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.

Khamis, Zahi                     

MWF 10:40-11:50am

FYS 100.002 - Power of Photography

In 1984 photographer Richard Avedon stated: “All photographs are accurate.  None of them is the truth.”  Since photography’s invention in 1839 photographers and photography have revealed convincing truths about the world and told us monumental lies.  This course will examine how photographic images have shaped our understanding of culture and the way we literally see the world.  By studying photography’s history and making photographic images, we will explore both sides of the camera and will engage with Susan Sontag’s assertion that “Today everything exists to end in a photograph.”  No prior experience with photography required; experienced photographers are enthusiastically welcome.  Photographic work will be made with Smartphones.  No other specialized photographic equipment is required to take this course.

Burns, Laura                     

MW 10:40-12:30pm

FYS 100.003 - Hands in Clay

This course will emphasize hand-building, and explore the fundamental clay-forming techniques of pinch, coil, and slab. Students focus on using clay sculpturally to make work that imitates nature. You will learn to fire the electric kilns as well as participate in weekend outdoor raku firings. PowerPoints will be presented and readings will be assigned to appreciate the extraordinary history of clay’s use throughout the world and time, from Etruscan, pre-Columbian, and African, to American indigenous, and Japanese. We will visit the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Clayworks, and have class visits and demos by local artists working with clay.

Massey, Allyn                   

TU,TH 11:30-1:20pm

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. 

Smith, Tami                       

TU,TH 11:30-1:20pm

FYS 100.006 - American Feminist Voices: Many-Headed Melodies

What does it mean to be feminist in 2018? Is it academic, theoretical, or action-based? Can it be storytelling, a performance, a decision, a hashtag? Is it, or should it be gendered? This seminar will look at six womanist issues and contemplate these questions through multiple voices. Four of these issues will locate around (1) health care and reproductive justice; (2) violence against women; (3) historical suffrage and current political fallout; and (4) storytelling. The other two will derive from class interests, and selected by you. Our conversations will examine critical issues of race, socio-economics and LGBTQ communities – some of the many-headed voices who have felt unheard and unrepresented in American feminism. Assignments will be diverse, and include historic and contemporary theoretical readings, along with stories, film, blogs, songs and poetry. A wandering voice will move among these others, and that will include yours. My goal for our class is not just to have meaningful discussions, but also to work towards a final project/strategy to take an issue to action in the larger community.

La May, Thomasin                          

TU,TH 11:30-1:20pm

FYS 100.007 - The Latinx 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 29 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@/x 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.    

Ramos-Fontan, Frances                               

TU,TH 11:30-1:20pm

FYS 100.008 - Imperfect Perfect Worlds

Have you ever asked yourself what it would be like living in a perfect world?  A world where all your needs are met, everyone is respected, fairness triumphs, and no one feels short-changed or deprived?  Is such a world even possible?  These are some of the questions that you will explore and answer in this course through 6-10 literary Utopias and Dystopias that illustrate the diversity of modern-day quests for the perfect society.

Samilenko, Olya                                              

MWF 10:40-11:50am

FYS 100.009 -  Vintage Black Glamour: Radical Fashion as Social Justice Praxis

This course will explore 20th century Black entertainment, fashion, and culture in the U.S. through the medium of historic photographs, performances, and films. The class will engage the work of actors, dancers, artists, and activists, such as Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, Jack Johnson, and Diana Ross, as well as less well-remembered icons whose legacies have been obscured by time. How have these icons inspired the contemporary aesthetics of feminist, queer, and Black fashion expressions associated with AFROPUNK, dapper queer fashion, and femme burlesque? As we view and engage the performing and visual arts of the period, we will analyze the impact of race, class, gender, sexuality, and other social identity formations on the lives and artistry of entertainers from the 1920’s through the 1980’s. We will develop our media literacy and social justice critical praxis as we connect the transformative social foundations of vintage Black glamour with prominent contemporary figures in popular culture, such as Beyoncé, Janelle Monáe, Jidenna, Laverne Cox, and Lupita Nyong'o, as we question how vintage representations inspire us today. . 

Lewis, Mel                          

TU,TH 11:30-1:20pm

FYS 100.010 - Digital Media and You

Do you control digital media or does it control you?  Is there any such thing as privacy online anymore?  Who really owns the content you post on social media and YouTube?  This course will explore these questions and many others as we consider the ways that digital media impacts our lives.  We will also review the effects of other media innovations on culture throughout history – the printing press, radio, and television – and learn basic digital media editing skills using free tools available online and/or your smartphone.

Koehler, Elisa                    

MWF 10:40-11:50am

FYS 100.011 - Gender: Past, Present, Futures

How do we understand, experience, and express our gender identities? Taking a humanistic perspective, we’ll explore influential treatments of gender from ancient times to our own. Our readings will include religious texts, classical philosophy, and history of medicine; essays on gender and artistic achievement, including excerpts from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Linda Nochlin’s “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” (1971); Ursula Le Guin’s science-fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness (1969); and Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (2015), a hybrid work of memoir and criticism.

Wells, Juliette                    

MWF 10:40-11:50am

FYS 100.012 - 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.

Zurawik, David                 

MW 10:40-12:30pm

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 of sustainability and a livable world.  The vital generativity of this concept flows in four directions: to envision humanly and ecologically sustainable futures, and consider transitions to more sustainable ways of life; to work collectively, ethically and effectively to sustain valued cultural traditions, gifts, relationships and spirit; to use culture skillfully to support human thriving, and to connect and heal across lines of difference; to understand the relationships of culture to human and planetary well-being. With roots in anthropology, philosophy, cultural policy, social theory, 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, 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.  

Turner, Rory                      

TU,TH 11:30-1:20pm

FYS 100.014 - Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

This course will focus on "language" as a form of communication- verbal, nonverbal, and written. In artistic expression, is it the lyrics we hear, the fantastic dance moves, the attraction of the celebrity? Or is it a more complicated mix that attracts us? This class will examine song lyrics (multiple genres from rap to country) for language as expression of the human condition (selections to be submitted by students). Spoken and body language will be discussed in film and videos. Communication between the genders (Fine!) will be explored in TV sitcoms and the media, along with considerations of dress and accent. Everything from Internet memes to the latest pop/flop sensation is fair game. The interwoven theme of the class will be everything you ever wanted to know about English and its grammar- where did it come from, where is it going- in relation to other major languages of the world. Designed to supplement your foreign language class, as well as to take a serious look at why some celebrities make it big, while others become fodder for late night monologues.

Czeczulin, Annalisa                         

MWF 10:40-11:50am

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.

Chappell, Jeffrey                             

TU,TH 11:30-1:20pm

FYS 100.016 - 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.

Marchand, Mary                            

MWF 10:40-11:50am

FYS 100.018 - Where have all the jobs gone? Man vs. machine and the role of automation in a changing labor market

The American dream may originate in our hearts and minds, but it lives and dies in the labor market. This course explores the consequences of technological progress in labor markets and the nature of work in the modern economy. Machines have long been used to supplement and substitute for human labor in the production of goods and services. For much of recent history, standards of living have risen because of, not despite, this ever-increasing technological progress and adaptation. Yet recent advances in artificial intelligence have many predicting a looming jobs apocalypse. The techno-pessimists, as they are known, foresee a battle of man vs. machine wherein robots and algorithms will replace much or most of the jobs of today; proposals for a universal basic income are never far behind. On the other hand, the techno-optimists offer a view of the world where only our imaginations constrain the new economic opportunities that automation will offer. So which is it? Will the next wave of automation be the ultimate compliment or final substitute to human labor in the economy? 

In this course, we will examine the intersection of economics and technology as it relates to automation and labor markets. We will pose questions related to the number of jobs, the type of jobs, the skills and education required to find a job, the processes driving wages and economic inequality, and the relationship between standards of living and technological progress.  Whether you’re a techno-optimist or techno-pessimist, it’s clear that we’ll need a new set of ideas and understanding to inform the economic policy of the future economy. This course will start to build the foundation for that conversation.

Furnagiev, Steve                             

TU,TH 11:30-1:20

FYS 100.019 - Saints, Sinners, and Sexual Deviance: Histories of Gender, Sexuality, and Christianity

This course examines the history of Western Christianity from the early Christian church under the Romans through the early modern period in Europe and the Americas. It will discuss how contemporary notions of gender and sexuality influenced both Christian belief and practice, as well as consider how these experiences changed over time. For example, students will consider important contradictions such as the perceived “naturalness” of reproduction and ecclesiastic emphasis on chastity and virginity, and how these dueling concepts impacted the lives of both lay Christians and ecclesiastics. Also, by exploring the histories of groups from different classes, races, and religions in the Atlantic World, the course studies the role of Christianity in the process of American colonization and the importance of religion with a colonial space.

Castillo, Alexandria                

TU,TH 11:30-1:20

FYS 100.020 - Transnational Feminist Perspective from the Global South

This FYS interdisciplinary course explores women’s experiences from a transnational, comparative, and cross-cultural perspective by examining what unites women as a group, and what divides women because of culture, ethnicity, class, race, identity, geography, economics, religion etc. We will look at how women live in the US across race and class lines, and in the Global South and how women cope day to day. Most significantly, we will study how transnational women narrate their struggles and resist the forces of racism, war, violence, economic exploitation, environmental degradation and imperialism. We will also discuss the laws that affect women’s lives such as workplace discrimination and reproductive rights.

Irline Francois

Tu/Thu 11:30-1:20 p.m.

FYS 100.021 - How to (Actually) Watch Movies

American popular culture is increasingly inundated with audiovisual productions. Perhaps one of the most important ways to approach this situation is to cultivate a critical awareness of how the skillful combination of moving images and sound generate meaning and emotional effects for spectators. In order to do so, this course concentrates on the formal language of a longstanding audiovisual medium: cinema. Students will learn to attentively analyze elements of film form and content— mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, sound, narrative, genre—in relation to the production of meaning, ideology, and affect. As a result, students will not only be prepared to study film as a kind of art. Rather, they will develop a foundational analytical vocabulary for assessing the broader range of audiovisual media that confronts us in everyday life. That is, by the end of the course, students will have also considered how the grammar of film might apply (or not) to television, online video, music videos, etc.

Graham Eng-Wilmot

Tu/Thu 11:30-1:20 p.m.

FYS 100.022 - Sacrifice

What is sacrifice and what is it meant to accomplish in society?  How, if at all, is sacrifice different from slaughtering or killing? How and why do different religious traditions make use of sacrifice? What are the similarities and differences between religious sacrifice and our ordinary use of term in contemporary contexts (e.g. “sacrifice” for my family or country; “sacrifice” style for comfort, etc.)?  Who are the performers, the victims, and the beneficiaries of sacrifice and how are these roles determined within a society?  In this course, we will wrestle with depictions of sacrifice in religious texts from various traditions, art, film, and literature.  We will also look at how scholars have tried to make sense of these practices.  Finally, we will explore why some things, like military death, are classified as a sacrifice while others, like capital punishment, are not.  We will also think about how race, gender, class, and ethnic/national identity have animated and continue to animate how sacrifice is imagined and practiced.  

Larisa Reznik

Tu/Thu 11:30-1:20 p.m. 

FYS 100.023 - Hands in Clay

This course will emphasize hand-building, and explore the fundamental clay-forming techniques of pinch, coil, and slab. Students focus on using clay sculpturally to make work that imitates nature. You will learn to fire the electric kilns as well as participate in weekend outdoor raku firings. PowerPoints will be presented and readings will be assigned to appreciate the extraordinary history of clay’s use throughout the world and time, from Etruscan, pre-Columbian, and African, to American indigenous, and Japanese. We will visit the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Clayworks, and have class visits and demos by local artists working with clay.

Allyn Massey

M/W 2:40-4:30 p.m.

FYS 100E.001 - First Year Environmental Seminar: 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.

This is a lecture/laboratory hybrid course that fulfills both the First Year Seminar and GCR-ENV (Goucher Commons Requirement – Environmental Sustainability) requirement.  It is 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.  

Ahmed Schofield, Ruqia                                               

MWF 10:40-11:50am

FYS 100W.001 - First Year Honors Writing Seminar: Mindful Writing

What is mindfulness, and what has it got to do with writing?  What happens inside our heads when we write?  In this seminar, we will investigate mindfulness and how this practice can inform and improve our writing practice. How can being more mindful help us grow as writers? This hybrid First Year Seminar-Writing Studies course will also look at first-hand accounts of writers about their writing, psychological research, and research from Writing Studies. We will experiment in class with various techniques and practices to find out the best ways to overcome writer’s block, procrastination, struggles with structure or page counts, 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. Bring an open mind and see what we can discover together!

This course is an honors level writing intensive First Year Seminar, fulfilling both your First Year Seminar and Writing Studies requirements. This seminar asks for frequent writing and revision, thoughtful peer review, and a high level of motivation and engagement.

In order to be considered for this seminar, please submit a cover letter describing why you are interested in this seminar along with two strong pieces of writing to Kate Welch (kate.welch@goucher.edu). If you have any questions about this application process, please feel free to contact Kate Welch by email. 

Welch, Kate                       

TU,TH 11:30-1:20pm

FYS 100W.002 - First Year Honors Writing Seminar: Community Writing

Community and communication stem from the same notion: having something in common with another person.  This First Year Seminar-Writing Studies looks at writing through the lens of community, through wat we share and what connects us, how communication creates and impacts communities.  How do specific communities write about and for themselves?  How are they written about?  How can writing influence and address the issues facing our communities?  In this seminar, we create our own community of writers, engage in connections with community partners, and explore relationships between social action and writing.  Students will take advantage of Goucher’s Community Based Learning program, partnering with Earl’s Place, a transitional housing facility for men experiencing homelessness in Baltimore.  Transportation will be provided, and students will interview the residents and then produce radio documentaries and podcasts.  No previous audio experience necessary.  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. 

This course is an honors level writing intensive First Year Seminar, fulfilling both your First Year Seminar and Writing Studies requirements. This seminar asks for frequent writing and revision, thoughtful peer review, and a high level of motivation and engagement.

In order to be considered for this seminar, please submit a cover letter describing why you are interested in this seminar along with two strong pieces of writing to Kate Welch (kate.welch@goucher.edu). If you have any questions about this application process, please feel free to contact Kate Welch by email. 

Poliakoff-Chen, Phaye                  

TU,TH 11:30-1:20pm

FYS 100W.003 - First Year Honors Writing Seminar: 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.

This course is an honors level writing intensive First Year Seminar, fulfilling both your First Year Seminar and Writing Studies requirements. This seminar asks for frequent writing and revision, thoughtful peer review, and a high level of motivation and engagement.

In order to be considered for this seminar, please submit a cover letter describing why you are interested in this seminar along with two strong pieces of writing to Kate Welch (kate.welch@goucher.edu). If you have any questions about this application process, please feel free to contact Kate Welch by email. 

Sterling, Charlee                              

MWF 10:40-11:50am