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

  • Italian Renaissance Art (ART 256 )
  • Promise of the Prairie: The Ecological Universe of Where We Are (BIO 108)
  • Chemistry of Global Health Issues (CHE 108)
  • The Beauty and Joy of Computing (CSC 131)
  • Data Visualization (ECB 121)
  • History of Education (EDU 205)
  • 20th Century French Culture through Literature and Film (FRE 165 )
  • Travel and the Exotic in the Premodern world (HIS 259)
  • Cell-Phones, Coffee, and Clothing: Critiquing Consumption (INT 160)
  • Foundations of Kinesiology (KIN 111)
  • First Year Seminar in Music (MUS 109)
  • Introduction to Philosophy (PHI 111 )
  • Topics: Electronics for Everyone (PHY 155)
  • International Politics (POL 242)
  • Psychological Insights: Environmental Problems (PSY 243)
  • Religions of the World (REL 222)
  • Topics: All About Spain: Turning Points in Contemporary Spanish History and Culture Through Film  (SPA 109)
  • Fundamentals of Theater Design (THE 160)

First-year Seminar Descriptions

Italian Renaissance Art (ART 256)
Christina Penn-Goetsch, Professor of Art History

The Renaissance is associated with the rise of the individual in the West and the revival of the ancient Greco-Roman world.  Yet the former concept is more central to our understanding of Italian Renaissance art as where the concept of the modern artist began with Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists and such figures as Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo.  Although these artists may now be better known as Mutant Ninja Turtles or tied to conspiracy theories as in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, their stories are much richer and more complex than suggested in popular comics and films.  This course will address primary historical documents, secondary literature, and contemporary fiction in order to examine the lives of a few famous figures from this period that helped form our understanding of the role of an artist.

Promise of the Prairie: The Ecological Universe of Where We Are (BIO 108)
Tammy Mildenstein, Assistant Professor of Biology

What are the most common grass-eating animals on the planet? (a) cows (b) pigs or (c) goats? The surprising answer is none of the above, because it is (d) you! That bagel, spaghetti, nasi goreng or gai fan dish you ate comes from grass. In fact, almost 50% of the calories humankind eats comes from the same plant family as what is on our campus lawns. And we have been this way for some 13,000 years, since the advent of agriculture. Cornell College, situated in the largest bread basket of the world, is the perfect place to explore the relationship humankind has to grasses and the fascinating history, ecology, and future of prairie environments. In this class, we will visit stunning prairies across Iowa to see first-hand what the first humans saw when they set their eyes on the vast prairies of North America; observe prairie ecology in action, discuss its common and threatened species; visit farming operations to discuss their ecological and economic impact; and explore the future of grassland biodiversity and grassland farming. By the end of the class, students will have a deeper and richer understanding of where they are and where they will be for the next four years. Students will be familiar with how the biological and human world immediately around them works, and how students can contribute to a more sustainable prairie grassland future. 

Chemistry of Global Health Issues (CHE 108)
Cynthia Strong, Professor of Chemistry

Unsafe drinking water, malnutrition, infectious diseases, industrial pollution - these are all serious global health concerns. What is the chemistry behind these problems? How can an understanding of chemistry help us evaluate possible solutions? This course will begin with a basic introduction to chemistry and move into an examination of the chemistry behind global health challenges such as the provision of clean drinking water, the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, and the production of food to feed the world. Intended for non-science majors: no previous experience in chemistry required. 

The Beauty and Joy of Computing (CSC 131)
Ross Sowell, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

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 Scratch, one of the friendliest programming languages ever invented. Students will engage in several different types of academic writing and will conduct their own research projects.

Data Visualization (ECB 121)
Santhi Hejeebu, Associate Professor of Economics & Business

Business and economic data are growing at staggering rates. Small and large, organizations today can easily capture information touching every aspect of the enterprise. To avoid information overload, firms turn to data visualization. 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 identify effective visual representations. We also explore a range of graph media, identifying the types of quantitative ideas that can be represented by each media. Students will also be introduced to techniques for visualizing concepts or analytical graphing. Working specifically with business and economic data, students will locate central tendencies, patterns of dispersions, and anomalies. Student projects will involve designing information dashboards for managerial decision-making. 

History of Education (EDU 205)
Kathryn Kauper, Assistant Professor of Education

This course explores the historical, sociological, and philosophical foundations of education. The class will draw upon the broad, theoretical issues of education through a variety of written and discussion-based activities. Particular attention is paid to curriculum theory, the civic and democratic mission of the common schools movement, Dewey and the Progressive Era of schooling, and the current social context of schools. Students are encouraged to critically analyze the purpose of schooling and to further develop their own philosophies of education through reflection and dialogue. Students will be expected to enroll in an online learning community and will receive ¼ additional adjunct course credit for their participation during the fall semester. 

20th Century French Culture through Literature and Film (FRE 165)
Rebecca Wines, Assistant Professor of French

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.

Travel and the Exotic in the Premodern world (HIS 259)
Michelle Herder, Associate Professor of History

Medieval readers thrilled to the travel tales about Asia, full of monsters, strange customs, and unfamiliar people. Early European explorers to Africa and the Americas told similar stories. In this course, we’ll read Marco Polo, Columbus, and other travel accounts from the Middle Ages and the Age of Exploration (some real-life, 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? Students will be expected to enroll in an online learning community and will receive ¼ additional adjunct course credit for their participation during the fall semester. 

Cell-Phones, Coffee, and Clothing:  Critiquing Consumption (INT 160)
Erin Davis, Associate Professor of Sociology and Emily Walsh, Associate Professor of Geology

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.  This first-year seminar combines sociological and geological perspectives to provide a unique viewpoint on the cause and effects of our consumer society.  Sociology allows us to examine the changing meaning, practices, and social implications of consumption, while geology provides scientific insight into the physical processes and environmental implications of consumption. 

Foundations of Kinesiology (KIN 111)
Ellen Whale, Professor of Kinesiology

Historical and philosophical foundation of physical education. Current issues in research and literature. Biological, physiological, and sociological aspects of sport and exercise.

First Year Seminar in Music (MUS 109)
James Martin, Professor of 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. 

Introduction to Philosophy (PHI 111)
Genevieve Migely, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Problems of philosophy as they are discussed in the writings of major philosophers, including such topics as the nature of reality, problems with knowledge, morality, and the rationality of religious belief. 

Topics: Electronics for Everyone (PHY 155)
Derin Sherman, Professor of Physics

Have you ever wanted to learn how electronic devices work as well as creating and building your own?  In this course, you'll get to explore the creative side of science through experimentation with, and creation of, simple electronic devices such as radios and electronic musical instruments. You will read relevant papers and discuss both physical principles and the impact of technology on society. You will also conduct a major design project and present your findings to the class. Although prior experience with physics and math is useful, it is not a requirement for this course. Students will be expected to enroll in an online learning community and will receive ¼ additional adjunct course credit for their participation during the fall semester. 

International Politics (POL 242)
David Yamanishi, Associate Professor of 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. Students will be expected to enroll in an online learning community and will receive ¼ additional adjunct course credit for their participation during the fall semester. 

Psychological Insights into Environmental Problems (PSY 243)
Alice Ganzel, Associate Professor of Psychology

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.

Religions of the World (REL 222)
Joseph Molleur, Professor of Religion

This course explores the religious dimension of human existence by introducing students to eight of the world’s major religious traditions:  Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  The aim of the course is to gain an appreciative understanding of the basic teachings and practices of the religions, as well as an insight into how these religions motivate and inspire their adherents.  We will seek to accomplish this aim through readings, lectures, and discussions centered mainly on selections from each religion’s sacred scriptures.

Topics: All About Spain: Turning Points in Contemporary Spanish History and Culture Through Film  (SPA 109)
Karliana Sakas, Assistant Professor of Spanish

Students will gain a panoramic vision of 20/21st-century Spain through the critical analysis of films. The course will focus on three major shifts in contemporary Spanish history (the Civil War/Cine de posguerra, the Transition to Democracy/Cine de la movida madrileña, and the Economic Boom/Cine de la inmigración) that have ushered in profound changes in cultural production. 

Fundamentals of Theater Design (THE 160)
Scott Olinger, Professor of Theatre

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.