Commencement May 19

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Explore New Ways of Thinking and Living

FYS 1010: First Year Seminar

In your first year, one of the first courses you will take is the First Year Seminar. This foundational course is offered in the fall term and serves as a gateway to the College's General Education program. It will introduce you to the wider world of learning beyond the professional training of your declared major. One of the main goals of the program is to develop intellectual skills that will be helpful to you throughout your college career and beyond. In particular, the seminar focuses on sharpening your skills in critical thinking and reading. Not every seminar is the same and you'll 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.


FYS Courses

Animating the World of Myth (Honors Section)

Voices of the past speak to us through myths and folklore. These ancient stories, passed down through generations, describe worldviews and offer wisdom for people from every part of the world. This class will explore and compare the traditional stories of cultures from around the world as they are retold by modern storytellers and artists, with an emphasis on foreign-films, animations, paintings, sculptures, and other modes of artistic interpretation. You will respond through analytical writing and creative projects.

Art, Design, and the Environment

Never before have environmental issues been more pressing and creative solutions needed. In this course, you will develop a broad understanding of these environmental issues and their relationship to the social, political, cultural, and economic systems that impact the future of humanity, other species, and our shared planet. You will understand how your own work as an individual, artist, or designer can comment on, interact with, and impact the world. This course will explore artistic responses to environmental sustainability and related social issues. You will develop collaborative and creative individual projects that may take the form of social/relational art practice, video, installation, performance, writing, sound, 2D or 3D form, and electronic media. The course 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, from the physical and biological to the cultural, political, and historical.

Bouncing Back – Why Perspective Matters

Why do some individuals demonstrate resilience and cope with adversity better than others? What personality traits and behaviors help individuals bounce back from adverse events? What does it mean to be resilient? Is mental toughness a skill that can be developed? There are many examples throughout history of people of all ages and backgrounds who overcome immense obstacles in spite of precarious odds. These courageous people demonstrate resilience in desperate situations. In addition, these same individuals often possess a mental toughness that enables them to see past a failure, gain a new perspective, and move forward. They do not allow the adverse event they are experiencing to define them or be detrimental to their existence. Instead they use the experience to become even more resilient and mentally tough. In this course, you will examine the concepts of resilience and mental toughness across the lifespan and in a variety of situations. You will explore these concepts through a diverse selection of books, articles, film clips, and hands-on activities. The focus of this course will be to understand what it means to have resilience and mental toughness and recognize ways these attributes can be developed for personal growth.

Dungeons and Dorms

This how-to college course sets you up for academic success through exploring what we can learn from collaborative storytelling games, from role playing classics like Dungeons and Dragons and goth-favorite Vampire: The Masquerade, to the pre-internet Infocom text adventures of the 80s (think Zork and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), and even solo RPGs like Choose Your Own Adventure stories. You will explore such questions as:
- How do these games shape relationships between players as they create and inhabit diverse identities, solve dilemmas, and build imaginary worlds?
- In what ways do these stories and characters reflect, transmit, reinforce, or resist cultural biases and norms?
- How might we redesign games to create new possibilities for players – and in so doing, expand our own?
Alongside learning about and gaining practical skills in navigating the challenges of college life, we will work in teams to invent, design, and showcase, by the end of the term, our own original tabletop and indie role-playing games.

Election Season

In this seminar, we will track 2024 election news as it unfolds in real time. You'll explore how and why Americans vote the way they do, how shifts in media shape the race for the presidency, and what core philosophies drive our major political parties. A central focus of our time together will be developing and practicing new skills to talk together about hot-button political issues – not through debate, in which the goal is to win, but through discussion driven by curiosity.

Hiking with a Geologist

Do you 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. Through this class, you 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. Also, you'll explore the question: 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, you 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!

Imaginary Cities

What are cities, exactly, and why do they exist? How are cities shaped by human norms, values, beliefs, and biases? And, how do cities in turn shape the way we experience the world, the relationships we form, and the lives we are able to live? In other words, while we create cities, cities also create us. You will begin by learning about the historical and psychological dimensions of urban design. Together, we will set forth to explore Elmira and interpret what we find through perception maps, creative writing, and photo essays. You will then dive into films and short stories about utopian and dystopian cities, and study efforts by intentional communities ecovillages, communes, and coops to create better micro societies. Finally, in teams, you will design own perfect city and present it as a diorama in the medium of your choice: Play-Doh? Legos? Cardboard? Something else? You will also create a compelling advertisement to sell your city to prospective residents.

Lights, Camera, Re-Action!

Do you love viewing films and talking about them with friends? Are you searching for a deeper understanding of the moving image, beyond the popular 10 second TikTok video? If so, this is the class for you! You will view feature films, short films, and television episodes. You will read related critical essays to help analyze and write about the artistic and technical choices made by filmmakers. In addition, you will collaborate to create video podcasts in response to class readings and research, using your own smart phone technology. The focus is to develop an appreciation of film as a powerful art form that can inform and inspire change.

Secret Codes, Hidden Figures, and Modern Movies

Come experience the fun of creating your own secret codes and secret societies while attempting to decode the secret messages of your friends! In this course, you will learn about how human history has been shaped by the making and breaking of codes, as well as other related advances in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Throughout the term, you will watch and discuss modern movies that highlight the people behind groundbreaking discoveries in STEM, both historical and fictional. Watching these movies will lead to important discussions about:
– Whose stories get told through popular film?
– Whose achievements have we traditionally celebrated?
– Who are the hidden figures that we are now beginning to celebrate?
– Why does representation matter?

S.O.A.R. (Student Orientation, Achievement, and Responsibility)

This course is designed to optimize the transition of new students to Elmira College. Focusing on key components of campus life, the instructors utilize engaging activities and insights to highlight the perspectives, skills, and activities that you need to succeed at Elmira College. By focusing on the purpose and benefits that college life provides, you will take part in a discovery process to enhance your experience at Elmira College.

Toward a More Just World

This course explores various ways that social constructs have been and can be appropriated to work towards justice across the social spectrum. From reformations in the criminal justice system to religion’s impact in the Civil Rights Movement, you will 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, you will also understand the methods used by educators, artists, religious leaders, and activists to shift power centers and empower minorities and the underprivileged. You will observe and participate in a local social justice organization by collaborating with leaders from local organizations of your choice to explore and influence the community. The course concludes with reports and presentations on research, observations, and participation in the course projects.

True Crime and Me

This section of FYS considers the social and cultural implications of representations of crime in popular media, including journalism, docu-series, and podcasts. We will draw on methods and frameworks from media and cultural studies to explore questions about the values and ethics implied by, or circulated in, crime media, examine the ways we engage with different kinds of media, and situate ourselves more critically in relation to popular representations of crime.

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