by Jessica Evangelista Balduzzi ’05

The First-Year experience would not be complete without its quintessential first-year seminar, or the FSEM. Firstyear seminars at the Colleges are designed to stimulate intellectual curiosity, introduce academic expectations and engage students independent of future major or minor choices.

From peace movements to ancient warfare, Mozart to rock-and-roll, each seminar is designed to hone writing, speaking, critical thinking and other academic skills that students will draw upon throughout their careers at HWS. Classes in first-year seminars are small, between 13 and 15 students, to allow for discussion and debate in an intimate group. Some are Linked Course-Learning Communities, in which students live in the same residence hall, forming a community; others are Learning Community Pods, two seminars of related subject matter with students living in the same residence hall.

“First-year seminars offer exciting opportunities for exploration and collaboration for students and faculty alike,” says Eric Klaus, associate dean of First-Year Seminars and associate professor of German area studies. “The interplay of scholarship and creativity that is the hallmark of the program is celebrated at the end of the semester during the First-Year Seminar Symposium, where students present projects completed over the course of the semester.”

Here’s a peek at some of the first-year seminars that happened in fall 2014:

Stealing Art, Saving Art, Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Michael Tinkler
What motivates people to collect art? What motivates people to steal art? What motivates rare individuals to fake art? In this seminar, students look at the seamy underside and the high-minded public face of cultural property, and the art world, from NAZI looters to museum directors.

Partial Reading List:

  • Whose Culture by James Cuno
  • Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership by Colin Renfrew

You Are Here: Geneva 101, Associate Professor of English Anna Credick, Professor of Art and Architecture Nick Ruth and Professor of Political Science Kevin Dunn
Welcome to Geneva, N.Y., your place of residence for the next four years; the first four years of your adult life. This course sets up Geneva as a laboratory in which to seek to understand the complex interaction of forces that produce a “place:” demographics, natural environment, built environment, and human activity.

Partial Reading List:

  • The Making of an Upstate Community: Geneva, New York by David Brumberg
  • Wolves and Honey: A Hidden History of the Natural World by Susan Brind Morrow

The Avian Persuasion, Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Caroline Manring
If you’ve ever wished you could fly, join the club. If you’ve ever wondered why you wished you could fly, take this course. Humans have always been drawn to birds. In this seminar, students ask why as they try to understand human relationships with birds from the perspectives of writers, musicians, scientists, and back yard bird-watchers, among other types of thinkers.

Partial Reading List:

  • The Goshawk by T.H. White
  • Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Rock Music & American Masculinities, Senior Associate Dean of Hobart College Rocco “Chip” Capraro
Elvis, Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen. They were some of the central figures in the history of rock music in America and England from the 1950s to the 1980s. But what kind of men were they? This seminar offers an interdisciplinary look at the lives of these men of rock through the lens of men’s studies: i.e., through the history and theory of men’s identity and experience.

Partial Reading List:

  • The Forty-Nine Percent Majority: The Male Sex Role by Deborah David and Robert Brannon
  • Re-Making Love: The Feminization of Sex by Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess, and Gloria Jacobs

School Wars, Assistant Professor of Education Khuram Hussain
Why are people willing to march, protest and risk their lives and livelihood for schools they can believe in? There is no public institution that inspires, enrages and connects to American ideals about “public good” more than schools. But what is “good”? In this seminar students ask, what’s worth fighting for in school... and why? Students interrogate the conflicts that rage over what the purpose of schools should be and who should decide. Public protests, creative peoples’ movements and even military intervention have been waged with the aim of directing the destiny of public education. Through discussions, formal debates, group projects, lectures, films and readings students trace dynamic interests that vie to influence schools and direct education policy.

Partial Reading List:

  • The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future by Linda Darling- Hammond
  • The Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch

Fracking?, Professor of Geoscience D. Brooks McKinney
Hydraulic fracturing, fracking for short, is a controversial technique for extracting natural gas from carbon rich shales. The Colleges sit along the northern margin of one of the most important areas for potential shale gas development—the “Marcellus Shale play” as it is known in the petroleum industry. Among the arguments advanced by proponents of Marcellus shale gas development are that it can provide domestic energy security, that it is more climate friendly than oil or coal, and that its development will aid economic development. Opponents counter that it may threaten both the quantity and quality of surface and subsurface waters, that shale gas development will delay adoption of renewable energy and that the industrialization of the landscape associated with shale gas development will threaten more sustainable economic activities like tourism and agriculture. Who is right?

Partial Reading List:

  • The Science Beneath the Surface: A Very Short Guide to the Marcellus Shale by Don Duggan-Haas and Ross M. Robert
  • The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World by Russell Gold

Sustainable Living: A Learning Community for First-Year Students

by Steven Bodnar

This academic year, more than 50 first-year students are exploring sustainability and consumption through a new Learning Community, “Sustainable Living.” The two-semester long program emphasizes the relationship between local actions and global effects.

“Sustainable Living gives students interested in any aspect of sustainability a strong start academically and toward their careers,” explains Thomas Drennen, professor of economics and chair of the Environmental Studies Program. “The unique living and learning model we are piloting is designed to ensure that firstyear students connect early and strongly with their faculty advisers, with one another, with the Colleges, and with this beautiful region.”

Taught by Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Kristen Brubaker, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Robin Lewis, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Tarah Rowse, the Learning Community is led by Drennen, who is also co-chair of the HWS President’s Climate Task Force. Additionally, Eco-Reps and upperclass students, who have expertise in sustainability, serve as teaching assistants and mentors.

As part of a Learning Community, all 56 members are living together in the same co-ed residence hall along with four speciallyselected resident assistants (RA). The RAs are committed to the programming of Sustainable Living and direct activities that support green efforts throughout the year. The residence hall is equipped with seminar rooms and a full kitchen specially designed for the Learning Community. Additionally, the participating faculty have offices in the residence hall, as do the teaching assistants.

Members of the Sustainable Learning Community are enrolled in one of four sections of the First Year Seminar (FSEM) “Consuming the World,” which considers the life cycle of things that we, as consumers buy, use and throw away. The course explores the complex relationship between sustainability and consumption, paying specific attention to the myriad ways in which individual consumption practices shape global outcomes.

One day each week, all students, faculty and teaching assistants take part in a combined class to share perspectives, view films, and discuss weekly experiments, such as weighing trash and recyclables week, meat-free week, maximum recycling challenge and more. Field trips throughout the region provide opportunities to learn more about Geneva and the Finger Lakes, and include guided visits to the landfill, a regional recycling center, and to Fribolin Farm, a 35-acres farm owned by the Colleges just a mile from campus.

This spring, students are remaining in their sections, taking a linked course that extends learning throughout the year to create an integrated, interdisciplinary experience. The Learning Community reinforces the Colleges’ dedication to a campus-wide effort of environmental sustainability.

Consuming the World, Professor of Economics and Chair of the Environmental Studies Program Thomas Drennen, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Kristen Brubaker, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Robin Lewis, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Tarah Rowse

We are all consumers. We buy things. We use things up. We throw things away. Often we do all of this without considering the life cycle of these “things.” Think about all the T-shirts you own. Do you know what materials make up your T-shirts? Moreover, do you know what was required to get these T-shirts to you in the first place? While these questions may seem to have simple answers, the reality is that each of the “things” we consume has a complex secret life of its own, one worthy of further consideration.

Partial Reading List:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power and Politics of World Trade by Pietra Rivoli


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.