First-Year Seminars Fall 2014

Registration for First-Year Seminars is on a priority basis dependent upon date of deposit to the University and individual scheduling requirements. Preferences for students who submit the online form after June 10, regardless of deposit date, may not be accommodated, depending upon availability. New students will receive their course schedules at New Student Orientation in August.

Submit your top five choices for First-Year Seminars using the online form on MyArcadia (under New First-Year Student Forms).  


America 2014: People, Power, Politics (FY103.2)
Amy Widestrom, Historical and Political Studies
This class examines American politics and society through the lens of the 2014 midterm elections, and the most recent presidential election. Using a variety of materials from different academic disciplines, including mass and new media sources, films and political satire, popular fiction and nonfiction writing, and academic texts, students will develop an understanding of what it means to be a citizen in the United States today. The goal of this course is to encourage students to think about their community and the opportunities each individual has to influence American politics and society.
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Apocalypse: The End of Days, Yet Again? (FY103.3)
Kathleen Pearle, History
From ancient times to the present, cultures across the globe have represented Creation as the Beginning of Days. Likewise, many cultures – ancient through contemporary -- have envisioned the End of Days on earth as the climax and resolution of a prodigious struggle between the forces of good and evil: the Apocalypse. Students will first investigate the visions and messages of pre-modern apocalyptic communities. In the second part of the course we will examine the transformation, as well as the commercialization, of apocalyptic images and revelations in modern times. This seminar includes a museum trip, film viewings and a Last Supper.
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Beyond The Broadway Blockbuster: Exploring Thoughtful Theater (FY103.5)
Jonathan Shandell, Theater
There's nothing wrong with feel-good Broadway-style musicals. But at its finest, theater is a serious art that provokes ambitious thinking, self-examination and social engagement. This seminar exposes students to thoughtful dramatic productions on the Arcadia campus and around Philadelphia, explores the creative process involved in staging serious drama, and examines how Philadelphia-area artists are using the stage to engage with the vital political, cultural and social questions of our time. Students attend performances, speak with theater artists, and develop critical skills for analyzing what is seen on stage.
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Bodies In Motion: Foundation For Physical Therapy (FY103.6)
Amy Miller, Physical Therapy
What is movement? What is the relationship between anatomical structure and function? How is movement acquired? What alters movement? What is physical ability and disability? This seminar introduces students to the science of movement and bioengineering as tools for analysis and adaptation. Visual observation of different kinds of human motion within varied locations and contexts serves as the framework for discussion of the individual’s, society’s and science’s approaches to the concept of physical ability. Strategies to address mismatches in physical ability and environmental demands underscores the seminar topics as students are guided toward an understanding of physically active individuals.
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The Body Adorned: A Look at the Personal, Societal and Historical Context of Decorating Our Bodies (FY103.32)
Catherine Adams, Art & Design
This seminar will examine the varying ways in which we decorate and adorn our bodies. From the earliest evidence of mankind come depictions of bodies that are painted, pierced, scared, draped in elaborate clothing and decorated in jewelry. We will discuss examples of body art from different global cultures dating from prehistoric times to the present day. A common element across nearly every culture is the use of our own bodies as a means of communicating something about ourselves. With either permanent scars and tattoos or temporary decorations like make-up and jewelry, body art is often a way to define a person’s role in society, identify a special occasion or rite of passage. With an added studio component, we will look more closely at how our contemporary methods of adornment are tied to this rich history while we experiment in creating our own items of decoration. Students will examine their own adornment practices and experiment in ways of changing how they appear.
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Chocolate: From Montezuma To Madison Avenue (FY103.7)
Scott Rawlins, Art & Design
For many, chocolate is simply a sugary confection, but chocolate is a complex subject. Throughout its 3,000-year history, chocolate has been used as currency, as medicine, and as an aphrodisiac. The processing and manufacturing of cocoa products has evolved from the simple preparation of a cold beverage consumed by the Maya elite to the creation of artisan truffles sold at high-end boutiques in New York and Paris. The production of chocolate is an industry currently worth billions of dollars. Students in this seminar explore the natural and cultural histories of the cocoa bean and learn about chocolate cultivation, processing and marketing.
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Choreographing The Word (FY103.8)
Meredith Davis, English
What moves us? How can we communicate despite psychological and physical barriers? How do we empathize with one another? The combination of movement and language leads to a higher level of understanding oneself and those around us. Students will learn, on an intro level, how to analyze poetry and explore how that can translate to movement. They will be introduced to various styles of poetry and dance and will analyze how the one can enhance the other. We will also look at the global community’s influence on dance and explore what it means to label art forms as masculine/feminine, European/ethnic, and abled/disabled. The main goal will be the students' collaboration and class discussion as we explore how self-expression speaks through body and word. Students will attend local performances, both poetry readings and dance. No matter the level of ability, students will learn to creatively express themselves, gain an appreciation for these art forms as cultural markers, and explore how these art forms are integral parts of society.
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CSI: Myths and Realities (FY103.9)
Sheryl Van Horne, Criminal Justice
This course introduces students to the criminal justice system, highlighting the inaccuracies of media portrayals like CSI. Through documentaries, readings, class discussions, court visits and guest lectures from people in the field, students will critically examine issues with forensic tools such as ballistics evidence, fingerprints, and techniques related to arson investigations. Students will analyze media presentations of the criminal justice system, culminating in a content analysis on the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation series.
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Death on the Ice: Science, Ambition, Politics and Insanity at the Poles (FY103.10)
Eric McCloy, Global Information Services
Explore the brilliance, lunacy, patriotism, science, pseudo-science, heroism, disappointment, risk-taking, profit-making and spin-doctoring that surrounds our collective fascination with Polar exploration. Imagine: January 9, 1909, Ernest Shackleton's team stands 100 miles from the South Pole. Facing a dwindling food supply and a raging southern winter, they abandon the quest, race home and, barely outrunning starvation and blizzards, return to a hero's welcome. Two years later, Robert Falcon Scott faces the same decision, leads his team forward to the Pole, but in returning gets pinned down by an interminable blizzard and fails to outrun the starvation stalking behind. Who do you think made the right decision?
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The Ethics of Harry Potter (FY103.11)
Rick Arras, Computer Science & Math
Do you wish you could apparate, play quidditch, or ride a hippogriff? In this seminar, students look at the Harry Potter books, not only as compelling stories but as an opportunity to examine their own values and notions of “right” and “wrong.” Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters. We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the power we choose to act on. That's who we really are. (Sirius Black) It is not our abilities that show what we truly are, it is our choices. (Albus Dumbledore)
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Forensic Science: Shaping The World Of Justice (FY103.12)
Marie Murphy, Biology
Forensic science plays a key role in determining the innocence or guilt of a crime suspect. Learn about crime scene procedures, the techniques of fingerprinting, the procedure of an autopsy, the analysis of hair and fibers, and the use of DNA evidence. Practice making and learning to analyze blood splatter patterns. Explore the world of ballistics. Do a forensic facial reconstruction on a cast of a human skull. This seminar explores the ways in which a love of science can be combined with a commitment to service in the interests of justice and public safety.
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Freshly Brewed: The World of Tea and Coffee (FY103.33)
Dan Schall, English
How do volcanoes end up in your cup of joe? Why is tea from Sri Lanka still called Ceylon? Find answers to these questions and more, and we look at the history, politics and art behind two of the world’s most popular beverages. We will also "percolate" on the social influence of coffee and tea as we visit local coffee shops, attend traditional tea ceremonies, and explore what makes these drinks so important to the world.
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From Rags to Riches and Back Again (FY103.13)
Rachel Collins, English
Rags to riches. Self-made millionaire. A house with a white picket fence. These are all pieces of the "American dream"--the master narrative that Americans like to tell about who we are and what we believe. But there's also a darker side to the story. Even though the American dream claims to be universal, it's actually highly raced, classed, and gendered, and from some perspectives it even resembles a nightmare. Throughout the semester we'll read novels and watch films that offer different perspectives on American dreams and American nightmares. As we explore the narratives articulated by everyone from the writers of the Declaration of Independence to the stars of The Real Housewives of New York City, we'll ask what these stories reveal about Americans and how they shape our sense of identity and possibility.
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The Hero’s Journey: Ancient Myth to Modern Day (FY103.14)
Frankie Mallis, English
Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Frodo Baggins and Luke Skywalker all have something in common. They are all heroes and all of them set out on heroic journeys and quests that relate back to story structures found in ancient world myths. While entertaining, the fact that these myths repeat themselves over and over again in every religion, culture and even in Disney movies, shows the hero is something worth examining, and a crucial part of the human experience. This class will explore the hero in myth, literature, movies, pop culture, and in ourselves. We’ll also begin to create our heroic myths following in the steps of J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien and more. We’ll read from Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, and also look at the feminine counterpart of the heroine’s journey in myth and pop culture.
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Making Moves: Strategic Nonviolence and Civil Disobedience in American Culture (FY103.15)
Allyson McCreery, Historical and Political Studies
Throughout American history strategic nonviolence and civil disobedience have led to significant transformations in American political, economic, and social spheres. The strong force of activism in American culture, represented through actions such as peaceful protests and boycotts, has changed the course of American history. Civil rights and liberties often compose the platform of strategic nonviolence and civil disobedience as citizens exhibit resiliency in their efforts and motivations to change the status quo. This course will investigate why and how civil resistance works, noting both successes and failures across several decades from the Civil Rights Movement to current day. Utilizing primary and secondary sources, students will expose the role of the protestor in initiating change through demonstrations, boycotts, and other nonviolent measures.
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Monsters in our Midst (FY103.16)
Rhianon Visinsky & Antoinette Peters, English
At the heart of this class lies the idea that every culture creates monsters in order to express those feelings that they find most disturbing. They are disturbing because they destroy the lines that we draw around everything that helps us make sense of our world. Whether they be vampires, witches, werewolves, or zombies, monsters are creatures that play beyond the borders and boundaries of what it means to be human, and yet constantly remind us that we are not all that different from them. This course will ask you to consider monstrous myths, novels, films, art, music, and other media within their cultural context and then examine how they function as a mirror for that culture's specific fears and desires. We will also take a look at how these monsters evolve to suit the changing needs of their audience. We will ask ourselves why we continue to encounter the same forms of monstrosity over and over in various forms. After all, monsters aren't real....or are they?
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Must Love Dogs: An Exploration of the Human-Canine Relationship (FY103.17)
Linda Pizzi, English
In recent decades, our relationships with our canine companions have changed radically. Unlike prior generations, both dog-owners and scholars today accept that dogs possess intelligence, have emotions, and can communicate. Current studies indicate that dog-owners are generally healthier and happier than most. How do we know this? How have dogs and humans evolved together and changed each other? What are the social and psychological ramifications of living with dogs? These are just a few of the many questions we will tackle as we learn from biologists, anthropologists, psychologists, historians, ethologists, and each other about the human/canine relationship.
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One With Nature (FY103.18)
Chad Crisp, English
This seminar will explore the relationship between nature and the human experience. We will work to define and develop our individual and collective "eco-wisdom," learning how our intellectual, spiritual, and physical well-being is interconnected with the well-being of the natural world. Topics will include current environmental concerns; natural land stewardship; historical, cultural, and mythical perspectives on nature; and outdoor ethics in relation to camping and hiking. Particular attention will be paid to our native ecosystem as students will identify and take action to address a local environmental issue during the semester.
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Philly Cuisine: More than Just Cheese Steaks & Pretzels (FY103.35)
Bernard Wilson, English
From our beginning as one of the earliest and largest cultural centers in America, to the present, Philadelphia has been home to one of the greatest melting pots in the new world. Each group not only arrived here, but also bought with it vestiges of its original country of origin. While the travelers anticipated change, their arrival had a profound impact on the fabric of the city. This class is an exploration of the role food played in the expansion and growth of Philadelphia then and now.
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Pow! The Graphic Novel as Literature (FY103.19)
Melissa Hamilton, English
What exactly is a graphic novel? Can pictures tell a story? Are comics considered “literature?” What’s the difference between Superman and Scott Pilgrim? Is there one? This course will tackle these questions (and many more) as students focus on the golden age of the graphic novel - beginning in the late 1970s and continuing to the present day – with a particular emphasis on recent works. As we navigate this increasingly popular genre, we’ll dispel the myth of comics as mere novelty and reinforce the fact that the graphic novel is a complex medium, one which draws on art, literature, and film. By the end of this course, students will have a working knowledge of visual literacy as well as a deep familiarity with the representative works of the genre. In addition, this course will include trips and on-site encounters with cartoonists, as well as the possible creation of their own individual or collaborative comic.
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Reading Between the Rhymes:Exploring Social Justice and Diversity through Popular Culture (FY103.20)
Rochelle Peterson, Education
“So much on my mind I just can’t recline”... Taleb Kweli, Common, Mos Def, Tupac, Lupe Fiasco speak truth to power. Do you? This course examines dimensions of diversity and social justice using elements of hip hop music and other forms of popular culture to critique what we teach and learn in our society about gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, social class and more.
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Rebel Yell: Youth Rebellion in Film and Literature (FY103.21)
Tracey Levine, English
This course will explore the story of youth rebellion and the coming-of-age genre in both film and literature to better understand and analyze the cultural impact, legacy, and continued interest by filmmakers and writers in the tumult of adolescence and the importance of it in shaping character. The course will ask you to analyze film and literature texts and respond in writing that will be analytical and explore a focus prompted by the course material in a research paper, and also creative by asking you to craft their own works that explore this genre. Some of the films that will be viewed in this course are: Badlands, Band of Outsiders, West Side Story, A Clockwork Orange, Drugstore Cowboy, Heathers, Stand by Me, Dazed and Confused, Rushmore, Fishtank, and more. Some of the literature to be read for this course includes: excerpts from Frank Conroy’s Stop-Time, and Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life; and also The Catcher in the Rye, and some others.
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Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold (FY103.22)
Finbarr O’Connor, Philosophy & Religion
Why do we find revenge so fascinating? And why do we also find it dangerous, distinguishing vengeance from justice? Why do so many societies have legacies of “blood vengeance,” resulting in vendettas or feuds? What about, instead, trying reconciliation or forgiveness? We will attempt to track down the roots of the enjoyment of vengeance in biology and psychology. We will delve into the revenge systems of other societies (Albanian canun, Samurai katakiuchi) and we will explore literary treatments of the topic in novels (Count of Monte Cristo), drama (Oresteia, Titus Andronicus), and films (Kill Bill, Sweeney Todd, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).
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The Shock Of The Sixties (FY103.23)
Jo Ann Weiner, English
The 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Feminine Mystique. Haight-Ashbury. Woodstock. Flower power. The Vietnam “conflict.” “The White Album.” The assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK. The Graduate. The lunar landing. All of these are part of one of the most interesting decades in recent American history – the 1960s. In this seminar students read, view, and listen to a variety of texts in art, history, film, music, politics, and science of the time. And students have an opportunity to work extensively on an individual topic that interests them most.
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So You Want To Be A Lawyer (FY103.24)
Linda Peyton, Historical and Political Studies
Experience first-hand the criminal legal process. With the United States Constitution as a guide, students focus on the practice of criminal law and study the impact of key constitutional amendments on police investigations and arrests, the trial process, sentencing, and punishment. Students observe criminal court proceedings at the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, tour a Philadelphia County Prison, and form defense and prosecutorial teams to try a criminal case before a jury of their peers.
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A Study in Character: Sherlock Holmes (FY103.25)
Lisa Gratz, English
Who is Holmes? Is he Doyle's egotistical but flawlessly brilliant consulting detective stalking the fog-swirled, cobbled streets of Victorian England? The far more vulnerable and complex character of page, stage and screen, susceptible even to the risks of love, appearing in the century to follow? Is he the high-flying, fisticuffing, texting superhero translated into our contemporary moment by Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch? Why does this odd, infuriating, eccentric man continue to shape our concepts and standards of intelligence, strength, self-discipline and self-worth? In this course, we will peer through the magnifying glass to investigate the identity of Sherlock Holmes, comparing films, television shows, homage/pastiche stories, and other artistic representations from all over the world. We will visit a Victorian-era cemetery in order to gain historical context, use our investigative skills on a murder-mystery scavenger hunt, and explore how Holmes has influenced contemporary crime scene analysis. Finally, students will bring themselves in direct contact with Holmes through the crafting of a creative piece.
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Tools of the Mind: Is the Internet Changing the Way We Think (FY103.26)
Jeanne Buckley and Larissa Gordon, Library
The purpose of this course is to position digital technologies on a continuum of tools developed by humans that have significantly altered the way humans think, their intellectual capabilities and their culture. Research indicates that the use of digital tools and the Internet have an affect on how the brain understands and processes information. Students will explore their own (and others’) experience using current technologies, and be asked to reflect on the affect these tools are having on them and their world. Ultimately, students will recognize that ‘tools of the mind’ ultimately change individuals and society and that, today, we are in the midst of a radical shift in how humans engage with information, each other and their world. In the end, students will learn to examine current and (hopefully) future technological developments with a critical eye, and reflect on the effect these tools have on individuals and society.
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Travel To The Stars: Science Fiction From Star Trek, Star Wars, and Beyond! (FY103.27)
Bill Meiers, English
This seminar explores (at "warp speed") the "galaxy" of contemporary science fiction by reading, watching, discussing, and critiquing short stories, novels, and television and movie videos. As students travel, they examine how science fiction – at once entertaining, inspiring, serious, instructive, and funny – reflects and shapes the "final frontier" of our culture, beliefs, behavior, and selves. Students have a chance both to recommend science fiction episodes, movies, and written texts for class exploration and to present their favorite episode or example of science fiction.
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Travel Writing: Talking The Walk (FY103.28)
Alan Powell, Communications
This seminar develops students’ observational and travel skills and integrates their research with their personal experience. Designed around several short trips in the Philadelphia region – some taken individually and others as a class – students explore neighborhoods and natural environments, investigate cultural legacies, and take in ethnic food, fine arts and entertainment. At the end of each trip students create written and visual presentations bringing together their travel experiences with historical and other information discovered about the places.
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Understand your Brain: How to Work, Learn, and Play Smart (FY103.29)
Clare Papay, Education
Want to learn better and be more productive? Take a nap! That's just one of the many strategies that scientists have discovered through brain research. Our brains have evolved in certain ways to increase our chances of survival. Yet the structure of our work and learning environments often contradicts the ways our brains function best. In this course, we will explore the many strange and wonderful things our brains do and why we should be paying more attention to how our brains work.
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Up Your Game: Raising Your Awareness in Video Games (FY103.30)
Timothy Belloff, Global Information Services
Do you play video games? Have you ever wanted to learn more about them, the history behind them, how they have changed society or made impacts in the culture of the United States? This course will focus on the impact that Video Games have had on our society in various aspects. We begin with a survey of the video game world and discuss it’s humble beginnings from Pong to Mario to Halo. From there we will look at historical based video games and compare them to actual events in history and then also look at how popular culture has been affected by our penchant for video games. Finally we explore the cultural effects video games has had on our society from opposing viewpoints.
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We the People: An Exploration of Citizenship (FY103.34)
Christopher Cerski, Historical and Political Studies
As a United States Citizen, do you know why every state in the union has a 21 year-old drinking age; or why our money reads In God We Trust; or why you can burn the American flag? You will. This seminar explores the characteristics of an engaged citizen by studying milestone U.S. Supreme Court cases, which will provide you a better understanding our government, history, and cultural norms. The class will complete a civics project called “Did You Know?” which will help create a discussion on campus about interesting topics you choose. To explore our culture, we will travel to Washington, D.C. and sites in Philadelphia such as the Constitution Center and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History (FY103.31)
Jeanne Buckley, Library
Well-behaved women seldom make history has become a universal slogan for independent women across the globe. These words are on bumper stickers, coffee mugs, pens, buttons, and T-shirts. What does it mean for a woman to be well-behaved? Badly behaved? By whose standards? What does it mean "to make history?" This course will explore, from an interdisciplinary perspective, women who have made waves (i.e,' misbehaved') and history by challenging the status quo, stretching the boundaries of society in their time and who may, or may not be recognized as important contributors to the arts, politics, business, science, etc.
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