First-Year Seminar

In This Section

CU Boulder faculty member leading a discussion with a small group of students

Have you ever wondered if we can connect with the cosmos? Or if your selfie is your identity? Or about the connection between physical and mental fitness? The First-Year Seminar series answers these questions by approaching critical thinking and academic curriculum on a completely new level. We asked our inventive professors to develop courses that focus on unusual topics (e.g., Beyoncé, morality and fairy tales), and then to structure the topics to meet our rigorous academic standards. The below courses in the First-Year Seminar series are available to all current CU Boulder first-year students. The First-Year Seminar courses are held in small, interactive classes—limited to 19 students in each course.

First-Year Seminars are a great way to explore topics that can help you discover the academic path that’s right for you.

To register for a First-Year Seminar spring class:

1. Search FYSM 1000 in myCUinfo. You’ll see that each topic has its own section number. 

2. Enroll in the topic that interests you most or schedule an appointment with your advisor through MyCUHub to learn how a First-Year Seminar course fits into your academic plan.

Spring 2018 First-Year Seminars

Tupac lives

Tupac Today—Professor Adam Bradley, English

T/TH, 9:30–10:45 a.m.

Tupac lives. More than two decades after his death, Tupac Shakur’s brief life and lasting legacy embody the confluence of music, politics, and culture on a global scale. Tupac was a rapper, a poet, an actor, and self-styled revolutionary. He lived a live of contradiction. This course centers on Tupac’s work in music and film using an interdisciplinary approach that draws on literary analysis, film studies, and social history. Our focus extends outward to a diverse group of performers and activists, from Tupac’s childhood roots in the Black Panther Party to his friendship and rivalry with fellow rapper the Notorious B.I.G. to his costarring roles with some of Hollywood’s most notable stars. Students will enjoy unparalleled access to Tupac’s private diaries, letters, and unreleased recordings. They will also take part in both in-person and virtual visits from some of the people who knew Tupac best.

What's the future of being human?

Human Enhancement and Augmentation: What Are Our Limits?—Professor Michael Eisenberg, Computer Science

T/TH, 5:00–6:15 p.m.

This course will explore questions of human enhancement and augmentation – questions involving how technology can (and whether it should) vastly expand the range of human sensing, biological performance, or intellectual capacity. The technologies in question include wearable or implantable electronics; genetic modification; and brain-machine interfaces. The issues raised by these technologies are profound, increasingly important, and sometimes troubling: should people be able to alter their own bodies or genes? What limits, if any, should human beings have? What does it really mean to *be* human: are our current limitations part of our very definition?

Into the Stratosphere

Stratospheric Explorations—Professor Cora Randall, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

T/TH, 9:00–10:15 a.m.

This course immerses students in active learning about the Earth's stratosphere, which is known more commonly as the ozone layer. Explorations include such topics as the ozone hole, the polar vortex, and climate change. Students are introduced to the fundamental physical and chemical principles that govern pollution, weather, and climate while also studying the history of atmospheric science, relevant policy, and communication of controversial topics. Students engage in hands-on measurements of the stratosphere as well as analysis of NASA satellite data, and practice thinking critically and creatively about the observations and their implications. Students emerge from the class with a better understanding of some of the most profound aspects of the Earth's atmosphere, an appreciation for how scientific research is conducted, and a heightened awareness of how the media portrays scientific issues related to the Earth's climate system.

Fall 2017 First-Year Seminars

What’s hiding in that film?​

America at the Movies (Sect 30)—Karen Auvinen, Instructor, Arts RAP
T/TH, 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. 

This course examines various depictions of femininity, masculinity, sexuality, class, ethnicity and race on film. We begin by exploring the formulaic Hollywood film and its massive influence by first examining the kinds of stereotypes it circulates about specific people or groups, and then by examining films that shatter these stereotypes and seek authentic expressions of human experience. Students will learn the ways in which film influences our perceptions about each other and will expand the range of each student’s understanding of the experience of individuals and groups who have been marginalized. 

Who holds the keys to information?​

Wunderkammer to Wikipedia: Knowing, collecting, and categorizing the world (Sect 28)—Assistant Professors Juliann Couture, Rebecca Kuglitsch, Alexander Watkins, Libraries
T/TH, 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Making sense of the world is an ongoing project of gathering, organizing and presenting humanity’s collective knowledge. This class explores the historical precedents for and present day reality of our information society, ranging from medieval libraries and 17th-century cabinets of curiosity to big data and crowdsourced wikis.  In this course, we will address questions such as: What information is important and who decides this? Who can gain access to what kinds of knowledge? Whose voices are privileged and given authority in what areas? And what impact do these decisions have in shaping our world?

Can CU writers show us the world?​

The Contemporary American Novel (Sect 24)—Jeffrey DeShell, Professor, English
T/TH, 8–9:15 a.m.  ​

This course will be an exploration of contemporary American novels, all by current or former CU faculty or students. The course will focus on the pleasure of reading fiction, and on the exploration of diverse and divergent stories that contemporary novels can provide. We’ll likely look at stories about a young werewolf coming of age, a fallen angel among ghosts in Jamaica, a disillusioned university student of post-Franco Spain and a hard-bitten detective from North Denver, among others. This course will celebrate the talent and variation of CU authors, as well as provide a window into the exciting world of contemporary American fiction.

How do you draw climate change?​

Climate Infographics and Animations: Learn to Make Art With Science (Sect 21)—Atreyee Bhattacharya, Instructor, Environmental Studies
T/TH, 12:30–1:45 p.m.  ​

We all know about climate change. It sounds scary, right? But have you ever thought that climate information, when conveyed to communities in creative ways, can be empowering? Science does not have to be dry. Practice your art skills to develop infographics and animations—creative presentation of science to empower communities with relevant climate and environmental information. Come and let your creative spirits make storyboards, videos, animations and posters.

I died—Who tells my story?

The Vietnam Wars: History, Literature, Music, and Film (Sect 22)—Steve Dike, Instructor, Honors
T/TH, 5–6:15 p.m.

This course will examine the Vietnam Wars, including both the French-Indochina War and the American War in Vietnam, by looking at history, literature, poetry, memoir, music, and film. We will consider American, Vietnamese, French, Vietnamese-American and other perspectives. The wars generated an immense amount of literature, film and popular music, which is engaging and fascinating. Films such as Oliver Stone's Platoon, and books such as Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, for example, are vivid examples of American veterans sharing their experiences with the American public. Wars are fought twice: the first time on the battlefield and the second time in the realm of memory. We'll learn the history of the wars, but we'll spend most of our time thinking about how the wars have been memorialized, and what they have come to mean to the wars' participants and their descendants. 

Is there a right way to talk about science?​

Science Communication (Sect 04)—Max Boykoff, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies
T/TH, 2–3:15 p.m.

What is the “right” approach to communicating about science so that people “get it”? Why can’t we find the silver bullet in science communications to consequently sort out associated problems? These are logical yet elusive questions that students, practitioners, scholars and everyday people have asked many times over the years. The reality is that these are vexing, complicated and difficult challenges. Moreover, these issues are often high-stakes, high-profile and highly politicized, involving science, policy, culture, psychology, environment and society. This interdisciplinary course will address key themes and topics in science communication (e.g., climate change, fracking, decarbonization) as we appraise and evaluate work in these areas. Course participants will work to identify how and why certain approaches find success with selected audiences, gaining insights from varying perspectives, disciplines and methodologies while improving our understanding of the many dynamic and contested factors, pressures and processes that are involved in contemporary science communication.

Is there a dark side to national parks?​

American Indians and National Parks (Sect 16)—Clint Carroll, Assistant Professor, Ethnic Studies
M/W, 4–5:15 p.m.

This seminar will explore historical and contemporary experiences of American Indian and First Nations peoples with regard to national parks and forest lands in the United States and Canada. The early conservation movement in the United States often entailed removing Native peoples from their homelands in order to create what are now known as national parks. This process, known as “conservation enclosure,” coincided with the establishment of Indian reservations throughout the country, and marked both a physical and philosophical separation between humans and “nature.” Although this period is commonly celebrated for its protection of national lands and resources, this seminar seeks to view conservation enclosures through the lens of Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, we will explore how Native people are maintaining their relationships to their homelands and sacred sites through various agreements with national agencies, and even how some Native nations are creating their own parks to protect tribal lands and resources.

What does history sound like?​

Exploring U.S. History through Music and Documents (Sect 27)—Thomas Riis, Professor, Music
T/TH, 3:30–4:45 p.m.

Drawing on recent gender, cultural, and musical research in U.S. historical archives, this seminar will invite class members (as individuals and in small groups) to investigate topics chosen from among five thematic areas that span our history from the late 16th to the early 20th century: (1) unity and diversity; (2) war and peace; (3) domestic life and pastimes; (4) work and technology; and, (5) faith, belief, and values. Each student presentation will include relevant musical examples and illustrations in order to acquaint the full class with the sound world of each specific topic. The instructor will introduce each historical period of the course from earliest to latest, and provide extensive bibliographical and musical assistance as the students develop ideas to engage with central political, social, and economic questions within the larger context and sound world of the time. (NO previous musical training is required for this course.) 

Can math help us make better decisions?​

Choices, Choices! An Interdisciplinary Look at Decision-Making (Sect 25)—Brian Zahartos, Instructor, Applied Math
M/W/F, noon–12:50 p.m.

Decisions are an essential part of what it means to be human. Some decisions may be trivial, but many are of critical importance. Decisions about what school we ought to attend, what career path we ought to take, where we ought to live, whom we ought to marry, whether and when we ought to have children, etc., can be difficult. To spend significant time thinking about these questions—as I presume many of us have—is to acknowledge that a lot is at stake. We will study decision-making from several perspectives with the goal of strengthening our ability to make sound decisions. Some questions to be explored include: What important psychological and philosophical investigations might help us understand decision-making and make better decisions? Can formal decision theories found in mathematics and philosophy provide an “objective” way of making decisions? What does it mean to make sound ethical decisions?

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How did we get here?​

The Origin of Everything (Sect 33)—Kieran Murphy, Assistant Professor, French and Italian
T/TH, 9:30–10:45 a.m.

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the universe, the solar system, life on Earth, human civilization, and modern society? This course offers instruction from world-class experts in each area, as guest speakers from multiple departments will share the latest research in their fields. We’ll think about what all these origins may have in common, what we can and can't know about the past, and how understanding these origins can help us be better thinkers about both the past and the future.

Was Sleeping Beauty a single mom?​

The Power of Fairy Tales (Sect 17)—Suzanne Magnanini, Associate Professor, French and Italian ​
M/W/F, 11–11:50 a.m.

Did you know that the Italian Cinderella murdered her stepmother? Or that Sleeping Beauty had twins before marrying the prince? Or that the cats in Italian Puss-in-Boots stories were female?  While Walt Disney’s animated fairy tales are familiar to most American children and adults, few people realize that Disney’s most beloved characters (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio) descend from an Italian and French fairy tale tradition that dates back to the 16th century.  To make these tales acceptable for American children, Disney and the authors of children’s books drastically changed these stories by removing scenes of sex and violence, censoring adult language, and removing any scenes that challenged the dominant social and political beliefs of Disney's day. In this class, you will study how fairy tales have changed through time and across cultures by studying examples different tale types (Cinderella, Dragon-Slayers, Puss-in-Boots) from the Italian and French traditions from the 1500s–1700s and contemporary, popular culture (films, television, comics, advertising and art).  You will ask yourselves how the same tale type might be retold for different purposes in different cultures and you will work in groups to build digital fairy tale webs that show the relationships among different versions of the same tale type. We will also meet in Norlin Library's Special Collections department to study rare fairy tale books and illustrations printed between 1500 and 1900.  Finally, you will write your own fairy tales that address your own political, social, and moral concerns.  The course goals include gaining an appreciation for the flexibility of the fairy tale and the power of storytelling; improving written and spoken communication; and sharpening your analytical skills.

Can writers save the world?​

Environmental Literature (Sect 13)—Laura Winkiel, Associate Professor, English ​
T/TH, 2–3:15 p.m.

What is environmental literature? In what ways have literature and the environment intersected in the past, and what are their possible futures? How can students on the CU Boulder campus contribute to this ongoing dialogue? This course will combine reading and writing about the environment with excursions to places around Boulder and the Front Range to see and experience conservation efforts of fragile ecosystems along with efforts to minimize our carbon and waste footprints. The course will also introduce freshmen to student-led initiatives on the campus that partner with these wider community initiatives. We have classroom time for reading and writing, excursion time for engaging in environmental activities, and a semester-long project that each student will help to design and pursue. 

Drawing—Can you become one with two dimensions?​

Investigating Art, Media, Culture and Visual Literacy Through Drawing (Sect 11)—Tyler Alpern, Senior Instructor, Arts RAP ​
M/W, 5–6:15 p.m.

Teaches basic drawing skills, mechanics of two-dimensional space and deconstructs the kinds of artistic images students commonly encounter in social media, street art, graffiti, advertising, comics and tattoos as a basis for understanding how complex visual language communicates profound meaning. Experiential learning activities introduce the practices of design thinking, idea production, the creative process, and critical thinking.

Do you have the eye of the tiger?​

Boxing: The Original Greek Mental and Physical Fitness Program (Sect 10)—Murray Cox, Instructor, Applied Math ​
M/W, 5–6:15 p.m.

In this course we investigate the origins and practices concerning the connections between physical and mental fitness. We will work with modern Olympians and Olympic/world-class coaches each week. Students will be part of a team that is responsible for understanding how to properly train their bodies and minds for top performance. This requires a high degree of time-management skill in order to reach difficult goals. In addition to working under a coach’s eye in a boxing gym environment, participants will choose from a variety of additional activities including: judging a boxing match; analyzing athlete mechanics; working with at-risk youth and Parkinson’s patients; managing the business of a gym; and the organization of an Olympic-style boxing match. Participants will take part in a biweekly interval-style workout and practice research and writing skills pertinent to their field of study.

Do our voices define us?​

Comedy Matters (Sect 03)—Beth Osnes, Associate Professor, Theatre and Dance​
T/TH, 11–12:15 p.m.
Note: requires permission to enroll as part of a First-year Interest Group​

Comedy Matters explores matters related to comedy as a noun—understanding the nature, place, and function of comedy within society—and as a verb—the meaningful role comedy can play in bringing about positive social change. Together we will examine the combination of comedy and significant issues within various cultures at various times through readings, viewings, discussions, and a participatory exploration. Throughout this investigation we will seek to dissect what makes something comedic, why, for whom, for what purpose, when, and under what circumstances.

Can we connect with the cosmos?​

Skywatching: An Introduction to Astronomical Observations (Sect 12)—Erica Ellingson, Associate Professor, Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences ​

Humans have always watched the skies. In this seminar, we’ll explore and celebrate this shared legacy, blending historical and multicultural perspectives with cutting-edge discoveries that show how our observations have revealed the universe to us.  Our goal is to create a lifelong connection among students, the sky, and the cosmos. This class will emphasize hands-on work on understanding the motions of stars and planets, identifying constellations, celestial time-keeping and navigation, and how to use telescopes for both visual observations and digital astrophotography. Classes meet twice weekly in the evenings at Fiske Planetarium or Sommers Bausch Observatory on campus.  One of our class meetings will be held at an off-campus site under dark skies away from city lights. High school-level geometry and algebra will be used for quantitative work.

Can we stay safe in a toxic world?​

Toxins in Our Environment: Health Impacts and What We Can Do About It (Sect 09)—Shelly Miller, Professor, Mechanical Engineering 
T/TH, 9:30–10:45 a.m.
Note: requires permission to enroll as part of a First-year Interest Group​

In this course we will learn what is an environmental toxin, the adverse health effects associated with exposure, and everyday actions we can take to reduce our exposures to toxins. A toxin is a substance that causes, directly or indirectly, harmful effects. We will discuss how society creates, regulates and perceives the effects of environmental toxins. We will emphasize the complexity of the issues and the difficulty in resolving them. This is a diverse topic and combines the fields of toxicology, exposure assessment, epidemiology, environmental engineering, environmental science, medicine, public health, sociology, and chemistry with politics, lobbying, economics, marketing, law, media, and human behaviorism. Unfortunately for you, your professor is not an expert in all of these topics! You will have to help me fill in the missing pieces. A goal of this course is to create an experience-oriented learning environment in which you have a more interactive role in the day-to-day classroom activities. We will use our computers regularly, so bring a laptop. Activities will include multimedia presentations, computer exercises, homework with real-world data analysis, readings, and discussion groups. We will also use social media to communicate what we are learning with the world.

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Is there redemption in darkness?​

Good Men Are Hard to Find: O’Connor, McCarthy, and the Coens (Sect 08)—Jan Whitt, Professor, Journalism)
W, 4–6:30 p.m.

The class is for anyone who loves film and literature and who doesn't mind a dose of creepiness and mystery. Although literary characters are often innocent, some of them remind us of the protagonist in a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," who thoughtlessly shoots an albatross and unleashes the wrath of God. Longing for redemption, the mariner tells and retells his story to whomever will listen. Like the protagonist in a Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man, the mariner understands that "even though you can't figure anything out, you will be responsible for it on the midterm." Our class examines several themes: 1) the concept of "grace" in short stories and a novel by two Catholic writers and films by the Coen Brothers; 2) the fusion of comedy and horror and the role of dark humor and farce in what we will explore as examples of the "Theater of the Absurd"; and 3) the prevalence of the grotesque in Southern literature, especially in the work of William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, and Flannery O'Connor. We will read O'Connor's The Displaced Person, Good Country People, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, The Life You Save May Be Your Own, and Revelation. We also will read Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. For individual or group presentations, students will select from nine Coen Brothers films, including The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Raising Arizona, and True Grit. The class will screen No Country for Old Men together. 

Is your selfie your identity?​

Selfie: Identity and Representation in the Digital Age (Sect 07)—Joel Swanson, Assistant Professor, ATLAS 
M/W, 11–12:15 p.m.

Why is our society obsessed with taking “selfies?” Are “selfies” a new and distinctive phenomenon, or just the latest iteration of a much older practice? How does technology enable and influence this practice? As humans, why are we compelled to make images of ourselves? In this course, students will be challenged to answer these questions and to think critically about the contemporary practice of taking “selfies.” We will explore related theories, histories, and technologies as a way of investigating the cultural practice of making images of ourselves. Coursework will include readings, viewings, and discussions, and students will respond to the course content through writings, presentations, and creative projects.

What do humans really need from the Earth?​

Our Geologic Dependencies (Sect 05)—David Budd, Professor, Geological Sciences 
M/W/F, 1–1:50 p.m.

Globally, modern society is heavily dependent on mineral, energy, and water resources derived from the Earth. Whether grown or manufactured, natural geological resources are required. Even the switch to renewable “clean” energies in response to global climate change will require massive amounts of resource exploitation. This seminar will use an inquiry-based approach to explore the issues related to society’s dependence on geological resource. Questions to be pursued include: what are the energy, mineral, and water resources used in the modern world; how much do we need; where and how do we acquire them; what geologic factors control their location, quality, and production; and how do we minimize the impact of obtaining them? Students will help shape the focus, research these questions, and collaboratively build an informed understanding of the issues around use and dependence on geologic resources.

How do we flesh out our ghosts?​

Global Ghosts: Gender, Sexuality, and Haunting in the Modern World (Sect 02)—Robert Buffington, Professor, Women and Gender Studies ​
W, 5–7:30 p.m.

This class examines the different meanings of ghosts and spirits around the world. Although disembodied by definition, ghosts and spirits almost always manifest as gendered beings imbued with human motivations, sometimes including sexual desire. In this sense, ghosts and spirits seem familiar even as their supernatural origins render them “uncanny” or “spooky.” Although ghosts and spirits haunt all societies, haunting plays out differently in different cultures and historical periods. To get at these differences, the course looks at ghosts and spirit possession in the 19th-century United States, late 19th- and early 20th-century Mexico, mid-20th-century Brazil, late 20th-century Mozambique, and contemporary Thailand. Subjects include the role of gender and sexuality in: spiritism in the U.S. and Mexico, candomblé (an Afro-Brazilian popular religion), gamba spirits (who possess women in Mozambique), and spirits of dead in Thai popular culture.

Which art is worth saving?​

Saving the World: Museums, Archives and Collections (Sect 20)—Thora Brylowe, Assistant Professor, English 
T/TH, 2–3:15 p.m.

Our university houses three museums and countless collections. What does it mean to save things, to collect them and place them in the safe keeping of some institution that will survive past our own short lifetime? How do we determine what aspects of history, culture and art are worth saving? What does it mean "to curate" in this context? These questions have been at the center of countless national and international debates. In this class, we will study controversies where works of art sparked scandal. We will read about cultural treasures that have been stolen from those who claim to be their rightful owners. We will ask, “Is this art?” and, “Does that belong in a museum?” and, “Should the public fund this?” These questions are very complex, and we will study important controversies where museums are at the center of national and international debates. Students will look for answers through field trips, by talking to curators and museum directors, and by working with the staff at the CU Art Museum to curate an exhibit from beginning to end. 

Leadership or censorship?​

Buildings Talk: History and Controversy at CU Boulder (Sect 29)—Paul Chinowsky, Professor, Civil Engineering 
T/TH, 3:30–4:45 p.m.

Andrews, Smith, Baker, Norlin—who are these people and why are buildings named after them at CU? The University of Colorado is tied to the history of Boulder and Colorado. Controversial topics that have grown up with the University of Colorado include free speech, racism, McCarthyism, elitism, environmentalism, and the role that CU founders, faculty, and students have played in these controversies through its history. This course will use the buildings on the CU campus to explore these topics through the history of the University of Colorado. Each week the course will explore a building on campus and discuss its historic significance, its namesake, and the issues that surround its namesake. From historic free speech battles associated with George Norlin to the McCarthyism associated with Dalton Trumbo, this course will dive beyond historical facts to challenge students to understand the significance of the CU environment in which they live and learn.

Can Gandhi be relevant today?​

Gandhi and Meditation:  Practices of Peace (Sect 31)—Cathy Comstock, Senior Instructor, Farrand RAP  
T/TH, 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Gandhi stunned the world by showing that nonviolence can at times be a force more powerful than violence. For this class, we’ll learn about his inspiring story and his theory of nonviolence. We’ll especially focus on the power and impact of language, including nonviolent communication. We will then analyze how the principles we’ve studied might be applied to major issues today, from global conflict to mass incarceration, from the ecology to its animal inhabitants, as well as to your own life. Gandhi and other great peacemakers have also demonstrated the importance of meditation for inner calm and focus. This insight is supported by studies in neuroscience that suggest that meditation can decrease stress while increasing well-being and academic performance. We will also get to know each other and the community through your choice of group service for the environment, animals or human communities in need. 

What would Mandela do?

Legacies of Violence: Politics & Memory in Response to Conflict (Sect 14)—Michaele Ferguson, Associate Professor, Political Science 
T/TH, 2–3:15 p.m.

How should we respond to violent civil conflict? Through extended simulations, we will explore different aspects of this question in three recent scenarios: (1) how the U.N. and the international community should respond to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994; (2) how post-apartheid South Africa in 1993 should redesign institutions that include all citizens; and (3) how ordinary Argentinians in 1985, divided by competing memories of the Dirty War, should remember their past. Students will research the ideas, political context, and social relationships that influenced their assigned characters, and work together in factions to try to achieve their objectives. While the simulations are grounded in historical documents, events may take a very different path from the one we know from history as students strategize, connive, and reason their way to victory! Along the way, we will develop skills in critical thinking, persuasive writing, public speaking, political organizing, leadership, and teamwork.

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What did the road to rebellion look like?​

Liberty: Political Revolution in Colonial American Society (Sect 37)—Jim Hodge, Adjoint Assistant Professor Emeritus, Military Science 
T, 6–8:30 p.m.

The course will examine the 25 years before the American Revolution that developed the intellectual and moral change in Colonial America leading to the desire for independence. We will come to appreciate the impact and result of the British government’s legacy of European conflict in the New World. As described by J. Mercierca, “Colonial Americans had once been content with their role within the empire—content with the knowledge that they were British subjects, living ‘under the best national civil constitution in the world.’” In this interactive course, we will examine the events and outcomes of what John Adams termed the true revolution and how events abroad and domestic guided the Founding Fathers to a decision to abandon reconciliation and seek separation and independence.

How do artists find hope amid darkness?​

Tragedy and Inspiration (Sect 23)—Dan Kellogg, Associate Professor, Music 
T/TH, 9:30–10:45 a.m.

Artists have responded to their environment and world events for millennia. Sometimes they celebrate victories or immortalize the height of the human experience in artistic expression. Other times they have been deeply moved by tragedy and great human failing. Musical masterpieces have been written by American composers in response to the Holocaust, the bombing of Hiroshima, the Vietnam War, slavery in America, the civil rights movement, and the current environmental crisis. Great tragedy has led to spectacular pieces of art that have sought to understand the human condition and find hope in the wake of profound darkness. Tragedy and Inspiration will investigate such pieces from the past 75 years. The course will discuss the historic event to gain context, learn about the composers’ musical styles, and explore the masterpieces themselves. The course includes a diverse body of music drawing from jazz, minimalism, 1960s rock ‘n’ roll, symphonic orchestra music, and the theatrically avant-garde.

Can we design our way to sustainability?​

Building Sustainable Communities (Sect 35)—Lupita Montoya, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering 
M/W/F, 10–10:50 a.m.
Note: requires permission to enroll as part of a First-year Interest Group​

This seminar will demonstrate how the process of engineering design can be used to solve technical or scientific problems as well as societal challenges. The process includes: problem definition, background research, requirement specification, brainstorm solutions, solution selection, prototype, test and redesign.  These steps will be applied to problems recognized and discussed in class. The goal will be to contribute our efforts to building sustainable and resilient communities in the United States and abroad. Dynamic multidisciplinary teams with diverse intellectual, social, and academic backgrounds will tackle real problems in these communities. Students will explore concepts such as resilience, grit, growth mindset, diversity and justice in order to deliver the best solution to the problems we set out to solve. Our goal will be to use this effective tool in new ways to serve society. Students in the course will learn to work in teams and communicate across disciplines in written and oral forms.

Kant we all get along?​

Why Be Moral? (Sect 32)—Robert Pasnau, Professor, Philosophy 
W, 5–7:30 p.m.

One of the oldest and most important questions about life is the question of why we should care about doing the right thing. Although discussions of this topic go back to the beginnings of philosophy, there remain to this day the fiercest of disagreements about how to answer the question. This seminar will look at some of the variety of answers that have been given over the centuries, looking at philosophy, literature, and film. Students will be asked to think analytically about the question, but also to reflect honestly on the question from within their own lives, so as to seek an understanding that is both intellectual and personal.

Who was born to run, and why?​

Immigrants and Refugees in Literature and Culture, Ancient and Modern (Sect 06)—Lauri Reitzammer, Associate Professor, Classics 
T/TH, 2–3:15 p.m.

In this class, we will examine the representation of immigrants, foreigners, and refugees in ancient and modern literature and culture. We will begin by tracing Archaic Greek conceptions of the traveler (e.g., Homer’s Odyssey) and continue through the Classical period with a look at immigrants and travelers in Athenian tragedy and comedy. We will consider ancient Greek gender constructions—the traveler as male (e.g., Odysseus) contrasted with the immobile female (e.g., Penelope)—as well as exceptions to these norms (e.g., Helen of Troy, whose body is marked by mobility; the ancient Greek conception of the “wandering womb”). Having explored Classical Athenian metaphors related to immigration, we will turn to a very different cultural context: Rome during the Age of Augustus (e.g., Vergil’s Aeneid). We will close with an examination of 21st-century debates on immigration and modern representations of travelers in literature and film.

Can we free the writer within?​

Writing the Self: Intersections of Journaling, Autobiography, and Memoir (Sect 34)—Lindsay Roberts, Assistant Professor, Libraries
T/TH, 3:30–4:45 p.m.

This seminar examines how writing about the self through private forms, such as journaling or diaries, as well as more public forms like autobiography and memoir, give us an opportunity to craft the narratives of our own life experiences and better understand our public and private identities. We’ll explore questions such as these: In an age of social media, what does it mean to have a private and public persona? How can works inform our own journeys toward authenticity and self-discovery? How has writing been used by groups traditionally denied public forms of self-expression to develop a sense of self? This course features diverse readings spanning nationalities, race, gender, sexuality, social class, and time. We will develop portfolios of our work during the semester and practice giving and receiving constructive feedback through writing for the web, audio, video, social media, and more traditional forms of writing.

Can you handle the truth?​

Journalism Through the Cinematic Lens (Sect 18)—Paul Voakes, Professor, Journalism 
T/TH, 3:30–4:45 p.m.; W, 6–8 p.m.
Note: requires permission to enroll as part of a First-year Interest Group​

In this course we immerse ourselves in a broad range of challenging and critical questions about journalistic practice, as represented in film. We will consider the degree to which popular filmic depictions of journalists are based in fact; how realistically popular films portray journalism ethics; how the image, and the reality, of journalistic practice may have changed over the last 80 years; and how these depictions may have impacted social, cultural and political understandings of journalism’s role in today’s society. We will also create, as a result of our film analysis, a new "Journalist’s Code of Ethics for the 21st Century." Each week’s film will illustrate a different theme in the study of journalism; films will range from Citizen Kane and All The President’s Men to last year’s Oscar-winning Spotlight. We will also study journalism in international settings with such films as Veronica Guerin and The Year of Living Dangerously.

Can baseball and slime mold help us make sense of the world?

How Not to Be Wrong (Sect 40)—Jeanne Clelland, Professor, Mathematics
M/W/F, 2–2:50 p.m.

Based on the book How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg (Penguin Books, 2014), we will explore how mathematical thinking can help us see the hidden structures underlying the often messy and chaotic surface of our world. Topics include: baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia’s views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can’t figure out about you, and the existence of God. No particular mathematical skill is required; the emphasis will be on ideas rather than computation. Students should expect to participate actively in discussions, both in class and online, and to practice expressing their ideas clearly in writing.

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