The first-year seminar program comprises one-semester topical seminars unified under the theme "Knowledge, Values, and Social Change." These seminars are designed to introduce first-year students to the ways in which the liberal arts construct knowledge; to enhance their abilities to read closely, analyze information, instruct students in the expectations and values of the academic community; and to provide first-year students with an opportunity to work closely with a member of the faculty.
First-year students are required to complete one first-year seminar. Section topics will differ; see below.
FYS1101.01 Globalization: The Great Debates
Globalization is the defining issue of our time. Some have argued that it has promoted international trade and migration, and led to impressive capital flows between rich and poor countries. Impassioned activists and non-governmental organizations on the other side have noted that the war on poverty is being lost, the position of women has been degraded, child labor has increased, and environmental degradation has been accelerated. In this class we will read some of the great debates. We will explore whether globalization is an economic process with benign social consequences, or if there is a real danger of homogenization, a loss of global diversity, and deeper divisions between rich and poor. What specific values are threatened? How has our knowledge of past globalization by traders, missionaries, imperialism and colonialism shaped our distrust of modern globalization? Can globalization, in truth, bring about social change based on real reductions in poverty and inequality? We shall read popular books, novels, and articles, examine global statistics, watch videos, listen to speeches and use web based resources.
FYS1101.04 College: A Privilege or a Right?
Higher education has a tremendous influence on the cultural, social, and political character of this country. As an industry, higher education also plays an important role in US's economy. Whether viewed as engines of economic growth, keepers of the keys of culture, or tools of credentialism, colleges and a college education are powerful and important forces permeating America's society in general. This course will survey higher education in the United States from a historical perspective. The course will focus on the development of higher education from the Colonial Period through the GI Bill. Concurrently, the course will delve into how, from the inception of the first college, Harvard 1600, to today's different groups seeking access to College. These groups include women, blacks, working class, immigrants, older students, and other ethic groups. Furthermore, the course will delineate how educational advantages and disadvantages accumulate throughout the educational process and affect equity in college access, choice, and academic achievement.
FYS1101.09 He's Not Your Professor Anymore--He's a Zombie!: Social Issues in Comedy and Horror Films
This course will examine several social issues-race and privilege, the social contract, freedom of speech, social ethics-as they make appearances in some of the least likely places: the films and TV shows that told us they were just here to make us laugh or give us a scare. Some argue that they give us something to think about as well. This course will explore the ways in which these examples of pop culture, while often viewed as merely popular entertainment, serve as valuable sources of social criticism, worthy of study in the academic institution.
FYS1101.10 Raising Hell: Twenty Years of Activism, 1955-1975
The United States changed dramatically between 1955 and 1975. Many Americans were forced to take a fresh look at issues such as race, the role of women in society, young people, poverty, and the war in Vietnam, among others. In short these were difficult times and the nation seemed divided. During these years various individuals stepped forward and challenged the status quo in America, often at great risk to themselves. Employing historical methods and means of analysis, this seminar will explore how and to what effect these individuals (and the organizations they were often part of) contributed to changing America. We will focus on four different groups of people -African Americans, young people and students, women, and gays and lesbians-who found that they could no longer remain silent or marginalized. We will use traditional primary sources as well as music and film to explore these turbulent years in America's history. We will also make use of the excellent primary sources found on the internet. Students will conduct their own primary research in the form of an oral history project.
FYS1101.11 Call of the Wild: An Introduction to American Environmental History
This course will introduce students to the history of American attitudes towards nature and natural resources. Readings, lectures, and class discussions will focus on the trajectory of these attitudes, beginning with European and colonial perceptions of wilderness. We will then explore the way perceptions were changed through individuals inspired by Transcendentalism and Romanticism-in particular Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau-and the rise of American conservationist and preservationist movements in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The course will also consider the current state of environmentalism in the US and abroad.
FYS1101.12 Democracy and Education for a New Century: A Global Look at Schooling
Students will explore the meaning of democracy and its role in determining the purposes of education in today's world. Students will take a global look at educational practices and systems. In this seminar students will read and discuss the purpose of education, its connection to democracy and explore possible changes needed in today's system of schooling to meet the needs of a changing, technologically-driven society. Students will meet guest speakers schooled outside the US, as well as American educators, who will share their experiences and views on democracy, education, and the needs of a rapidly changing global community.
FYS1101.13 The Beautiful, the Odd and the Ugly: Image and Seeing in Visual Culture
This course is an interdisciplinary course that introduces a specific area of cultural studies, visual literacy. The course considers modes or ways of seeing, ranging from pictorial art to modern media like television. The content will focus on a specific target of seeing, beauty. Cultural norms of beauty change as do conventions for depicting beauty. Students are expected to learn critical skills in assessing visual stimuli, understanding the context of visual media and be able to assess modern manipulations like advertising and phenomena like ugliness in modern art.
FYS1101.15 Changing the World through Literature
This course provides the opportunity to discover the power of literature as a transformative force. A writer inspires change by giving voice to the most fragile segments of society while speaking out against social injustice, discrimination, corruption, political repression and other social maladies. In this course we will read contemporary world authors whose literary pieces provoke reflection and create the influential awareness that often leads to constructive action. The course's readings will take us to diverse parts of the world, including South Africa, Brazil, Germany, Guatemala and Chile. The deftly written words of Alan Paton , Jorge Amado, Bertolt Brecht, Ignazio Silone, Rigoberta Mench and Isabel Allende will inform and guide our thinking.
FYS1101.17 New England Life and Culture: Young America to 1877
This seminar focuses on two of the most famous novels of the 19th century, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. We will use these novels as a basis for discussing, among others, gender, race, childhood, sentimentality, and identity in 19th-century American culture. We'll explore Stowe's and Alcott's treatment of these issues and compare their works to other popular novels of the time. Other authors we will read could include Mark Twain, Harriet Wilson, William Wells Brown or Susan Warner. After taking the seminar, student will have a greater appreciation for the work of these influential American writers and a better understanding of the role the novel played in both popular and political discourse of the mid and late 19th-century.
FYS1101.20 Nutrition Truth in Advertising
This seminar addresses issues in the area of nutrition and health: how the public understands nutrition information as well as policies and initiatives that are important for human welfare and how the public can implement social change in these areas. Students analyze how people learn about food and nutrition, especially as they relate to health, and assess the relevant scientific truth. The competing interests of health, economics, free speech, integrity, and human rights are considered. Controversial issues in nutrition are examined from multiple viewpoints. The impact of the media on our information, nutritional status and health is examined. Advertisements, promotions and claims are analyzed. Policies and nutritional concerns in nations beyond the US are studied as well. The values and complexities of competing interests in the global arena of nutrition and health are discussed. Students examine the roles of consumers to effect social change, such as influencing laws, the Food and Drug Administration, the food industry, and international agencies.
FYS1101.24 Democracy or Idiocracy?: Media, Sensationalism, and Social Change
In the 2006 black comedy, *Idocracy*, Mike Judge paints a desperate and dystopian picture of the future of democracy in America. The film suggests that, after centuries of exposure to a sensational media, Americans are driven to depths of ignorance and lethargy that destroy a once vibrant commonwealth. In this class, we will critically examine the nature of this claim. Is our corporate-owned, mediated culture negatively impacting the public's ability to be informed, engaged, and enlightened citizens? If so, what conditions are necessary for creating a mass media (including TV and the Internet) capable of fostering and sustaining positive social change?
FYS1101.27 Social Entrepreneurship: How to Change Your World
This seminar will explore the lives and actions of social entrepreneurs (men and women whose stories may serve as inspiration to others) and the dynamics of social entrepreneurship (to include developing a vision, building and sustaining commitment, practicing leadership, garnering resources, and overcoming resistance). In class, we will talk about important social issues like education, poverty, and healthcare. We will learn about individuals who tackled such problems and were able to bring about social change and to enhance the lives of people in many parts of the world. We will explore the dynamics and the context of social entrepreneurship - looking at what inhibits and what fosters effective social entrepreneurship. Students will be challenged to think about how one person can make a difference and how they might develop as change agents, as well.
FYS1101.28 War: What is it good for?
This course will ask why human beings engage in warfare. Perspectives from a variety of disciplines, including military science, evolutionary biology, economics, archaeology, primatology, sociology, and developmental psychology, will be introduced in an attempt to address the question. The course will begin with the viewing of the movie "Patton," and students will be asked for their first assignment to evaluate the attractiveness of warfare. Using the perspectives introduced in the course, students will be asked for the final research paper to analyze a current war and provide an explicit and original recommendation for halting the war. The topics covered during the course will be the archaeological evidence of warfare, chimpanzee warfare, the young male syndrome, polygyny versus monogamy, the social structure of cooperation, individual versus group competition, women's roles in warfare, territoriality, pleasure in killing, motor movements, and finally economic altruism and peacemaking.
FYS1101.29 Race and the American Cinema
This course examines the tradition of American filmmaking as it has intersected with the discourse of race in American culture. As we view and analyze both influential early works of American cinema as well as more recent films, we will consider how films both reflect and shape the discourse of race.
FYS1101.30 Clash of Civilzations
In 1993 through the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, Samuel Huntington came to the conclusion that a Confucian-Islamic axis would challenge the West in his prediction of the inevitability of the "West versus The Rest." In January 2002, in his first State of the Union Address, the President of the United States identified the threat to the United States and the civilized world as an "Axis of Evil" comprised of the Islamic Iran and Iraq and Confucian North Korea. Theory had seemingly met reality. In this seminar we will examine and evaluate the arguments before and after September 11, 2001 in order to understand, and to assess the extent that Huntington is an astute observer of international politics or was his theory an convenient approach to analyze the post-September 11th international system.
FYS1101.32 Computers in Society: Global Connections
The "machines" at the center of the technology age have revolutionized our lives and digitalized our world, making previously unthinkable tasks automatic and linking people from around the world. Students will analyze, construct arguments, and engage in research on how technology has revolutionized the way the way we work, play, travel, and communicate. The course will begin with a history of the personal computer and then travel to the 21st Century to discover the social implications of computing by exploring the social, philosophical, ethical implications of computing in today's world. The seminar will also reflect the principles that drive contemporary practice in open and flexible learning using WebCt., wikis, podcasts, blogging and home web pages.
FYS1101.33 Inspiring the Self while Exploring the Globe: Purposeful Narratives in Travel Literature
Discover the important genre of travel literature and the potency of travel as an inspirational force. Learn how international travel in particular has profoundly transformed the lives of our travelers and/or others whose lives they reached out and touched afterwards, in meaningful ways.
FYS1101.34 Classical Key to the 21st Century
Nike, Asics, Mars/Venus, Marathon, Achilles: This seminar will provide students the opportunity to come to an appreciation of the foundational influence that Greece and Rome have had on 21st century America and the indelible imprint that words and pictures (literature, art and history) have made on our times. This is a course that explains the meanings and significances of visual and verbal allusions from the ancient world that continue to be part of the texture of human discourse in the West, even and especially in the Unite States in 2007. (No previous knowledge of Greek or Latin required.)
FYS1101.35 Matters of Life and Death
The nature of ethical decision making is first discussed. Concepts and skills acquired are then applied to several moral problems concerning matters of life and death. These include abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, stem cell research, animal rights, world hunger, war, and terrorism. Students will read articles by contemporary philosophers and scientists who have staked out various and conflicting views about how these tough choices should be made. They will also read news articles about these topics as well as perform journal and Internet searches for additional information. Papers will be written on each topic defending a view, and debates will be presented which require defending one side or another of the topic.
FYS1101.36 Women of the Bible
This seminar will examine in detail several of the more and less famous women of the Bible. Each story will be examined in its literary, historical, and cultural context. By careful and detailed analysis, we will attempt to recover their voices and assess how their portrayal in the Bible affects the understanding of women today. Through individual research papers and team projects, students will have the opportunity to research two additional women of their own choosing. The goal is to acquaint students to some of the Bible's important women, to introduce them to the discipline of biblical research, and to challenge them to see how these ancient stories illuminate and inform current perceptions about women in the Church and in society.
FYS1101.38 One Small Planet
Roughly half the world lives on less than $2 a day. Most have inadequate access to safe water, immunizations, and education. Economic growth is essential to improving the human condition, yet the environmental consequences of rapid growth in countries like China and India is alarming. Must growth entail such damage? Can we find a way to improve standards of living without jeopardizing the planet? This seminar focuses on whether there is a tradeoff between economic growth and environmental conservation. Many economists argue that a cleaner environment requires the sacrifice of other goods, like housing and health care. Because resources are scarce, the environment may be a luxury that poor countries will only invest in as they become wealthy. Political activists have long challenged this, along with the policies that promote 'dirty economic development.' They argue, a healthy planet is a prerequisite to economic well-being, not an alternative. Where else will we live? Corporate forecasts of the cost of environmental protection often prove to be gross overestimates, as technology makes it possible to produce the same goods using fewer resources. And besides, our current model yields benefits that are unfairly distributed: we wear our gold status symbols, without thinking about the cyanide that mining companies dump into community water supplies. Greener development might benefit the poor. This alternative perspective is often labeled 'sustainable development.' It sounds good - and indeed, some activist organizations coach their members to "keep the message positive." Even the grocery stores have figured out that we like fair trade and organic labels. But is it realistic? In this course, we will look at the extent to which technology, strong economic incentives and good social values can move us forward.
FYS1101.39 Periodical Culture: Then and Now
This First-Year Seminar will contemplate the role periodicals (newspapers and magazines) play in the production of cultural values and meaning. Considering the history of and reading short newspaper articles from two extraordinarily popular eighteenth-century English newspapers, The Tatler (1709-1711) and The Spectator (1711-1714), students will begin the semester reading about the periodical and coffee-house culture that emerged in eighteenth-century England. This culture is in fact strikingly similar to the "Starbuck's Coffee" culture that one experiences walking down almost any street in Boston! But newspapers and magazines, standard reading material in most coffee shops, do more than provide an idle mode of entertainment to enjoy with a caffeinated beverage. They educate readers about culture-they tell us what to wear, who to like, who's "in," who's "out," what's important, what's not important, what to read, etc. In fact, as Richard Steele "humbly," albeit quite explicitly, suggests in the first issue of The Tatler, periodicals serve as a subtle form of mind control: "it is both a Charitable and Necessary Work to offer something, whereby such Members of the Commonwealth may be instructed, after their Reading, what to think." To develop an understanding of periodical culture's importance, then and now, students will read and compare articles from The Tatler and The Spectator to articles from twenty-first century periodicals (The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The New York Times and Cosmopolitan) and think about how print media influences the lives of twenty-first century readers in America.
FYS1101.40 Art Talks Back: Tragedy, Turmoil and Transformation
People often value art for its visual beauty to be appreciated within the context of an art museum. But artists throughout history have grappled with compelling issues beyond the nature of beauty, from the effects of war and poverty to the impact of consumerism and media saturation on our lives. Focusing on works of art created in the last twenty-five years, we will consider art as a vehicle for grappling with today's real life issues that are essential for understanding ourselves as human beings and for living with others on this planet. Visiting area art museums and other venues for art, we will consider art as a fundamental and critical tool for understanding some of the most important issues to be faced by your generation.
FYS1101.41 Understanding Diversity and Social Justice
This course is designed to introduce students to general aspects of diversity at work and to highlight the diversity challenges and opportunities that are present in the modern workplace. This course takes multiple perspectives on diversity including race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, and disability. Students' understanding of diversity and its relevance at work will be enhanced through a variety of readings, class discussions and class exercises, and assignments that illustrate/illuminate the reality of today's diverse workplace.
FYS1101.42 From the Barricades of 1968 to the Election Booth of 2008
Throughout the course of history, watershed events, such as wars and revolutions, have enabled the rise and fall of empire and defined the character of the generations that live through them and beyond. There are also momentous periods, like the year 1848, that have revolutionary character, coming at points when social, political, and/or economic regimes have run their course and reached a dead end. In the latter part of the 20th century, 1968 was such a year. Two decades after the end of the second world war, while the ideological Cold-War raged, the world stood still as the post-war generation from North America to China and from Europe to Latin America challenged the status-quo. A new post-material generation pressed for qualitative changes, primarily with respect to issues of equal access in the public sphere along the lines of identity, education and labor. They also pressed for peace and eventually demanded it from behind barricades. This seminar will begin by identifying and introducing the seminal issues of 1968 and selective protagonists of that period in order to examine and analyze the generations they came to define. These issues will become dependent variables of analysis, as we use the unique opportunity of the Fall 2008 American presidential campaign to identify their reemergence and relevance in the contemporary political landscape. The 40th anniversary of 1968 makes this avenue of inquiry even more topical. Youthful generations today are asking deeper questions and searching for meaning from contemporary political leaders and defenders of the current status quo, many of whom were themselves standing at the barricades or sitting-in in 1968.
FYS1101.43 Individual Acts
This course will explore the actions of a range of "deviants" who broke from the "norm." The expression of their views - in the free and open marketplace of ideas - may have initially been rejected. In other cases, their views served as catalysts for change. Whether ignored or igniting, the importance lies in having had the courage and conviction to stand up as individuals who, as Senator Edward M. Kennedy said of his assassinated brother Robert as he eulogized him in June of 1968, "[He} saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it." This course will examine the words and actions of individuals in a diversity of areas and their efforts to change views and policies. Some of these individuals may be familiar to you, while others are only names. Regarding the latter, this course proposes to introduce to you the diversity of individuals in their own fields of endeavor who have attempted to have an impact on this nation and its role in the world.
FYS1101.44 Politics and Religion
The interconnectedness of politics and religion has a long history and today is seen to have an enormous influence on domestic and foreign policy. Religious movements have been influential in challenging authoritarian regimes. We see this in Latin America and the liberation theology movement. We saw this in Poland when Ship Yard workers of Solidarity challenged the Communist government of Poland and today we see the heroism of the monks in Myanmar. It was the Shiite leadership that finally brought down the government of the Shah and through one of the few revolutions of our time put in place a government controlled by religious leaders in Iran. These movements have inspired groups all over the world. We have seen religious grievances shaped into political movements and political grievances taken over by religious movements. What is it about religious leadership that allows it to bring about political change where others have failed? Throughout the course we will look at when and why religious leaders have brought about political change, how they have done it and what the social, political and economic impact has been on the domestic and international arenas.
FYS1101.45 American Business History
For more than two centuries, the success of American business had been the envy of the world. More recenlty, American business has been both envied and criticized. In this first year seminar we explore the history of American business from colonial times to the present day multinational corporation. The course will emphasize not only the economic contributions of business to American history but also the philanthropic generosity of business tycoons. The history of business ethics and corporate social responsibility, the parallel existence of black businesses after the abolishment of slavery and their disappearance after the 1960s civil rights movement, and more recent critiques of American business will also be examined. The course is designed to give the student an appreciation of American business history, not to demonize or glamorize business but to try to understand it.
FYS1101.46 Brains 2.0: Emerging Research in the Neurosciences
Neuroscience is truly an interdisciplinary science encompassing the fields of biology, chemistry, psychology, sociology and philosophy among others. This first year seminar will focus on non-medical topics in neuroscience research that will include: memory enhancement, brain stimulation, brain imaging and neuro-ethics. The examination of emerging neuroscience research will provide the content for discussions and student presentations and written assignments. Research sources will include scientific journals as well as websites and print media.
FYS1101.47 Grammar as Art, Science, and "Code of Power"
Not a basic skills course, this class will focus on the art and science of the English language and its grammars. Most research shows that traditional school grammar (TSG) does not improve students' writing, but that its value lies in the language it can create for talking about language. This course will focus on an analytical study of grammar, not a skills-based study. Topics will range from the educational-the purposes and usefulness of teaching grammar in school-to the social and political-the arguments that standard forms of English grammar serve as "gatekeepers" to help identify who belongs to what social group. We will also explore the grammars of some non-mainstream, or "stigmatized," dialects such as Black English Vernacular (BEV), and consider different arguments as to whether or not its forms are as grammatically sound as Standard English, and if so where and when which English is appropriate. And of course, we will seek a deeper understanding of the rules of Standard English/School English itself. While improvement in writing is not a course goal, it is nearly inevitable that a deeper understanding of Standard English grammar will lead to better, more conscientious usage. This course should appeal to anyone who loves words, language, reading, or writing; or anyone who thinks they are ready to finally understand what their teachers were talking about in all those grammar lessons.
FYS1101.48 Public Health: Safeguards and Controversies
This course will explore the important and complex issue of public health, the vital role it plays in the preservation and enhancement of the health and quality of life of people, as well as the challenges and controversies of maintaining safety for the common good. Medical as well as social, political, economic, and ethical issues will be examined in the context of how governments work to ensure the well-being of people. A history of the development of the public health system, especially in Boston, Massachusetts, its importance in saving lives and the early concerns of the public are considered. Current medical and safety issues, as well as the controversies of today and the future, are discussed. The course will introduce the range of areas where regulation has been enacted to ensure protection of the public. The breadth of the issues and the nature of protection under the purview of the public health system will include analysis at the local, state, national and global level. Some specific issues are discussed in detail. Considerations of equity of access to safeguards plus any threats or social concerns will consider groups diverse in age, gender, economic status, ethnicity, and immigrant status. Concerns will be considered about personal choice and privacy while the government works to maintain the health of the community as a whole.
FYS1101.49 Passion, Scandal and Splendor in the Late Roman Empire
This course will consider key topics in the Byzantine Empire: the struggle with Islam, religious and artistic controversies (Iconoclasm), the emergence of women empresses, obsession with sports and celebrities (Nike riots), the catastrophe of the 4th Crusade, financial and sexual scandals (Theodora & The Secret History). After an introduction to the Empire’s background and to research methods, students will choose a topic of interest to research and present in seminar format. Resources will include primary sources in translation, journal articles, some Internet sites and visits to local museums. Discussions will attempt to assess any similarities with current issues in the United States.
FYS1101.50 The Beat Generation: Can’t Get Enough of Had Enough
This course will trace the development of the Beat Generation as it took shape from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. It will explore the term’s paradoxical definition, the “can’t get enough of had enough,” as Jack Kerouac once described it, which synthesizes the physical and emotional characteristics of being “beaten down” by society with the spiritual yearning for a beatific experience. In the process, it will consider such writers as William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac. In order to contextualize the work of these writers, the course will explore some cultural movements and conditions of the early postwar period: Bebop, the consensus culture, the youth movement, and the rise of suburbia. Ultimately, the course aims to improve students’ critical reading and writing skills. It will offer them the opportunity to historicize texts and recognize understand how significant shifts in American culture have informed their own historical experience.
FYS1101.52 Poverty and Social Justice
This course explores poverty from an interdisciplinary and international perspective. Drawing on scholarship in the areas of Sociology, Anthropology, Economics and Public Policy, the course discusses the causes and consequences of poverty. The course puts particular emphasis on the consequences of poverty on children. The course starts by discussing explanations for the persistence of poverty, including urban labor markets, residential segregation, welfare policy and cultural factors in the United States, and lack of infrastructure and human capital in developing nations. The course also provides an in-depth look at the lives of the urban working poor in the United States and introduces students to current approaches to poverty alleviation by the governmental and non-governmental sectors.
FYS1101.53 Ethics, Religion, and the Global AIDS Epidemic
This course will examine some of the ethical issues that have arisen as a result of HIV/AIDS. Students will become familiar with the basic landscape of the epidemic, and the debates that have arisen about different approaches in addressing it. How do religious, economic, social, political and other factors affect responses to HIV/AIDS, and what are the ethical implications? We will also address the ways that HIV/AIDS forces the re-examination of various ethical principles such as confidentiality and informed consent in medical care? Finally, we will consider what the perspective of Catholic social teaching might bring to the issues at hand.