First-Year Seminars by Semester

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Seminars are open to first-year students only. All first-year seminars can be scheduled through LionPATH.


Spring 2023

AFAM 83 (3 cr) First-Year Seminar in African American Studies (IL, US, GH)

Class #18363 | Tuesday/Thursday, 12:05 pm - 1:20 pm. | Instructor: Christina Haynes

AFAM 83 has two primary purposes. First, it is designed to introduce students to college life and help them identify the resources and opportunities that will be most helpful to their future personal and professional path. Secondly, this seminar will introduce students to the interdisciplinary field of African American and Diaspora Studies. They will learn about major themes and topics in the field and meet faculty from various disciplines (History, English, Anthropology, Religion, Communication) who are researching those topics. Both aspects of the course will give students a clearer sense of the academic and personal opportunities available at Penn State and in African American Studies.

AS 83  Introducing the Fascinating World of Language, Society, Culture, and the Human Mind – Perspectives from East and West Tuesday/Thursday 9:05-10:20 and 10:35-12:00

This course will introduce students to the fascinatingly powerful worlds of language and discourse. Because language is our primary means of communicating, we take for granted the mechanisms by which language and the words we choose reflect systematic patterns of thinking and conceptualizing the world. Discourse, which is a combination of language and other symbolic elements that communicate meaning, like color, fashion, style, gestures, facial expressions, serves to not only represent our ideas and worldviews, but to also shape them in powerfully systematic ways. In this course, we will explore language and discourse from the perspectives of East and West, with a focus on the intersections between language, discourse, culture, perception, and ideology. We will address such issues as politeness, direct and indirect styles of communication, and “face.” We will learn to look beyond the surface of words and take a critical and analytic view of how language and discourse shape our perceptions of ourselves and others. We will explore the ways in which speakers of different languages (e.g., English, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Persian) and members of other cultures come to appreciate concepts of beauty, gender, respect, food and taste, even colors, through discourse. The course is designed to raise students’ awareness about the power of language and discourse and ultimately to take a critical perspective geared toward a deeper understanding of cultural difference, cultural relativism, linguistic relativity, and stereotypes. Course materials will include readings, films, discussions, guest speakers, and mini projects, with an emphasis on discourse from Eastern and Western languages/cultures, revealing the rich and robust ways that construct our worldviews, behaviors, norms, expectations, and communicative styles. Students will gain keen insights into culture and mechanisms underlying intercultural (mis)communication. No knowledge of any languages other than English is required.  

CAS 83 (3 cr) First-Year Seminar in Communication Arts and Sciences (GH) Mindfulness in a Time of Crisis

Class #18305 | Tuesday/Thursday, 3:05 pm - 4:20 pm. | Instructor: Jeremy Engels

In this first year seminar, we will explore the topic of mindfulness, focusing on how mindful communication can help us to manage both the big and the little stressors of our day. The class will include guest lecturers from across the university, and will investigate humanistic, social scientific, and biological understandings of stress and mindfulness. Students will learn about mindfulness by developing their own mindfulness practice.
  • fulfills: FYS, GS

PHIL 83 (3 cr) First-Year Seminar in Philosophy (GH)

Class #28152 | Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:05 pm –4:20 pm. | Instructor: Tony White

This course is designed with two key elements in mind. The first is to help you gain a better understanding of law and the legal system. The second element is to help you learn about the opportunities available to you as university students. Through both of these elements you will learn more about the discipline of political science.

The first part of this course provides an overview of the American legal system. We will discuss the historic and contemporary influences that have shaped the system. We will also examine the structure of the court system. In the second section, we will focus on different types of law. We will look at public law like constitutional law and civil liberties and private law like torts, contracts, and family law. The final section examines the connection between law and society. We will discuss how the law can be used for social change.




PLSC 83S (3 cr) First-Year Seminar in Political Science

Class #16986 | Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 11:15 am - 12:05 pm | Instructor:

Adam Nye

Exploration of current topics of interest in political science, international relations, and/or political theory. Every first-year seminar in Political Science focuses on several of the major questions of the field. Many of these questions concern the constitutional arrangements of governments: What is it that we want governments to do, and what is the ideal government arrangement? Why does every nation (and every state and city) have somewhat different constitutional provisions for legislation, judicial, military and executive functions of government? What can we learn from careful comparisons of different types of government? What is unique to the American system and what are the consequences of this uniqueness? Other questions concern power: To what extent do wealthy individuals and wealthy organizations have disproportionate power in society? Is this appropriate or not? What is the impact of governmental attempts to limit the influence of the wealthy? We are also very much interested in the international system: What types of foreign policies and diplomatic strategies reduce the likelihood of war? What is the role of international organizations (such as the UN or World Bank) and multinational corporations in shaping conflicts between nations? Finally, we are interested in ordinary citizens: Do citizens know enough to formulate rational opinions on public issues? Why are many citizens apathetic? What motivates citizens to support one candidate over another or to favor particular policies and philosophies? Each first-year seminar will select a special topic of interest and use that topic to explore a subset of these questions in order to provide a challenging introduction to political science. In the course of doing so, each first-year seminar in political science will also introduce students to specialized materials (such as government documents), library resources, and appropriate electronic media. In addition, each seminar will emphasize the standards of evidence, logic, and critical thinking required to develop effective and persuasive reports and oral presentations. Students will write essay exams and one or more written reports on the relevant topic of their own choices. Class participation is required. The course fulfills both a first-year seminar and a general education or Bachelor of Arts social/behavioral science requirement. The course will be offered three times per year with a maximum of 20 seats per offering. In addition to the academic topic and issues of this course, students can expect to gain a general introduction to the University as an academic community and have the opportunity to explore their responsibilities as members of that community. Students will develop an understanding of the learning tools and resources available to them, including the opportunity to develop relationships with faculty and other students who share their academic interests.

SOC 83 (3 cr) What makes society possible?

Class #18839 | Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:05 pm - 1:20 pm | Instructor: Melissa Hardy

We spend our lives moving in and out of social relationships, figuring out who we are and where we belong.  Everyone is connecting and separating.  We keep or discard, search or settle in, thrive or struggle.  Millions of people are doing these things every day.  But at the same time, our lives are sufficiently ordered and predictable that we create our routines, make our plans, and anticipate futures we imagine.  How does that happen?  

During the semester, we will build an understanding of who we are becoming as people and as a society by examining social process and social change.  The class is taught as a seminar using a collaborative learning environment.  Students are active learners and participants in shaping class discussions as a shared learning experience.  Our major goals for the semester are to discover, understand, apply, and create.


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