Skip to main navigation bar Skip to main content

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

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.
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 we will examine the concepts of resilience and mental toughness across the lifespan and in a variety of situations. We 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.
What do you want to get out of college? What does it mean to be an educated person? How do you know if you are "successful" at college? This class looks at the purpose of college, what education means, and how college works. We will debate whether college should be a "wall" to separate the educated elite from everyone else, or whether college should be a "door" to give anyone a chance to improve. Our material will include memoirs about education, essays arguing the supposed true purpose of education, and research about the college experience. We will also put a critical eye towards the messages that films and social media send about college. Race, gender, and in particular social class will be themes of this seminar. First generation college students may be particularly interested.
This course examines the interconnected relationships between art, design, popular culture and various forms of entertainment from 1980 to present. Topics include: visual and performance art, design, sports, entertainment, music, science, technology, gender, racism, consumerism, religion, consumer and producer. Students will be expected to participate in creative projects. Students will study the interplay of art and design, and popular culture within three interrelated quests: the quest to understand how the world works (ideas about the environment and nature), the quest to understand individual human behavior (ideas about justice, spirituality, gender, free will, and motivation), and the quest to understand human social behavior (ideas about social and political organizations), to understand ideas of visual art. This seminar focuses on sharpening students' skills in critical thinking, reading and communicating.
This is a course about voyagers, travelers, immigrants, and refugees. People leave their homes for many reasons: the promise of education, love, adventure, money, natural disaster, dispossession, war. We'll investigate the questions travelers of all kinds carry with them: What will I take with me? What can I live without? What parts of my story are my own, and which parts do I share with others? What does it mean to inhabit two worlds simultaneously? Can a person actually become a bridge? Can you ever go home again?

We'll read memoirs, histories, and children's literature while also learning about the contexts in which they were written. We'll consider stories of being the first to cross into a new world and stories of being the last to inhabit an old world. We'll discuss modern-day political situations that have left some people in two worlds at once, such as DACA, the Rwandan diaspora, and the Palestinian- Israeli conflict. Some of these "worlds" will be very literal, as with Gudrid, a Viking explorer who sailed across actual seas. Others will be more figurative, as with firstgeneration college students or scientists whose inventions shift paradigms and propel them into new realities.
This course will examine the lives and experiences of people throughout history who we might today see as members of the LGBTQ community. Is it reasonable to even call someone from the 17th century "gay" or "transgender"? What would life have been like for those people? What was it like to be a gay or transgender person in 1970? What actions and identities were accepted, or not, in various civilizations throughout history? How did people come to start identifying as LGBTQ, and how is that continuing to change? Particular focus will be on the early gay rights era in the US, but it will include an examination of much earlier time periods and other locations as well. Students will practice critical reading of both fiction and non-fiction texts, engage in group discussions, write short essays, and give an oral presentation on a research topic.
This course examines the 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 projects (mash-up collage, graphic novel, video, photography, music, poetry, dance, etc.) that will accompany their essays. Selections of coursework will be chosen to form a collaborative class book.
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.
This course examines how modern short stories reflect and comment on major issues in the modern world. Students will learn how writers frame these issues, often against the grain of mainstream society, and they will debate their veracity, as they critically examine their own understanding of the issues. In the process, students will also learn how the craft of writing contributes to how we interpret the meaning and significance of stories. Topics will range across modern life, including gender, race, ethnicity, class, work, religion, politics, family, marriage, love and sexuality.
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.
Religious fiction addresses historical and contemporary social problems that give rise to moral reasoning, spiritual reflection, and religious transformation. From mysteries surrounding popular religious narratives to cultural and religious revolutions, this course leads students through diverse literary approaches to personal and social concerns by appropriating religion in imaginative ways. It also highlights the role religion can play in giving hope to believers in times of oppression and desolation on one hand, and how religions can contribute to those issues on the other. In this course we follow a diverse approach to religious conceptions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Paganism through the themes of gender, modernity, mythology, pluralism, race, religion, secularization, and utopia.
At the center of this course is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's dark comic satire of the superhero narrative, first published in 1986, then adapted into a 2002 blockbuster movie, and, most recently, an HBO series written and produced by Damon Lindelof. For this class, students will read, watch, analyze, and discuss both the original Watchmen and its adaptations, as well as supplementary materials which reveal its historical, philosophical, and political contexts. Why does the HBO series begin with the Black Wall Street riots of 1921? Why do central characters take on names like Rohrsach and Moloch? Why do the creators put such emphasis on time and symmetry? What do allusions to US political figures like Richard Nixon imply? We'll practice critical reading with attention to thematic and formal elements in both print and visual texts, while also considering the creative challenges involved in the process of adapting an existing narrative for new mediums and new audiences.