First-Year Seminar Courses

What is a First-Year Seminar? Each year Goucher offers multiple 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 - 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 recycle clay, and fire the kilns. 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.

Allyn Massey

FYS 100.002 - Free Speech

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

David Zurawik

FYS 100.003 - Embody Creative Potential

How is the human body a powerful tool of self-expression and an extension of your intellectual and creative self? This course will challenge you to integrate your intellectual, physical, and emotional responses to the world around you by using your unique body as a powerful medium to express what words sometimes cannot. In a constantly changing world, nurturing creativity and experimentation is integral to the development of a mind that has the ability to produce innovative ideas and to fearlessly forge into unknown territories. We will transform our ideas, discussions, and individual and group research into impactful performance pieces. Movement skills will be developed and practiced through improvised and structured studio experimentation. 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.

Linda Garofalo

FYS 100.004 - Words, Music, Meanings

Songs are a part of the fabric of our lives from childhood; why do words and music add up to more than the sum of their parts? How does music have meaning? Students will choose songs to investigate using the basics of music theory (no prior knowledge required!) and perspectives from sociology and psychology. The final project may pursue any or all of these lines of inquiry or even the creation of an original song.

Kendall Kennison

FYS 100.005 - Secret Life of Puppets

Puppets are 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 a very special performer; made from humble materials and brought to life by the puppeteer. This mysterious alchemy at the heart of puppets is perhaps why they often remain in the shadows. In this seminar/workshop we will look at the 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? Through creative exploration, guided improvisation and the making of original work, these questions and many more will be answered in The Secret Life of Puppets.

Allison Campbell

FYS 100.006 - Imagining the Middle East in Film and Literature

What images do you associate with the Middle East? What assumptions do you make about the cultures, religions, politics, and people of the region? In this course, we use film and literature from the Middle East as forms of political, social, and cultural commentary.  We watch films and read memoirs, novels, short stories, and poetry to help us imagine the Middle East and develop a broader awareness of the region.  The topics we cover include colonialism and history, the formation of identity, the role of gender, and religion and politics.

Amalia Fried Honick

FYS 100.007 - LatinX Experience

There are 59.7 million Latinx living in the United States, making them the largest ethnic minority group in the nation. By 2060, Latinx are projected to account for 28.6 percent of the total 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; Latinx identity and perceptions of Latinx 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 by participating in virtual interactions with members of the local Latinx community. This component of the course will provide you with the opportunity to reflect on your views and the perspectives presented in class through the diverse lens of the community members.

Maria Teresa Gomis Quinto

FYS 100.009 - Rebels & Revolutions

We live in times of great uncertainty; change is in the air. But what is to be done? And where do we go? With these questions in mind, this class examines rebels and revolutionaries in world history to understand how different cultures and communities across the globe have wrestled with similar questions across the ages. After all, we can’t decide where we are going until we know where we’ve been. We’ll explore the difference between rebels and revolutionaries as social types, read classic works by radical thinkers, and probe the pitfalls and possibilities of utopian dreams.

James Dator

FYS 100.010 - Pride & Prejudice

Published in 1813, Jane Austen’s most famous novel continues to delight audiences—and to spark creative responses. We’ll read the text in depth, then analyze a variety of screen adaptations and fiction inspired by it. After learning how to work with rare and archival materials, students will curate an exhibit featuring items from the Goucher Library’s world-famous Jane Austen collection.

Juliette Wells

FYS 100.011 - Hip-hop: Subculture or counterculture?

In this seminar we will study the origins of the hip-hop cultural movement in the United States and its subsequent diffusion throughout the world since the nineteen seventies. What do graffiti artists, rappers and hip-hop dancers everywhere have in common? How do these artistic expressions differ from one place to another? How do current and past social, economic, and political circumstances impact hip-hop esthetics? How have hip-hop cultures evolved over the past fifty years? Is the hip-hop revolution over? These are some of the questions to be tackled using an interdisciplinary lens as we travel from the Americas to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Kathryn St. Ours

FYS 100.012 - 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. 

Zahi Khamis

FYS 100.013 - Controversy: Am I Black or White? Am I Straight or Gay?

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 refuse to follow racial and sexual dictates by engaging in racial and sexual passing.

Angelo Robinson

FYS 100.015 - CSI Goucher

This course will be taught in a lecture/laboratory setting using an evidence based approach.  The lecture component will provide an overview of forensic science, its role in the criminal justice system, and the numerous careers/specialties in forensic science. Many of the laboratory exercises will closely mimic what takes place in an actual forensic laboratory, using the scientific method and some elemental concepts in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science. Students will have hands-on experience throughout the process beginning with evidence collection to carrying out the tests/experiments, to data/sample analysis, to drawing conclusion(s).  Laboratory activities include analysis of different media such as soil, hair, fingerprint, fiber/fabric, glass, plastic, gunshot and explosive residues, ink, drugs, and DNA.  This class is designed for both science and non-science students with one pre-requisite, an interest in understanding the application of science in general and in a forensic setting in particular.

Ruquia Ahmed-Schofield and Jaired Tate

FYS 100.016 - Where the Wild Things Are

This course brings together the work of environmentalists, adventurers, children’s writers, film makers, visual artists, natural scientists, and philosophers in order to try to make sense of America’s deeply ambivalent attitude towards wild things and wild places. The works we’ll be studying span the continental United States and range from the Puritans’ terrified perception of the New England woods as a “howling wilderness” to Thomas Morton’s celebration of the hedonistic pleasures of these same woods.  We’ll explore how works like Chief Luther Standing Bear’s “Indian Wisdom,” Dick Proenneke’s documentary about his 30 years living alone in Alaska, and YA fiction like My Side of the Mountain form a literary and visual record of this ambivalence. Our goal will be to tease out the wisdom behind Thoreau’s assertion, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” 

Mary Marchand

FYS 100.017 - The Art of Negotiations

This course is intended to get us discussing and applying the skills needed to negotiate. The art of negotiation applies to several settings including business, law, job offers, even relationships. In this course we will discuss and apply a variety of negotiation scenarios and activities. While you will learn about several negotiation techniques, the actual purpose of this course is to generate discussion and have fun.

David Grossman

FYS 100.018 - Visible and Hidden Identities

This course will focus on the different dimensions of our identities in these times of multiculturalism and transnationalism. Personal identities evolve over time, but they always define how we see ourselves in relation to others while we move across cultural spaces. Students will unpack the different dimensions of their identity and the cultivation of new hybrid identities to situate themselves within the educational system and norm. 

Citlali Miranda-Aldaco

FYS 100.019 - In God We Trust?

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States specifies that there should be no establishment of religion nor limitation on the free exercise of religion. However, the so-called "wall of separation" seems to have many holes. From the national motto, "In God We Trust" to the frequent reference to God in presidential speeches and our Pledge of Allegiance, not only is there reference to religion but, as Robert Bellah describes an American Civil Religion with rituals, myths, and beliefs that parallel traditional religion. We will explore this phenomenon and ask whether this is sustainable in an increasingly diverse and decreasingly religious country.

Ann Duncan

FYS 100E.001 - Renewable 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 course is certified as a GCR-ENV (Goucher Commons Requirement – Environmental Sustainability) class.

Ruquia Ahmed-Schofield

FYS 100E.002 - Engineering the Future

This course is intended for students with an interest in the Engineering Science major or in engineering generally, as well as those interested in ethics and societal consequences of technological advances.  Through specific examples, challenges, and projects, we will explore the process of design of technological systems and devices that are functional and useful for society. We will start by breaking down the needs and technological challenges solved by a common device of choice and we will work up to identifying the variety of challenges presented by specific novel or speculative technologies. Using an exploratory experimental approach, we will learn how to make order-of-magnitude estimates, how to gather and interpret data that can help us make decisions and how to use iterative design to make improvements. We will also  investigate how technical issues intersect with issues of needs, resources, costs, ethics and consequences for society.  The course will combine experiments, design activities, reading, discussion, and student projects.

Nina Markovic