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 - 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 100.002 - 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 100.003 - 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 100.004 - 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 100.005 - 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 100.006 - 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 100.007 - 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 100.008 - 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 100.009 - 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 100.010 - 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 100.012 - 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 100.013 - 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 100.014 - 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 100.016 - 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 100.018 - 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 100.019 - 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 100.020 - Popular Cultures in East Asia: Cinema, Manga, Music, and TV Drama

By exploring the spread of popular cultures in East Asian region, students will learn the cultural, social, political and historical issues connected with popular cultures in East Asia, Chinese-speaking territories, Korea and Japan.

Clay Chou

FYS 100.021 - Around the world through films and shows

Technology has changed the world significantly in the last decades, posing new challenges, and bringing new resources at the same time. This course will take advantage of the access to worldwide resources on the internet, to take us around the globe through our screens. This class will explore different tv shows and movies that will take us all over the world, to get a broad perspective of different countries, languages, and traditions around the globe.

Maria Gomis-Quinto

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