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 - 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 100.002 - 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.

Frances Ramos-Fontan

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 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 100.004 - 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 100.005 - Science Fiction & Philosophy

Many philosophers working on race and racism have used the language and methods of speculative writing to demonstrate their arguments, and many science fiction stories draw on theories of race to inform their fictionalized worlds. In this course, we’ll explore how science fiction, racial science, and philosophical accounts of race can be used to bolster or critique one another. We’ll pay special attention to themes of colonialism and apocalypse in the works we engage to explore how world-ending events solidify or reshape our conceptualizations of worthy lives. We’ll look at a variety of media, including novels, short stories, films, and graphic novels. Students will be able to practice both critical and creative skills for class assignments.  

Tamsin Kimoto

FYS 100.006 - 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 100.007 - 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 100.008 - Where in the World is there Safety for me? Reconceptualizing Migration

Dominating current policy discussion both in North America and Europe, migration is one of the most contested rights of our time. War, violence, environmental degradation and ethnic persecution have uprooted more men, women and children around the world more than any time in the seventh-decade around the world any time in the seventh-decade history of the Refugee Agency. Overlaying contemporary experiences of immigration to the United States, and Europe, with the current plight of refugees, and migrants around the world, this course brings together a multitude of voices, and exposes the universality of forced displacement as an experience shared by many. It focuses on recurrent and recognizable patterns of immigration that takes into account colonialism, gender, geography, race, territory, climate, history, race, and nationality. It considers how economic factors, geo-political imperatives, history, the biased global security apparatus, and neoliberal forces affect the contemporary lived experience of migration.

Irline Francois

FYS 100.009 - 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 100.010 - Migrants On Screen

Migrants and vagabonds have long fascinated filmmakers across cultures. This course looks at how migrants and migration have been imagined and filmed by directors in Europe, Africa, the Arab World and the Americas. We will look closely at a sample of diverse films from the world that offer narratives presenting the many intercultural challenges migrants face as they cross multiple geopolitical borders and adapt to their new host country.

Florence Martin

FYS 100.011 - Cultural Sustainability and the Concept of Gift

This course introduces the topic of cultural sustainability and the concept of the gift, 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 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.

Rory Turner

FYS 100.012 - 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 100.014 - 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 100.015 - 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 100.016 - 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 100.017 - Engineering the Future

This course is intended for students with a strong interest in the Engineering Science major and in engineering generally.  Through specific examples, challenges, and projects, we will explore the process of “design”— the creation of technological systems and devices that are functional and useful for society—and investigate how technical problem-solving issues intersect with larger issues of needs, resources, and costs.  We are interested not only in the scientific and technical issues associated with speculative technologies like asteroid mining or hyperloop transportation, but also in the consequences of our choices for society.  We won’t study particular scientific principles here (i.e., this is not an intro science course), but we will use laboratory activities to deepen our experience with some key underlying ideas that apply to any technical field, such as the gathering and interpretation of data, experimental verification, and iterative design.   The course will combine experiments, design activities, reading/discussion, and student projects.

Rodney Yoder

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