The Arkansas Governor’s School Curriculum

Students attending AGS are selected on the basis of their abilities and interests in a particular intellectual discipline or field known as Special Aptitude Development (Area I).

In keeping with the School’s aim of developing competencies in the use of theory to understand, manage, and integrate knowledge, each student also pursues classroom work and reading in two other areas: General Conceptual Development (Area II) and Personal and Social Development (Area III). The curricula in Area II and Area III are identical for all students.

Table of Contents

Area I: Arts

Tom McDonald, Coordinator


Choral Music



Bill Higgins


April Gentry-Sutterfield

Stefan Cwik


Christina Riggins


Instrumental Music


Visual Arts

Tom McDonald, Conductor


Jason McCann

Rick Dimond


Jessica Peterson

Gerry Gibson


Kevin Sanders


Area I: Academics

Stacy Key, Coordinator


English/ Language Arts


Natural Science

Wesley Beal


Jennifer Jehnsen

Allen Frost


James Luba

Amber James


Katie Rose

Jessica Pitchford


Nick Seward


Social Science



Raphael Lewis


Stacy Key

Robert Low


Lars Seme

Kondwani Phwandaphwanda


Josh Ulrey

Peggy Scranton


Area II: General Conceptual Development

Mark Elrod, Coordinator


Alex Anderson


Revis Edmonds


Tara Flanagan


Ta-Neisha Marshall


Jim Rush


Michael Simeone



Phillip Spivey


Area III: Personal and Social Development

Phillip Melton, Coordinator


Fred Boosey


Richard Gobble


Debbie Hibbs


Elizabeth Martin


Spencer Sutterfield


Chad Terrell


Natalie Trower




April Gentry-Sutterfield and Christina Riggins
The Drama students in the 2012 Arkansas Governor’s School will explore several foundational components of modern performance, examine the role of performance within society, and critically analyze a selection of texts across contemporary and classical canons of drama. The students should be prepared to engage themselves intellectually, artistically, physically and collaboratively while they refine skills like focus, leadership, team work, commitment, and communication.


Bill Higgins and Stefan Cwik
AGS Chorale is a class specializing in the rehearsal and performance of modern choral music. Though generally a performance-oriented class, general musical studies will be presented alongside the rehearsal of modern repertoire. The class will include a discussion of current musical trends, basic studies in theory and score analysis, and issues regarding language and poetry. The overall objective is development and appreciation of choral singing as an artistic expression.


Tom McDonald, Gerry Gibson, Rick Dimond, and Kevin Sanders
The AGS 2012 students in Instrumental Music will be involved in rehearsing and performing works of prominent 20th and 21st century composers. Emphasis is placed on music from this period, styles of composing, and circumstances surrounding the birth of these styles. Issues such as color, texture, melody, harmony, rhythm, and meter will be addressed in reference to each style and work. Excellence in performance is something that individuals and groups always strive for; however, it is the process of learning music and understanding the creative process of composing music in a specific 20th or 21st century style that is of prime importance in our performing ensemble. This knowledge and expertise will allow students to share with students in other Area 1 disciplines. The discussions and lectures in Perspectives feature faculty and student presentations, discussions, theory styles, and listening sessions which deal with significant music and musical trends. The combination of ensemble performance and Perspectives classes at AGS is aimed at opening the students' minds to the incredibly vast world of music, both to its composers and its styles.


Jason McCann and Jessica Peterson
The focus of the Visual Arts program at AGS is to develop student artwork in terms of concept and content. Students will be encouraged to explore the process behind their artistic product in a variety of techniques and materials guided by instruction and critique of art and theory through the ages. The hope is that students will acquire an understanding of how working artists achieve consistency and continuity in a large body of work.




Introduction to Cultural Studies - Wesley Beal
What is culture? The term is vexing, often described as among the hardest words to define in the English language. There are several possible approaches to this subject, ranging from anthropology’s study of customs and practices to sociology’s reliance on statistics, but for the purposes of this course we will interrogate culture as a text for our own analysis. In other words, we will be applying our literary tools toward the interpretation of culture.

The questions we investigate on a daily basis will sweep broadly under the ever-broad rubric of culture, observing the various and often conflicting uses and meanings of the culture concept. We will start by exploring the very ideas of culture and literature, then familiarize ourselves with various theoretical approaches to the culture-text, and along the way study specific examples of those texts—Hendrix campus architecture, commercial advertisements, Disney theme parks, and works of propaganda, to name a few. Finally, we will turn our attention to the ephemeral community of AGS and its prominent position in the Arkansas front of the culture wars as material for our introduction to cultural studies.

Doing Weird Things With Literature – Allen Frost
In this course, we will bring literary theory to bear on a range of texts, from fables and films to sonnets and short stories. We will consider a number of approaches to the study of literature as we pose new questions. For example, what can ecocriticism tell us about Shelley's "Ozymandias"? How can postcolonial theory help us view Disney's Aladdin in fresh and informative ways? Throughout the course, we will continually ask ourselves how, when, and why theory should be used in our encounters with the literary.


Introduction to Screenwriting – Amber James

During this course, students will examine elements that contribute to successful screenwriting. Students will scrutinize several successful (and some not-so-successful) examples of screen plays and will determine which elements contribute to or detract from the artistic effectiveness of the piece by employing critical analysis techniques. Students will be introduced to the basics of screenwriting by reading scripts, examining films from a writer's perspective, and writing one or more short screenplays.

Students will additionally discover how to manage plot, dialogue, structure, genre and character--elements essential to effective storytelling throughout many genres of writing.

Flash Fiction - Jessica Pitchford
In Flash Fiction, our focus will be on the briefest of fiction forms: the short-short story (also known as fast fiction, flash fiction, or micro fiction, among others). These extremely short stories, which can vary in length but are on average no more than 750 words, are increasingly popular, if difficult to achieve—a real creative challenge. This course both introduces participants to the art of the short-short story and prepares them to participate in traditional workshops and even fiction slams. In-class activities include reading, discussions, individual and group writing exercises, as well as peer workshops. The ultimate goal is to get students reading one of the most progressive forms of fiction being written and published today and trying their hand at creating their own.



Probability and Statistics: A Study of Uncertainty – Stacy Key
Life is full of uncertainty. However, most people try their best to plan, predict and prepare for the future. Some people rely on chance, fate, and luck in their predictions, while others base their findings on logic and scientific methodology. Our study will be based on this logical and scientific approach. Probability has been defined as "the branch of science concerned with the study of mathematical techniques for making quantitative inferences about uncertainty." Most historians consider this branch of science as beginning with the work of Fermat and Pascal in the early 1600s, but the use of this science has grown exponentially over the last few decades. This course will examine techniques and concepts widely used in probability and statistics from both a theoretical and practical perspective. Examples from the "real world" in the areas of insurance, politics, finance, engineering, medicine, meteorology, and management will be used to add relevance and practicality to our study.

How Big is Infinity Anyway? – Lars Seme
Though infinity is not actually a number in the usual sense, in this class we will discuss the different ways infinity can be approached mathematically, including the arithmetic of the infinite. Along the way, we will consider the construction of the Natural, Rational, Real, and Complex Numbers and the improperties. For example, we will define what we mean by addition and use this to prove why 1+1 = 2. The class will conclude with the treatment of infinity using both Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers.

The Shape of Space: The Geometry and Topology of the Universe - Josh Ulrey
The purpose of this course is to give students an insight into the current theories concerning the shape of our universe. The course begins with the study of two-dimensional surfaces, with a specific focus on the geometric and topological properties that can be used to determine whether or not two surfaces are equivalent. This discussion culminates in the complete topological classification of all two-dimensional surfaces. These ideas are then expanded to higher-dimensional surfaces, with special attention given to the universe in which we live and recent studies about its geometry and topology.



Public Health Initiatives in Developing Nations - Jennifer Jehnsen
Most deaths from infectious diseases occur in developing nations with limited money to spend on healthcare. In many of these countries, more than a third of the population lives on less than $1 a day, and one in three children is malnourished. Malnourished adults and children are more susceptible to infections due to the lack of necessary calories and nutrients in their diet. The spread of infectious diseases significantly hinders economic growth and development; therefore, a decrease in the number of infectious disease-related deaths will be an important first step in the development of these nations.

In this course, we will be analyzing the implementation of public health initiatives focusing on disease prevention in developing nations. We will focus specifically on malaria, water borne illnesses, and HIV/AIDS. We will analyze projects initiated by governments and NGOs to evaluate their effectiveness in preventing diseases. We will discuss short-term and long-term goals of specific projects as well as some unintended consequences of public health interventions.

Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology – James Luba

This class will cover the basics of drug design and function.  Topics will include drug absorption, distribution, mechanism, and historical and modern methods of drug development. Additionally, ethical and social issues relating to the pharmaceutical industryand drug policy will be discussed.  We will coordinate with Ms. Jehnsen’s class as much as possible.

Clean Energy’s Dirty Secret – Katie Rose
The most widely used metric today for evaluating the “cleanliness” of energy sources is the carbon footprint.  What is the carbon footprint and why is it the standard?  Does renewable “clean” energy with a lower carbon footprint offer any new ecological threats we should be concerned with?

This course asks these and other questions with the goal of evaluating both traditional and alternative energy sources from a more holistic perspective.  Students will be challenged to think critically about all potential environmental impacts that the mining, manufacture, use, and disposal of the products used to generate energy may have on human health and the surrounding environments.  

Science in Technology - Nicholas Seward
Science, technology, and the future are all tied together in an ever growing knot. It is getting increasingly harder to distinguish future possibilities from today’s realities. This course is not about “doing” the science. (Sorry, no take home rocket propulsion calculation homework.) It is about examining science and technology's affect on the society, the economy, and the environment. On the same coin, the course will look at the effects our society, our economy, and our environment have on science and technologies. Many discussions will be spent on “what ifs.” What would today be like if small changes had been made in the past? What range of possibilities are there for the future and who/what is at the wheel to make the decisions about what turn we are going to make?

Class topics will be drawn from below. Each individual class will be customized to more fully match the interests of the comprising students. By no means will all the topics be covered and the list is subject to change just like science and technology are subject to change.

Quantum Mechanics
String Theory
Human Computer Interfaces
Moore's Law



Introduction to Sociology – Dr. Raphael Lewis
This course covers a specific methodology centered around critical thinking, while at the same time engaging the patterns of thought of the early sociologist. It has been always a matter of curiosity how people get along with others, what they do for a living, and who and how people select leaders. Over the years there have been countless observations about human behavior. This course attempts to examine some of these in terms of content and consequences. Each student will be required to complete at least two requirements.

1. They must select one of the early sociologists and discuss their philosophy and methodology and the reasons for their choice. All of this should be prepared and presented in an essay or some other form, based on the student creativity.

2. A research design or a plan to investigate a sociological problem at sometime in the future must be developed.

Economics, Technology, and Their Effects - Robert Low
This course involves an examination of fundamental economic concepts, different economic systems, and their effects upon the concepts of mercantilism, communism, colonialism, and capitalism. Several specific readings will be utilized from Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx and Frederic Engels. We will also contemplate and discuss the effects of technology on the globalization of capitalism, the shifting of the wealth of nations, and the ultimate flattening of trade barriers in the world economy of the 21st century which results in a new paradigm for all.

Developing Nations - Kondwani Phwandaphwanda
Students will explore political systems in selected third world countries and examine how governments within those political systems serve their people to help them improve their lives. Discussion will focus on a number of areas including education, employment, health, food production and security, and civic education. Students will also discuss how international development impacts the lives of people living in poor countries.

Selected readings will be used for lectures and class discussion. Different activities will be used to accommodate the learning styles of students to give each student a chance to maximize his/her learning process. Students will also be encouraged to conduct basic research for their own further understanding of material discussed in class.

Power of Words in Political Conflict and Debate - Dr. Peggy Scranton
This class explores how the meaning of words and choice of words affect not just who wins or loses political conflicts but also what “win” and “lose” mean. Our purpose is to examine how words influence “who gets what, when, and how,” which is Harold Lasswell’s definition of politics. Words can enhance or diminish a speaker’s message; they may enlighten some and confuse others; political labeling can help or hurt a person or group or cause. Language used in political speech conveys multiple meanings and creates differential outcomes as some listeners hear threats while others hear promises. Following the insights of Murray Edelman, who pioneered the study of “politics as spectacle” and “the political uses of language,” we will examine how selected words call some to action and reassure others that they need not act.

We will consider the resource value and impact of words on conflict and political debate in two case studies: 1) a violent military conflict between ancient empires, the Peloponnesian War, and 2) a nonviolent movements against a brutal dictators, the Serbian student OTPOR struggle against Slobodan Milosevic in 2000-2001 and the Liberian Women’s Peace Movement, for which two activists received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. Sources include the text of the Melian debate and Pericles’ Funeral Oration from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War; and former Czech President Václav Havel’s 1989 speech, “A Word About Words,” written for his acceptance of the Peace Prize of the German Booksellers Association, a documentary video on OTPOR from the series “A Force More Powerful” about nonviolent conflict, and the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” (information available at

Our approach to these two conflicts stresses the rhetoric of the powerful vs the (apparently) powerless, the use of symbolic speech along with “words,” the power dynamics of bargaining using force and words, and prospects for peace after violent and non-violent conflicts. In terms of writing and participation, students will create individual and/or group projects concerning the meaning of the Melian debate, create a piece of propaganda for or against OTPOR, and write during class about the power of words in conflicts. The project may take a variety of formats: paragraphs of narrative text about the causes and dynamics of conflict and conflict resolution; images, such as comic strips/graphic novels, political cartoons, or pamphlets/propaganda; song lyrics and dramatic reenactments; and newscasts or blogged reporting about a conflict. Some analytical and reflective writing will take place in class; some planning for the project will be done as “homework.”