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Explore New Ways of Thinking and Living

Students discussing project with faculty member

FYS 1010: First Year Seminar

First Year Seminar is the foundational course in the liberal arts and sciences for entering first-year students. Offered in the fall term, it serves as a gateway to the College's General Education program and introduces students to the wider world of learning beyond the professional training of their declared majors. One of the main goals of the program is to develop intellectual skills that will be helpful to students throughout their college career and beyond. In particular, the seminar focuses on sharpening students' skills in critical thinking and reading. Students have the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of exciting seminar topics, ranging from the natural sciences and the humanities, to the fine arts and the social sciences. In each case, the professor draws on her or his special expertise and interests to provide a unique learning experience.

** To submit your First Year Seminar choices, please click here! **

For more information regarding the course professors, click the button below to download and view the full PDF:

First-Year Seminar Full PDF

Living Learning Communities and FYS

Living Learning Communities are small groups of first-year students who live in the same residence hall and take two courses together: First-Year Seminar in the fall and Foundations of Academic Writing in the winter. Students are also encouraged to participate in events together, such as attending Eagle Engagement Series events and completing their First Year, First Service event together. Joining a Living Learning Community is an optional opportunity that allows students to form close bonds with classmates, develop study skills together, and connect with the Elmira community in a more intimate way.

For the 2022-2023 school year, Elmira will offer three LLCs with the following themes: Environmental Sustainability, Social Justice, and Healthy Living. You do not need to be in a specific major to join a learning community - you just need to be interested in the theme and excited to participate in community activities!

FYS LLC Courses

Sustainable Living and Environmental Justice: Our time together will be grounded in our community garden, which we’ll use to explore our own relationships with nature and agriculture. We will try out some small, rewarding shifts in daily routines that can benefit the environment and connect us to the natural world. From there we will shift to examine the policies and economic structures that fundamentally determine the future path of environmental sustainability.

We will study the complicated relationship between capitalism and the environment. We’ll look for ways to balance attention to our personal contributions to a sustainable future with attention to systemic changes.

Students should expect to do a considerable amount of hands-on learning through field trips, possible meetings with local environmental advocates, and of course ongoing work in our garden.

Toward a More Just World: Many of us ask: What can I do to make the world a more equitable place? At the heart of this question is the barrier that prevents the world from being equal: injustice. Making the world more just seems like a daunting task. Yet history teaches us that it is possible and the tools have been laid out before us. How many of our real-world heroes have given power to the powerless, voices to the voiceless, hope to the downtrodden, and opportunities for advancement inspires all of us to make the world a better place.

From reformations in the criminal justice system to religion’s impact in the Civil Rights Movement, in this course, students investigate historical policies of institutional discrimination and the social disparities of a modern, pluralistic world. Incorporating both factual and fictional narratives into the scope of reading for the course, students will also understand the methods used by educators, artists, religious leaders, and activists to shift power centers and empower minorities and the underprivileged. Students will observe and participate in a local social justice organization by collaborating with leaders from local organizations of their choice to explore and influence the community. The course concludes with students’ reports and presentations on their research, observations, and participation in the course projects.

Healthy Body and Mind: This course will focus on students learning positive habits to promote a healthy body and mind as they transition into their college environment. Students will gain an understanding of the emotional, intellectual, social, environmental and physical elements of wellness while learning and practicing positive skills to combat everyday stress and develop long term resiliency. Students will be provided opportunities to practice their skills, experience guest lectures, and participate in community events and opportunities. This experience will allow students to connect with one another to forge positive, support relationships with their classmates and larger campus community.

FYS Courses

Voices of the past speak to us through myths and folklore. These ancient stories, passed down through generations, describe worldviews and offer wisdom for people from every part of the world. This class will explore and compare the traditional stories of cultures from around the world as they are retold by modern storytellers and artists, with an emphasis on foreign films, animations, paintings, sculptures, and other modes of artistic interpretation. Students will respond through analytical writing and creative projects.

Never before have ecological issues been more pressing and creative solutions needed. In this course, students develop a broad understanding of those ecological issues and their relationship to the social, political, cultural, and economic systems that impact the future of humanity, other species, and our shared planet. Students will understand how their own work as an individual, an artist or a designer can comment on, interact with, and impact the world. In this course, we will explore artistic responses to environmental sustainability and related social issues. Students develop collaborative and creative individual projects that may take the form of social/ relational art practice, video, installation, performance, writing, sound, 2D or 3D forms, and electronic media. We will focus on artists, designers and architects that work across disciplines and within communities to focus attention on the web of interrelationships in our environment — to the physical, biological, cultural, political and historical aspects of ecological systems. We will re-envision ecological relationships, creatively proposing new possibilities for co-existence, sustainability, and healing. This course will help us understand the connections between political, economic, social, and cultural issues and your own creative practice. Together, we will investigate the complex global issue of climate change. Ultimately, we will consider how artists and designers respond to environmental justice as well as equity and the environment.

What does it mean to join a new community? What does the residential college experience mean? What are the liberal arts? This course examines the hidden curriculum and helps students find (and create) their own communities within Elmira College and the surrounding area. Borrowing from the ethnographic methods of anthropology, we will explore the rituals that humans use to build communities, examine the role that college plays in personal growth and career preparation, and reflect on the experiences and relationships that shape our understanding of the world. We will discuss strategies for making the best use of the unique opportunities available during and after college, and develop plans for meeting the challenges that we are likely to face along the way. One of the most important benefits of a college education is the opportunity to learn to see the world from other points of view, and to learn more about ourselves in the process. Come explore Elmira College, find your communities, and discover who you are!

Love a hike in the woods? Over the years, humans have profoundly stated our love for being outside and enjoying the wilderness that surrounds us. We will read some of these accounts from Henry David Thoreau to Annie Dillard, to experience the romantic, environmental, and meditative aspects of nature as we walk about in it. But also, how did the woods and mountains get here in the first place? Humans often overlook the geologic controls of our natural environment. Geology creates the physical landscape we exist on but also subtly molds Earth’s water and climate, influencing the distribution of plants and animals. In this course, we will walk and explore the Southern Tier of New York as we meld a soulful wilderness experience with the science of how and why that wilderness exists. Fortunately, we are surrounded by beautiful wilderness and geology. Elmira is situated on the Allegheny Plateau, bordered by the beautiful, glacially carved Finger Lakes to the north, the Pennsylvania Fold Belt to the south, and the Appalachian Mountains to the East. Bring your boots and come outside to explore with us!

What are cities, exactly, and why do they exist? How are cities shaped by human norms, values, beliefs, and biases, and how do cities in turn shape the way we experience the world, the relationships we form, and the lives we are able to live? In other words: while we create cities, cities also create us. We will begin by learning about the historical and psychological dimensions of urban design, then set out to explore Elmira and interpret what we find through perception maps, creative writing, and photo essays. We will then dive into films and short stories about utopian and dystopian cities, and study efforts by intentional communities—ecovillages, communes, and coops—to create better microsocieties. Finally, in teams, you will design your own “perfect city” and present it as a diorama in the medium of your choice: Playdoh? Cardboard? Something else? You will also create a compelling advertisement to sell your city to prospective residents..

This course examines the conflicts created as a result of discrimination by race, gender, religion, and cultural identity as described in both literature and the arts. Students will be expected to participate in creative projects (mash-up collage, graphic novel, video, photography, music, poetry, dance, reader’s theatre, etc.) that will accompany their essays. Selections of coursework will be chosen to form a collaborative class book.

Come experience the fun of creating your own secret codes and secret societies while attempting to decode the secret messages of your friends! In this course, we’ll learn about how human history has been shaped by the making and breaking of codes, as well as other related advances in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Throughout the term, we’ll watch and discuss modern movies that highlight the people behind groundbreaking discoveries in STEM, both historical and fictional. Watching these movies will lead to important discussions about whose stories get told through popular film. Whose achievements have we traditionally celebrated? Who are the “hidden figures” that we are now beginning to celebrate? Why does representation matter?

Why are we so fascinated with stories of crime? What kinds of crime stories capture our attention as a society, and what does that tell us about our social values? How has “true crime” evolved as a genre along with different kinds of media technology? How do our senses of community, self, and other get formed, challenged, or circulated through popular representations of crime in the media? How can we become better critical thinkers about how media representations relate to social and cultural practices? This section of FYS considers the social and cultural implications of representations of crime in popular media, including journalism, docuseries, and podcasts.