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First Year Seminar

All first year students in the School of Liberal Arts, both freshmen and transfers, take a writing-intensive seminar class.

As a first year liberal arts student, you will take two first year seminars, one in the fall and one in the spring. These seminars are small, writing-intensive classes that give you the opportunity to work closely with faculty, actively discuss issues and texts in depth, and improve your critical thinking and writing skills.

To gain a diverse set of experiences and skills, you will be required to choose courses from two of the three following groups:

  • Group 1: Art or Music 151; English 151; Liberal Learning 151
  • Group 2: History 152; Philosophy 152; Religious Studies 152
  • Group 3: Political Science 153; Psychology 153; Sociology 153 

The following seminars will be offered during Spring semester 2023:

  • ART 151: Roots ART: First Year Seminar (FYS)

    Dr. Marilyn Cvitanic

    Section 01: MR: 1:30 – 2:45

    Section 02: MR: 3:00 – 4:15

    In this course students will explore factors influencing the creation and interpretation of art and architecture in the western world. The course timeline covers the twelfth through the twentieth century with an overview of Ancient Greece at the beginning of the semester. Relationships between, form, content, and historical context will be emphasized so that students develop the skills to analyze as well as appreciate art and architecture that figure prominently in the historical pantheon. Through weekly writing assignments and class discussion we will also examine factors influencing the perception and relevance of these works from their creation to the present day. Economic, philosophical, and aesthetic influences as well as artists' working conditions and biographical factors will also be addressed as they pertain to artists’ intent and creative process. Please note that this course is writing intensive!

  • ENGL 151: Roots Literature : Gender & Performance

    Dr. Deirdre O’Leary

    TF: 11:00 – 12:15 

    This first year seminar explores the politics of gender and sexuality in theatrical performance and literature. “Act Like a Lady” asks what it means to complicate notions of gender and sexuality in literature, plays and in performance. Quite simply, what does it mean to describe someone according to traditional gender expectations? What informs these descriptions? Do these definitions suggest understandings of gender and sexuality that are biologically determined or socially constructed? We will begin the semester by reading plays from Elizabethan England. Specifically, we will consider how the women characters are “brought to life” both on the page and by the male actors who would have originally played them. Over the remaining portion of the semester, we will read works from the 19th century to the present moment. We will ask, what happens when the rules of gender are bent and broken, and note ways contemporary writers posit gender and sexuality as not fixed or finite. Readings for this course may include works by William Shakespeare, Aphra Behn, Henrik Ibsen, Suzan-Lori Parks, Holly Hughes, Taylor Mac, among others.

  • ENGL 151: Roots Literature: Banned Books

    Dr. Rocco Marinaccio

    TF: 12:30 – 1:45 

    What makes a book so powerful that great numbers of people—politicians, parents, educators, and religious leaders, to name just a few—want to stop people from reading it? In particular, stop students like you from reading it? This semester, we are going to consider this question as a context for reading a range of works typically targeted in one or more of the contemporary US efforts to ban books. You heard that right: today in the US, there are forces at work designed to take each one of the books on our reading list out of your hands. What better evidence could there be of the power of their art? Of their continuing importance to smart, informed thinkers like yourselves? So . . . let’s read some banned books!

  • HIST 152: Roots History (FYS): Empires and Nationalisms

    Dr. Paul Droubie

    Section 01: TF: 11:00 – 12:15

    Section 02: TF: 12:30 – 1:45 

    This course will examine the ways Europeans created and justified their empires, as well as how the empires shaped and contributed to Europe. At the core of our exploration of history will be thinking about how and why things happened the way they did and how people understood what they did at the time. We’ll look at the messiness of history that complicates the simple stories we’re often told about the past. One particular focus will be how European ideals that justified imperialism also worked to undermine it, especially with the rise of various nationalisms in the nineteenth century. The semester will end with the processes of decolonization after World War II and the end of the European empires. You will also learn to do a close reading of historical documents and how to analyze and write about them as historians do.

  • LLRN 151: Classical Origins: Western Culture (FYS)

    Dr. David Bollert

    MWR: 2:00 – 2:50

    This course examines some of the major poetic, dramatic, and philosophical works of the classical West. Works to be covered include Sappho’s “Like the very gods in my sight is he,” Homer’s Iliad, Sophocles’ Antigone, Plato’s Apology, and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Topics to be discussed include fate, truth, courage, justice, civil disobedience, self-knowledge, friendship, and freedom.

  • PHIL 152: Roots of Modern Age: Philosophy

    Dr. Heidi Furey

    TWF: 10:00 – 10:50 


  • PHIL 152: Roots of Modern Age: Philosophy: Philosophy & Literature

    Dr. David Bollert

    MWR: 11:00 – 11:50 

    Two fundamental assumptions guide this course: first, all great literary works are inherently philosophical; second, great works of literature and great works of philosophy can complement one another in a way that deepens our understanding of both. By comparing and contrasting literary works (e.g., Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich) with philosophical ones (e.g., Plato’s Apology), we will explore fundamental philosophical themes such as self-knowledge, authenticity, justice, and freedom.

  • POSC 153: The Media and American Politics

    Dr. Jonathan Keller

    TWF: 1:00 – 1:50 

    This course will provide students with analytical tools to understand the role of the media in American politics and the impact it has on policymaking, campaigning, and most importantly, recent elections. First, we will examine the structure of news media as a political and economic institution. This will include the historical evolution of media and how it is being transformed by the internet today. Next, we will explore the ways in which political actors, both inside and outside of government, try to shape the messages broadcast through media toward policy or electoral goals. During this part of the course we will pay particular attention to how various politicians, organizations, and campaigns try to influence, circumvent, or critique the media, and the status of the press in American politics. Finally, we will examine the effects that the media has on citizens, and the role the public is playing in political media in the internet era


  • PSYC 153: Roots Psychology FYS-Not All Wounds Are Visible: The Psychological Effects of War Trauma

    Dr. Nuwan Jayawickreme

    TF: 12:30-1:45 

    The goal of a Roots: Psychology course is to provide you with an explanation and critical examination of the field of psychology, which concerns itself with the scientific study of the brain, mind and behavior. Students in this class will examine the logic and methods of psychological research and engage in analysis of contemporary social issues from the perspective of the discipline of psychology. Our specific course theme is war trauma, a phenomenon that has received greater attention in the aftermath of American military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We will examine the many reactions to trauma – which include resilience, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) & posttraumatic growth – as well as psychological theories and empirical research that attempts to make sense of these reactions.   The course uses psychology research articles, memoirs (David Morris’ The Evil Hours), journalistic non-fiction (David Finkel’s Thank You for Your Service), films (Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence), and magazine articles.

  • PSYC 153: Roots Psychology FYS - Th Evolution of Empathy

    Dr. Maria Maust-Mohl

    MR: 12:00 – 1:15 

    Why is empathy considered so important? Is empathy something that can be lost or is it in our genes? Although evolutionary principles are often used to explain the selfish nature of society, social behaviors such as cooperation, helping, and empathy are also necessary for survival. This FYS course is centered around Frans de Waal’s book, The Age of Empathy, in which we will examine how the capacity for empathy and other related cognitive abilities evolved in humans and many other species to uncover the roots of social thinking and behavior. We will also learn about research methods used in the field of psychology to study such behaviors by reading empirical research articles. Be prepared to see humans and animals in a new light, and be challenged to think about reasons why we act the way we do.

  • RELS 152: FYS on The Nature and Experience of Religion: Wilderness as a Window into Understanding Religion

    Dr. Michele Saracino

    TF: 12:30 – 1:45 

    Whether one is “religious” or not, religion matters. Some may have parents from different religious backgrounds, while others may encounter individuals from different religions in their dorms, classes, or at the grocery store. What’s more, violence in the name of religious ideology seems to permeate everyday life. Discussing religious issues in an informed manner requires an understanding of the subject matter. This course will focus on scripture, doctrines, and issues within three world religions: Buddhism, Daoism, and Christianity. While students will not learn everything about every religious worldview, they will develop tools to engage in conversation about religious issues with confidence and an openness to further understanding. Wilderness is the lens through which we will discuss issues in each religious tradition. Buddha wanders into the forest in search of spiritual freedom and becomes enlightened under the Bodhi tree. Jesus is shown to be baptized in the wilderness. An individual’s faith journey could also be conceptualized as a foray into the wild. All these examples and more will be analyzed in this course; and students will be encouraged to explore the existential wilderness of their everyday life through class discussion and writing assignments.


  • SOC 153: Roots Sociology: Ethics of the Criminal Justice System

    Dr. Madeleine Novich

    MR: 1:30 – 2:45 

    The vision of the Ethics of the Criminal Justice core course is to connect students with contemporary criminal justice issues from a social justice perspective.  The students are encouraged to question historically held beliefs based on ethical, philosophical, and theoretical foundations.  This includes an in-depth analysis on how criminal definitions are formed, the impact powerholders’ discretion has on citizens, and the current state of crime, law enforcement, and corrections in contemporary American society. Using timely and empirically based texts and multimedia from a range of sources, students learn academic, peer-reviewed style writing, quantitative and qualitative based critical readings, and acquire proficiency in digital platforms like Voyant, podcasting and Padlet. By using an interdisciplinary approach to understanding criminal justice problems, solutions, and unresolved issues, students are able to develop an ethical perspective central to the Lasallian Mission more broadly.