HIS 141: Human Origins of Global Society

Spring 2019, Sections L01 & L02

Instructor: Heather Bennett

Glowing paper globes hang from ceiling

Syllabus Contents:

Syllabus Contents:        1

Course Information        3

Instructor & Contact Info        3

Class Website        3

Meeting Times        3

Consultation Hours        3

Location        4

Course Description & Objectives        4

Course Description        4

Instructor Objectives        4

Student Learning Outcomes        5

Real-World Skills        5

Historical Skills        6

Course Materials        7

Textbook        7

Class Website        7

Internet-Capable Device        7

If you do not have an internet-capable device        7

Google-Run Email Account        7

Course Requirements        8

(Un)Grading Details        8

Focus on expertise, not grades.        8

Why I’m not giving grades.        9

So, how will final grades be determined in the class?        9

Incomplete Grades        9

Grade Scale        10

Assessments        10

Redefining “Assessment”        10

Attendance        10

Participation        11

Good ways to show participation        11

Distractions from participation        11

Pre-Class Responses        11

Participation & Learning Essays        12

Details        12

Deadlines & Submission        12

Project: History of the World in 100+ Topics        12

Details        12

Deadlines        13

Submission        13

Classroom Policies        14

Expectations        14

Technology        15

A Word About Writing        15

Not Plagiarism: Respect for Other Creators        15

Program Policies        16

Accessibility Resources For Students With Disabilities        16

General Policies        16

UB Statement Of Principle On Academic Honesty        17

Course Schedule        18

Course Information

Instructor & Contact Info

Instructor: Heather Bennett

Black and white image of course instructor

Email: hb24@buffalo.edu

Google Drive Sharing: helloworldciv111@gmail.com

Class Website


Please Note: The website currently contains the content for Fall 2018. It will be updated for the Spring 2019 syllabus no later than 20 January 2019.

Meeting Times

L01: Tuesday/Thursday 8:30-10:00 am

L02: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-5:00 pm

Consultation Hours

Location: Classroom or UB Offices, Block C, Level 8

L01: Tuesday/Thursday 10:00-11:30 am

L02: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-5:00 pm 


Please refer to the electronic signboard.

Back to contents

Course Description & Objectives

Course Description

This is a course in global history that explores the history of humanity from 10,000 BCE to 1500 CE. Through a combination of lectures, group discussions, activities, and individual research, we’ll explore: Neon sign of human head with bright lightbulb

Instructor Objectives

I’ve structured the class meetings and project with three objectives in mind:

  1. Exploring diversity.
  1. Discerning significance.
  1. Developing self-awareness.

Back to contents

Student Learning OutcomesOrnate spiral ramp with pedestrians moving up and down

Real-World Skills

Historical Skills

Back to contents

Course MaterialsBlue glowing circuit board shaped like a brain


There is no assigned textbook for this class.

Class Website

All readings, videos, activities, and instructions for the course will be distributed through the class website: helloworldciv.com.

All web pages are publicly available, but some of the videos and readings will require your UBIT username and password.

Internet-Capable Device

Preparations for class, class activities, impromptu research, and course assignments all require access to the web. This could be a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

If you are in possession of one or all of these things, you are encouraged to use your personal device(s) for the course.

If you do not have an internet-capable device

Students who do not currently possess an internet-ready device do not need to purchase one. We will work something out, such as borrowing a spare device from a peer or professor for the class or only using devices for group activities. Please come see me or email me after the first class if this is the case for you.

Google-Run Email Account

We’ll use Google Drive to compile and collect many assignments and materials this semester.

You will, therefore, need access to a Google-run email account. This can be EITHER your UB Mail account (ending in @buffalo.edu) or another Gmail account (ending in @gmail.com).

I will collect preferred emails at the start of the semester.

Course Requirements

Individual, active engagement. Willingness to dialogue, question, and reexamine perspectives. Consistent and thoughtful completion of all course assessments.

Assessments may change over the course of the semester based on student feedback and/or professor evaluation of the usefulness and effectiveness of an assignment.

All changes to the assessments will be reflected here in the syllabus, on the course website helloworldciv.com, and announced in class or via email.

Back to contents

(Un)Grading Details

Focus on expertise, not grades.Student asks for curved grade; professor gives curvy F

The goal of this course is to build students’ expertise. This will be accomplished through the use of “formative feedback.” Comments on assessments will encourage you to continue your best practices and help you identify areas that need improvement as well as strategies for how to do so.

Comments will not, however, be accompanied by a grade. You will receive a minimal, summary assessment (strong/satisfactory/needs work) on assessments, but no numeric or letter grade.

I will provide comments, encouragement, and suggestions four times this semester:

  1. In response to the first Participation & Learning essay.
  2. In response to the second draft of the Project.
  3. In response to the second Participation & Learning essay.
  4. In response to the final version of the Project.

Why I’m not giving grades.

This policy is inspired by and in agreement with educational scholar Jesse Stommel’s arguments for ungrading. (See “Why I don’t grade” and “How to Ungrade”.)

First, numeric scores and letter grades are always subjective (because instructors are human) and not terribly meaningful (what on earth is the difference between a B+ and an A-??).

Second, they decimate motivation. (Think about what it feels like to receive a terrible grade when you really gave it your all.)

Third, grades do not define a person’s worth - but our emphasis on grading seems to suggest that they do. This policy is an effort to actually challenge that perception.

So, how will final grades be determined in the class?

Students will suggest the letter grade they deserve and justify their selection by detailing what they have learned in the course, how they contributed to the class, and what aspects of their knowledge or skills still need improvement. This will be accomplished in assessment, “Participation & Learning Essay.”

As the instructor, I do reserve the right to adjust the suggested grades, but will do so for only three reasons:

  1. I may increase a grade for a student who has not fully recognized her/his own growth and talents.
  2. If a student has not consistently attended class or has not completed a significant portion of the work, I may decrease the grade. If this is the case, I will also ask the student to meet with me to discuss the grade.
  3. If a student has failed to correct issues related to academic honesty, I may decrease the selected grade

Incomplete Grades

Incomplete Grades: Under certain circumstances (e.g. extended hospitalization), students may apply for a grade of Incomplete. See the UB catalog for details of the Incomplete grade policy and requirements at:


Request for an Incomplete grade must be made prior to the end of the semester. Approval is not automatic, must be supported by robust relevant documentation, and is at the discretion of the instructor.

Grade Scale

Letter Grade



Outstanding Engagement in the Course


Outstanding Engagement in the Course


Excellent Engagement in the Course


Excellent Engagement in the Course


Average Engagement in the Course


Average Engagement in the Course


Fair Engagement in the Course


Fair Engagement in the Course


Some Difficulty Engaging in the Course


Some Difficulty Engaging in the Course


Insufficient Engagement in the Course


Failure for nonattendance

Back to contents


Redefining “Assessment”

“Assessment” does not equal “grade.” Instead, assessment here means “consideration, analysis, appraisal, and evaluation.” The thing being assessed is what you have learned in the course and the effort you have put in — not your worth as a human being or your innate intelligence.


You are expected to be present and on time for every class. You are expected to stay for the entire 90 minutes of the class. Classes start at 8:30 am (L01) or 3:30 pm (L02), depending on which section you’re in.

I take attendance by snapping a photo with my phone five minutes after the start time. This helps me accurately record who is present and lets me learn names quickly.


Good ways to show participation

Distractions from participation

Pre-Class Responses

For most classes this semester, you’ll read a primary source that will be discussed in class. The primary sources are all available on helloworldciv.com.

For half of the classes (8 total), you will also prepare for class by responding to the first two discussion questions for each primary source. These questions consistently ask you to:

  1. Identify the source of the reading (who wrote it, where, when?)
  2. Summarize your observations of the reading. In a paragraph (or more, if you like), outline the main points or basic plot of the reading.

The purpose of this activity is to ensure that at least half the class at any time can bring a good understanding of the reading to the discussion.

All work should be your own. You may use outside sources (summaries of or commentary on a source; additional research), but you’ll need to cite it somehow if you do (e.g., provide the link to your info).

I encourage you though to just give it your best shot. Mistakes and misunderstandings are in fact very useful as they help me (your professor) understand what wasn’t clear in the reading.

The sources you respond to will be determined by which reading group I randomly assign you to at the start of class (A or B). Pre-class preparation is due by the start of class. You will submit your pre-class prep via a Google Form linked/embedded below the discussion questions listed.

When I provide feedback on your Engagement & Learning Essays, I’ll also provide feedback about your Pre-Class Responses. Again, these aren’t graded and there isn’t a concrete penalty for not submitting the responses (or submitting them late). However, consistently missing the responses or completing them only after the discussion could impact your overall grade in the course.

Engagement & Learning EssaysPerson writing in a journal with coffee, and stack of books on table beside them


During the semester, I will ask you to complete two essays detailing what you’ve learned in the class so far, how you’re participating in the class, and how you hope to improve your work in the course.

The essays should be approximately 1000-1200 words in length. Your essay should demonstrate what you have learned in the course and how you have engaged with the class content and activities. To complete your essay, please answer the following questions:

  1. What have you learned in the course? (This could include details about content knowledge, acquired skills, or new outlooks)
  2. How have you engaged with the class content, activities, and/or your peers and prof?
  3. Are there any ways you would like to improve your learning or engagement going forward?
  4. If you had to choose your grade for the course now, what would it be? (Answer this question last.)

You may answer the first three questions in whatever order you want. Feel free to combine and rearrange them. Ideally, your essays will include:

Remember, this is not graded. There’s nothing to be gained by flattering yourself or by being too harsh. This is an exercise in self-assessment and self-awareness.

Creativity is encouraged. This means you’re free to experiment with how you complete your essays. Want to include GIFs or images? Go for it. Want to send me a video essay and transcript? That sounds excellent. I could even see doing this as an Instagram story (though we’d need to talk about the requirements of this.) The sky’s the limit really.

Deadlines & Submission

The first essay is due on Sunday, 17 March at 11:59 pm.

The second essay is due on Tuesday, 23 April at 11:59 pm. This second essay has the same requirements as the first but should also include a statement of the grade you’ve selected for the semester.

Please compose your essays as Google Docs (or another file shareable via Google Drive) and submit the essays by sharing your files with helloworldciv111@gmail.com.  

Project: History of the World in [100+] Topics Person holding gray metal framed desk globe paper weight


This is a group project. Groups will be randomly assigned in order to prevent the exclusion of any members of the class. The group size will be 4-5 students per group.

The purpose of this project is to expand students’ knowledge of the course content and provide students an opportunity to practice the sourcing, observation, and analysis skills gained through our primary source discussions.


For this project, each group will:


The first draft of your resources list and introduction is due on Thursday, 28 March by the start of class (this is our first peer review session). Things can still be in-progress for the first draft, but your peers and I (Heather) should be able to get a clear sense of the direction of your project.

The second draft of your resources/introduction is due on Tuesday, 16 April by the start of class (this is our second peer review session).

The final version of your resources/introduction is due on Friday, 3 May by the end of the day (11:59 pm). This is the day of our last class meeting.


All versions of the project should be submitted via Google Docs by sharing with helloworldciv111@gmail.com.

The projects will be collected into a “view only” Google Drive folder so all students may view each other’s hard work and accomplishments.

Following the final review of projects and submission of final grades to UB-SIM, I may request permission to publish your project on Hello World Civ. You are 100% able to say no without any penalty to your grade.

Back to contents

Classroom Policies


Respect is the defining characteristic of our conversations.

Any and all viewpoints that are expressed respectfully and address the topics of this course will receive attention and a fair grade in this class. If comments are expressed disrespectfully or move too far afield, I reserve the right to end a conversation and/or request a conversation with you following the class.

Respect includes using appropriate language to describe people or groups of people.

Please use gender-neutral language and respectful designations for ethnic, racial, and national groups when appropriate. If you are unsure of what the most respectful terminology is, please feel free to ask.

Respect for present and past peoples also means approaching diverse cultures with an open mind.

You will find some ideas weird, dismaying, and disagreeable. That's okay. I encourage you to acknowledge that reaction and then move past judgment by taking the time to ask, "Why did they think that? Why was it like that? Why do I think differently?"

Discussions should be had with the entire class.

Please try not to engage in side conversations (verbal, electronic, or written) once class has begun.

Perfection will not (usually) be a defining characteristic of our conversations.

With that in mind, please share freely! All thoughts, questions, and ideas – no matter how tentative, incomplete, or half-formed these might be – are welcome.

Please take responsibility for your actions.

If you missed an assignment, do better next time If you said something unkind in discussion or to someone in your blogging group, work to correct it.

These expectations are for you - and for me.

 If I have done something disrespectful, hurtful, or just plain annoying, you can expect me to apologize, take responsibility, and work toward changing my action or attitude.


There are (at least) two kinds of distraction provided by technology - the escapist kind and the exploring new knowledge kind.

I would ask that you aim for the exploring new knowledge kind in this class. Please avoid using technology to check out of the class. Please do use technology to learn, share, and dig deeper into the course.

A Word About Writing

Proper use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation is expected in all assignments completed for the class. Since there aren’t any grades, this is a great course to focus on improving your writing skills without the fear of losing points.

If you are unsure of whether or not something is grammatically correct, I encourage you to use the spelling and grammar check tools in your favorite document-creation software, helpful websites like OWL Perdue or GrammarGirl, or a free browser extension like Grammarly.

Not Plagiarism: Respect for Other Creators

In this course, we will focus on how to show respect for other creators by conscientiously giving them credit for their work.

This means we’ll actively work on how to restructure and reword content into a true paraphrase that expresses our own ideas.

We’ll use media if and when creators say we can (instead of disrespecting their work by ignoring copyright and stealing it).

We’ll also figure out together how best to note where we found ideas, videos, audio, etc. Sometimes that might mean traditional APA citations - or it might mean something more creative that’s actually useful outside of school.

When we don’t get it right the first time, we’ll go back and fix it.

All of this is similar to what’s required by the UB Academic Integrity policy. We’re just flipping the script so we can think about the benefits of integrity instead of the punishments that could happen if we plagiarise.

Back to contents

Program Policies

Accessibility Resources For Students With Disabilities

Reasonable Accommodation refers broadly to reasonable modifications of policies, practices, and procedures as necessary to ensure that persons with disabilities have the same opportunities as others in all programs, services, and benefits of the University at Buffalo.

Anyone with a disability (including a chronic illness) who needs reasonable accommodations in the SIM-UB Program should refer to the Student Handbook (available online via SIMConnect) for further information, or consult the Resident Director (email: Kevin McKelvey).

General Policies

Attendance and active participation is expected by all students in every class. Students are expected to be present for the entire duration of each class. Tardiness to or absenting oneself during class will result in a deduction from the attendance and participation portion of the final grade.

Late assignments, if accepted, will be penalized.

Students who are absent from a midterm exam must request a make-up exam from the course instructor; a make up will be given only if there is an appropriate, documented reason for absence from the exam (such as an MC); any disputes regarding the validity of the reason or the documentation may be referred to the student advisor. (Please note: There is no midterm exam in HIS 141.)

Students who are absent from a final exam must formally request a make-up exam in writing to Ms. Katie Fassbinder, Assistant Resident Director, within 24 hours of the original exam. The make-up exam request form can be found in SIMConnect. (Please note: There is no final exam in HIS 141.)

In all cases, supporting documents must be provided and a make-up exam will only be scheduled if there is a valid and appropriate reason for the absence. For example, prior commitments to external activities or events outside of SIM are not considered a valid reason for an absence. For medical cases, students must submit a detailed letter from the doctor, highlighting the date of the medical consultation, the nature and the severity of the illness, and how the illness prevented them from taking the scheduled exam, in addition to a Medical Certificate (MC). A Medical Certificate alone will not be accepted for make-up final exams. Disputes may be referred to the Resident Director.

There will be no make-ups for other course assessments, and students who are absent from such assessments will receive a zero.

UB Statement Of Principle On Academic Honesty

The University at Buffalo has a responsibility to promote academic honesty and integrity and to develop procedures to deal effectively with instances of academic dishonesty. Students are responsible for the honest completion and representation of their work, for appropriate citation of sources, and for respect for others’ academic endeavors.

By placing their name on academic work, students certify the originality of all work not otherwise identified by appropriate acknowledgments.

Additionally, students are expected to understand and abide completely by the following guidelines for academic integrity in all UB courses:

Plagiarism, cheating, and other incidents of academic dishonesty will result in an automatic failing grade for the course. Depending on the severity of the violation, your case may also be reported to UB for further investigation and may result in expulsion from the university.

Plagiarism consists of copying work from another source without giving proper citations. You must not copy information from printed materials, internet sources, or from the work of other students. If you are uncertain about how to submit your work correctly, consult the instructor immediately.

Any claim of ignorance of the rules of academic integrity by any student is unacceptable. 

See the policy here: Undergraduate Academic Integrity Policy

Course Schedule

Please note: There will also be a short video (no more than 30 minutes) assigned for each class to provide context for the topic of the day.

Class Number




To Read (Tentative)


29 January

Introduction & Syllabus


31 January

Icebreakers & Introduction to History


12 February

Hominids, Early Humans, Foragers


14 February

Ancient Egypt

All Students: Pre-Class Response

"The Birth of Hatshepsut"


19 February

Ancient Mesopotamia

Group A: Pre-Class Response

"The Epic of Gilgamesh"


21 February

Workshop 1: Credibility of Sources


26 February

Monotheism: An Ancient Anomaly

Group B: Pre-Class Response

Selections from Genesis


28 February

Ancient Greece

Group A: Pre-Class Response

Aristophanes, Lysistrata (Act I)


5 March

The Persian Empire

Group B: Pre-Class Response

Herodotus, “On the Customs of the Persians”


7 March

The Hellenistic World

Group A & Group B: Pre-Class Response

Epicurus, "Letter to Menoeceus" (A); Epictetus, The Enchiridion (B)


12 March

India I

Nothing Due


14 March

India II

Participation & Learning Essay 1

In-class reading


19 March

China I

Nothing Due


21 March

China II

Group A & Group B: Pre-Class Response

Daodejing (selections) (A); Analects of Confucius (selections) (B)


26 March

The Silk Road

Nothing Due


28 March

Workshop 2: Peer Review 1

Project: First Draft


2 April

Ancient Rome: Republic to Empire

Group A: Pre-Class Response

Livy, Selections from Histories


4 April

Christianity & Rome

Group B: Pre-Class Response

Pliny & Trajan Letters; Clement of Alexandria "To the Newly Baptized"


9 April

Fall of Rome

Group A: Pre-Class Response

Tacitus, Germania (selections)


11 April

Workshop 3: Peer Review 2

Project: Second Draft


16 April

Medieval Europe

Group B: Pre-Class Response

Thomas of Celano, Selections First Life of St. Francis


18 April

The Mongols

In-Class Reading



23 April

Coastal Africa as Hub of Civilizations

Participation & Learning Essay 2

In-Class Reading; Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa (excerpts)


25 April

Southeast Asia

All Students: Pre-Class Response

Artifact Collection investigation


30 April

Wrap Up

Project: Final Version

Back to contents