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 2018 First-Year Seminars

If I Can’t Dance – Keep Your Revolution
Maris Wolff

History is not just about important revolutions, battles, politicians and changing borders. It is also about everyday people, and what is important in their everyday lives. This course is a multicultural exploration of the simple things that give people pleasure: their dance, games, social activities, cuisine; some of the things that make a nation’s culture. We see how geography, climate, work, religion/ritual, gender, and age all have their impact on a country’s customs. This course investigates the similarities and differences between the various cultures of people around the globe. This course celebrates what Emma Goldman called “everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things”.

Censoring Popular Culture
Jeff Bickerstaff

This class explores pivotal censorship battles from the history of American popular culture, particularly film, comic books, stand-up comedy, and music. In addition to analyzing provocative works of art, students will learn how to contextualize specific free speech controversies within the history of American culture, with an emphasis on recognizing recurring patterns of behavior, and examining the ongoing clash between America’s Puritanical tradition and the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. This course will also take up evolving standards of decency and popular tastes, the role of the government and courts in protecting and limiting free speech, and the history of “self-regulation” by segments of the culture industry.

iMe: Reinventing yourself in the Digital Age
Sean Clute

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.

Mathematical Puzzles Through History
Greg Petrics

In this course we will study the history and content of mathematics’ most famous puzzles. The essence of mathematics is not about doing boring calculations, and you won’t see any of those in this course. Instead mathematics is about answering questions and solving puzzles that can improve lives and advance society. In short, mathematics is about making the world a better place. This course will examine some of the great “puzzles” of mathematics and put them into a historical context. We’ll study the challenges faced by humans throughout history and learn how mathematics came to their rescue to get the problem solved. No mathematical background is required. This semester this course will have a special focus on the historical development of the computer from the industrial revolution to present times.

Songwriting for Beginners: Finding Your Inner Dylan
Steve Blair

Please note: This class is full. This course will give you a pathway to gain the ability to write original songs of various types. A wide spectrum of topics will include fundamental aspects of music, basics in writing skills, and a historical perspective on successful songwriters from the distant past to today. An extensive use of YouTube will allow you to observe, listen, and analyze songs directly performed by master songwriters. You will write and perform at least three complete songs during the semester, along with many exercises during the process. Each song will be recorded, and at the end of the semester, a CD recording will be produced. There will be a final performance of each student's best works.

Dreams, Freedom, and Wonder
Russ Weis

Please note: This class is full. You're not like my other teachers, Professor Tripp. You're not like my other students, James. With that exchange, the two main characters of the film “Wonder Boys” begin a relationship that leads each of them to discover parts of themselves they never really knew existed. This course hopes to do the same for you. You will view, discuss, and then write about a number of engaging American films from the past quarter century, each of which deals with the themes of writing, dreaming, and discovering one’s truest self. Along the way, your horizons will broaden, your insights will multiply, your thinking will expand, and your critical reading and writing skills will improve. Guest speakers from the worlds of film and literature will enhance the classroom experience, as will field trips to an arts cinema and a local film festival.

Dystopia: Cautionary Tales of a Nightmarish Future
Tyrone Shaw

Please note: This class is full. As opposed to the utopian vision of a more perfect world, dystopian literature and film depict the worst of all possible worlds. Probing basic questions of human nature and society, they reveal anxieties that remain chillingly applicable today. In this course, we will explore such issues as the self, alienation, freedom, complicity, citizenship, love, faith, sex, technology and happiness through a variety of novels and films.

A Call to Action: Defining, Identifying and Building Community
Greg Stefanski

Please note: This class is full. In a world that continues to grow in size and complexity, the challenges that face society can seem overwhelming and insurmountable. Although we often leave problem-solving to elected officials and larger social systems - some of the most important and meaningful responses come from the community level. Using NVU-Johnson's campus, Detroit, and other sites as examples, this course gives students an opportunity to examine how they define community, to discover which communities they are part of (i.e. hometown, residence hall, interest groups, clubs, social media venues, etc.) and to explore how communities can affect social change. Throughout the semester students will participate in community-building initiatives with local non-profits, culminating with the creation and implementation of an original community building project.

Critical Thinking in an Age of Media Confusion
Richard Shanley

Please note: This class is full. This seminar will explore the various ways people think and learn, and provide opportunities to examine your own learning styles, as well as develop an understanding of how others think and learn. Are you a visual learner, an auditory learner, a hands-on learner, or something else? How can you maximize your learning strengths, while building up your weaker areas, to get the most out of your college experience? What does it mean to think critically? How can your thinking style help or hinder your success in life? What do you need to know to make the best possible decisions? These are some of the questions we will explore, as you learn techniques and strategies to become a better thinker and learner – skills that will apply to your college classes, as well as your life.

Globalize It!
Henrique Cezar

Please note: This class is full. Do you know how long it takes to make the shoes you are wearing? Do you have an idea how many countries are involved in the process of making your t-shirt? This FYS will explain that, and other important concepts involved in producing and trading in a global world. Concepts such as globalization, international trade and cultural differences will be explored in this course. Students taking this FYS will go on a day trip to Montreal.