Please study the following course descriptions and submit your top six choices using the first-year preference form, which also contains answers to frequently asked questions. For further information or assistance in making your course selection, you may also contact the Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising

First-year Seminar Titles

  • Diversity: An Evolutionary Perspective
  • College Success: Drugs, Neurons, and Your Brain
  • The Beauty and Joy of Computing
  • Data Visualization
  • The Life of Bees: An Interdisciplinary Perspective
  • Can We Be Kind to Strangers?
  • Investigations in Geology: Geology and Your Everyday Consumer Choices
  • Gender, Power and Identity:  An Introduction to Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies
  • Women in America, 1600-1870
  • Counting to Infinity in Eighteen Days
  • First Year Seminar in Music
  • Ethics and Climate Change
  • The Morals of Our Stories
  • Psychological Insights: Environmental Problems
  • Introduction to Religion
  • The Galaxy Next Door: The Global South in Literature and Film
  • Sociological Thinking: Studying Sociology Through Consumption
  • Fundamentals of Theatre Design

First-year Seminar Descriptions

BIO 109 Diversity: An Evolutionary Perspective
What is diversity and why should you care? This course is designed to encourage students to read, discuss, and think about diversity—from a biological perspective. We will examine the diversity of life and life histories. Students will learn about diverse patterns of reproduction (sexual and asexual), gender, and interactions among predators, prey, and parasites within biological communities -- including human populations. We will compare patterns from an evolutionary perspective and discuss implications. (Professor Condon)

CHE 108 College Success: Drugs, Neurons, and Your Brain
This course combines basic knowledge of Chemistry, Psychology, and Neuroscience, learning and development theories, campus resources, and self-reflection to explore what it takes to succeed in college.  Students will examine the role neurotransmitters and other chemicals play in brain function and how they impact learning and development.  Students will practice skills and habits associated with successful college students.  This course will also explore the importance of a scientific foundation in preparing for lifelong learning and civic engagement.  Students will develop goals for their college and post-college careers and explore chemical and psychological aspects of their behavior and personal identities.  Students will then develop an individual plan for studying, making effective use of class time, utilizing faculty office hours, and maximizing their relationship with their academic advisor.  Additionally, students will explore campus resources and opportunities enabling them to achieve their goals.  Intended for non-science majors; no previous chemistry course required.  (Professor Shanata)

CSC 131 The Beauty and Joy of Computing

Computing has changed the world in profound ways. It has opened up wonderful new ways for people to connect, design, research, play, create, and express themselves. This course will focus on some of the "Big Ideas" of computing that have changed the world and consider where it will go in the future. We will discuss the challenges and implications of computer technology, including the responsibilities of those who design and use computer systems. Students will learn a bit about computer programming and a lot about writing at the college level. The lab portion of the course will introduce students to computer programming using App Inventor, a friendly programming language for building Android applications. Students will engage in several different types of academic writing and will conduct their own research projects. (Professor Sowell)

ECB 121 Data Visualization
Businesses amass data at staggering rates. As a result, they aim to convert information into valuable insight. Data visualization is the most popular technique for generating insights. This course introduces methods for representing data for better comprehension and communication.  It introduces students to visual perception and visual design principles. We will train our eyes to distinguish between effective and ineffective representations. Working specifically with business and economic data, students will locate central tendencies, patterns of dispersions, and anomalies. We also explore a range of graph media contrasting the fit among media, data type and message. Students will also be introduced to techniques for visualizing concepts or analytical graphing. Student projects will involve designing information dashboards. (Professor Hejeebu)

ENG 102 The Life of Bees: an Interdisciplinary Perspective
This course will introduce students to bees and beekeeping through the academic lenses of film studies, food studies, and ecology. Bees are responsible for pollinating roughly 1/3 of human foods, and the rise of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has raised awareness about their essential importance to the present-day food economy. The class will consider the ways that bees, and this crisis, have been represented in literature and film, will investigate the causes of this crisis, and will propose collective action toward conservation. The course will include field trips, guest speakers, and a collaboratively cooked meal, in addition to assigned written work. (Professor Mouton)

ENG 105: Can We Be Kind to Strangers?
Can we be kind to Strangers? This deceptively simple question implies an equally simple answer: Yes, of course we can--and we should. Religious texts, folklore, and philosophy from around the world and from different time periods all encourage us to show kindness to strangers. But we seldom need stories that exhort us to do what we are already doing; thus the stories also remind and encourage us to be kind to strangers, even when we might rather pass by.Thus the question--can we be kind to strangers--gives rise not to a simple answer but to challenging secondary questions. First, Is it in fact possible to be kind to strangers? Is there a biological basis for helping others? Is kindness to strangers altruistic or self-interested reciprocity? Next, in today's global, internet-connected world, what do we mean by stranger? Finally, should we be kind to strangers? what are the consequences and implications for the recipient and for the giver?  The course will begin with a foundation in the religious and philosophical foundation for kindness to strangers and will then be organized around different responses: religious, scientific, and social; individual, societal, and global. (Professor Reed)

GEO 114 Investigations in Geology: Geology and Your Everyday Consumer Choices 
Geology is the study of Earth materials and Earth processes. While most of us don’t think about the Earth everyday, we make consumer choices everyday that affect the Earth. Raw materials (rocks, minerals, water) are mined to create consumer products; energy for production and transportation stems chiefly from fossil fuels; and used products are thrown into dumps (pits in the Earth). At each stage in their life cycle, consumer goods impact the environment, often negatively. In this hands-on course, we will explore the geological processes and environmental implications of consumption. We will also meet and work with students in the first-year sociology class to examine the intersections between the social and physical world and to gain insight into the social implications of consumption. (Professor Walsh)

GSS 171: Gender, Power and Identity:  An Introduction to Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies
This interdisciplinary core course in the program analyzes how notions of race, gender, sexuality, class, nation, physical ability and other aspects of social location materially influence people’s lives. To conduct our analysis, we will consider various strands of feminism, divergent positions among queer theorists, and arguments drawn from other identity based fields (e.g. ethnic studies, American studies, post-colonial studies) in order to survey and compare several perspectives on gender, race, sexuality, race and class.

 Placing gender and sexuality at the center of analysis, we will address some of the basic concepts in Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies. We will also explore questions regarding incorporating other social categories such as race, ethnicity, class and nationality. Throughout the course we will complete readings, watch films, and engage in exercises to explore the past, present and potential future understandings about gender and sexuality, paying close attention to political, cultural, and economic contexts. (Professor Thomas)

HIS 120 Women in America, 1600-1870
This seminar is an introduction to women’s history from colonial times through the Civil War.  We will examine a number of different topics such as the status of women in different colonies, the effect of the American Revolution, slave women, the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, and the evolution of the women’s rights movement.  Readings will include biographies, slave narratives, and some of the most important historical scholarship.  One of the goals of the course is the improvement of writing skills, thus there will be frequent writing assignments.  (Professor Lucas)

MAT 109 Counting to Infinity in Eighteen Days
The idea of infinity has fascinated humanity since the beginning of time.  Small children want to know what the largest number is and are amazed that there is no largest number.  In popular culture, Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story” is associated with the phrase “To infinity … and beyond!”  But what is beyond infinity?  For that matter, what exactly is infinity?  This course will investigate the mathematics of infinity as well as mathematics and mathematicians in the context of their time and culture.   Students will have the opportunity to creatively investigate aspects of infinity that interest them. The mathematics covered is accessible, exciting and mathematically significant. (Professor Freeman)

MUS 109 First Year Seminar in Music
The topic of "Opera and Film" has become one of the “hot” areas of scholarship in the past fifteen or so years. Both opera and film use a conglomeration of other constituent arts to create what Richard Wagner called a Gesamtkunstwerk or total artwork. (In fact, many of the first efforts in film were derived from opera and more specifically, Wagner.) My intention with this course is to explore the intersections between opera and film, using theories and practices of both genres, as well as numerous specific examples of the interplay between them. (Professor Martin)

PHI 109 Ethics and Climate Change
The threat of climate change raises urgent questions about what we ought to do—i.e., questions about morality.  We will spend some time considering climate science and questions raised by controversy about that science.  What should we believe about the claim that human activity is threatening the climatic stability of our planet given apparent disagreement about the truth of that hypothesis?  We will also spend time considering the moral challenges the risk of climate change generates:  what is the nature of our obligations to prevent harm to people distant in space and in time; what responsibilities do nations of the industrialized world have to respond to threats generated by climate change; what does it make sense for such nations to do given the uncertainty of some outcomes of climate change; what should we, as individual citizens of such nations, be doing?  We will read material of all sorts about these questions—we’ll look at scientific reports, economic analyses, and philosophical/ethical arguments, for example—and talk and write about what we make of the issues. (Professor White)

PHI XXX The Morals of Our Stories
This course will examine ethical theories and notions embedded in the discourse of storytelling. Moral lessons and norms are conveyed in the pages as the tale unfolds and the characters develop. Through the use of fable, fiction and film, the ethical principles of major philosophical systems will be discerned and analyzed. As a first year seminar, emphasis will be placed on academic expectations, coursework integrity, and vital critical reasoning skills in writing and discussion. (Professor Migely)

PSY 243 Psychological Insights: Environmental Problems
Human behavior is at the root of almost all environmental problems: We drive gas guzzling cars (contributing to both global warming and depletion of natural resources), produce tons of refuse, deplete water resources (build golf courses in the desert). This course explores facets of psychology that can help explain why we act as we do and how we might change behavior toward greater sustainability. We review some basic psychological principles as they apply to the environment: What are the thinking processes that lead some people to accept and others to reject concepts like global warming? How do people develop their basic value systems, and how do things like emotions and culture impact this? Even when people want to change their behaviors, what are the barriers that make change difficult? Course includes an analysis and application of these principles to a local issue. (Professor Ganzel)

REL 101 Introduction to Religion
Our course will provide a comprehensive introduction to the study of religion and the humanities in an academic setting. We will examine the relationship between thought and experience, the meaning of the sacred in space and time, and the function of myth and ritual as means to understand the commonalities and differences in and among human individuals and cultures. (Professor Sacks)

SPA 109 The Galaxy Next Door: The Global South in Literature and Film
This class will explore the concept of the “Global South” through literature, film, and political and economic analysis. After the Cold War, scholars began referring to a distinction between the Global North and the Global South in order to replace the outdated categories of First, Second, and Third World countries. While being an improvement upon the previous categories, this division tends to overlook the existence of vast pockets of underdevelopment in the North (the US and Europe), as well as concentrations of wealth in the South in our current era of globalization. We will focus our discussions mainly on connections between the US and Latin America while concentrating on the intersections of immigration, poverty, and constructions of race and gender. Some of the authors we will read are William Faulkner, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Junot Diaz, Jamaica Kincaid, and Juan Rulfo. (Professor Mosier)

SOC 102 Sociological Thinking: Studying Sociology Through Consumption
Life, as we know it, is dependent on the everyday consumption of goods and services; however, our consumptive practices can also have negative social and environmental consequences. Sociology allows us to examine the changing meanings, practices, and social implications of consumption. In this course we will explore the social context surrounding these processes and examine the ways that social forces influence our individual ideas, behaviors, relationships, and place within the social world as well as the ways that we, in turn, impact the world around us. In addition we will meet and work with students in the first-year geology class in order to examine the connections between the social and physical world and to gain scientific insight into the physical processes and environmental implications of consumption. (Professor Davis)

THE 160 Fundamentals of Theatre Design
Exploration of the role and process of design as it relates to theatrical production. Students complete practical exercises in scenic, costume, lighting, and sound design, and learn to critically analyze and respond to design work with the elements of design vocabulary. (Professor Olinger)