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FIRST-YEAR SEMINAR


Explore New Ways of Thinking and Living


Students walking on campus sidewalk on summer day

FYS 1010: First-Year Seminar

First-Year Seminar is the foundational course in the liberal arts and sciences for entering freshmen.Offered in the fall term, it serves as a gateway to the College's General Education program and introduces students to the wider world of learning beyond the professional training of their declared majors.One of the main goals of the program is to develop intellectual skills that will be helpful to students throughout their college career and beyond.In particular, the seminar focuses on sharpening students' skills in critical thinking and reading. Students have the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of exciting seminar-topics, ranging from the natural sciences and the humanities, to the fine arts and the social sciences.In each case, the professor draws on her or his special expertise and interests to provide a unique learning experience.

** To submit your First-Year Seminar choices, please click here. **

For more information regarding the course professors, click the button below to download and view the full PDF:

First-Year Seminar Full PDF

Living Learning Learning Communities and FYS

Living Learning Communities are small groups of first year students who live in the same residence hall and take two courses together: First-Year Seminar in the fall and Foundations of Academic Writing in the winter. Students are also encouraged to participate in events together, such as attending Eagle Engagement Series events and completing their First Year, First Service event together. Joining a learning community is an optional opportunity that allows students to form close bonds with classmates, develop study skills together, and connect with the Elmira community in a more intimate way.

This course will begin by introducing students to everyday practices that can limit their carbon footprint. We will learn about slow fashion, slow food, and no-shopping pacts. Together we will try out some small, rewarding shifts in daily routines that can benefit the environment and connect us to the natural world.

However, reusable water bottles and a thrifted wardrobe are, of course, not the only available mechanisms for halting climate change, so our next focus will be the policies and economic structures that fundamentally determine the future path of environmental sustainability. We will study the complicated relationship between capitalism and the environment. We'll look for ways to balance 1) attention to our personal contributions to a sustainable future with 2) attention to systemic changes.

Students should expect to do a considerable amount of hands-on learning through field trips, meetings with local environmental advocates, and the design of a new community garden.

Many of us ask: What can I do to make the world a more equitable place? At the heart of this question is the barrier that prevents the world from being equal: injustice. Making the world more just seems like a daunting task. Yet history teaches us that it is possible and the tools have been laid out before us. How many of our real-world heroes have given power to the powerless, voices to the voiceless, hope to the downtrodden, and opportunities for advancement inspires all of us to make the world a better place.

From reformations in the criminal justice system to religion's impact in the Civil Rights Movement, in this course students investigate historical policies of institutional discrimination and the social disparities of a modern, pluralistic world. Incorporating both factual and fictional narratives into the scope of reading for the course, students will also understand the methods used by educators, artists, religious leaders, and activists to shift power centers and empower minorities and the underprivileged. Students will observe and participate in a local social justice organization by collaborating with leaders from local organizations of their choice to explore and influence the community. The course concludes with students' reports and presentations on their research, observations, and participation in the course projects.


FYS Courses

Throughout history the interaction of western civilization and science has been complicated. Advances in our ability to do science starting in the early 17th century - and exponentially increased in the centuries following have had strong influences on the development of western societies. As we apply this new knowledge of the world brought to us through scientific investigation, individuals and groups have pushed back against these changes and against the process of scientific discovery. In this course you will critically examine the interaction of science and society shortly before the publication of Darwin's "The Origin of Species" and explore how that book has both improved our understanding of the world and resulted in people rejecting a scientific understanding of the world. We will explore these ideas by reading and discussing books that cover the development or impact of important scientific advances before, during, and after Darwin's publication as well as readings that will allow us to critically explore the reaction of society to our ever-expanding knowledge and its application.

In this course students will examine groups and individuals who expanded boundaries, pushed the envelope, forged new ways of thinking and creating in the world of art, music, and other areas of personal expression. Students will investigate controversial movements from various eras and explore the historical context of each. Major themes such as originality and authenticity, equality, and social justice will be explored and discussed. Through a careful examination of movements and figures in visual and performing art as well as popular culture students will discover and examine what it means to create and think in authentic and new ways despite the expectations of institutions and social norms.

Never before have ecological issues been more pressing and creative solutions needed. In this course, students develop a broad understanding of those ecological issues and their relationship to the social, political, cultural, and economic systems that impact the future of humanity, other species, and our shared planet. Students will understand how their own work as an individual, an artist or a designer can comment on, interact with, and impact the world. In this course, we will explore artistic responses to environmental sustainability and related social issues. Students develop collaborative and creative individual projects that may take the form of social/relational art practice, video, installation, performance, writing, sound, 2- or 3D forms, and electronic media. We will focus on artists, designers and architects that work across disciplines and within communities to focus attention on the web of interrelationships in our environment — to the physical, biological, cultural, political and historical aspects of ecological systems.
This course critically examines the ideological work that cultural representations of monsters do for us. It explores the monster as a distorted reflection of what society fears, excludes, or marginalizes, drawing connections between monsters and those whom society demonizes or dehumanizes. The course looks at classic and contemporary depictions of monsters, in several kinds of media, to explore the psychology and ethics of thinking in terms of monsters, both in fiction and in the real world. It focuses particularly on how monsters can reflect attitudes toward race, ethnicity, nationality, class, gender, and sexuality, and it seeks to promote the critical analysis and self-reflection needed for college and our diverse world.

Love a hike in the woods? Over the years, humans have profoundly stated our love for being outside and enjoying the wilderness that surrounds us. We will read some of these accounts from Henry David Thoreau to Anne LaBastille and Annie Dillard, to experience the romantic, environmental, and meditative aspects of nature as we walk about in it. But also, how did the woods and mountains get here in the first place? Humans often overlook the geologic controls of our natural environment. Geology creates the physical landscape we exist on but also subtly molds Earth's water and climate, influencing the distribution of plants and animals. In this course, we will walk and explore the Southern Tier of New York as we meld a soulful wilderness experience with the science of how and why that wilderness exists. Fortunately, we are surrounded by beautiful wilderness and geology. Elmira is situated on the Allegheny Plateau, bordered by the beautiful, glacially carved Finger Lakes to the north, the Pennsylvania Fold Belt to the south, and the Appalachian Mountains to the East. Come outside to explore with us!

"Design" is a way that human beings can find and create order out of chaos. Definitions of "Just" include the idea of being morally right or fair. Students enrolling in "Just Design" will examine conflicts created as a result of discrimination by race, gender, religion, and cultural identity as described in both literature and the arts. Students will be expected to participate in creative design projects (drawing, collage, graphic arts, video, photography, music, poetry, dance, etc.) that will accompany their essays. This course provides a nurturing space for developing personal expression in the visual and performing arts while questioning power structures that determine the lives of people throughout the world. Selections of coursework will be chosen for exhibition in the Gannett-Tripp Library.

In this course, we will study what living is, beyond the scope of science, medicine, nursing and allied health care practice. Students will gain broad comprehension of "what living is" through literature, media, social sciences and art with the goal of developing liberal manners of observation and analysis beyond empiricism. We will explore a wide continuum of work (by scholars, writers, practitioners, patients, and caregivers) that represents diverse perspectives on wellness and illness. When read carefully these works clarify and complicate what it means to be human, in particular relation to suffering, personhood, our responsibility to each other, empathy, compassion, self-reflection, and advocacy.
How important are ethics in your personal life? What about in business? What is the best business strategy? How can we manage our personal finances, and business finances? How do all these topics overlap?

In Mindful Money, we will address these questions and more. We will have readings and discussions on ethical issues, and think about how to apply the lessons in our lives. We will also engage basic questions in finance, and think about how to apply good practices in our personal finances as well as in business.

The first module of the term will be dedicated to understanding the framework for civil discourse, and how to engage with diverse opinions and viewpoints. We will talk about the First Amendment, specifically how it sets the stage for free speech in our country; and we will explore reasons why free speech is valuable, limits to free speech, and attacks on free speech. The goal of this first module is to develop the understanding and tools to have productive, civil discussions with people who might disagree with us. These are tools that will be useful throughout our personal and professional lives.

HONORS STUDENTS ONLY: During a series of congressional hearings in 2020, former engineers and executives from social media companies like Facebook and Twitter testified that "we are pushing ourselves to the brink of civil war." The anxiety about potential catastrophes pursuant from social media networks is widespread, broadly bipartisan, and manifests in popular documentaries like Jeff Orlawski's The Social Dilemma (2020), bestselling books like Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror (2019), powerful lobbying firms like the Open Markets Institute, and dystopian fiction like Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror (2011-2019) and Dave Eggers's The Circle (2013). This anxiety also has many precedents. Similar angst was generated when 10,000 newspapers were launched in a single decade, when radio broadcasts reached across oceans and mountain ranges, when cinemas delivered images of faraway atrocities, and when the worldwide web promised to bring an uninterrupted stream of kitten pics into every home. In this class, we will discuss the social, political, and economic problems - both real and imagine - associated with rapidly changing media environments through our analysis of a diverse array of cultural products. The fear of technological change is real and, to a degree, it is justified, but it is not unprecedented, and we can better understand and assuage present anxieties if we are attentive to past analogues.

Should teenagers learn about sex from their teachers or is this a job for the parent? What information about sex is necessary to know? Why should public dollars pay for conversations about sex? Is sex about reproduction, disease, or pleasure? What story does our curriculum tell?

Our Bodies, Ourselves examines the field of sex education from pedagogical, historical and sociological perspectives. The course provides students with a history of how and why sex is discussed in schools and society, offering a look at the competing views of appropriate sexual education. By examining K-12 sex education curriculum, young adult literature about sex and sexuality, and internet sources, we will reflect on how policy decisions about sex education reinforce social inequalities.