First Year Seminar Courses

What is a First Year Seminar? Each year Goucher offers close to 25 seminars just for first-year students. These small, discussion-based classes are designed to show you the ropes of real academic inquiry. The courses cover a wide range of topics and disciplines. None assumes prior experience with the topic. Take your time, click on the links to read course descriptions, and pick a topic that intrigues you!

FYS 100.001 Perception & Misperception of the Arab World

In this FYS section, we will examine our perceptions of the Arab World and learn about the conflicts and upheavals that have shaped modern Arab society and culture. Throughout the semester, we will be introduced to a wide variety of thought-provoking Arab films, stories, poetry, and music that will spark a new understanding of the major trends and themes of this region. This will be a discussion-based seminar, in which our short essays will be geared toward developing the critical tools and skills needed for academic success in this course and beyond. 

Instructor: Zahi Khamis 

FYS 100.002 Free Speech: How Free Is It Today?

In this age of rapid globalization and heightened cross-cultural contacts, nations, communities, and individuals are working hard to hold on to and reaffirm their own identities and values. In the United States, one of the most precious values is free speech, embedded in the First Amendment to the Constitution and regarded as a primary tenet of American democracy. But arguments and controversies over the boundaries, if any, of free speech have become frequent and intense, and all the more so in the era of digital communication. This course will examine the dialogue that is taking place within the United States and around the world on these issues – sometimes in a civil manner, and at other times as a political or cultural confrontation that all too frequently turns violent as witnessed in the election that made Donald Trump president of the United States. Our own dialogue will hopefully remain civil, but it may at times be controversial and heated; when we examine violent music and raunchy comedy and analyze different reactions to pornography, for example. By the end of the semester, we may all emerge a little less certain than we thought we were before about what legitimately deserves protection as free speech and what does not. We will also explore this in terms of the Goucher community and our media outlets of The Goucher Eye, The Q and our campus radio station. We will discuss international and domestic protests over politically sensitive cartoons like the ones published in Charlie Hebdo, controversies over Holocaust denial, whether hate speech should be banned, whether the media can be constrained on national security grounds, whether WikiLeaks was right to publish Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails and what constitutes freedom of speech on the Internet, cell phones or in social media. Through court cases and by other means, we will examine the debate in this country over what it means to be patriotic and whether patriotism requires us to say, or prohibits us from saying, certain things. Examples of constraints on free speech in our daily lives and work will be discussed, including in the classrooms and student press platforms at Goucher. Our sources will include writings and statements made by the participants in these debates, a classical treatise on liberty by the political philosopher John Stuart Mill, media reports, commentary by scholars and journalists from different societies and cultural positions, and your own experiences about what you can and cannot say. You will have a chance to discuss and critique the work of your professor as it appears in his writing at the Baltimore Sun and commentary and analysis on CNN. The most important thing to know about the course is that we do not have a set of predetermined opinions that we are trying to convince you are correct. We are interested in your formulation of your own opinions on the basis of the readings we assign, the writing you do, and the discussions we have in class. Hopefully, we will manage to surprise each other once in a while.

Instructor: Zurawik, David

FYS 100.003 The Russian Fairytale: A Critical Analysis

We will explore whence tales came, where they went, why they were told and then written down, and how and why they changed. Glass slippers? Not in the original! Bring your knowledge of Disney and Grimm to a fascinating new look at what you thought you knew about tales of old, and then see how these classics have been transformed into the likes of Harry Potter. A multimedia survey course of Russian oral and subsequent written traditions presented against the background of Indo-European traditions.

Instructor: Czeczulin, Annalisa

FYS 100.004 - Managing Sustainability: Understanding Green Business

This course will examine sustainability practices of leading nonprofit and for-profit companies. Topics include a short overview of business practices, history of the non-profit 'green' movement in the US, renewable energy sources, the examination of different industries and companies in terms of ‘green practices’ and an analysis of climate change.

Instructor: Hubbard, Nancy

FYS 100.005 - Pictures, Words, and Stories

In this course, we will explore storytelling from the oral tradition to the digital age reviewing a variety of texts ranging from picture books to young adult stories. Particular emphasis will be placed on understanding the relationship between text and illustration; multicultural and intercultural texts; and the processes of reading, writing, illustrating, and evaluating stories. You will explore the question of how culture is conveyed through children’s stories by selecting and analyzing existing texts and extend your personal voice by writing and illustrating your own picture book. Class discussions, independent and collaborative research, and exploration and analysis of texts will enable you to develop critical reading, writing, and thinking skills and to explore your own identity and voice. The nature of the course will require you to conduct yourself in a professional manner, contributing meaningfully, participate in collaborative inquiry, and be receptive to and respectful of multiple perspective and cultural difference.

Instructor: Smith, Tami

FYS 100.006 – Many-Headed Melodies: Historic and Contemporary American Feminist Voices

What does it mean to be feminist? Is it an academic, theoretical, or action-based endeavor? Can it be story-telling, a life lived, a decision, a performance? Should there be a unified womanist voice or can disparate voices co-exist and be heard as equally urgent? While drawing historic numbers, the Women’s March in Washington DC after the inauguration illuminated fundamental, long-simmering differences within America’s feminist agenda. Voices of color, the working class, single mothers, Latina, and LBGQT communities have not heard themselves as part of a feminist privileged “we,” and while this has long been the case current events have propelled these arguments into a pivotal place in American cultural thought. This course will examine historic voices through a diversity of mediums: short stories, minstrelsy, an opera performance, essays by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sojourner Truth and Anna Julia Cooper, slave diaries, suffragist tracts, movies from the 1930s, and lyrics by Bessie Smith will mingle with activist voices including Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, bell hooks, Barbara Smith, and Ana Castillo. A wandering voice from “right now” will move among these others, and this voice will include yours. What are these many-headed melodies calling us to hear?

Instructor: La May, Thomasin

FYS 100.007 – The Latino Experience in the US

There are more than 50 million Latin@s living in the United States, making them the largest ethnic minority group in the nation. By 2050, Latin@s are projected to account for more than 30 percent of the U.S. population. This course introduces you to the social, political, and cultural history of this vital and diverse ethnic group using a variety of primary and secondary sources to illuminate selected topics and themes from the colonial period to the present. Key topics include: past and present immigration; Latin@ identity and perceptions of Latin@s in the U.S., the formation and transformation of cultural identity; and the Spanish language in media and education. You will be asked to take an active role in the learning experience through participation in the community-based learning component of the course. This component will provide the opportunity for you to reflect on your views and the perspectives presented in class through interactions with Latino immigrants from area neighborhoods.

Instructor: Ramos-Fontan, Frances

FYS 100.008 – Exploring Boundaries of Citizenship across the Globe

This course addresses the current global migration and refugee crisis. Today nearly 50 million people are on the move from their homeland as immigrants or refugees. Students analyze the causes and consequences of global migration generally and migration flows into Europe and North America, specifically. Then, students explore how conceptions of citizenship and nationality in receiving states have changed over time. When is immigration praised and welcomed, and what forces are integral in turning the tide toward or away from criminalization of immigrants and refugees? Students work in teams to explore historical and current cases of immigration movements across borders.

Instructor: Kehoe, Genevieve

FYS 100.009 – Imagining the Middle East through Film and Literature

What images do you associate with the Middle East? What assumptions do you make about the Middle East? How are these images transmitted, and how do you formulate your ideas? In this course, we will use film and literature of the Middle East as forms of political, social, and cultural commentary. We will assess the different visions and images presented by filmmakers and writers on topics that include religious and ethnic identity, colonialism and revolution, war and violence, and gender and cultural stereotypes. Understanding these issues through film screenplays, cinematography, personal narratives, short stories, and poetry helps us imagine the Middle East from multiple and diverse perspectives.

Instructor: Honick, Amalia

FYS 100.010 – Where Have All the Jobs Gone? Automation and the Changing Labor Market

The American dream may originate in our hearts and minds, but it lives and dies in the labor market. How many jobs? What types of jobs? Who gets a job and what job do they get? What is the nature of work in these jobs? How much do they pay? What policies might we support, if any, to promote “better” labor market outcomes? Automation is a driving force behind a changing labor market, and will undoubtedly change the way we think about the nature of job opportunities and job outcomes. In fact, the history of capitalism is well-founded in the tradition of man vs. machine. While there are few definitive answers, economics gives us a set of tools to think about how to begin to frame the questions, and to explore the solution space. This course will explore the challenges and opportunities of automation and the changing labor market.

Instructor: Furnagiev, Steve

FYS 100.011 – “Am I Black or White? Am I Straight or Gay? CONTROVERSY?”

Long before recording artist Prince penned these lyrics in the 1980s, America has been a space and a place demanding and mandating polarized definitions of race and sexuality ever since its founding. As such, this course will examine the reasoning and ramifications of this dichotomy from the Colonial Period to the present in genres that include literature, film, and music. The focus of the course is an exploration of why and how individuals and groups refused to follow racial and sexual dictates by engaging in racial and sexual passing.

Instructor: Robinson, Angelo

FYS 100.012 - Oceans, the Forgotten Frontier: Submarines, Sea Slugs, and Slime

Oceans comprise 70% of the Earth’s surface, yet 95% of this realm is unexplored. In this course, we will examine such topics as how we can explore the ocean. In addition, we will delve into the impressive diversity of marine species, including those that inhabit the inhospitable deep sea environment, and some of the more unusual species that glow, take other species hostage, poison their predators, and can navigate using magnetic fields. Finally, we will consider the threats to oceans, including the trash vortex in the Pacific, overfishing, and climate change.

Instructor: Kicklighter, Cynthia

FYS 100.013 – The Gifts of Cultural Sustainability

This course introduces the topic of cultural sustainability and asks you to consider culture as a key dimension to sustainability and a livable world. The vital generativity of this concept flows in four directions:

  1. To envision humanly and ecologically sustainable futures, and consider transitions to more sustainable ways of life;
  2. To work collectively, ethically and effectively to sustain valued cultural traditions, gifts, relationships and spirit;
  3. To use culture skillfully to support human thriving, and to connect and heal across lines of difference;
  4. To understand the relationships of culture to human and planetary well-being.

With roots in anthropology, philosophy, cultural policy, social theory, public practice, ecology, ethnomusicology, folklore, and community arts, cultural sustainability is a form of professional practice and intellectual inquiry that considers these themes and their interconnections. To work effectively in this area requires the cultivation of ethical leadership and critical empathy, and such skills as ethnographic research, facilitation, collaboration, cooperation, and entrepreneurship. In this course, we will explore cultural sustainability, and working at Goucher and in Baltimore, create individual and group cultural projects in relationship to the concept, our gifts as a class, and your own interests. We live in a perilous time, but a time where opportunities can be grasped to strengthen our communities and reconnect as human beings through sustaining the cultural gifts and resources which sustain us.

Instructor: Turner, Rory

FYS 100.014 – Childhood Left Behind? Getting Schooled in Twenty-First-Century America

As American students have fallen behind their international counterparts on a variety of standard measures of achievement, many have come to perceive that the U.S. public education system is failing and in desperate need of overhaul. Fears that our schools are not preparing students for success in the "global marketplace" have led to the development of government initiatives (such as Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act" and, more recently, Obama's "Race to the Top" program) that have involved imposition of high performance standards, standardized and stripped-down curricula, strict assessment procedures, financial incentivization, and sometimes severe sanctions and even school closings.

In this course, we will address the broader psychological, social, and political underpinnings, implications and repercussions of this "standards" movement in education. At the same time, we will consider a variety of alternative perspectives in which student performance and motivation are framed in the context of an educational system that, in its zeal to improve the educational product (i.e., achievement outcomes), has failed to account for the importance of social justice concerns, teacher-student relationships, or the valuing of students' needs, interests, and feelings for promoting quality learning and healthy social and emotional development. Through discussion of the work of Ravitch, Kohn, Kozol, Khan, and others, we will explore the possibility of a more student-centered, humanistic education that emphasizes the value of meaningful experience and holistic psychological development.

Instructor: Patrick, Brian

FYS 100.015 – Exploring Your Musical Self

Everyone has their own personal responses to music and their own ways of relating to it. This course provides the experience and knowledge for you to understand your own musical self. Through guided activities, we will explore four types of musicians: improviser, composer, arranger, and interpreter. We will examine the issues confronting each type and the techniques available for each type to achieve musical expression. The course includes discussion of music theory and notation, music in sociological and historical contexts, and the analysis of musical styles. It is designed for the beginner as well as the advanced student.

Instructor: Chappell, Jeffrey

FYS 100.016 – The Secret Life of Puppets

Puppets are arguably one of the earliest forms of performance--used to educate, incite, enlighten or just delight--they were and remain a staple of theatrical performance. A puppet is, however, a very special performer, made from humble materials, fashioned into a living form and finally animated or brought to life by the mind and body of a person either directly or at a distance. This “bringing to life”, this mysterious alchemy at the heart of puppets is perhaps why this otherwise ubiquitous theatre form often remains the shadows. In this seminar/workshop we will look at the history, forms, uses and theory of puppets and form questions such as: Is Homer Simpson a puppet? Why do puppets go in and out of fashion? What is the relationship between the puppet and the maker/animator? What stories do puppets need to tell? What drama ensues between the dish, the spoon and the dog when the kitchen light goes out? Through creative exploration, guided improvisation and the making of original puppet performances, these questions, and many more, will be answered in, The Secret Life of Puppets.

Instructor: Campbell, Allison

FYS 100.017 – The Power of Physical and Creative Expression

 The human body is a powerful tool of self-expression and an extension of your intellectual and creative self. In a constantly changing world, creative thought, experimentation, and practice is integral to the development of the whole mind - a mind that has the ability to produce fresh, innovative ideas and fearlessly forge into unknown territories. This course will challenge you to integrate your intellectual, physical, and emotional responses to the world around you, and use your unique body as a powerful, creative medium to express what words sometimes cannot. Movement skills will be developed and practiced through improvised and structured studio experimentation. The class will also investigate the creative process and basic, artistic, compositional tools, concepts and methods. By viewing the world around us through these lenses, we will transform our ideas, observations, discussion topics and readings, and individual and group research into impactful performance pieces. Prior movement/dance experience is not necessary for this course. Everyone has the capacity to fulfill their creative potential and discover the power of one’s physical and creative voice.

Instructor: Garofalo, Linda

FYS 100.018 – Shakespeare on Screen

Shakespeare’s plays shouldn’t work on screen. The plays are highly verbal; film and television are highly visual. The plays were written to be interactive with a live, present audience; film and television project to a passive and distant audience. Why then are Shakespeare’s plays so frequently “translated” for the screen, often very successfully? This course involves reading several of Shakespeare's plays, doing in class performance exercises, analyzing and critiquing films of Shakespeare's works, and writing about Shakespeare on the screen. Students, working in small production teams will make short videos inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.

Instructor: Curry, Michael

FYS 100.019 – Living in the Margins: Experiences of Vulnerability

In this course we will explore some of the issues that impact some of the people who are marginalized in society. In the first half of the semester we will attempt to build both an emotional understanding and an intellectual understanding for those who are vulnerable. We will do this by reading about people who live in nursing homes, children separated from their birth parents, and people who are homeless. Together we will formulate questions, gather information, and share our newfound knowledge. We will be practicing both analytic and synthetic thinking as well as developing our communication skills. Outside of class you will be engaged in community based learning experiences which we will use to further understand marginalization and the people it impacts. During the last part of the semester, you will select your own topic to research and will share with the class what you learn about a marginalized or vulnerable population.

Instructor: Wilterdink, Joan

FYS 100.020 – Alternative Energy for Everyone

This is a lecture/laboratory hybrid course designed to provide an appreciation and in-depth understanding of alternative energy. Topics will be taught in an interactive environment and will include hands-on activities/projects in the construction of selected devices related to alternative energy. As the title implies, this class is designed for everyone, which includes both science and non-science students; the one pre-requisite is an interest in the topic.

Instructor: Ahmed Schofield, Ruqia

FYS 100.021 – American Romantic Comedy

This course explores the American romantic comedy film from the “screwball” era of the 1930s-1940s to its “radical” turn mid-century in the wake of the sexual revolution and women's liberation movement, to some of its contemporary incarnations: the gay romcom, the “chick flick,” and the “bromance.” We'll examine how romantic comedy has changed and stayed the same stylistically, thematically, and ideologically. At the heart of our explorations will be ongoing consideration of how romantic comedies reflect and negotiate ever-changing cultural concepts around gender roles, relations between the sexes and those of the same sex, and issues of race, class, ethnicity, age, work, friendship, family, and nation.

Instructor: San Filippo, Maria

FYS 100.022 – Where the Wild Things Are: America’s Relationship to Wilderness

When the early settlers first glimpsed the wooded shores of New England, they were horrified: here was a “hideous” and “howling desert wilderness” filled with “wild beasts and wild men.” Americans now travel hundreds of miles and spend thousands of dollars for even a glimpse of these same thick forests and wild animals. In this course, we’ll use film, art, young-adult literature, and philosophical and environmental writings in order to try to understand this profound shift in our perception of wild places and wild things. Along the way, we’ll also explore how our attitude toward wilderness is inextricably connected to our changing attitude toward civilization.

Instructor: Marchand, Mary

FYS 100W.001 – Food for Thought

What makes food "good"? And what makes writing “good”? These two questions will be the focus of this hybrid First Year Seminar-Writing Studies course. Every time we decide what to have for dinner, we operate in a bewildering terrain of fast food and fad foods, our choices shaped by culture and family, corporations and advertisements, rituals and relationships. This writing workshop will give us a chance to savor treasured memories even as we grapple with the economic and environmental implications of the ways that food is produced, distributed, and consumed and experiment with a wide variety of food writing genres, from memoirs, to restaurant reviews, to research-based arguments about food policy. Books, films, guest lectures, and community projects will provide “food for thought” as we consider such topics as the role of tradition in our eating habits, the ethics of eating meat, and the experience of hunger in the United States and abroad. By the end of the course, you can expect to have mastered the conventions of Edited American English; to have developed a repertoire of strategies for researching, planning, organizing and developing your ideas; to confidently use sources to support a position on a variety of issues; and to have a clear sense of your own academic voice.

This is an intensive course that fulfills both the First Year Seminar and Writing Studies requirements. It will require frequent writing and revision, thoughtful peer review, and a high degree of motivation and discipline. It is best suited to students who have written frequently in high school, have some experience with research-based writing, and are self-motivated writers. To apply, submit a 300 word essay in which you 1) explain your interest in the course and 2) reflect on any past experiences that prepare you for this intensive First Year Seminar-Writing Studies hybrid.

Instructor: Roswell, Barbara

FYS 100W.002 – The Mind-Body Connection

What is the connection between our physical and our emotional selves? Between our subconscious thoughts and our actions? Between what we think about something and what and how we write about it? Questions like these will be the focus of this hybrid First Year Seminar-Writing Studies course. Through an examination of outstanding popular science and social science writing, including the work of Atul Gawande, Malcolm Gladwell, Oliver Sachs and Michael Pollan, we will probe the connection between mind and body and related issues of both mental and physical health and wellness through multiple angles and multiple ways of writing about this connection. Our course will include both the theoretical (for example, how does the brain function when we make split-second decisions?) and the practical (how can meditation help us become better thinkers and writers?)

By the end of the course, you can expect to have progressed towards mastery of the conventions of Edited American English; to have developed a repertoire of strategies for researching, planning, organizing and developing your ideas; to confidently use sources to support a position on a variety of issues; and to have a clear sense of your own academic voice

Instructor: Sterling, Charlee

FYS 100W.003 - This is Your Brain on Writing

What happens inside our heads when we write? What can we learn from the latest research on writing, thinking, and habit formation that will help us grow as writers? This hybrid First Year Seminar-Writing Studies course will look at writers’ reflections on their own writing process, psychological research, and research from Writing Studies. We will experiment in class with various techniques to find out the best ways to overcome writer’s block, procrastination, struggles with structure or page counts, and other writing challenges. We will reflect on those techniques to decide what works well for us, and each develop personal strategies to improve our writing habits. This course invites you to consider all kinds of approaches to improving writing, including ways we can incorporate the joys and freedoms of creative writing into our academic work.

Instructor: Welch, Kate