2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

Motive Power: Energy and Entrepreneurship in United States History


Fall 2012, Winter 2013 and Spring 2013 quarters

Zoe Van Schyndel finance
Fields of Study
American studies, business and management, economics, history, maritime studies, political economy and sustainability studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
business, finance and US history, as well as entrepreneurship or employment requiring strong quantitative reasoning, qualitative language, or web publication skills.

Harnessing energy has been essential to the development and exponential growth of society and power. We examine the synergies of energy technology and entrepreneurship in U.S. history by focusing on a series of energy technologies as in-depth case studies. In each case, we explore how entrepreneurs operated and how their histories influenced an epochal period in North America. Each quarter, we focus on a different energy: whale oil, coal, and oil.  

The program begins with a team building adventure—sailing in the San Juan Islands on the tall ship Zodiac. Along the way, we visit the Whale Museum on San Juan Island and the Makah Tribe Cultural Center’s whaling exhibits. This trip will help us develop as a learning community as well as establish a perspective to study the whaling industry. Zodiac trip dates will be October 1-4 , 2012.

Our formal study of whaling takes us from its origins as a form of colonial entrepreneurship off the New England coast to its peak in the mid-1800’s when it became an advanced, factory-ship industry operated in all seven seas. We examine financial, accounting, leadership models, and macroeconomics in the whaling industry as well as ethical and social business concerns. In fall quarter, this means placing whaling and its business practices into the larger stories of slavery, free labor, global exploration and territorial expansion before the Civil War. 

In winter quarter we turn our focus to coal mining as our energy case study after the Civil War. We examine coal with its derivatives, steam and electrification, as the central motive power behind the post-bellum and post-slavery proletarianization of labor, industrialization of manufacture, and commercialization of westward settlement. We consider the tandem emergence of big business, centralized power generation, and mass consumption as pivotal to the late century cultural turn to social and political modernism. Field trips for winter quarter will be planned in the fall quarter.

In spring we study the oil industry as the key energy enterprise of the 20 th century, from its first well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, to its current dominance over every corner of American life. We follow the ascent of the great oil companies in parallel to U.S. imperial expansion beyond North America, foreign wars and industrial militarism, and the emergence of contemporary information society. We conclude with consideration of potential energy alternatives in a currently oil dependent world. A capstone project in spring challenges collaborative student teams to compete in the creation and profitable management of comprehensive business simulations.

The program is reading and research intensive and includes workshops, field trips, lectures, films, seminars, guest presentations, web labs, and group and individual assignments.  To successfully meet expectations of this program, students must demonstrate competence in current business practices, with environmental impact, sustainability, and distributive justice as ethical and social concerns.

Students who successfully complete the program will gain a solid introduction to contemporary business and management, a survey of United States history and civics, and an appreciation of emerging issues regarding energy policies, business and society.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
Fall $300/Winter $1500/Spring $300 for overnight field trips, including sailing in the San Juan Islands on the tall ship Zodiac.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
September 6th, 2012 This program has been cancelled. Zoe Van Schyndel will be offering Entrepreneurship and Power with Brenda Hood. Students interested in studying these topics should review the description of the new program in the catalog.
August 1st, 2012 Jules Unsel will be teaching a different program.
May 30th, 2012 This program is now offered to students of all class levels (Freshmen to Seniors).
May 10th, 2012 Program has expanded to 3 faculty.
April 24th, 2012 New program added.