First Year Seminar

    Washington College’s First-Year Seminar program introduces new college students to critical inquiry, college writing, and research and other academic skills vital for collegiate success. FY seminars explore a wide range of topics, but all share three essential elements:

    • the passion of a dedicated instructor
    • a small-seminar format where students learn from each other
    • a sustained focus on the ‘habits of critical inquiry’ at the heart of liberal education

    Fall 2022 FYS Offerings:

    FYS 101-10 King Arthur: Myth to Modernity – Prof. Rydel

    Effective citizen leadership requires the ability to consider questions and issues from multiple perspectives with a thoughtful and critical eye. The required first-year seminar offers students the opportunity to engage in nuanced critical inquiry in a small, seminar-style course. Topics vary widely and reflect diverse disciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives. All FYS courses introduce students to library research and information literacy; offer instruction on the writing process, rhetorical knowledge, and academic conventions; and include significant research, writing, revision, and presentation. FYS courses satisfy the W1 component of the Writing Program.

    FYS 101-11 America Goes To College – Prof. Goodheart

    From the age of the Puritans to the era of beer pong, American colleges and universities have often served as microcosms of America itself. They have been places of new experiments and new experiences; of youth revolt and political activism; of debates about class, privilege, and identity; of transitions from adolescence to adulthood; of debauchery and disobedience; of inclusion and exclusion; of free speech and censorship. They served first as cradles of colonial elites, then as incubators for citizens of the new nation. Campus controversies have reflected the broader society's priorities and concerns; campus architecture has reflected the broader society’s cultural ideals and aspirations. Campus cultures have spawned weird rituals and subcultures that persist to this day. And the institutions known as “liberal arts colleges” are a specifically American invention — one that was dreamed up, to some degree, on a hilltop in Chestertown.

    Our course will ask the question: What is this thing we call college, and how did it get to be this way? How have undergraduate experiences been shaped by changing definitions of young adulthood, and by the circumstances of specific historical moments? How do the four years of college fit into the larger panorama of a person’s life? How do controversies about college — including critiques from both the left and the right — reflect larger sociopolitical debates and conflicts? We will delve into a diverse array of sources: some will be assigned, others unearthed by the students themselves. Considerable independent work — including archival and oral history research, as well as other writing — will be required, and students will share the fruits of this work in class. We will make the most of our fortunate opportunity to explore the rich history of one of America’s oldest academic institutions: Washington College.

    FYS 101-12 The Meaning of Civic Engagement: Citizen Scholars on Campus and in the Community – Prof. Nugent

    What does it mean to “do good,” to “make a difference,” or to “serve the community”? Do we have ethical obligations as students and scholars to give back to our communities? Does a robust democracy depend on engaged citizenry and scholars? If so, how do we approach our scholarship in ways that will benefit the broader public sphere? What opportunities, obstacles, and models exist for college students (and the broader campus) to build ethical and collaborative relationships with community partners? In answering these questions, this course will trace a brief history of American civic engagement as it has been conceived by writers, scholars, educators, and activists across the nation’s 250-year experiment with democracy. Along the way, students will be asked to consider how American campuses continue to craft innovative approaches to civic dialogue, information literacy, voter engagement, service learning, and campus-community partnerships. Coursework will ask students to select a social issue of particular interest that stretches across both campus and the local Kent County community, exploring it deeply through research, community conversation, and various modes of writing in order to craft a social action plan for campus-community collaboration moving forward. By semester’s end, students will be able to better articulate their role as scholars in the world, gaining skills in critical inquiry, research, and writing, as well as a new appreciation for how their scholarship can contribute to the broader public sphere.

    FYS 101-13 Who Succeeds in College – Prof. Bateman

    Effective citizen leadership requires the ability to consider questions and issues from multiple perspectives with a thoughtful and critical eye. The required first-year seminar offers students the opportunity to engage in nuanced critical inquiry in a small, seminar-style course. Topics vary widely and reflect diverse disciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives. All FYS courses introduce students to library research and information literacy; offer instruction on the writing process, rhetorical knowledge, and academic conventions; and include significant research, writing, revision, and presentation. FYS courses satisfy the W1 component of the Writing Program.

    FYS 101-14 The Great Questions – Prof. Prud’homme

    This course studies great questions in the fields of philosophy, politics, and economics. Questions include the meaning of life, the existence of God and free will, the meaning of justice and the rule of law, and justifications for and criticisms of a free market economy. Enrolled Presidential Fellows students are encouraged but not required to participate in the Great Questions Presidential Track. The course is not limited to Presidential Fellows and is open to all interested students. Special guests will enrich the educational experience.

    FYS 101-15 Enemies, Terror, and Paranoia – Prof. Black

    The modern world is a dangerous place, filled with threats both real and imagined. As if to compound that reality, modern societies seem to thrive on horror movies, murder tales, and representations of ghastly violence. What roles do enemies and terror play in the cultures of the modern world from the nineteenth century to the present? What are the connections between fictional representations of enemies, terror, and paranoia and the ways we perceive our actual world? This course will explore such themes through examinations of fictional works, films, and scholarly analysis. Students will hone their writing skills through a series of short papers and will give oral presentations based on original research.

    FYS 101-16 Introduction to LGBTQ+ Psychology – Prof. Conlin

    The purpose of this course is to introduce students to key topics in the psychological and counseling literature surrounding sexual orientation (identity) and gender identity. Topics may include: history in psychology, minority stress and its mental health impacts, resilience and protective factors, identity development, relationships/family, workplace concerns, counseling/psychotherapy, intersectionality, and social advocacy. We will closely examine the empirical research within psychology in these areas, with a focus on mental health and well-being among LGBTQ+ individuals. Additionally, the course will introduce students to key concepts relevant to culturally competent psychotherapy practice. Students will become familiar with the scientific writing process, examining empirical research, and presenting academic material to an audience.

    FYS 101-17 Gamblers, Tricksters, Actors, and Sinners: Seeing the World through the Theatrical – Prof. Thomas

    “All the world’s a stage,

    and all the men and women merely players.”

    Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, scene 7

    Can watching Hamlet influence an audience to murder their parents? Does dancing inevitably lead to sexual intimacy? Will watching Harry Potter lead children to practice witchcraft? Does celebrating Christmas with presents and singing make a mockery of the religious basis of the day? Was the Declaration of Independence meant to be a performed script? Writers, philosophers, and scholars throughout history have crafted strong arguments both for the seduction and dangers of entertainments like theatre, dancing, gambling, and holiday celebrations, as well as for the inherent importance of the theatricality of life. This seminar invites students to explore the world through the lenses of theatricality and anti-theatricality using a variety of readings, lively class discussion, written response, and an original research paper and presentation, as we consider the importance of performance and play in our everyday lives.

    FYS 101-19 Jane Austen and Fan Culture – Prof. Charles

    Effective citizen leadership requires the ability to consider questions and issues from multiple perspectives with a thoughtful and critical eye. The required first-year seminar offers students the opportunity to engage in nuanced critical inquiry in a small, seminar-style course. Topics vary widely and reflect diverse disciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives. All FYS courses introduce students to library research and information literacy; offer instruction on the writing process, rhetorical knowledge, and academic conventions; and include significant research, writing, revision, and presentation. FYS courses satisfy the W1 component of the Writing Program.

    FYS 101-20 Language is Limitless – Prof. Rodriguez

    What is language without borders? We often think of languages like English, Spanish, or Mandarin as stable, with consistent rules we can learn. At the same time, we know that languages are alive, and changing all the time. This puts you at a crossroads. Are you learning language the way you download a file, or are you changing language even as you learn it? You may be multilingual, or think you speak only English, but what if the borders between languages weren’t as easy to see as we think they are? Together, we will read about and listen to people using African American English, indigenous languages, Spanglish, Engrish, and even the invented language Esperanto. In these spaces where languages are growing and mixing, what was once impossible becomes possible. New meaning is created and complex problems can be solved. At the end of our semester, you won’t speak a new language fluently, but you will learn how to utilize all parts of your identity and your story to communicate effectively wherever you go, even in places where everyone is “just” speaking English. Language is a global resource, and those who “do language” well can persuade others and enact social change.

    FYS 101-21 Narrative in Revolution – Prof. Hull

     

    FYS 101-22 Nations and Animation – Prof. Deanda-Camacho

    “Nations and Animations” analyzes adult animated movies as gateways to a deeper understanding of different nations, geographical areas, and historical events. It uses a global scope and delves into specific situations such as the Taliban rising in Afghanistan, the Brotherhood rising in Iran, the 1982 Lebanon war, the Cuban exile to the US, or the French Tour de France. By analyzing these movies, students will widen their understanding of historical moments in nations abroad. Similarly, by analyzing topics distilled in these films, such as women’s education, marriage, traditions, the conservation and design of the “commons”, and notions such as “good living”, students will be able to connect to cultural differences through a humanistic approach. Overall, this course seeks to enable students’ reading of cultural products (visual, literary, cinematic, etc.), as a means to both experiences an aesthetic response and develop a critical approach to both culture and society. By the end of the semester, students would be able to find information in digital and analog systems with a keen eye to what is “fake” and what is recognized as standard and authoritative; they will be able to sketch and develop a small research paper on film and in the humanities, and to dialogue with secondary sources, as well as to assess their classmates’ essays, in order to become a community of readers, writers, and scholars.

    FYS 101-23 Just Dance! Making Meaning, Making Moves - Prof. Gerardo

    This course introduces students to dance by engaging with the art form by exploring ongoing themes and current states of dance as a form of creative expression, and connecting relevant relationships to other artistic, cultural, and social disciplines past and present. We will look at dance through various lenses such as dance as community, dance as identity, dance as resistance, as well as questions of who gets to dance and who owns the dance. We will engage with course content through embodied learning by “trying on” multiple dance styles. In tandem with hands on experience, the course will involve collaborative discussions related to readings, interviews, podcasts, and dance films to cultivate connections to thematic material. Through the course you will gain a greater appreciation for and understanding of the physical, creative, and performative processes involved in dance. Students will have a deep understanding of dance and its relevance to the scope of artistic, social, cultural, and political landscapes in which it was created and currently exists. More importantly, students develop personal insight into how to talk about and relate to dance as an enduring language of all bodies.

    FYS 101-24 Becoming You: A Liberal Arts Approach to Wellbeing – Prof. Frees

     

    FYS 101-25 Rivers and The American Mind – Prof. Stewart

    Rivers run throughout American history, politics, culture, but their presence in our lives is often taken for granted. This course will explore the complex relationship between the people of the United States and its many rivers. We will explore how rivers have shaped America and how America has shaped rivers. We will examine a wide range of texts – maps, novels, songs, photographs, and more – to gain new ways of reading the world around us. Students in this course will be encouraged to develop their own research interests and honing their writing skills through the courses three major writing assignments. Significant time will be set aside to review, revise, and receive feedback on writing. Along the way, students will have ample opportunities to explore Kent County’s rivers from shore and under sail. The course will culminate in the creation of a digital exhibit for the Chesapeake Heartland Project that focuses on African Americans and the Chester River, and students will present their work to local community members in a public forum.

    FYS 101-26 Magpies of the Archives: Creative Endeavors in Primary Sources – Prof. Arnold

    Want to create a Tasty-style video from a historic recipe? Would you like to read-aloud a historic speech from a time before recorded audio existed? Or perhaps you want to tell the story of a famous adventurer complete with historic depictions of their battlefield deaths? Dive into Washington College’s Archives, rare books, and digital archives from the college and public archives to explore primary sources and use them as seeds to create your own short videos, or other creative endeavor. No experience required, only curiosity and determination. Students will learn how to delve deeper through library and archival materials, beyond what a cursory researcher might look for and use. Students will learn tools and frameworks for identification, analysis, and connection to the work of archival materials.

    FYS 101-33 The End of the World – Prof. Tirrell

    Humanity has existed for two hundred thousand years, always under external threat by asteroids, supervolcanoes, and other natural events. In the past hundred years, humanity has developed tools that enable us to end the world. During the Cuban missile crisis, JFK famously estimated the probability of nuclear war to be as high as a 50/50 coin toss. Today we live in a world with nuclear weapons, climate change, global pandemics, and other threats. Emerging fields like synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence may present even larger risks in the near future. In this class we will discuss strategies to evaluate and mitigate these existential risks. We are in a unique moment in human history. We survived a coin toss in the last century. Will humanity continue on a bit more until our luck runs out, or will we reduce these risks and persist for many more millennia?

    FYS 101 From Homer to Drake: The power of storytellers – Prof. Daigle

    Storytelling is an essential and fundamental part of all human activity. From Homer to Harry Potter, from the Lascaux Cave Paintings to Instagram, from Mozart to Drake, storytelling is at the heart of all human communication. This course will examine storytelling through three lenses: 1) Historical: Why do we tell stories? Why has storytelling been an important part of every culture and civilization throughout history. 2) Structural: How are stories built? What are the essential pieces/elements that are a part of every effective story? 3) Performative: What are the performance techniques that make for good storytelling? Through papers, presentations, class interaction, and hands-on work, students will gain a critical understanding of the centrality of stories to our lives, and improve their own capacity to share the power of stories.

    FYS 101 Making a Living in Kent County – Prof. Baur