justifiable than others?
  • How much human enhancement is compatible will still being human?
  • What are the politics of display, technology, design, architecture, and performance?
  • Are humans vastly intellectually superior to nonhuman animals?
  • Why do seemingly good people do bad things? 
  • What is “bad” science?
  • What is a post-factual reality?
  • Where do my ideas come from and who owns them?
  • How does the practice and appreciation of music affect you?
  • What are the origins of human rights in the U.S. and the world?

Fall 2017 HASS Inquiry courses include the following: 


IHSS-1010 Exploring Music @Rensselaer

IHSS-1110 Nature/Society

IHSS-1140 Minds and Machines* 

IHSS-1240 Environment and Politics

IHSS-1310 Cultures of Scientific Revolutions

IHSS-1960 Back to the ‘60s* 

IHSS-1961 Cultivating Curiosity: Arts & Neuroscience

IHSS-1963 Global Health Challenges

IHSS-1964 Are Humans Rational?

IHSS-1965 Open Source: Art, Music, Culture* 

IHSS-1966 Media Culture 

IHSS-1967 Religion in a Global World* 

IHSS-1968 Blended Reality & the Internet

IHSS-1969 Worlds on Display* 

IHSS-1970 World’s Fairs: Technology, Design, and Society 

IHSS-1971 Phil, Tech, and the Human Future* 

IHSS-1972 Great Ideas in Philosophy* 

IHSS-1973 Human Rights in History 

IHSS-1974 Design as Global Challenge 

IHSS-1975 Principles of Economics 

IHSS-1976 The Genome and You

IHSS-1977 Science and Scientific Misconduct

STSH-1110 Science, Technology, and Society* 

STSS-1110 Science, Technology, and Society* 

COMM-2660 Introduction to Graphics* 


Please note that "*" indicates that the course is Communication Intensive.


For more information on HASS Inquiry and available courses, please check out our HASS Inquiry Fall 2017 clickbook

For further information:

Brian Woods, Manager of Student Services