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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 2022:

  • ENGL 151: Roots of the Modern Age: Literature: Making and Unmaking Monsters

    This First-Year Seminar in literature will focus on reading and writing about monsters, the monstrous, and monstrosity. Humans have made and remade human identity and existence throughout history, often creating monsters in the process. As Jack Halberstam claims, “Monsters are meaning-making machines,” condensing a multitude of fears and desires. Because of their otherness, monsters ask us to ponder the relationship between self and other, between the dominant culture and its margins, between comfort and alienation, between the human and the non-human. Monsters challenge us to consider—personally and culturally—the complexity of identity formation and to explore the limits of community and sympathy. They offer unique ways of being that can also be alternative ways of seeing, even opening the door to the possibilities of being posthuman. Texts may include: Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night; Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild”; Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing is Monsters; Marie de France, “Bisclavret”; Edgar Allan Poe, Short Stories; William Shakespeare, The Tempest; Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Selected Native American Horror Legends and Tales.

  • English 151: Roots of Literature: Secrets, Lies, and Literature

    What do Shakespeare’s most famous play and a contemporary American graphic novel have in common? One answer: both of them explore the challenges faced by the main character, ensnared in a web of secrets and lies. In between Hamlet (1603) and Fun Home (2006), there are a range of literary works that similarly represent the practice of deceit, the fear of (or desire for) discovery, and the pursuit (or repression) of knowledge as fundamental experiences of human existence. What do people typically keep secrets or lie about? How? Why? What are the consequences of keeping secrets or telling lies? And of their exposure? Finally, is it ever really possible to discover the “truth”? As we look at literature from a variety of historical moments, we’ll also consider how the kinds of things people hide—and what happens when they are found out—have and have not changed over the centuries. The causes of deceit in Shakespeare’s England—and the consequences of discovery—are not the same as in contemporary America. Or are they? 

  • HIST 152: Roots: Human Rights (FYS)

    Section 01: TWF: 9:00 – 9:50

    Section 02: TWF: 1:00 – 1:50

    This course examines how the Western world perceived of who was “human” and who should have “rights” both at home and around the globe.  This perception shifted dramatically after 1450 and continued to evolve until the Enlightenment when the concept of human rights was developed.  However, the uneven process of expanding those rights, even in principle, to include everyone took place in fits and starts across two centuries.  The last part of the course considers why and how human rights continue to be withheld from significant proportions of the world’s population.

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

    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 Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life. Topics to be discussed include fate, truth, courage, civil disobedience, self-knowledge, friendship, and freedom.

  • PHIL 152: Roots of Modern Age: Philosophy: Philosophy Through Film

    Few of us have the time in our daily lives to ponder deep philosophical questions such as: “What makes me who I am?” “Is there such a thing as free will?” “What if my life is all a dream?” Could a robot ever be conscious?” “How can I be a good person?” “What is the meaning of life?” However, without realizing it most of us encounter profound philosophical questions such as these the moment we sign into Netflix. In this course, we use film and television as a starting point for philosophical discussion and as material for philosophical analysis. You will be introduced not only to important classic and contemporary philosophical theories, but you will also learn how to do philosophy. You will learn how to recognize philosophical issues as they arise in film, in text, and in life; how to extract and critically evaluate an argument from a text or film; and how to clearly and effectively communicate philosophical ideas in writing.

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

    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, Sophocles’ Antigone, and Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experienceä,” with philosophical ones, e.g., Plato’s Apology, Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, and Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity, we will explore fundamental philosophical themes such as self-knowledge, virtue, authenticity, and freedom.


    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: Not All Wounds Are Visible: The Psychological Effects of War Trauma

    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-The Evolution of Empathy

    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: Nature & Experience of Religion and Social Media Platforms (FYS)

    This writing seminar explores world views on religion and the motives that impel us toward religious understanding which are always varied.   We will look at a series of social media platforms that discuss the scriptural, and contemporary knowledge about Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Islam.  We will ask the following questions; How is Religion represented on social media?  How is religion important to social media and what are the multiple messages?  Who creates these platforms and why?  Why does religion matter?

    Social Media is the platform through which we will analyze digital and textual platforms and the images of religion. We will look at how scripture is interpreted and appropriated in social media platforms that give meaning to individual lives.  A large part of the course will consist of discussing stereotypes of religions and understanding how to dismantle these through the use of media, knowledge, and experience.  We will use Instagram, tiktok, Facebook, discord, digital newspaper, and religion sites to explore the diverse dimensions of religion and the spiritual in the media today.  Religion is an experience and profound aspect of our lives as we ask the real and important questions of life and meaning on social media platforms.  Students will create their own sites on religion and how they may want to see knowledge and media intersect for public understanding.

  • SOC 153: Roots: Sociology – Ethical Foundations of Criminal Justice (FYS)

    Get ready to examine the American Criminal Justice system in-depth. In this course, you will learn about the ethical and philosophical foundations that serve as the backbone of our system.  You will examine policing – from ethical cops to those who abuse of power and engage in corruption. You will study law – learning who creates the laws, why it is established, and who benefits/hurts the most from it.  We will also touch on racism, discrimination, mass incarceration and the death penalty.  This course uses traditional and nontraditional texts and often includes guest speakers (including police officers, lawyers, gang members, and formerly incarcerated people) to share their experiences and perspectives on the American Criminal Justice System.