First Year Seminar
The three-credit First Year Seminar course lets you choose from a host of dynamic topics (listed below) that will challenge you to think about relevant issues of the day, while introducing you to the liberal arts and the relationship between a liberal arts education and your educational goals. Many of these topics are especially significant for women.
Besides exploring the topic through reading and class discussion, you’ll share your thoughts in a project, video presentation or essay of your own. In some cases, students will share the message of the course with the community in order to make a lasting and positive impact.
First Year Seminar will be taken concurrently with College Life, with its focus on understanding the connection between optimal wellness and academic success.
First Year Seminar Topics
Drugs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
In today’s society drugs are a part of our everyday lives and can be touted as good or evil. In this course we will explore some drugs that have changed our world for the better or worse and discuss why. We will also delve into the world of the pharmaceutical industry, both in a local and global aspect. An awareness of eastern versus western medicine and its impact on society will also be considered. As a project we will consider how pharmaceutical advertising on TV and other media influence our lives. By the end of the course, students will have gained a better understanding of what a drug is and how to make more educated decisions in thinking about the impact of drugs in a local and global setting.
Through physical practice, readings, lecture, discussions, reflective writings and group assignments, students will develop self- awareness, an understanding of body language and total mind-body fitness; gain inner strength and confidence; obtain an increased awareness of the senses and a feeling of wholeness by balancing the mind and the body.
Not All Heroes Are Men
This seminar will use five internationally recognized films to explore examples of women’s courage, character, and conviction in difficult, if not dangerous, circumstances. In settings as different as Argentina, Vietnam, Kenya, Germany, and China, the female protagonists in these films confront and master adversity amidst war, dictatorship, epidemic disease, and exile. The films are The Official Story, dir. Luiz Puenzo (1985), Indochine, dir. Régis Warqnier (1992), Nowhere in Africa, dir. Caroline Link (2001), Rosenstrasse, dir. Margarethe von Trotta (2003), and The Painted Veil, dir. John Curran (2006). They have been chosen for their global reach, their engagement with issues of profound importance, and the memorable character of individual performances. Three of the films won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; a fourth was nominated in the same category.
Theater: A Universal Language
This course examines both intellectually and experientially the role of the theatre artist—specifically, the actor, director and designer. Students will explore the great artists from each area internationally—for example, Growtowski and Stanislavsky as creators of new approaches to the craft of acting; Susan Sarandon, Angelina Jolie and Vaclev Havel as examples of the actor as activist; Peter Brooks, Anne Bogart and Julie Taymor in directing; and Ming Cho Lee in design. Coupled with discussion is the opportunity to perform Growtowski or Stanislavsky exercises, direct scenes, and work on an area of design for a one-act play. The course will open students to their own perceptions, passions and ideas, and how to express the artist within. Material comes from both Eastern and Western traditions. Group collaboration, with each student picking a specific artistic role, will bring a final project to fruition.
Visions and Voices: The Outsider in Film and Fiction (Honors Section)
The characters of Oedipus and Othello, Jane Eyre and Hermione Granger: the outsider has figured prominently in literature for centuries. Not all outsiders are outcasts or villains. In fact, outsiders are often a part of the culture they are simultaneously distanced from: their place “in between” worlds offers them a privileged perspective on the culture from which they stand apart. In this seminar, we’ll consider examples of literature and film that contain “outsider” characters in order to explore the challenges and benefits of being an outsider. We’ll explore what it means to “belong,” why people are threatened by those who appear to be different, and how individuals learn to navigate the communities they wish to join—or choose not to. Ultimately, we’ll consider how living in the in-between may lead to the discovery of one’s unique voice and vision: as English author Julian Barnes suggests, “the writer must be universal in sympathy and an outcast by nature; only then can he see clearly.”
Stories of Initiation: Coming of Age Past and Present
This course examines the experience of girls moving from childhood to young adulthood in literature and film. Using excerpts from the shared reading This I Believe, coupled with The Power of Critical Thinking by Vaughn, the course will explore and analyze how young adults eventually arrive at the beliefs that they hold in works such as The Secret Life of Bees, My Sister’s Keeper, and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (both the novels and the films). The students will read additional excerpts of coming of age stories from previous centuries for comparison; the focus, however, will be on the process in the 21st century.
DNA on Display: Conversations on the Role of Genetics in Society
Biological research holds great promise for society; through the use of genetics we could cure inherited diseases with gene therapy, identify criminals by their DNA fingerprints, and engineer crops to be drought resistant, thus ending world hunger. However, as we design our babies to be stronger and smarter, and begin to eliminate traits that we deem “undesirable,” we cross over into a realm of questionable ethics, revitalizing the eugenics movement and developing technologies that could destroy natural habitats. In this seminar we will delve into both the science and societal issues surrounding advances in the field of genetics. We will use readings, videos, laboratory exercises, and discussions to better understand the impact of genetics on our global community, and we will respond to societal issues through reflective writings, podcasts, and informational posters and brochures.
The Psychedelic Sixties
This course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive overview of one of the most important periods in American history. The framework for the course will be the various mass social movements that characterized the 1960s as well as the cultural shift evidenced in the expanding drug culture, the evolution of rock and roll music, the sexual revolution, and the beatniks and hippies.