Becton College presents ‘Star Wars’ theme for fall semester

The Milky Way galaxy. (Photo by NASA)

By Athena Zinn

A long time ago on a campus far, far away, professors dreamt up an exciting line-up of events, inspired by one of the world’s most popular movie series, for students at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham Campus.

With support from Campus Executive Brian Mauro and the John and Joan Monninger Center for Learning and Research, Becton College is sponsoring a “Star Wars Fall 2018 Theme Semester” featuring eight events that will take place through the beginning of December. These events include discussion panels, movie screenings, student projects and contests.

“There are a lot of interesting ways in which ‘Star Wars’ affects other things that are important in what we do at a liberal arts college,” says John Schiemann, professor of government and law. “And it would just be fun to do.”

The events will equate themes in “Star Wars” to several of the departments and majors offered in Becton College. Different professors will lead each event.

“If you think about the ethics of what it means to defend an order, defend a political regime and when is it appropriate to resist, then that could be interesting,” says Schiemann. “If you’re interested in physics: Is it possible that there could be something called ‘the force?’”

For students interested in the psychology of “Star Wars” characters, the closing ceremonies will feature an art display on personality disorders and a talk by Anthony Tasso, associate professor of psychology.

Schiemann explained the goal of a theme semester as including three overarching elements: a connection to the classroom and academics, student engagement and events outside the classroom.

An opening ceremony kicked off the semester on Monday, Sept. 17. Next up are screenings of four “Star Wars” films including “The Phantom Menace,” “A New Hope,” “The Last Jedi” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” Each of these movie nights will open with a short discussion on topics ranging from the musical score of the film to the physics behind ‘the force.’ Other featured events include a “Star Wars” trivia contest with Associate Professor of Communication Chris Caldiero and Hot Topics panel discussion: “Is Luke Skywalker a Terrorist?” moderated by Schiemann.

“I’m going to throw out some provocative ideas to our panelists and to the audience. Our panelists get the first crack to respond, and then we will open it up for discussion, and hopefully have a debate,” says Schiemann. “It’s lighthearted in the sense that this is ‘Star Wars’ and is a fictional story, but we’ll be looking at some serious questions: ‘What is a terrorist? What does it mean to be a rebel?’”

The closing ceremonies will also feature a poster contest, anime projects of 3D models of “Star Wars” figures, a fanfiction writing contest and a costume contest. Throughout the semester, students can play bingo and enter a contest to win prizes by completing various tasks on the bingo board.

“In some ways what I want [students] to take away is that they got a little stress relief and had a good time,” says Schiemann. “I hope they take away that the different kinds of perspectives that they get in those classes [in Becton College] are useful for understanding the different aspects of the world, and those aspects are reflected in a movie like ‘Star Wars.’”

For more information on the schedule or for questions about any of the events, contact Schiemann at

Full schedule of events:

Monday, Sept. 24: Schiemann on “Bushido and the Jedi” followed by a screening of “The Phantom Menace” in the Orangerie from 6-9 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 1: Star Wars Trivia Contest hosted by Caldiero in the Orangerie from 6-8 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 8: “The Music of Star Wars” hosted by Professor of Music Allen Cohen, followed by a screening of “A New Hope” in the Orangerie from 6-9 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 22: Hot Topics, “Is Luke Skywalker a Terrorist?” moderated by Schiemann in Lenfell Hall from 6-7:30 p.m. Panelists: Assistant Professor of Geography Richard Nisa, Professor of Anthropology David Rosen and student Michael Stile.

Monday, Nov. 5: “The Force as Quantum Displacement” hosted by Assistant Professor of Physics Brian Knorr, followed by a screening of “The Last Jedi” in the Orangerie from 6 -9 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 19: “Choking On Your Aspirations” with JR Pinto, lecturer of college writing, followed by a screening of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” in the Orangerie from 6-9 p.m.

Monday, Dec.  3: Closing Ceremony: FDU “Star Wars” convention with Tasso and Associate Professor of Computer Graphics Janet O’Neil featuring “Star Wars Personality Disorders” in the Orangerie from 6-9 p.m.

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