First-Year Seminars

First-Year Seminars

Discover new ideas with a First-Year Seminar at Northern Vermont University-Johnson.

First-year seminars are interdisciplinary, seminar-style courses taught by Northern Vermont University-Johnson faculty and specifically for first-year students. You and your classmates will have chosen the seminar based on shared interests, and the small-group, collaborative environment will provide a challenging but supportive environment for you to acclimate to the rigors of college-level academics.

Fall 2020 First-Year Seminars

Parental Advisory: 20th Century American Censorship  

Witch hunts, scapegoats, public burnings and a whole lot of dirty words -- who knew the First Amendment could be so interesting? This seminar will explore ways that free speech disputes go beyond hypersexual songs, ultraviolent video games, and hippie comedians yanked off stage in handcuffs to core conflicts deep in the heart of the American identity. Throughout the semester, we'll touch on history, mass psychology, elitism, moral crusaders and political grandstanders, weird rituals, and what it means to really protect children. In class, we'll look at banned books and listen to controversial music and comedy. We'll also study old news footage to get a better understanding of the nature of hysteria. 

iMe: Reinventing yourself in the Digital Age

Have you ever uploaded a photo to Facebook, viewed cats from around the world on Youtube, or conquered a video game with online teammates? Digital technology is making it easier than ever to express yourself and communicate on a global scale. With the advent of virtual realities like Second Life, you can reach beyond globalism and enter the realm of total imagination. With all of these exciting changes, how do you navigate this new world? In this seminar we will explore technology's role in our lives. Through an interdisciplinary approach we will examine science, art and literature’s take on topics including Web 2.0, cybernetics, and virtual reality. We will look at how these topics have influenced robotics, viral videos and most importantly, you.

What’s Your Story? Crafting and Curating Narratives of Self in our Contemporary World 

In our world of social media we are constantly crafting our own stories and thinking about how to frame our experiences so that we can present them in multiple ways. We create many mini-memoirs every day that cater to different circles of our communities: friends, family, school, work, etc. This course looks at how this is an artistic practice that runs much deeper than instagram and snapchat and it’s one that can be more fulfilling too. Through studying writers, painters, performance artists, filmmakers, and comedians, we will learn how to cultivate stories from our own lives that are compelling in a similar way. The course will culminate in a final showcase of original works of video, writing, and performance created by the students in the class. No previous experience is required, as we will be exploring new frontiers of storytelling together. This course is intended for extroverted performers and introverted writers alike. Students who choose this FYS will be enrolled in Introduction to Digital Media.

Deep Survival: Who lives, Who Dies, and Why? 

How do some people manage to survive life threatening experiences while others don’t live to tell their story?  By integrating the concepts of brain-based research, human physiology and psychology, one can draw conclusions about what it takes to survive adversity. These lessons can be applied to personal success while navigating the complexities and challenges of the college experience. This course combines classroom and field experiences (two overnight backcountry trips) to help participants understand how the concepts of leadership, community, conservation, and having a sense of place are integral to surviving a wilderness living and travel experience, and how these lessons directly relate to surviving and thriving in the college experience, and in life. Students will use a case study approach to analyze misadventures. This seminar is not designed to teach the primitive living skills associated with surviving in the wilderness. This FYS is required for students entering in the Outdoor Education and Leadership Training major. 

Visual Display of Quantitative Reasoning – Beautiful Evidence

"The commonality between science and art is in trying to see profoundly - to develop strategies of seeing and showing." Edward Tufte

The course explores classical visual displays of quantitative information, and introduces the foundational skills to create them. We will examine how powerful displays can tell a vast story in a single image. Students will create visual displays of quantitative information in Microsoft Excel and the R statistical computing language. This course is a contemporary review of the classical work of the same name by Edward Tufte. The course is open to students in all majors.

A Call To Action

“What moves us beyond mere personal survival, beyond carving out a comfortable private existence, to broader, more enduring visions of a better world?” Paul Loeb

This course will address this question and will examine major movements of social action from the peace movement to the civil rights movement, and offer tools to “activate your citizenship”. Students will learn about social issues, social activists, local community organizations and initiatives, and discover ways to make change in a community. Through readings, a myriad of speakers, movies, concerts, theatrical performances, and other events outside of the traditional classroom environment, students will be exposed to local, national and international change agents working for peace, justice, and the health of the planet. In addition, students will be participating in a service learning project learn within in a community setting, for example, a river clean-up, serving at the Vermont Food Bank, or connecting with a local school. Students who choose this FYS will also be enrolled in Introduction to Psychology.