Please study the following course descriptions and choose your First-Year Seminar course. This will be your Block 1 class. 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

  • Truth and Lies: Anthropology, truth telling, fake news, and academic success
  • College Success: Drugs, Neurons, and Your Brain
  • The Beauty and Joy of Computing
  • Educational Psychology
  • Introduction to Film Studies
  • 20th Century French Culture through Literature and Film
  • Travel Tales
  • Foundations of Kinesiology
  • First Year Seminar in Music
  • The Morals of Our Stories
  • Energy & Society
  • International Politics
  • Psychological Insights: Environmental Problems
  • Introduction to Religion
  • Ghost Stories: Recounting Trauma
  • Fundamentals of Theatre Design

First-year Seminar Descriptions

ANT 1XX Truth and Lies: Anthropology, truth telling, fake news, and academic success
Observers on all sides of the political spectrum have expressed concern over the proliferation of fake news in 2016. All kinds of people have fallen for and even helped promote fake news stories on Facebook and other social media sites. Many observers point out that these fake and misleading news sites are increasingly sophisticated, generating web pages and stories that many find difficult to spot.

For college students, this is a particularly important skill to master. Discerning whether information is believable, evaluating the credibility of sources, understanding the trickiness of Photoshop and correctly identifying bias are essential tools for academic success. In this FYS course, we will learn about the history of journalism, the psychology of fakery, and how cultures around the world approach the practices of truth telling and lying. Course materials will include comic and satirical "news" as well as intentionally distorted or biased reporting and ethnographic writing about dissembling in different social contexts. (Professor Quill)

CHE 108 College Success: Drugs, Neurons, and Your Brain
This course combines basic knowledge of Cognitive Psychology, Chemistry, Neuroscience, campus resources, and self-reflection to explore what it takes to succeed in college.  Students will be introduced to current research in Cognitive Psychology and implications for enhancing their own durable learning.  Students will then examine the role that neurotransmitters and protein receptors play in brain function and how they impact learning.  Throughout the course, students will practice the varied skills and habits associated with successful college students while developing an understanding of the transferable skills that employers value most.  This course will also explore the importance of a scientific foundation in preparing for lifelong learning and civic engagement.  Students will define college success for themselves then develop goals for their college and post-college careers while exploring 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, pursuing experiential learning, maximizing their relationship with their academic advisor, and more.  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 connect with the many academic resources available for Cornell students.  (Professor DeLaubenfels)

EDU 215 Educational Psychology
Teaching does not cause learning!  Learning, thinking and understanding are alive, dynamic and organic processes that can be nurtured and cultivated, but not controlled, measured, forced, or caused!  In this course, the emphasis is on connecting the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of children and adolescents and experience the theoretical constructs that support lively and meaningful learning experiences for K-12 learners. (Professor Bostwick)

ENG 202 Introduction to Film Studies
An introduction to film as an art form, cultural practice, and institution. The class focuses on questions of film form and style (narrative, editing, sound, framing, mise-en-scène) and introduces students to concepts in film history and theory (e.g. national cinemas, periods and movements, institution, authorship, spectatorship, ideology, style, genre). Students develop a basic critical vocabulary and research practices for examining film. They apply their skills in oral and written analysis and interpretation to a wide range of films: old and new, local and global, mainstream and less familiar. (Professor Mouton)

FRE 165 20th Century French Culture through Literature and Film
Believe it or not, there’s much more to France than baguettes, berets, and the Eiffel Tower.  It’s a country that has spread its language to nearly every continent; that has produced internationally renowned scientists, artists, and philosophers; and whose citizens were key to the development of both the bicycle and the European Union.  During the twentieth century, France lost many of its colonies; went through three different constitutions and Republics; and hosted and won the 1998 FIFA World Cup with a team that supposedly represented a new, diverse France.  Through various fictional and non-fiction texts and films--as well as other media--this course will introduce you to selected topics in twentieth-century French culture.  These topics may include sports, immigration, existentialism, and/or négritude, among others.  Together, we will read, write, think about, and discuss what it has meant to be French over the last century or so, how these definitions have shifted over time, and what sorts of events and movements have shaped these ideas about identities and cultures. (Professor Wines)

HIS 120 Travel Tales
Medieval readers thrilled to stories of travel to exotic lands, full of monsters, strange customs, and unfamiliar people. Early European explorers to Africa and the Americas read and told similar stories. In this course, we'll read Marco Polo, John Mandeville, Christopher Columbus, and other travel accounts from the Middle Ages and the Age of Exploration, some real-life and some fictional. How did these stories influence readers' ideas about the world around them? What did travelers consider exotic, and how did they explain unfamiliar cultures to their readers? (Professor Herder)

KIN 111 Foundations of Kinesiology
Building an Olympian! Olympians are not simply born; it takes years of dedicated training to achieve Olympian status. There is much more to this than meets the eye. Elite physical performance is more than simply muscles and bones. Training the body as well as the mind is vital to peak performance, while at the same time providing an environment that is conducive to the success of all athletes. Kinesiology is the study of this and much more. This course provides an overview of kinesiology, both as a profession as well as an academic pursuit. In this course students will learn about the history of kinesiology from its origins in the ancient world to today. Students will explore kinesiology’s related sub-disciplines and consider related scientific, philosophical, and educational issues. (Professor Hallam)

 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 105 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)

PHY 116 Energy & Society
Our modern society depends critically on the conversion of stored energy sources, like coal, oil, and natural gas, into useful forms of energy such as electricity, transportation, and heat. This course will explore the societal impacts of this energy use on human health, the environment, and the economy. We will also explore energy production and consumption patterns around the world. Students will engage in critical reading, discussion, and several different types of academic writing. (Professor Beauchamp)

POL 142 International Politics
Can we save the world from war? Is lasting world peace possible? Diplomatic strategies and blunders have led to wars that have killed millions: Germany’s “blank check” before World War I, Britain’s “peace for our time” before World War II. We will discuss why diplomacy fails and why it succeeds, why states make peace and why they make war, and how recent changes in the world – new technologies, new economic and social interconnectedness, new international organizations – affect and may affect yet more the fundamentals of international politics: state sovereignty and the system of states. We will especially focus on the diplomacy preceding the start of the First World War and the United Nations' recent efforts to bring peace to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbors, where millions of people have died during the past twenty years with scant attention from outsiders. (Professor Yamanishi)

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 Ghost Stories: Recounting Trauma
What does it mean to “move on” from a traumatic experience?  Can one ever really accomplish this?  Do the ghosts of the past ever really leave us?  Furthermore, as to our recollections: Is the memory of such an event trustworthy?  Moreover, what if the trauma is shared?  What are the implications of a scarred national or ethnic past?  What are possible coping mechanisms that can be employed?  In this course, we will delve into an examination of these lines of thought which scrutinize the intersections between memory, history, and wounds—both personal and collective--through several works of fiction and film produced in response to such situations in a variety of socio-political-historical-geographical contexts. (Professor Selmer)

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)