Catalogue PDF Version

Catalogue - PDF Version

First-Year Seminars

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.

Examples of First-Year Seminar courses includes the following:

FSEM 015 Stealing Art, Saving Art  What motivates people to collect art? What motivates people to steal art? What motivates rare individuals to fake art? In this FSEM, students look at the seamy underside and the high-minded public face of cultural property, and the art world, from NAZI looters to museum directors. Among the topics considered: the transition from the Indiana Jones era of archaeology to scientific excavation; Goering's art looting and contemporary art restitution processes; the role of art museums in the restoration, conservation, and exhibition of art; and the complicated business of art fraud and forgery.

FSEM 020 Twenty Questions  Are we alone in the universe? Are human rights universal? Do animals have consciousness? Should the government tax inheritance? Do "alternative facts" exist? In this seminar we will contemplate twenty fascinating questions drawn from disciplines.

FSEM 034 Building Bridges: Immigration and Oral History  Why do people migrate from one country to another? How do immigrants navigate assimilation, discrimination, and integration, and how do they impact American life? With a special focus on Italian immigration to the US, this course looks at immigration through a historical lens covering the colonial period and World War II, among other stops. We will be analyzing both the causes of migration and the lengthy and difficult processes of assimilation, using Italian-Americans as a case study to help us read, learn, analyze, question, and discuss. In the second half of the course, students will be introduced to members of the Geneva Italian-American community as our focus shifts to oral and ethnographic methods of learning and a micro-history project.

FSEM 035 Just Words: Language for Social Change  In this course we will analyze the spoken and written language that surrounds us, and consider how words aren't "just words," but rather representations of values and beliefs with immense power to harm or heal. Language is a rich, multi-faceted expression of culture and identity, and so the way people speak and write varies greatly among communities, but not all varieties of language are valued equally. The concepts of "proper English" or "English with an accent" represent linguistic discrimination that has little do with the structure of language and is often rooted in systems of oppression. What appears to be a personal preference or pet peeve is often proxy for race, class, gender, and other biases, whether conscious or unconscious. Such linguistic discrimination has had high-stakes consequences in public spheres like education, health, and politics, but shifts toward less biased and more inclusive language are underway. How can we understand language as a variable expression of identity and culture? How does language reflect and reinforce values and ideologies? What kinds of linguistic changes are currently happening in society, and to what effect? What is the role of social media and AI in these changes? As we explore these and other questions, students in this first-year seminar will also explore ways to enhance the knowledge, abilities, and flexibility needed to be successful across four years of college.

FSEM 036 Relationships, Happiness, and Service  Everyone is talking about "belonging" but what does it really mean to be a part of a community? Students will gain an understanding of the social power structures that support or inhibit community building, and how that impacts individual and collective well-being. In addition to assigned readings and class discussions, students will commit to 20 hours of service-learning (2 hours per week over the course of the semester), through which students will help cultivate community through creating connections with peers on campus and with members of the Geneva community. "Exploring Community" will lead to skill development which will help students navigate their time at HWS and build towards a `life of consequence.' This course will be linked as a Learning Community.

FSEM 037 Something in the Way  Are you happy? Where do you find your happiness? The consumption of food, literature, or media? In the accumulation of things? In the love, acceptance, or praise you feel from another being? Do you find it in the moment? In the future? In the memories of your past? Do we find it in our friendships, our jobs, or our romantic relationships? Is it located in the deep recesses of our brains, or our egos, or our bodies? This course takes an interdisciplinary and interactive approach to defining and finding happiness by engaging with economic theory, philosophy, and art. We will interrogate the aspects of our work lives that generate or deplete our happiness, our obsession with consumption, and the reification of "self-interest". We will also dive into the wellness industry, inspect the societal hold on women's bodies, and much more!

FSEM 042 Face to Face: Interrogating Race in the United States and South Africa  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 049 What is Freedom  Designed in part as an introduction to interdisciplinary thinking, the course will consist on an ongoing, critical reflection on the idea of "freedom." While seemingly a simple and transparent idea, the notion of "freedom" is fraught from the outset with contention and contradiction, and remains today as difficult as ever to define. Bearing that in mind, we will engage, explore, discuss and critique works by Rousseau, Mill, Locke, Hobbes and other Enlightenment theorists of `Freedom’ alongside modern and contemporary explorations and representations of freedom, liberty, liberalism, citizenship, sovereignty, democracy and so forth, by Maggie Nelson, Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, and others. Additionally, we will read literary texts and view films that implicitly or explicitly raise crucial questions about the ways in which the concept of "freedom" is defined (or "ill-defined," as the case may be) in historical and contemporary contexts. Our purpose in this class is not so much to trace the purported progress, development, or evolution of Western (social) philosophy from the past to the present, as it is to witness the extent to which our contemporary senses of freedom - and the debates that the term engenders - remain animated by problems that have troubled the term since the Enlightenment. We will look at the different ways that debates about "freedom of speech," "academic freedom," "artistic freedom," and other forms of freedom are structured, and the ways in which the meaning of the word "freedom" is different in different contexts. We will pay especially close attention to distinctions - even contradictions - between the "freedom to" and the "freedom from," and how these two kinds of freedom overlap or, by contrast, are mutually exclusive. Finally, we will look at the ways in which theories of freedom and liberty - and the entire Enlightenment project more generally, in its various forms - have confronted, ignored, or even been used to justify such decisively "illiberal" atrocities as colonialism, the slave-trade, and the Holocaust, as well as how and whether Enlightenment (and post-Enlightenment) theories of liberty are amenable and/or hostile to - compatible and/or incompatible with - the claims of feminism, gay rights movements, indigenous rights movements, environmentalism, post-colonialism, and other modern demands for liberation.

FSEM 051 Writing the Journey  How has travel changed in the age of the Socials, media influencers, and celebrity travel culture? In this course, students examine the concepts of travel and global migration through photography, travel writing, journalism, film, travel shows, and in the curatorial age of Instagram posts and TikTok performances. Students analyze what it means to "travel" or "migrate" and how human movement is impacted by the way we consume media and how we produce cultural artifacts related to leisure and/or migration. The course investigates how the written word and the visual representation of travel and migration have changed through various media sources, including social media platforms. Using traditional travel writing and rhetorical analysis as a central guide, student will analyze the visual and written representations of "travel" and "migration" and focus on ways that global and local phenomena affect people and their movement.

FSEM 055 I'm New Here: Imaginers, Observers, Immigrants  How do you define America? Does your definition mesh with what the rest of the world might think? This course explores American culture and identity by proposing and testing definitions for these terms. Our raw material for this project includes words, sounds, and images created by Russian and Soviet artists and travelers, as well as familiar images from American life. Some of our texts are fictional, some are not, and some blur the boundaries between the two. Some were created by people who visited the U.S. and went home again, some by exiles both voluntary and involuntary, and some by artists who simply imagined America from afar. Throughout the semester, we will pay attention to ways in which an artist's or an outsider's perception - the ability to make the familiar strange - can deepen our understanding of images, objects, and literary works that we thought we knew well.

FSEM 059 Who Tells Your Story?  How are we shaped by the cultures in which we live? The saying is that history is written by the winners, but perhaps it is more accurate to say that history is published and institutionalized by the winners. It is written - in word and voice - by all of us. This course takes the feminist idea that 'the personal is political' as a starting point, studying the way that autoethnography provides a theory and practice for melding personal and sociological examinations to generate new understandings of our world. Students will study a range of autoethnographic forms such as poetry, memoir, comics, solo performance, and essay from authors with diverse and intersecting identities such as queer, trans, disabled, Black, Asian American, and Indigenous. This breadth of form, content, and positionality is essential for our consideration of the central question of the course: what is the relationship between personal expression, identity, culture, and power? By the end of the course, students will have tried writing their stories in a variety of autoethnographic forms, with at least one exploration leading to an in-depth study.

FSEM 062 Game-Changers: Disease, Cures, and Social Change  How did early thinking on the causes of disease impact society? What scientific breakthroughs lead to the development of vaccines and antibiotics? What was the role of government in the development of cures? What parallels exist between societal reactions to COVID and to prior diseases and medicines? To answer questions like these about important advances in public health and the science that helped humanity fight deadly diseases, we will examine the history and science of vaccine development, as well as the social implications and controversies that surrounded such developments. Public health measures and vaccinations have changed the landscape of childhood diseases, as well as helped control our most recent epidemic- COVID-19, but developing medication that is stable and can be transported is not an easy feat: money and support, particularly from the United States government, was essential for the work on penicillin, for example. We will focus on the ‘game-changers,’ key cases with significant impact: the few insightful individuals who figured out simple public health measures could prevent deadly infections in maternity wards and in cities such as London, the discovery of a mold that inhibited bacterial growth and led to the development of the first antibiotic, and other discoveries that continue to impact the way we live our lives today.

FSEM 078 Sustainable Living and Learning Communities  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 093 Ethical Debates in Medicine  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 101 New Chemistry Meets Old Art  Art and science sometimes seem incompatible. In this course, we will challenge that perception. We will begin by using art projects to help understand chemical principles. Using those principles, we then will explore art history to illustrate how science helps us understand art. For example, science can help us uncover lost secrets of past artists, offer us strategies to recognize art forgeries, and advise us on the conservation of art in museums. No previous skills in science or art are needed to enjoy this course. Typical readings: Ball, Bright Earth; White, Prehistoric Art; Woolfson, Colour: How We See It and How We Use It; Wieseman: A Closer Look: Deceptions and Discoveries; Bomford: A Closer Look: Conservation of Paintings.

FSEM 103 The Reality Effect (It Was Not a Dark and Stormy Night)  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 stories of 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 their power to influence us. Overall, 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. Students interested in writing, media studies, law, and even medicine may enjoy this course; while it is not a fiction-writing course, fiction writers may enjoy and benefit from it.

FSEM 108 From Comix to Graphix: The Art of Story  Are comics and graphic novels literature, art, both, or neither? What does Wonder Woman have to do with political history? Why render the Holocaust in a comic format? This seminar considers formats and themes of comics and graphic narratives, a thriving hybrid form, created by artists from various global cultures. The seminar is designed (and sometimes collaboratively taught) by a literature professor and an art historian and uses methods of literary and visual analysis to gain a deeper understanding of graphic storytellings. Students will read a range of works in these media, as well as theory, method, and criticism in the field. Students will produce critical analyses and, potentially, creative projects, both individually and in collaboration. This seminar helps students develop multiple skills of interpretation of narratives in a range of contexts. Readings may include Persepolis, Maus, Fun Home, and Scott Pilgrim, among others.

FSEM 113 Railroad to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in New York  This course examines the Underground Railroad. A metaphor for a semi-secret interracial set of networks, the "railroad" helped slaves escape from the American South to the North and Canada. In the early 1800s, as the United States as a nation became increasingly divided over the issue of slavery, a secret network of abolitionists emerged. These opponents of slavery helped organize various secret routes and safe houses to smuggle enslaved people out of the South to the North and Canada. Enslaved people and those helping them to escape faced significant legal and geographical obstacles. In addition, enslaved people faced the emotional hardship of having to leave relatives behind in slavery. Despite this, over the decades prior to the Civil War, the network of departure points in the South, as well as safe houses and stations in the North increased as the number of enslaved people using this route to freedom increased. Upstate New York was a hub of the underground railroad. Why? In this class, we will examine why this region was a hub. We will also examine who was involved: who were the abolitionists and where did those fleeing slavery come from? Lastly, we will examine how the underground railroad operated. This course will not only give us a greater understanding of the underground railroad, but also of the struggle for freedom waged by Blacks and their White allies, and the critical role that Upstate New York played in it.

FSEM 114 Head Over Heels: Themes of Love and Longing in Popular Music  Falling in love - this prominent metaphor suggests that love is governed by laws as natural and irrefutable as gravity. In reality, our experiences of love and desire are conditioned by the culture we inhabit and the media, books, stories, television, and music we consume. What is love? What is the relationship between love and desire? What is ‘normal’ in love, and why/how is ‘normal’ related to ‘good’? How are gendered identities and stereotypes bound up with our concepts of love? This course steps back from love as a drive or emotion to examine the received narratives and dominant scripts about sex, gender, and desire that shape our experience of it. Focusing mostly on popular music - an almost limitless resource on love and longing - we will come to understand our own beliefs and habits of thinking about this most intimate sphere of human experience, while critically evaluating music ranging from Motown to Mashups.

FSEM 127 Hip-Hop Culture  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 139 Mars!  More than any other planet, Mars seems familiar to us Earthlings. A photo from Gale Crater could have been taken in Death Valley, California. At the same time, Mars is very different from Earth: cold, dry ... lifeless? But was it always that way? Could Mars have harbored life? Did it? What was once a red smudge in Earth-based telescopes is today a real place that we can explore through orbital and lander images. In this seminar, we will use Earth as a model to explore these similarities and differences. We will compare and contrast the planets' internal structures, tectonics, rock cycle, hydrological cycle, sedimentary processes, glacial processes, atmospheric evolution, history, and potential for life-past and present. We will unpack how we know what we know about the Red Planet and highlight some of the most exciting unanswered questions. We will explore these topics through reading and writing, hands-on projects, and a taste of individual research. And we'll chat with some of the modern explorers who have brought us these discoveries.

FSEM 140 Almost Got Away With It  What did the law protect? How did the Athenians administer justice? How did the courts operate and what were the penalties? In this course we will read court speeches from ancient Athens and examine the ways in which rhetoric and law converged, and justice was administered. We will study how the Athenians defined, developed, and exercised law within their own cultural beliefs and how the Athenian legal system compares to modern western law including its differences, similarities and uniting principles. Law as an idea, then, is as central to this course as the practices and procedures of the ancient Athenian court system.

FSEM 144 Parched: The Past, Present, Future of Water  Water is a necessity of life. It is nature's ultimate paradox: the softest natural 'element' in both classical and eastern thought and yet one capable of overcoming all the others. Water is an agent of purification, healing, nourishment, and mechanical power. It is also an agent of destruction and devastation. Water is the most plentiful natural resource on Earth and yet a resource that increasingly proves unobtainable when humans seek and need it most. In the midst of global climate change, environmental crises for water resources and the political debates over water, we have come to the realization of our complete dependence on water. Students will examine and draw conclusions about the nature of humankind's encounter with water using maps, biographies, autobiographies, poems, movies, novels, and scholarly articles. Through lectures, class discussion, debates, short essays, blogging, and research papers, this course will provide students with the tools to explore how the environment naturally produces safe, clean drinking water; how humans obtain and use these water resources; water quality and water pollution; water treatment processes; energy generation; and how we can sustain our water resources in perpetuity.

FSEM 146 Hacking the Law  We tend to think of law as a controlling power that gets imposed from above. For good reason perhaps, we have learned to be skeptical, even cynical, about the rule of law and the politics of law and order. Many scholars of constitutional and international law have wondered out loud recently whether what they study even really exists. All the same, it is difficult to think about rights, protection, equity, justice, and correcting wrongs without some basic understanding of legality. In this class we'll explore some examples of using, playing with, and hacking or breaking into the supposedly sacrosanct space of the law, from ancient rabbis and philosophers to modern questions about police power, animal rights, about law in environments like the ocean or the desert, and the crazy amount of crime drama on TV.

FSEM 147 Writing & Resistance  Oppression and resistance are defining characteristics of the human condition, but out of such experiences can emerge the potential for social change. This course will examine how personal testimonies, narrative histories, and impact stories have been used to empower communities and effect change in society. Student projects will explore individual tales of oppression and resistance like those from formerly enslaved peoples, women’s suffrage and rights campaigns, Holocaust and genocide survivors, advocates for the Americans with Disabilities Act, door-to-door canvassers for marriage equality, the #metoo movement, and accounts of police brutality have all influenced the ways in which we as humans know and understand ourselves, each other, and our world. Together, students will write their own stories and explore texts, digital archives, podcasts, documentaries, and other media to understand how these stories have been deployed to empower community action.

FSEM 164 Encountering Difference  Encounters happen every day. We encounter people of different civilizations, nations, races, religions, classes, sexes, and genders at schools, workplaces, supermarkets, public squares, and other venues. What do we expect when we meet other people? How do we respond when we encounter difference? What constitutes difference?  Why do we fear difference? Why do people stereotype? Could the fear of the other necessitate one to control the narrative, the people, or their resources? Or, could encounter with the other become a life-changing experience? What needs to be done for us to have a meaningful encounter with the other? After discussing the philosophical foundation for encountering different realms of reality through reading a passage on the allegory of the cave in Plato's republic, this course will explore on three fields in which we encounter difference. The three cases encountering difference will include: Christian Spaniards' encounters with Native Americans, racial-ethnic encounters among Americans, and interfaith encounters in the post-911 world.

FSEM 166 Miracle Drugs  In today's society, chemistry is often seen as a negative- "evil chemicals" and "toxic waste" are phrases that come to mind. In fact, chemistry has contributed many good things to society including drugs that alleviate pain, treat diseases, and save lives. Throughout history, drugs have shaped society and have had a profound impact on our daily lives. From the invention of aspirin-treatment for headaches and heart attacks, to penicillin -conqueror of bacterial infections, to AZT -treatment of HIV giving a fighting chance to those afflicted with AIDS. Drugs have been there and have greatly impacted the world. This course aims to teach students with an interest in science and/or medicine about the structure of drugs, the history of their discovery, and their impact on society. The course will include a short chemistry primer so students can understand the basics behind the structure of drugs and how they work. Discussions topics will include the pros and cons of the pharmaceutical industry, the ethics of drug development, the impact drugs have had on the economy and media, and their effect on the human population. This course hopes to instill a greater appreciation for science and how it benefits the world.

FSEM 185 Design in American Culture  This course will focus on the role of designed objects, interiors, buildings, landscapes and communities, as well as fashion, graphic design and designed experiences in the performance of American identities. The politics of consumption will be "read" through examining the visual and material culture of designed artifacts and spaces and their representation across a variety of media including magazines, literature, television and film. The course will bring together texts and debates that cross the social sciences, humanities and science/technology, drawing particularly on actor-network theory, material culture studies, sociology of consumption, urban and architectural studies and cultural theory.

FSEM 193 Ghosts and Hauntings in the Americas  Why is the figure of the ghost prevalent in stories across Americas? What are these ghosts trying to tell us, and what would happen if we took seriously their demands? This course investigates the ghostly, the haunted, and the possessed within North, Central, and South American theater, literature, and film. Following Avery Gordon, this course begins with the suggestion that "Haunting describes how that which appears to not be there is actually a seething presence, the ghost or apparition is one form by which something lost., or barely visible, or seemingly not there to our supposedly well-trained eyes makes itself known or apparent to us," Our primary goal is thus to learn to read with an eye and ear for the ghostly: what is presumed missing, repressed, and/or underneath the surface. We will explore folktales of ghosts, examine the uncanny, and investigate narrative and performative forms talking to, with, and about ghosts. Throughout, we will consider relationship of history and memory, both individual and collective. Students will focus on the craft of writing as a medium through which to develop their ideas and strengthen their skills in persuasive, analytical writing.

FSEM 194 Japan: Ghosts, Demons, and Monsters  Godzilla. Pokémon. Films like ‘Spirited Away’ or ‘The Ring’. The ninja magic of Naruto. The shape-shifting demons of Inu Yasha. These are all examples of the Japanese supernatural, re-packaged for world consumption. But what does the American consumer miss out on when enjoying these Japanese tales? Why is occult lore such an important part of the expressive culture of Japan? What is the historical or religious basis of the ‘soft power’ of ‘Cool Japan’? What do we learn about Japan, and about ourselves, when we shiver to a well-told Japanese ghost story? Readings will include Japanese comic books (in translation) and short creative fiction, backed up with academic analyses of the history of spooks in Japan. Students will research particular beings and give presentations on their findings. This is a writing-intensive course, and the final project will involve a creative re-imagination of the Japanese lore learned through the semester, expressed in live or filmed performances, written stories, or visual art projects.

FSEM 245 1/2 Credit FSEM Mentor 

LEAD 250 Leadership and Peer Mentoring in Theory and Practice  This course is exclusive to First-Year Mentors. In this course, students will explore: learning theory, leadership theory, science of motivation, mind-set, and behavior, facilitation methods, public speaking, engagement models, as well as honing the skills of critical thinking, reflection, and analysis. They will have the opportunity to put their theory into practice as they support first-year students through their respective FSEM courses. This course will host a collective group of students to learn, collaborate and share best practices in a classroom setting to be directly applied to the FSEM course they are mentoring.