First Year Seminars provide a foundation for our students’ intellectual lives both inside and outside the classroom by helping them to develop critical thinking and communication skills and practices; to enculturate themselves within the Colleges’ intellectual and ethical values and practices; and to establish a strong network of relationships with peers and mentors on campus. The seminar topics vary each year, as do the professors who teach them, so the classroom discussions are always fresh and interesting.

Each Seminar is constructed around a different interest, like magic, social responsibility or country music, and Seminar classes are small – usually about 15 students – which helps students feel more comfortable in a new environment and allows the students and faculty members to develop close working relationships.

Below, you will find a list of the First-Year Seminars being offered during the fall semester. This year’s Seminars cover a wide-range of topics and disciplines, and we are sure you will find several that interest you. After you have looked over the list and identified the courses that you find appealing, log in to the Orientation website and complete the Academic Direction Task no later than June 6.

Fall 2018 First-Year Seminars

Please note: We provide the listing below as a resource for students and families, not as a complete listing. As courses fill up with students, they will be removed from the Academic Direction form, but they may still appear on this page. The Academic Direction task is the most up-to-date source of currently available courses.

FSEM 003 - First Person Singular, Professor Cheryl Forbes
What's up? What's happening? What's new? How you been? How you doing? We say these things every time we meet a friend --and we really want to know. Readers of memoirs ask these or similar questions, and memoirists give us the answers -- beautifully. We're lucky that curious people have so many memoirs to choose from. And for the last several years we've had memoirs from all over the world, not just the United States. This First Year Seminar studies the contemporary memoir in a multicultural setting. Through the books we read, we travel to such places as Somalia, the Sudan, Egypt, and Cuba. Students write critical essays about the memoir in general and the books we read in particular. They also write their own short memoirs -- vignettes from their life. And students do research on the day they were born and complete an oral presentation on the findings. The course ends with students writing a final essay on what they think constitutes a good memoir. Typical Readings:  Sebold, Lucky; Beah, A Long Way Gone; Danticat, Brother, I'm Dying; Ojito, Finding Mañana.

FSEM 011 - Britpop: From Beatles to Brexit, Professor Rob Carson
Pop music is music of the moment: it crystallizes a specific point in space and time within a culture and preserves it in three glorious minutes of song. In this class, we'll immerse ourselves deeply in the history of British music from World War II up to the present day, from Vera Lynn to Adele, from the Kinks to the Clash, from David Bowie to Benjamine Clementine, from the Specials to Stormzy. We'll use this remarkable playlist as a lens to examine how British culture has evolved over the past seventy-five years, a culture that always seems to be accessible to Americans on some levels but also oddly impenetrable on others. (George Bernard Shaw famously described the UK and the US as “two countries separated by a common language.”) By casting our imaginations overseas for a semester, we will inevitably come to reflect upon ourselves with new eyes as well; and by exploring one of the world's greatest musical legacies, we will come to hear contemporary music with fresh ears too. There are two sections of this seminar.

FSEM 013 - Violence in the Sea of Faith, Professor Sarah Whitten
During the Middle Ages, the Mediterranean sea was home to people of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  These communities often fought violently for territory, converts, and wealth.  This class explores the nature of religious violence in the pre-modern Mediterranean by examining the topics of Islamic expansion, the Crusades, and persecution.  In the course, we will also challenge the assumption that all interactions were violent by investigating convivencia in Spain Egypt, and Sicily.  We will read , many different types of medieval texts including crusade narratives, travel writings, biography, and chronicles.  Lastly we will explore how science, art history, philosophy, and archaeology help us understand the complexity of the medieval world. This FSEM is linked to ENG 130 Medieval Genres: Swords, Hammers, Quills, Bathtubs.

FSEM 014 – Science Versus Philosophy?, Professor Lisa Leininger
World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has declared that “philosophy is dead.” Neil deGrasse Tyson, a well-known astrophysicist, has dismissed philosophy as useless in contributing any understanding of the natural world. Is philosophy actually useless in telling us what the physical world is like? Some, like those mentioned above, think that philosophy can have nothing to say about the physical world. Others argue that philosophical inquiry into the world can still be insightful, but must be subservient to science. Some even argue that philosophy is integral to scientific investigation of the world. The exploration of these issues will determine to what extent philosophy should be a co-investigator with science in the task of understanding what the physical world is like or whether it should ultimately be abandoned.

FSEM 028 – Epic Fails: Not the Final Frontier, Professor Gabriella D’Angelo
Failure is often discarded and frowned upon within our society today; however, failure has led to great successes throughout the unfolding of our history. In this course, we will consider how failure is a part of learning and growing, and how it has paved the way for great discoveries, inventions, and ideas within various disciplines from the caveman to the computer. How can we begin to learn from our failures and the failures of others in strengthening our process of learning and doing? How can failure help us challenge ourselves to step outside of our comfort zones in the hopes of trying out new things, setting new goals, and helping us to pave the way to be more confident and successful in our futures in whatever path we go down?

“I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” -Thomas Edison

FSEM 029 - Why Are Some Countries Rich?, Professor Jenny Tessendorf
Why are some countries rich while others remain poor? The answer matters because 'rich' versus 'poor' translates into significant differences in the quality of life of the 'average' person in these countries. The history of the post-WWII period is littered with the corpses of 'big ideas' that purported to answer this question and thus provide the key to growth. Colonial exploitation, low investment rates, inadequate spending on education, insufficient financial liberalization, among others, all failed to answer the question by themselves and certainly didn't provide the magic elixir for growth. We will examine the merits and the failings of these big ideas and consider some newer proposals as well. We'll particularly look at the roles of geography and of political, social and economic institutions and the incentives they create. There may be no single big idea that will work for every country, but we will identify some characteristics that clearly separate the “poor” from the “not so poor.” This FSEM is linked to ECON 135 Latin American Economies.

FSEM 038 – Religion and Film: Exploring Meaning in Film, Professor John Krummel
The course examines religious themes and motifs as depicted in experimental, avant-garde and art films. These include themes such as transcendence, the sacred, exile and home, ritual, faith and doubt, knowing God, mortality, reincarnation, the fall, suffering, and so on, all having to do with the existential question of meaning in life. We will begin the term with a series of introductory essays that explore what is religion, the relationship between film and religion, and how to “read” or analyze film. We will then watch a feature-length film about every week and a half; read selected primary and secondary literature dealing with the religious theme depicted in the film as well as literature on the film itself and/or the director; and discuss and interpret the film after watching it. None of these films present religion in a traditional light. They often challenge mainstream assumptions about religion. And in some of the films religious motifs are not at all explicit. Through the process the first-year students will be introduced to the culture of the Humanities in general and methods of how to read and analyze written material and visual material while relating them together and to one’s own life and the world one is familiar with.

FSEM 039 - From Feminism to Funk Culture, Professor Melanie Hamilton
In many ways, contemporary events seem to echo the climate of the 70's. In that decade, too, rising gas prices, an unpopular war, and the economic crisis all dominated headlines. Can we really learn lessons can we learn from past events? Is it possible that the origins of the present trouble lie thirty years in the past? Drawing contextual readings by a range of historians, students examine writing and cultural objects to consider answers to these and other questions. Texts include novels, essays, political speeches, photographs, music, visual art, and film. Typical readings include Schulman, The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics; Frum, How We Got Here: the 70s and others. This course focusses intensively on essay writing, and students should expect to spend significant effort on improving their expository skills.

FSEM 040 – Fields of Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, Professor Cynthia Williams
Quick! Make a hat out of rubber bands, an old sock, and a map of the Northeast! Add on an unfinished sentence and take it in a new direction. Move across the room staying connected to someone else's earlobe...sing a nonsense song...draw your autobiography…Sound strange? We use improvisation everyday when we talk with friends, react without thinking to something new, or walk our own pathway to dinner. Artists use improvisation deliberately, to create new melodies, discover unique movements, or create spontaneity on stage. Scientists use improvisation to test new theories, or to go beyond known limits. Business managers use improvisation to encourage creative thinking, solve problems, or to design products. The ability to improvise is innately human, but many of us find it intimidating. We don't like to be "on the spot," we worry about looking foolish, we like to feel in control, and the unscripted possibilities of "anything goes" seem more terrifying than liberating. Fields of Play: Improvisation in Life and Art is a course for students who want to challenge themselves, and to free their minds and bodies from doing the same-old, same-old routines everyday.  Improvisation is a practice; a discipline that has many forms but one prerequisite: the courage to let go of preconceived plans and trust your words/actions/expressions are absolutely right for the moment.  Each class involves improvisatory which demand total participation as a thinking,

FSEM 041 – Playground Physics, Professor Leslie Hebb
This course focuses on exploring concepts of introductory physics through experiential learning on the playground and in everyday life. This course is designed for students to have concrete experiencesof abstract mathematical and physical concepts. For example, students will perform experiments related to conservation of energy and friction using a sliding board. They will experience angular momentum conservation on a variety of roundabouts, and the physics of pendulum on a swing. Students will be encouraged to design their own simple experiments to explore these topics. The experiential learning will be paried with the mathematical concepts.  This course is linked to PHYS 150, Introductory Physics I.

FSEM 042 - Face to Face: Interrogating Race, Professor James McCorkle
Do we live in a post-racial world or a new Jim Crow society? What are the legacies of slavery, segregation, and apartheid? What is meant by white privilege? How do we value human life and what are the ways of developing emancipatory movements? This course examines the parallel structures of segregation in the United States and apartheid in South Africa.  The basic premise is that through the lens of another culture we can come to examine our own.  The causes and effects of segregation and apartheid on contemporary race relations are the central focus.  How race affects gender, class, and social spaces is explored throughout the readings.

FSEM 055 – Russians Discover America: Imaginers, Observers, Immigrants, Professor Kristen Welsh
How do we define America? Does your definition mesh with what the rest of the world might think? This course explores American culture and identity by proposing and testing definitions for these terms. Our raw material for this project includes words, sounds, and images created by Russian and Soviet artists and travelers. Some of our texts are fictional, some are not, and some blur the boundaries between the two. Some were created by people who visited the U.S. and went home again, some by exiles both voluntary and involuntary, and some by artists who simply imaged America from afar.

This course focuses on asking questions, using your imagination and analytical skills to make sense of the unknown, and using points of encounter between strangers (people, language, nations) to enhance your understanding of life in the United States.

FSEM 057 - Facets of Islam, Professor Etin Anwar
Islam is important. All Muslims are not religious or political extremists, yet the most immediately threatening challenges to Western modernity are emerging from radical Muslim groups. Furthermore, Muslim countries control most of the fuel on which our current lifestyle is based. For these reasons alone, Americans need to understand the Muslim world far better than we presently do. But the defensive victim to "know your enemy" is only the most shallow reason for studying Islam, which is the fastest growing religion in the world today. Why is that? Students explore with critical but open minds the appeal of this religious tradition and way of life. "Facets of Islam" first constructs a basic but coherent narrative of Islam in history. Then students sample the splendors of Islamic civilization in architecture, science, philosophy, gardens, and poetry. Students confront honestly some problematic and troubling issues which divide the Muslim worldview from our own. Finally, students remind themselves of the diversity of the Muslim world today in music, food, fashion, and festival.

FSEM 066 - Thinking Critically About God, Professor Eric Barnes
The concept of God has shaped how billions of people have lived their lives. Different religions have different ideas about God, but there are some common themes, and many of them raise serious questions: If God is all-powerful, can he create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it? If God is all good, then why is there evil in the world? If God is all-knowing (including the future), then how can I have free will? We will examine these and many other tough questions by reading classic and contemporary writings. Students will engage in at least two structured classroom debates and will also write frequently about many challenging topics. This course is a rational inquiry into these issues that is open to everyone, regardless of their belief system. Please note: There will be several required films outside of regularly scheduled class times. Typical readings:  Various proofs of God's existence by Aristotle, St. Anselm, St. Thomas, etc.; Hume, Dialogues on Natural Religion; Plato, Euthyphro; Mackie, Evil and Omnipotence; Russell, Why I'm Not a Christian; Rachels, Does Morality Depend on Religion?; Pascal, The Wager; Leibniz, The Best of All Possible Worlds; Lewis The Screwtape Letters; Stoppard, Arcadia and Jumpers, selected films, including Groundhog Day, Crimes & Misdemeanors, and A Clockwork Orange

FSEM 072 - Rock Music and American Masculinities, Professor 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 1950's to the 1980's. 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. In their study of the biographies of the men who made the soundtrack of mid-20th century Anglo-American popular culture, students will develop an appreciation for the role of gender, race, class, sexuality, and nation in shaping men's lives.

FSEM 077 - Metacognition & Social Justice, Associate Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment & Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Susan Pliner
This course answers these questions and serves two purposes. One is to introduce students to meta-cognition, reflective practice and self-assessment. Students will explore how the continual assessment of one’s own process, knowledge, and critical questioning guides learning progress and development. Students will examine learning theory including, Bloom’s taxonomy. Kratwohl’s effective domains. Fink’s taxonomy of significant learning. KoIb’s learning cycle, and Perry’s meta-cognition as a means of self-discovery in relationship to identity and foundational theories of social justice. The second purpose is to apply meta-cognitive techniques to exploring and investigating to foundational principles and theories of social justice rooted in civil rights social movements, within which concepts such as social justice, oppression and liberation are central categories for analyzing, evaluating and transforming interlocking systems of discriminatory institutional structures, cultural practices, and social behavior. Issues of power and powerlessness are central to the course as they illuminate how social arrangements are imagined, constructed, and challenged. Students will be introduced to key concepts, methodologies, and competencies connected to the field of social justice studies.

FSEM 078 - Sustainable Living and Learning, Professors Kristen Brubaker, Whitney Mauer and Tom Drennen
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. This course will explore the complex relationship between sustainability and consumption, paying specific attention to the myriad ways in which individual consumption practices shape global outcomes. This is a linked FSEM pod.

FSEM 087 - The History of Original Sin, Professor Matthew Kadane
What is the relationship between changing views of human nature and major historical transformations? Does one come before and cause the other? Or does asking the question in those terms miss the point: are changing theories of human nature themselves the essence rather than the obvious cause or consequence of epochal shifts? This seminar tries to give these and related broader questions focus by examining the history of the Christian doctrine of original sin and the making of some of the deepest held assumptions in the last few centuries in parts of the world most affected by the presence of Christianity.

FSEM 091 - Earth vs. Humans: fire, flood, environmental collapse and other disasters, Professor David Kendrick
Humans are part of the Earth system. But sometimes it seems like the planet is out to get us, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, climate change, environmental collapse and more have affected us from the dawn of Homo sapiens. In fact, climate change may have made us who we are. Natural disasters have wiped out entire cultures and localized events became legends thousands of years old. How have these events shaped human culture? What kinds of disasters can we anticipate and plan for? Has history taught us prudence?

FSEM 094 - The History of Everything, Professor Grant Holly
Did you know that it was not until 300,000 years after the “big bang” that light occurred, or that in the year 2000, the tenth largest economic entity in the world was Microsoft (Australia was thirteenth, to put things in prospective)? David Christian's Maps of Time is an example of a recent form of historiography called “big history,” because it attempts to locate human beings from the perspective of much larger contexts than the traditional historical periods. Christian's book begins nanoseconds after the 'big bang,” describes the development of the universe, the formation of our planet, the origins and evolution of life, including human life, and continues to trace human history through the origins of agriculture, the development of cities, states, and civilizations, the development of world religions, etc., up to globalization and the modern world, and then it peeks into future. What this course will do is to give us the opportunity to orient and seek to understand ourselves in relation to a variety of contexts from the cosmic to the global to the national and the local, contexts which, as Christian's book shows us, no matter how vast, or distant, or alien they may seem, create the patterns that play an intimate role in shaping our lives. There are two sections of this seminar.

FSEM 098 – Fictional Facts: The Chemistry of Science Fiction, Professor Elana Stennett
Science is an integral part of our lives but can also be the point of much debate. Some would argue that the heating/cooling systems in our homes are integral while others might argue that vaccines are not. Science fiction stories have argued these roles and more for decades. This seminar will examine how the development and role of science has been portrayed and expanded through the work of science fiction novels and short stories, focusing specifically on chemistry.

FSEM 105 - Golf Course Architecture: Literature, History, and Theory, Professor Chip Capraro
What is actually at play when someone plays golf? Game design theory suggests that golf is the occasion for a certain experience shaped by rules, actions and skills of the golfer, and the golf course itself. Unlike a basketball court, each golf course is unique, due to a deeply intentional design by a golf course architect. As Alister Mackenzie insists “The essence of golf is variety.” We approach multiple questions: What are the basic elements of golf course architecture? How do golf course architects imagine the game of golf when they design and build a golf course? What kind of experience do they intend for the golfer? What impact have diverse people, male and female, black and white, rich and poor, who have played golf had on the history of golf course design? What are the actual lived experiences of golfers, and how have they changed over time? We will pay special attention to the work of important architects who were active locally, and we will visit some of their amazing creations. (Note: Playing golf is not a requirement, and learning how to golf and learning how to design a golf course are not included in the syllabus.)

FSEM 106 – The Secret Science of Learning, Professor Kristin Slade
What is learning? How do factors like sleep, intrinsic motivation, and socioeconomic background play into one’s ability to learn? Can skills like creativity and work ethic be learned? Recent scientific evidence reveals that many intuitive study strategies are inefficient or just don’t work. This course aims to expose students with an interest in science to our current understanding of how the brain processes information and the most effective learning strategies based on scientific evidence. We will experiment with these methodologies by applying them to the coupled introductory chemistry course. Students will reflect on their own learning process, by systematically trying study techniques, looking at the outcomes, and then adjusting their strategies. By equipping students with the current understanding of brain science and best learning practices, they will be able to create their own toolbox of techniques in order to better grasp scientific concepts and reach their full learning potential. This FSEM is linked to CHEM 110 Introductory General Chemistry.

FSEM 112 – Through the Lens: French and Francophone Cinema, Professor Courtney Wells
This course will be an in-depth study of French film, from its invention by the Frères Lumières in the late 19th century to the present day. Through readings, research, in-class discussions, and group viewings, students will study the history of cinema in the French (and beyond), the fundamentals of the analysis of film, and the vocabulary necessary for discussing film. Films will be shown in French with English subtitles and classroom discussions will be held in English, along with any assignments, exams, presentations, etc. Because a film cannot be divorced from the particular linguistic, cultural, and historical setting in which it is made, this course will also focus on those parts of culture and history that are relevant to the films assigned. This FSEM is linked to any French language course.

FSEM 124 Is Computing Biased?, Professor Joseph Rusinko
Every day people teach computers how to learn about humans. Machines learn which emails you would like to receive, which advertisements you would like to view, which medical diagnoses are appropriate, and which credit card transactions are actually yours. In short humans are training computers to understand humans in ways in which we have failed to understand each other before. However, as we train computers to think about humanity we are also teaching them our weaknesses. In this seminar we examine how humans are training computers to be biased. Typically this is not happening intentionally but rather implicitly. Regardless of the intentions, the impact of biased artificial intelligence is real. The semester will be broken into three major questions. What is Implicit Bias? How do we train computers to learn? Can we stop teaching computers to be biased? Along the way we will consider the implications of these questions on our own learning and development.

FSEM 127 - Hip-Hop Culture, Professor Mark Olivieri
One of the most influential cultural movements of the late 20th century has been the hip-hop phenomenon. It is a complex social movement whose audiences are as diverse as the music. The “Hip-Hop Nation” comprises a community of artists and adherents who espouse street performance aesthetics as expressed through various elements of hip-hop. While students are going to be introduced to the history and evolution of the movement, a great part of the seminar will be dedicated to examining the interdisciplinary nature of hip-hop, in which poetry, drama, music, art, and dance are inextricably linked. Ironically, the marketing of hip-hop culture to mainstream America has contributed to the erosion of the very fabric at the core of its movement. This seminar will address the catalog value of hip-hop and the “commodification” of the movement from its inception in the Bronx River District in 1979 to the present.

FSEM 128 - Country Music and American Society, Professor Ronald Gerrard
Country music is full of contradictions. It is both traditional and modern, both authentic and inauthentic, both inside and outside of mainstream popular culture. It espouses traditional family values but frequently sings of drinking, cheating and violence. Some describe it as the ‘half barbaric twang’ of hillbillies and rednecks, while others describe it as bland commercial pop for suburban soccer moms. To its harshest critics, country is “music for morons” or even a “force of social menace.” More sympathetic listeners characterize it as “working class poetry” or “three chords and the truth.” More is going on here than simple differences in musical taste. Views of country music are related to deep issues in American society. This course uses country music as a way to explore such issues. It takes country music seriously as both art form and social phenomenon, and uses it as a starting point to explore issues such as race, class, gender and region in a rapidly modernizing American society. Country music is treated as a complex lens through which various groups (urban and rural, rich and poor, white and black, liberal and conservative, north and south) portray themselves and imagine one another. The course will cover historical and lesser-known forms of country as well as contemporary songs and artists. As part of the course, students will be expected to attend several movie nights throughout the semester where they will watch films related to the course content.

FSEM 130 - I Know What You Ate Last Summer, Professor Justin Miller
Chemistry is a fundamental component of home and restaurant food preparation, as cooking is ultimately a series of complex chemical reactions. Chemistry is also essential to the production of food, from the most basic ingredients to the most elaborate industrial grocery store offerings. An understanding of how society produces food, and how these practices are both regulated and manipulated, can be informed by an appreciation of the chemistry that underlies these techniques. Students in this course begin by garnering a background in food-related chemistry; they then apply this knowledge to the understanding of food production and policy. Students will design and perform experiments using food, research and write about issues of food production and policy, and learn to communicate their finding.

FSEM 131 - The Mindful Body, Professor Donna Davenport
This seminar is a "yoga class" that takes place in a studio setting. Sounds fun, yet continuously it will challenge creative students to connect their physical practices to social justice principles and to be brave enough to explore sensitive topics with peers and to unlearn habits of thought and action. The history and philosophy of yoga, human anatomy, social justice education, storytelling, movement as metaphor, and intergroup dialogue are a few of the subjects that comprise this course. Students will need to be ready to venture into new territory, new body, new connections, new thinking, and new understanding of the self in relations to other. The adventure will include ongoing reading, college-level writing, research, dialogues outside class, and honest evaluation of outcomes.

FSEM 146 – Thomas Jefferson & His World, Professor Matthew Crow
This seminar will focus on the writings of Thomas Jefferson and the intellectual, political, social, and economic worlds in which Jefferson lived.  Our goal will be to use Jefferson's own writings and his astounding array of interests and concerns as opportunities to discuss the nature of law, partisan politics, democracy, rights, equality, the role of science in society, the philosophy of language, national identity, race and racism, empire, war and the political lives of women.  While trying to understand Jefferson and his world, we will also be debating the relevance of these texts for our lives as citizens, and so critically reflecting on the role of the past in the present. This course is linked to HIST 111-01, Topics in Introduction to American History: Unfreedoms in the Making of America.

FSEM 153 – Fight-And-Flight: Radical Women in Exile, Professor Marcela Romero Rivera
The work of the politically mobilize women surveyed in this seminar challenges the common-place notion that we are physiologically conditioned to respond to threats in one of two contradictory ways: fight OR flight. Having lived in circumstances of repression and persecution for their political ideas and activities, and instead of letting themselves be silenced, these female artists and writers responded by going into exile as a way of continuing their struggle. They decided to fight AND flight. Aligned with the Fisher Center’s theme for 2018-2019, “On the Move,” this First-Year Seminar will explore the ways in which even the forced transnational mobility of exile can be a dynamic space for resisting and fighting back. Departing from and arriving to far flung places like Italy, Spain, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the USSR, France, and the US, the painters, photographers, signers, journalists, novelists, and organizers in this course’s program produced political worker that made a loud and clear statement against racism and fascism, defending workers’ power, and imagining a better world for all, wherever they went. Through written responses, discussions, presentations, and research essays, we will hone the analytical and writing skills necessary to read photography, painting, dance, as well as fiction and non-fiction texts. Josephine Baker, Tina Modotti, Remedios Varo, and Angela Davis are just some of these Rad Women On the Move.

FSEM 154 - Pharaohs, Kings, and General: Political Power in Egypt, Professor Stacey Philbrick Yadav
The dramatic events in Tahrir Square in 2011 are still firmly in our minds, but Egypt's history is one of ongoing struggles over political authority and what it means to build a “just state.” This course will explore the historical and contemporary expression of authority (political, religious, and social) in Egypt from the ancient to the modern, and the major resistance movements that each has elicited. The course will involve an interdisciplinary exploration of history, literature, art, and social science, but will center on an introduction to some of the core concepts of comparative politics. These will include but not be limited to an exploration of a variety of sources of authority , legitimacy, power, obedience, and resistance.  We will also discuss the role of heterogeneity-of language, ethnicity, and class- in the making of Modern Egypt, and study any of the political and economic challenges facing the current Egyptian state and the Egyptian people as they come shape Egypt's post-revolutionary future. This course is linked to ANTH 110, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology.

FSEM 180 - The Blue Planet, Professor David Finkelstein
Water controls life on planet Earth. Water is a universal solvent, wherever it goes; it takes along valuable chemicals, minerals, and nutrients. Water is the only substance that exists naturally on Earth in all three physical states of matter-gas ( water vapor), liquid ( water), and solid ( ice and snow).  The heat capacity of water controls our weather and climate. Water, economics, politics, and wealth can be intimately tied together. When water flows, its power can be harvested. Where rains occur on a predictable basis, sustenance through farming can be achieved. Civilizations depend upon accessible drinking water. Does water control civilizations and politics? When water doesn’t flow or droughts persist, civilizations can collapse. What is our relationship with water? How does global climate change alter these relationships? Students will characterize our local and global relationship with water and climate using scholarly articles, maps, biographies, movies, music, and novels. Through discussions, presentations, debates, guided journals and short essays, we will explore the bounds that water places on humanity. This course is taught as a learning community. This FSEM is linked with GEO 186, Introduction to Hydrogeology.

FSEM 186 - Eat Like A Slav, Professor David Galloway
Food: if we are lucky, we consume it three times a day. But is it just something that keeps us going—or is there more to it? In this course, we will investigate the role that food plays in Russian culture from its earliest documented forms to the present day. We will consider a variety of interdisciplinary contexts in which food takes a central role, including literature, economics, history, nutrition, and folklore, as well as the ways Russian food has been presented to the world at large. We will examine the peasant diet, which for hundreds of years supported a massive political empire, as well as the luxurious habits of the upper classes, where Western European influences first took hold. Our work will find its practical application in a weekly kitchen laboratory session where we will construct these dishes as we discuss the nature of food in Russian culture of the last several hundred years. There are two sections of this seminar.

FSEM 193 - Ghosts and Hauntings in the Americas, Professor Michelle Martin-Baron
Why is the figure of the ghost prevalent in stories across Americas? What are these ghosts trying to tell us, and what would happen if we took seriously their demands? This course investigates the ghostly, the haunted, and the possessed within North, Central, and South American theater, literature, and film. Following Avery Gordon, this course begins with the suggestion that “Haunting describes how that which appears to not be there is actually a seething presence, the ghost or apparition is one form by which something lost., or barely visible, or seemingly not there to our supposedly well-trained eyes makes itself known or apparent to us,” Our primary goal is thus to learn to read with an eye and ear for the ghostly: what is presumed missing, repressed, and/or underneath the surface. We will explore folktales of ghosts, examine the uncanny, and investigate narrative and performative forms talking to, with, and about ghosts. Throughout, we will consider relationship of history and memory, both individual and collective. Students will focus on the craft of writing as a medium through which to develop their ideas and strengthen the skills in persuasive, analytical writing.

FSEM 199 - Build Your Own Westeros, Professor Eric Klaus
What if you could create your own Westeros, Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Narnia?—these realms inspire and captivate. However, these worlds are more than adventure, intrigue, and chainmail; they have histories, mythologies, social norms and rituals, in short, they are cultures. Fictional cultures, but cultures nonetheless. So what is culture? Is it what people wear? Or how they worship, celebrate, and mourn? Or how they govern themselves or what they eat? Or even how they create and understand art? All of these? We will take on these questions by building fictional cultures of our own. To prepare us for this, we will learn to think of culture as more than objects. It is a system, a network of filters through which we make sense of the world and create our place in it. After building a theoretical basis and analyzing one of the most famous and important fictional worlds in the Western tradition, Dante’s “Inferno,” you will build your own fictional world and visit the fictional worlds of your classmates to explore cultural differences and how those differences are overcome.


You'll notice that some of our Seminars are also part of a Learning Community, a distinctive living and learning environment that enhances the connections between courses and extracurricular events.

Learn more about Learning Communities.



Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.