First-Year Seminar


First Year Seminars provide a foundation for our students intellectual lives both inside and outside the classroom by helping them to develop critical thinking and communication skills and practices; to enculturate themselves within the Colleges intellectual and ethical values and practices; and to establish a strong network of relationships with peers and mentors on campus. The seminar topics vary each year, as do the professors who teach them, so the classroom discussions are always fresh and interesting.

Each Seminar is constructed around a different interest, like magic, social responsibility or country music, and Seminar classes are small usually about 15 students which helps students feel more comfortable in a new environment and allows the students and faculty members to develop close working relationships.

Below, you will find a list of the First-Year Seminars being offered during the fall semester. This years Seminars cover a wide-range of topics and disciplines, and we are sure you will find several that interest you. After you have looked over the list and identified the courses that you find appealing, log in to the Orientation website and complete the Academic Direction Task.

First-Year Seminar Classes

First-Year Seminar

FSEM 001 Climate, Weather, and Health, Neil Laird

Changes in climate pose complex risks to our health. Noteworthy examples can be found in the daily news headlines. Climate-related health impacts may arise via heat waves, air pollution, airborne allergens, compromised ecological systems, water- or vector-borne diseases, shifts in agricultural productivity, and response to climate-related disasters. The ability to identify, understand, and predict public health impacts of climate change depends a range of disciplines, including atmospheric sciences, epidemiology, ecology, risk assessment, economics, and public policy. The objective of the FSEM is to explore this topic from a cross-disciplinary perspective using topical lectures and assignments, group exercises, discussions, and guest speakers built around the current knowledge on the relationship between public health and climate change.

FSEM 002 Berlin Tales: Narration, Nation, Identity, Eric Klaus

Why are we here? What’s the purpose of our hours? Does life mean anything? These questions, endemic to the “problem of being human” as Angus Fletcher puts it, are addressed by a wonderful and ancient technology-stories. Stories help us to find answers, to find communities, and to find ourselves. Stories help us to organize the chaos of existence so that we can make sense of the world and our place in it. In this seminar we will first examine ways in which stories establish both individual and collective identities, and then we will take Berlin as a case study-its stories will give us examples of how narratives create nations. Finally, we will turn our focus closer to home. By investigating the narratives of HWS, we will learn how they help us to tell our own stories, and to compose our own identities.

FSEM 003 First Person Singular, Cheryl Forbes

What’s up?  What’s happening?  What’s new? How you been? How you doing? We say these things every time we meet a friend –and we really want to know. Readers of memoirs ask these or similar questions, and memoirists give us the answers — beautifully. We’re lucky that curious people have so many memoirs to choose from. And for the last several years we’ve had memoirs from all over the world, not just the United States. This First Year Seminar studies the contemporary memoir in a multicultural setting. Through the books we read, we travel to such places as Somalia, the Sudan, Egypt, and Cuba. Students write critical essays about the memoir in general and the books we read in particular. They also write their own short memoirs — vignettes from their life. And students do research on the day they were born and complete an oral presentation on the findings. The course ends with students writing a final essay on what they think constitutes a good memoir.  Typical Readings:  Sebold, Lucky; Beah, A Long Way Gone; Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying; Ojito, Finding Mañana.

FSEM 011 Britpop: From the Beatles to Brexit, Rob Carson

Pop music, by definition, is music of the moment: it crystallizes a specific point in space and time and preserves it in three glorious minutes of song. In this class, we’ll immerse ourselves deeply in the history of British pop music from World War II up to the present day, from Vera Lynn to Adele, from the Kinks to the Clash, from the Specials to Stormzy, and we’ll use this remarkable playlist as a lens to examine how British culture has evolved over the past seventy-five years. For Americans, British culture can sometimes seem to be readily accessible and familiar, but at others it can be altogether foreign and impenetrable. (George Bernard Shaw famously described the UK and the US as “two countries separated by a common language.”) By casting our imaginations overseas for a semester, we will engage in an in-depth conversation with a culture that is a close cousin to our own, and if all goes as planned, we will come to reflect back upon our own culture with fresh eyes as well.

FSEM 016 Cars R Us, Ervin Kosta

Cars occupy a larger part of the built environment and our everyday lives than most adults are willing to admit. Yet cars are the consumer product that perhaps defined the twentieth century industrial capitalism more than anything else. This course will explore manifestations of a car-based culture, way of life, social structure, and built environment, such as that of the United States. We will explore the context of early industrial capitalism through the innovation of Henri Ford; the emergence of a car-based social structure through suburbanization; and the multitude of individual manifestations of a car-centric culture that negotiate identity formation through themes of mobility, speed, progress, and freedom, among others. As we finally reckon with climate change and its impacts in the 21st century, we will explore trends that portend possible futures of our car-based civilization and imagination, from the rise of trucks and SUVs to electrification and its discontents.

FSEM 018 Genocide and the Modern Age, Richard Salter

We live in an age of genocide. Genocide is a crime against humanity because it negates human value itself. The 20th century began with the destruction of the Herrero people in what is now Namibia in Africa; there followed the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks, the mass murder of the Roma (Gypsies) and the Jews (Holocaust) by the Nazis, the cruelties of the Stalinist Gulag, the ravages of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and the mutual genocidal massacres of Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi. Recent genocidal events in the Balkans and in the Darfur region of the Sudan underscore the persistence of the problem. These human tragedies have the potential to undermine the value of human life, the meaning of history and modernity, the relevance and truth of religion and culture, and the significance of social organization. Students in this course will examine the history of genocide and its impact on culture, politics and religion. Together we will confront the dilemma of how to orient life, thought and action around the memory of mass death and broken cultural traditions.

FSEM 022 Science/fiction/prediction, Meghan Brown

This seminar explores the realities and futures of life on Earth using scientific prediction, creative fiction, and the intersection between the two. Some questions we will explore include: Can novelists help us discover realistic and hopeful retellings of natural history? How do scientists predict what nature will look like in the future? What role do artists play in visualizing humans as an evolutionary and geophysical force? By way of example, an actual-but-unknown natural disaster created a freakishly cold summer in 1818, when Mary Shelley envisioned Frankenstein, a scientist, in her ghost story of the same name. An inverse inspiration occurred a century and a half later when the fanciful internet from the short story Dial F for Frankenstein was actualized. Another communication network — the exchange of information among trees and their symbiotes — was recently detailed by scientists and substantiated knowledge long-encompassed in indigenous culture. Collaborating, ancestral trees also communicate in sci-fi movies such as Black Panther, Avatar, and Lord of the Rings, in part, because of their author’s passion for botany. These storytellers and fact keepers are a taste of the perspectives we will use this semester to better understand the dynamic nature of life on Earth. We will engage with the implausible and paradoxical to make sense of Earth’s extraordinary nature in the past, present, and future. This seminar will also allow for a deeper global-to-local connection as we visit sites throughout the Finger Lakes that embody the course themes of science, fiction, and prediction.

FSEM 024 Podcasting America: Storytelling and Social Change, Beth Belanger

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” In this class, students will research, write, produce, and publish podcasts that explore aspects of American culture. While students will be introduced to the skills of podcasting: research, scriptwriting, interviewing, recording, editing, and producing, this course is primarily designed to help students become better storytellers.  In doing so it also trains students to think critically about stories they consume, evaluating how podcasts share, tell, and construct American Culture.  Finally, this course examines storytelling in the service of social justice, exploring how storytelling can promote social change.

FSEM 026 Celebrating a Century of Italian Cinema, Sebastiano Lucci

In this course we will study the history of Italian cinema through some of its most significant films, from the first Italian blockbuster, Cabiria (directed in 1914 by Giovanni Pastrone), to the latest films in order to have an overview of Italian cinema in relation to Italian history and society. The course will be discussion-based. We will also read complementary texts on the social, cultural and political history of ltaly, which will provide us with the necessary context to analyze the films. Students will also be introduced to some of the main genres that comprise Italian cinema and will learn how those genres reflect the events and perspectives of the country during the period in which each work was produced. Films will be viewed in Italian with English subtitles (during a separate lab period), while the discussions will be held in English. This class will be part of a learning community in Italian language and culture and will be linked for each student with the appropriate Italian language course (to be determined by the Italian placement exam found on the French, Francophone and Italian Studies webpage).

FSEM 028 Epic Fails: Not the Final Frontier, Gabriella D’Angelo

Failure is often discarded and frowned upon within our society today; however, failure has led to great successes throughout the unfolding of our history. In this course we will consider how failure is a part of learning and growing, and how it has paved the way for great discoveries, inventions, and ideas within various disciplines from the caveman to the computer. How can we begin to learn from our failures and the failures of others in strengthening our process of learning and doing? How can failure help us challenge ourselves to step outside of our comfort zones in the hopes of trying out new things, setting new goals, and help us pave the way to be more confident and successful in our futures in whatever path we go down?

FSEM 029 Why Are Some Countries Rich?, Jenny Tessendorf

Why are some countries rich while others remain poor? The answer matters because ‘rich’ versus ‘poor’ translates into significant differences in the quality of life of the ‘average’ person in these countries. The history of the post-WWII period is littered with the corpses of ‘big ideas’ that purported to answer this question and thus provide the key to growth. Colonial exploitation, low investment rates, inadequate spending on education, insufficient financial liberalization, among others, all failed to answer the question by themselves and certainly didn’t provide the magic elixir for growth. We will examine the merits and the failings of these big ideas and consider some newer proposals as well. We’ll particularly look at the roles of geography and of political, social and economic institutions and the incentives they create. There may be no single big idea that will work for every country, but we will identify some characteristics that clearly separate the “poor” from the “not so poor.” Prerequisite: Math placement test for ECON 160. Corequisite: ECON 160-02.

FSEM 033 Literature and Economics: Political Economy in the World-building of Ayn Rand, Keoka Grayson

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was one of the twentieth century’s most controversial writers and philosophers.  She is best known for her last novel, Atlas Shrugged, which can be labelled philosophical fiction.  Rand, used her 1000 page novel set in dystopian US, to show her philosophy, Objectivism, triumphant.  According to Rand’s objectivist philosophy, reason is the only way to acquire knowledge.  Objectivism rejects altruism, faith, and religion.   It promotes an ethical egoism for which laissez-faire Capitalism is the ideal form of social arrangement.  The course will center on reading the entirety of Rand’s magnum opus.  The class will consider the possibility of Objectivism and ethical egoism.  We will contemplate the context for which Capitalism could be utopic.  Throughout the course, we will pay close attention to the literary structure of the novel: the themes, character and plot development, and other literary devices. The course aims to introduce the student to political economy in context.  Through the language of conservative/libertarian popular theory, the class will engage in timely intellectual debate about social ideals.

FSEM 042 Interrogating Race US & South Africa, James McCorkle

Do we live in a post-racial world or a new Jim Crow society? What are the legacies of slavery, segregation, and apartheid? What is meant by white privilege? How do we value human life and what are the ways of developing emancipatory movements? This course examines the parallel structures of segregation in the United States and apartheid in South Africa. The basic premise is that through the lens of another culture we can come to examine our own. The causes and effects of segregation and apartheid on contemporary race relations are the central focus. How race affects gender, class, and social spaces is explored throughout the readings.

FSEM 066 Thinking Critically About God, Eric Barnes

The concept of God has shaped how billions of people have lived their lives. Different religions have different ideas about God, but there are some common themes, and many of them raise serious questions: If God is all-powerful, can he create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it? If God is all-good, then why is there evil in the world? If God is all-knowing (including the future), then how can I have free will? We will examine these and many other tough questions by reading classic and contemporary writings. Students will engage in at least two structured classroom debates and will also write frequently about many challenging topics. This course is a rational inquiry into these issues that is open to everyone, regardless of their belief system. Please note: There will be several required films outside of regularly scheduled class times. Typical readings: Various proofs of God’s existence by Aristotle, St. Anselm, St. Thomas, etc.; Hume, Dialogues on Natural Religion; Plato, Euthyphro; Mackie, Evil and Omnipotence; Russell, Why I’m Not a Christian; Rachels, Does Morality Depend on Religion?; Pascal, The Wager; Leibniz, The Best of All Possible Worlds; Lewis The Screwtape Letters; Stoppard, Arcadia and Jumpers, selected films, including Groundhog Day, Crimes & Misdemeanors, and A Clockwork Orange

FSEM 076 Physx: Knowing the World…., Steven Penn

We spend our lives in a universe about which we know so much and yet little. Beneath our understanding of everything from the strange quantum world of the atomic nucleus to mysteries surrounding the expansion of our universe, is the foundation of physics. Students explore some of the most amazing wonders in our world from black holes to Bose-Einstein Condensates. Ultimately students explore the basics of critical thinking and understanding. Students conclude by seeing how scientific critical thinking is useful in analyzing other areas,
such as understanding the apparent contradictions that exist within current social and political discourage. Students also look at how intertwined science is with society today and how it has shaped how we live and work. Typical readings: Weinberg The First Three Minutes; Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding
Things Out; Einstein, Ideas and Opinions; Sagan and Druyan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark; Sobel, Either Longitude or Galileo’s Daughter; Gamow, Mr. Tompkins in Paperback

FSEM 078 Sustainable Living & Learning Community, Kristen Brubaker and Robinson Murphy

We’ve all been told about the threats of climate change, but what about solutions? In this class, we’ll learn about climate change by focusing on ways to ‘drawdown’ carbon dioxide levels and solve climate change. We’ll be learning about solutions to climate change involving food, energy, land use, and social justice and equity to help us to build a more resilient world that can thrive in the face of global climate change. For example, did you know that reducing food waste and educating girls are two of the top solutions to tackling climate change? In addition to exploring ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, we’ll also take several field trips throughout the course of the semester to see some of the ways these exciting solutions are taking place locally in the Finger Lakes.

FSEM 083 Monsters in America, Laura Free

From the Witches of Salem, to the Alien Invaders of Area 51, to the Vampires of Sunnydale, and the Walking Dead of Atlanta, Americans throughout their history have embodied their deepest cultural and social fears as horrifying, other-worldly creatures. Gender theorist Judith Halberstam argues that monsters are “meaning machines,” metaphors through which a community defines itself. In other words, what we fear can tell us much about who we are. This class examines American history by exploring the dominant monster myths of the past four centuries, using the idea of the horrific as unique window into America’s past.

FSEM 091 Earth vs. Humans: Fire, Flood, Environmental Collapse and Other Disasters, David Kendrick

Humans are part of the Earth system. But sometimes it seems like the planet is out to get us, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, climate change, environmental collapse and more have affected us from the dawn of Homo sapiens. In fact, climate change may have made us who we are. Natural disasters have wiped out entire cultures and localized events became legends thousands of years old. How have these events shaped human culture? What kinds of disasters can we anticipate and plan for? Has history taught us prudence?

FSEM 093 Playing God Ethical Debates in Medicine, Etin Anwar

How do we respond ethically to the problems posed by medical practices and policies? What ethical principles would we use? Should medical decisions take into account the patient’s cultural and religious backgrounds? How do different cultures treat health and illness? This course is an interdisciplinary approach to the moral, philosophical, social, religious, and legal dimensions of the theories, policies, and practices in issues regarding the beginning, the maintenance, and the end of human life. We will examine a number of ethical theories ranging from Virtue, Utilitarian, deontological, religious and feminist ethics to approach the topics in question. We will particularly discuss the ethical dilemma of the way in which medical technology offers choices to determine a new life, enhances the maintenance of bodily perfection, and informs the decision to end life. Specific issues covered in this course will include concepts relevant to ethical theories, religion and bio-ethics, reproductive technology, abortion, euthanasia, organ transplant, and plastic surgery.

Typical Readings: Tooley, Wolf-Devine, Devine and Jaggar, Abortion: Three Perspectives; Cherry, Kidney for Sale by Owner: Human Organs, Transplantation, and the Market; Liza Mundy, Everything Conceivable; Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

FSEM 103 The Reality Effect (It Was Not a Dark and Stormy Night), Susan Hess

Where is the line between a “real” story, misinformation, and “fake news”?  Why and how do stories achieve power and influence?  Whose stories get told? How do we use the stories on social media, and how do they in turn use us?  In this course, we will critically examine real stories—some more true than others—that have changed U.S. culture and birthed social movements.  Some stories may be controversial or unsettling, but examining such stories will help students become more adept at understanding stories’ power to influence.  Students will become better at analyzing story craft, method, and impact, do much drafting and revising to improve as writers, and practice the art of storytelling in ways based on individual interest.  As a first-year seminar, our course will also explore the “story” that is first-year student experience, to help students acclimatize to HWS academics.  Readings vary each year, but always include both historic and modern stories, as well as some stories chosen by students themselves.   Please note:  while this first-year seminar is not a fiction-writing course, fiction writers may enjoy and benefit from it.

FSEM 112 Through the Lens: French and Francophone Cinema, Courtney Wells

This course will be an in-depth study of French film, from its invention by the Frères Lumières in the late 19th century to the present day. Through readings, research, in-class discussions, and group viewings, students will study the history of cinema in the French (and beyond), the fundamentals of the analysis of film, and the vocabulary necessary for discussing film. Films will be shown in French with English subtitles and classroom discussions will be held in English, along with any assignments, exams, presentations, etc. Because a film cannot be divorced from the particular linguistic, cultural, and historical setting in which it is made, this course will also focus on those parts of culture and history that are relevant to the films assigned.

FSEM 116 Guerrillero Heroico: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of Che Guevara, Colby Ristow

Over fifty years after his death, Che Guevara remains one of the most polarizing historical figures in the world. Pioneer of modem guerrilla warfare and architect of an anti-American revolution just ninety miles from U.S. soil, Che Guevara embodied the radical sixties in all of its turbulent glory: to some he was a young, handsome, anti-imperialist in the age of revolution; to others an uncompromising, violent, communist in the age of Cold War. He was both an ‘icon of cool’ and a ‘ruthless mass murderer.’ In death, the legend of Che and the controversy surrounding it have hardly diminished. The image of the Guerrillero Heroico has become the most widely circulated photo in the world, and one of the world’s most ubiquitous branding tools, used to sell everything from t-shirts to vodka. Ironically, the world’s foremost Marxist revolutionary has become a commodity, spread around the globe on the wings of capitalist enterprise. In this course, we will examine Che Guevara as a three-dimensional man of his times-a loyal son, a guerrilla leader, a willing executioner, and an ambassador for global revolution; and as two-dimensional symbol of a generation-of masculinity, of counter culture, of cultural appropriation, of commodification. For our final project we will design and sell our own t-shirts in hopes of answering the age-old question: What does it mean to wear a Che Guevara t-shirt?

FSEM 120 Running Down a Dream, Ruth Shields

‘Running’ is a leisure activity for an estimated 47 million Americans (according to Sports and Fitness Industry Association, 2017), a competitive sport practiced worldwide in multiple forms, and one of the most ancient sports known to history. This FSEM will explore what running and holding an identity of `runner’ or `not a runner’ means today. How is running positioned today in American society? Other cultures? What does it mean to be a runner, a member of a running community? How does running ‘look’ for different across gender, race, and age lines? Using Jones and McEwens’ conceptual model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity and an interdisciplinary lens, we will explore running as a phenomenon, cultural practice, and physical activity: we will touch on physiological aspects of running; examine the historical context, from running as a mode of transportation and communication to the modern day use of running as recreation and fitness; examine running from cultural and gender-based perspectives; engage in kinesthetic and meta-cognitive learning by examining our own running practice or non-practice; and have opportunities to engage with Geneva running communities as runners, non-runners, and volunteers. Students will also explore their own identities as students, including that of a runner. Please note: this course has an experiential component, but it is accessible to students of all physical abilities.

FSEM 125 What’s Eating, You? Cooking, Cuisine & Me, Chris Annear

In 1826 Brillat-Savarin wrote, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” But what can we tell from studies of not eating? This course will explore the hungering of fasting ascetics, anorexic girls, medieval saints, crash dieters, occasional cannibals, professional athletes, TV contestants, strategic political fasters, and famine and environmental disaster victims among others. Our subject will be cravings, desires, uneasy sensations, and weakened conditions as occasioned by the lack of food or some other unmet need. We will examine the myriad ways that hunger is constructed cross-culturally to critically analyze what it means in relation to other features of daily life. Using multidisciplinary accounts such as fiction, history, ethnography, biography, and film, we will examine how in particular contexts what we gloss as hunger can inform larger issues, such as the relationship between the individual and society, society and culture, and the local and the global.

FSEM 127 Hip-Hop Culture, Mark Olivieri

One of the most influential cultural movements of the late 20th century has been the hip-hop phenomenon. It is a complex social movement whose audiences are as diverse as the music. The “Hip-Hop Nation” comprises a community of artists and adherents who espouse street performance aesthetics as expressed through various elements of hip-hop. While students are going to be introduced to the history and evolution of the movement, a great part of the seminar will be dedicated to examining the interdisciplinary nature of hip-hop, in which poetry, drama, music, art, and dance are inextricably linked. Ironically, the marketing of hip-hop culture to mainstream America has contributed to the erosion of the very fabric at the core of its movement. This seminar will address the catalog value of hip-hop and the “commodification” of the movement from its inception in the Bronx River District in 1979 to the present.

FSEM 131 The Mindful Body, Donna Davenport

This seminar is a “yoga class” that takes place in a studio setting. Sounds fun, yet continuously it will challenge creative students to connect their physical practices to social justice principles and to be brave enough to explore sensitive topics with peers and to unlearn habits of thought and action. The history and philosophy of yoga, human anatomy, social justice education, storytelling, movement as metaphor, and inter-group dialogue are a few of the subjects that comprise this course. Students will need to be ready to venture into new territory: new body, new connections, new thinking, and new understanding of the self in relation to others. The adventure will include ongoing reading, college-level writing, research, dialogues outside class, and honest evaluation of outcomes.

FSEM 145 Einstein, Relativity and Time, Don Spector

Einstein’s theory of relativity is one of the triumphs of human thought, changing our understanding of our universe. The implications of relativity, which arose from a simple consideration of light, reached far and wide, from understanding the origins of the universe, to re-thinking philosophical issues, to influences across the arts. In this course, we will explore relativity, its concepts and its mathematics. This will lead us into related areas from exotica like black holes and time travel, to a better understanding of light in science and the arts, and to the social and historical context from which relativity emerged.

FSEM 157 Am I crazy? Madness in History, Culture & Science, Stephen Cope

Mad geniuses, crazy athletes, weird artists, political and religious fanatics, horror films, ghost stories, the confessions of loners, losers, and outcasts-all have to do with the distinction between that which is strange and that which is familiar, those who are similar to us and those who are different, those who are normal and those who are abnormal-in short, those who are “crazy” and those who are “sane.”  In this seminar, our aim will be to come to terms with what this curious and mercurial thing called “madness” is, as well as what it means-ethically and politically–to decide that someone is mad and someone else is not.  Among other things, we will look at 1) how the definitions of madness and sanity have changed radically over the course of recorded history; 2) how these definitions often overlap with broader social and cultural definitions of normalcy, morality, health, fitness, and criminality, 3) how the discourse of madness often intersects with social and cultural attitudes towards gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality.  By reading texts from numerous disciplines (psychology, philosophy, medicine, science, history, fiction, drama, anthropology, sociology) as well as viewing a number of films and conducting our own preliminary research, we will explore varying definitions of “madness” from a broad cultural and historical perspective, paying particular attention not only to the ways in which madness has been defined, but how different cultures and societies at different historical moments have celebrated, pathologized, or sought to “cure” the insane.

FSEM 175 Climate Change: Sci & Politics, Nick Metz

Recent scientific research shows clear evidence that the Earth is warming faster than at any point on record. Most scientists agree that much of the recent warming of the Earth is due, at least in part, to human-related activities. However, this near consensus disappears within the political world as the topic of climate change has become one of the most divisive in recent memory. This seminar will explore the ways in which climate change translates into the political realm, first by discussing the fundamental science. Armed with this knowledge, students will explore the policy implications of climate change and dissect a variety of political opinions on the subject in an attempt to separate political fact from fiction. Additionally, students will probe the underlying reasons behind the various political opinions on climate change, ranging from campaign contribution records to political district economics. An underlying goal of the seminar will be to identify a pathway for realistic political consensus on climate change that might approach the scientific consensus and allow for future policy progress on the climate change issue.

FSEM 180 The Blue Planet, David Finkelstein

Water controls life on planet Earth. Water is a universal solvent, wherever it goes, it takes along valuable chemicals, minerals, and nutrients. Water is the only substance that exists naturally on Earth in all three physical states of matter-gas (water vapor), liquid (water), and solid (ice and snow). The heat capacity of water controls our weather and climate. Water, economics, politics and wealth can be intimately tied together. When water flows, its power can be harvested. Where rains occur on a predictable basis, sustenance through farming can be achieved. Civilizations depend upon accessible drinking water. Does water control civilizations and politics? When water doesn’t flow or droughts persist, civilizations can collapse. What is our relationship with water? How does global climate change alter these relationships? Students will characterize our local and global relationship with water and climate using scholarly articles, maps, biographies, movies, music and novels. Through discussions, presentations, debates, guided journals and short essays, we will explore the bounds that water places on humanity. This course is taught as a learning community.

FSEM 201 Fisher Center Topics: Introduction to Data Justice

In recent years, data became one of the most valuable and contested commodities in the world. In this class, we will explore the rise of data as a cultural and economic source of power. We will question the objectivity of data and learn how political movements have used subjective and interpersonal data to advance their goals. Lastly, we will interrogate current data applications and ask how we can use data justly.


Youll notice that some of our Seminars are also part of a Learning Community, a distinctive living and learning environment that enhances the connections between courses and extracurricular events.

Learn more about Learning Communities.