FIRST-YEAR SEMINARS

FSEM students

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.

First-Year Seminars

FSEM

FSEM 011 Britpop, Robert Carson
Pop music, by definition, is music of the moment: it crystallizes a specific point in space and time and preserves it in three glorious minutes of song. In this class, we'll immerse ourselves deeply in the history of British pop music from World War II up to the present day, from Vera Lynn to Adele, from the Kinks to the Clash, from the Specials to Stormzy, and we'll use this remarkable playlist as a lens to examine how British culture has evolved over the past seventy-five years. For Americans, British culture can sometimes seem to be readily accessible and familiar, but at others it can be altogether foreign and impenetrable. (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 engage in an in-depth conversation with a culture that is a close cousin to our own, and if all goes as planned, we will come to reflect back upon our own culture with fresh eyes as well.

FSEM 013 Violence in the Sea of Faith, 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.

FSEM

FSEM 015 Stealing Art, Saving Art, Michael Tinkler
What motivates people to collect art? What motivates people to steal art? What motivates rare individuals to fake art? In this FSEM, 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. Among the topics considered: the transition from the Indiana Jones era of archaeology to scientific excavation; Goering's art looting and contemporary art restitution processes' the role of art museums in the restoration, conservation, and exhibition of art; and the complicated business of art fraud and forgery.

FSEM 018 Genocide and the Modern Age, Richard Salter
We live in an age of genocide. Genocide is a crime against humanity because it negates human value itself. The 20th century began with the destruction of the Herrero people in what is now Namibia in Africa; there followed the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks, the mass murder of the Roma (Gypsies) and the Jews (Holocaust) by the Nazis, the cruelties of the Stalinist Gulag, the ravages of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and the mutual genocidal massacres of Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi. Recent genocidal events in the Balkans and in the Darfur region of the Sudan underscore the persistence of the problem. These human tragedies have the potential to undermine the value of human life, the meaning of history and modernity, the relevance and truth of religion and culture, and the significance of social organization. Students in this course will examine the history of genocide and its impact on culture, politics and religion. Together we will confront the dilemma of how to orient life, thought and action around the memory of mass death and broken cultural traditions.

FSEM 019 Archaeological Mysteries, Leah Himmelhoch
Did aliens really visit the Egyptians or early Meso-Americans? Could ancient peoples possibly build sophisticated structures like pyramids, or the Nazca lines, or calculate the complex mathematical equations necessary for their astronomical projects, without a more advanced civilization's aid? Has Noah's Ark really been found? Does the Bible include evidence of UFO's? Did Atlantis really exist? How could anyone really verify whether the Piltdown Man was a hoax-doesn't science itself dictate that there are no definite answers? How can you tell when an archaeological or scientific discovery is fraudulent? Are alternative archaeologists really plucky, unappreciated champions of a truth that mainstream science wants to conceal? Are academic archaeologists closed-minded, unimaginative, agents of the status quo, intent upon keeping revelatory information away from the public? This course will review famous moments in 'Pseudo-Archaeology' then explain how to differentiate fraudulent/fantastical claims from scientifically supportable conclusions. We will also discuss why individuals might generate hoaxes or cling to unsustainable narratives, and why such misinformation about the past matters. Finally, we will investigate some properly documented/handled archaeological mysteries, in order to: 1) practice distinguishing supported claims from fiction (and maybe offer some responsible explanations of our own); 2) demonstrate that the rigorous application of scientific method does not stifle excitement or mystery; and, 3) marvel at the ingenuity of our distant ancestors.

FSEM 025 Unfreedoms & the Problem of Race, Virgil Slade
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, where it is impossible to claim that everyone experiences 'freedom' in the same way. Access to supposedly universal 'freedoms' is in fact dependent on the dominant perceptions of 'belonging' circulating in any given society-perceptions which profoundly shape how each individual is forced to navigate the world and our collective present. Rather than recognize our shared humanity, this collective present justifies exclusions using a racial logic that presupposes that some 'belong more' than others. This course exposes how our present-day realities are not 'natural' or in some way 'inevitable,' Instead, the world we live in was created in service of particular political, social, and economic imperatives - these agendas remain largely concealed in dominant constructions of the past. It is precisely in how this history gets conjured that the supposed 'problem' of race emerges. How is it possible to think about race that does not create hierarchy? What happens if we unwrap what the master narrative has historically concealed? How could this potentially re-articulate notions of belonging?

FSEM

FSEM 042 Interrogating Race US & S Afr, 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 057 Facets of Islam, 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, R 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

FSEM 077 Metacognition & Social Justice, 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 & Learning, Darrin Magee
We've all been told about the threats of climate change, but what about solutions? In this class, we'll learn about climate change by focusing on ways to "drawdown" carbon dioxide levels and solve climate change. We'll be learning about solutions to climate change involving food, energy, land use, and social justice and equity to help us to build a more resilient world that can thrive in the face of global climate change. For example, did you know that reducing food waste and educating girls are two of the top solutions to tackling climate change? In addition to exploring ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, we'll also take several field trips throughout the course of the semester to see some of the ways these exciting solutions are taking place locally in the Finger Lakes.

FSEM 078 Sustainable Living & Learning, Robinson Murphy
We've all been told about the threats of climate change, but what about solutions? In this class, we'll learn about climate change by focusing on ways to "drawdown" carbon dioxide levels and solve climate change. We'll be learning about solutions to climate change involving food, energy, land use, and social justice and equity to help us to build a more resilient world that can thrive in the face of global climate change. For example, did you know that reducing food waste and educating girls are two of the top solutions to tackling climate change? In addition to exploring ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, we'll also take several field trips throughout the course of the semester to see some of the ways these exciting solutions are taking place locally in the Finger Lakes.

FSEM 078 Sustainable Living & Learning, Kristen Brubaker
We've all been told about the threats of climate change, but what about solutions? In this class, we'll learn about climate change by focusing on ways to "drawdown" carbon dioxide levels and solve climate change. We'll be learning about solutions to climate change involving food, energy, land use, and social justice and equity to help us to build a more resilient world that can thrive in the face of global climate change. For example, did you know that reducing food waste and educating girls are two of the top solutions to tackling climate change? In addition to exploring ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, we'll also take several field trips throughout the course of the semester to see some of the ways these exciting solutions are taking place locally in the Finger Lakes.

FSEM

FSEM 091 Earth vs. Humans, 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 092 Math and Metaphor, Jennifer Biermann
Science fiction authors often draw from mathematical ideas in their stories, and popular science writers use metaphor to communicate complicated mathematical topics to a general audience. In this class we will examine these two modes of story-telling through paired readings (fictional and non-fictional) with shared mathematical content.

FSEM 094 The History of Everything, 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. Typical Readings: Christian, Maps of Time; The New York Times.

FSEM 105 Golf Course Architecture, Rocco 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 108 Comix to Graphix, Lara Blanchard
Are comics and graphic novels literature, art, both, or neither? What does Wonder Woman have to do with political history? Why render the Holocaust in a comic format? This course surveys the history and development of comics and graphic novels, a thriving hybrid form. Collaboratively taught by a literature professor and an art historian, the course will use methods of literary and visual analysis to gain a deeper understanding of graphic storytellings.  Students will read a range of works in these media, as well as theory, method, and criticism in the field.  Students will process critical analyses as well as creative projects, both individually and in collaboration.  This course helps students develop multiple skills of interpretation of narratives in a range of contexts. Readings may include Persepolis, Maus, Fun Home, and Scott Pilgrim, among others.

FSEM

FSEM 111 Paris, Je T'Aime, Catherine Gallouet
This course will examine contemporary French life in the light of American points of view about France today. We will study Paris as the perceived historical and cultural “center” of the French world. French life will be studied through its multiple productions, (the life of the city, cinema, literature and cuisine). We will pay particular attention on how Americans have related to the city and its culture, and by extension to French culture, by examining the experience of American expatriated in France, and how their representations may construct stereotypes of the “city of lights” and of France. This course is taught as a learning community with French 130.

FSEM 112 Music and Ethics, Katherine Walker
This course examines enduring ethical questions, claims, and arguments through the lens of music. Ethics is a branch of philosophy whose goal is to systemize and defend concepts of right and wrong outside of the institutions of culture, religion, law, and family. Why is morality important? What is the value of human life? Why is there suffering? Is happiness an imperative? Over the course of the semester, students will critically engage some of the most canonical answers to these questions, and learn to apply them to musical works ranging from Buddhist chant to Chief Keef.

FSEM 125 Hunger, Brenda Maiale
In 1826 Brillat-Savarin wrote, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” But what can we tell from studies of not eating? This course will explore the hungering of fasting ascetics, anorexic girls, medieval saints, crash dieters, occasional cannibals, professional athletes, TV contestants, strategic political fasters, and famine and environmental disaster victims among others. Our subject will be cravings, desires, uneasy sensations, and weakened conditions as occasioned by the lack of food or some other unmet need. We will examine the myriad ways that hunger is constructed cross-culturally to critically analyze what it means in relation to other features of daily life. Using multidisciplinary accounts such as fiction, history, ethnography, biography, and film, we will examine how in particular contexts what we gloss as hunger can inform larger issues, such as the relationship between the individual and society, society and culture, and the local and the global.

FSEM 125 Hunger, Christopher Annear
In 1826 Brillat-Savarin wrote, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” But what can we tell from studies of not eating? This course will explore the hungering of fasting ascetics, anorexic girls, medieval saints, crash dieters, occasional cannibals, professional athletes, TV contestants, strategic political fasters, and famine and environmental disaster victims among others. Our subject will be cravings, desires, uneasy sensations, and weakened conditions as occasioned by the lack of food or some other unmet need. We will examine the myriad ways that hunger is constructed cross-culturally to critically analyze what it means in relation to other features of daily life. Using multidisciplinary accounts such as fiction, history, ethnography, biography, and film, we will examine how in particular contexts what we gloss as hunger can inform larger issues, such as the relationship between the individual and society, society and culture, and the local and the global.

FSEM 131 The Mindful Body, 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 inter-group 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 relation to others. The adventure will include ongoing reading, college-level writing, research, dialogues outside class, and honest evaluation of outcomes.

FSEM 145 Einstein, Relativity and Time, Donald Spector
Einstein's theory of relativity is one of the triumphs of human thought, changing our understanding of our universe. The implications of relativity, which arose from a simple consideration of light, reached far and wide, from understanding the origins of the universe, to re-thinking philosophical issues, to influences across the arts. In this course, we will explore relativity, its concepts and its mathematics. This will lead us into related areas from exotica like black holes and time travel, to a better understanding of light in science and the arts, and to the social and historical context from which relativity emerged.

FSEM

FSEM 149 Comparative Mythology, Laurence Erussard
This course is designed under the premise that understanding myth is an important step towards understanding ourselves and our cultures. It is invitation to recognize the mythic in our daily lives. For most students, “mythology” means Greek, Roman or Norse mythology. However, this course will go beyond these sources and will compare them to myths from Africa, the Americas, Oceania and Asia. Students will discover the fascinating parallels that exist among the myths of widely separated cultures; they will see how parallel myths narrow the gaps between cultures and reveal what is constant and universal in human experience. After an introduction about the meaning of “myth” in time, history and religions, the course will be structured around the comparative study of the main types of myths: creation myths, flood myths, love myths, myths of the hero, journeys to the underworld visions of Apocalypse and the tricksters' myths. A final section will explore interpretations of myths, the difference between myth and religion or science and the idea of the 'monomyth.'

FSEM 162 Narratives of Disability, Diana Baker
This course uses personal accounts and other narratives to introduce students to the lives of individuals with disabilities. The course has a geographic orientation beginning with narratives grounded in our local HWS and Finger Lakes communities before moving to other parts of the United States and abroad. Issues to be examined include educational opportunity and inclusion, social participation and challenges, and family perspectives and issues.

FSEM 180 The Blue Planet, 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.

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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.