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 - 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 100.002 - College in American Society

Only 55% of American adults think “colleges and universities have a positive effect on the way things are going” in the United States. People’s views of college are often strongly partisan with 73% of Democrats stating colleges have a positive effect, compared to just 37% of Republicans. In this seminar we will wrestle with the realities of these statistics and consider the role of higher education within American society. We will explore questions like: How can we measure the value (economic and otherwise) of a college education? How do we resolve the fact that more people have access to a college education than ever before, but that getting one often leaves people with massive debt? What (if any) are the limits of academic freedom when it comes to what is taught in a college classroom? What should the relationship be between a college and the community it is located in? And finally, what do colleges owe American democracy (and vice versa)?

Bill Harder

FYS 100.003 - 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 100.004 - 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 - The Yogic Experience

In this course you will engage in a weekly physical practice of yoga and meditation while delving into yogic history, philosophy, anatomical and psychological benefits, as well as deepen your personal ethical practice of the Yamas and Niyamas. Aligning with the learning of a yoga practice, you will be exposed to ayurvedic science, which encompasses understanding nutritional needs for individual based on your dosha. Armed with this new or deepened knowledge you will learn how to best support your personal well-being through a sustained practice and maximize your potential as an individual for both the immediate future and for sustained long-term goals.

This course requires a physical practice, interactive engagement, experiential learning, and an open mind to explore ideas that provide you the path to well-being and support your personal growth beyond a singular academic endeavor of completing a course. 

Amanda Thom Woodson

FYS 100.006 - 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.

Nina Markovic

FYS 100.007 - Our Environment, Chemicals, and Cancer

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 100.008 - Race, Religion, and the Power of Place in the U.S.

“Where are you from?” “What high school did you go to?” “Did your family go to church?” Questions about our personal histories and identities are often questions about place and the dynamics of power that shape the stories we’ve been told. In this course, materials and activities investigate how race, religion, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic class are embedded into our lived reality– in educational spaces, residential neighborhoods, sacred sites, sports and entertainment venues, and tourist destinations. How do groups with different levels of power and resources influence the way spaces and places are designed, imagined, and produced? What is the role of place in the expression and practice of culture and identity? How do diverse social groups understand, adapt, and redefine their spatial environments? Students will develop skills in spatial analysis through exposure to key concepts, debates, and frameworks in Critical Ethnic Studies and practice interdisciplinary methods through hands-on assignments, and experiential learning. The materials in this course are multidisciplinary and multi-access and include assigned readings, podcasts, film, and other visual/audio content. Assignments are designed to help connect course materials with students’ own individual social locations, histories, and place-based memories. 

Maxwell Greenberg

FYS 100.009 - Markets and Marxists: Understanding Our Society through Economics

What is economics? What is social science? How are either of these relevant to our daily lives? This course is an interactive exploration of how economic thinking, theory and history provide a lens through which to understand the social and physical world we live in. We begin the semester with an introduction to economics and the social sciences, followed by an exploration of the type of issues economists study. Next, we review a brief history of economic thinking. Finally, the course ends with an exploration of contemporary issues related to economics. Students can expect to finish the semester with a better understanding of what economics is and how they might approach further inquiry into economic matters.

Chimedlkham Zorigtbaatar

FYS 100.010 - Pride & Prejudice, Here and Now

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 - 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 100.012 - 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 100.013 - 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 100.014 - 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 100.015 - 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 100.016 - Radical Love: Friend Zones, Chosen Families, and Communities of Care

The ancient Greeks described seven kinds of love; more recently scholar Cornel West said that “justice is what love looks like in public.” From love for friends to chosen family and community, from "lovers" to our relationships with animals and the planet, what are the many kinds of love that exist in addition to what is commonly mythologized and celebrated? Through readings in many disciplines, as well as film and music, we will explore the many different ways love shows up in our lives, or could, as well as defining what different kinds of relationships work best for each of us, their how and why.

Ailish Hopper

FYS 100.017 - 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 100.018 - Run the World: Exploring Your Leadership

What does it mean to “be a leader?” Ever wonder if you have those qualities? Or, if you’re already a leader, are you looking for a place to fine tune any of those skills? If so, this is the class for you. Designed for students early in their college careers, this course will introduce leadership theories, approaches, and types as well as provide space to practice skills through interactive activities, discussions, and experiential opportunities. Together we will explore opportunities to prepare students to indeed, Run the World.

Katherine Carnell

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