First-Year Seminar Course Descriptions

Fall 2014

A Call to Action -- Ellen Hill
Examine major movements of social action from the peace movement to the civil rights movement, and learn tools to activate your citizenship. Students will participate in a service learning project and learn about social issues, social activists, local community organizations and initiatives, and discover ways to make change in our community.

Art of the Social Imagination: Cultivating Skills to Work with Others -- Leila Bandar
Cultivating skills to work with others is built on a foundation of personal self-awareness. Gnothi seauton is Greek for "Know thyself" from Plato's writing of his mentor, Socrates. Art of the Social Imagination begins with the idea that before we can share our creativity with others, we will want to learn more about ourselves. Leila Bandar shares methods of developing creativity and presents tools to of knowing ones' Self. In the beginning of this course, students are provided with materials for artwork and educational self-knowledge surveys to identify personality traits, learning styles and thinking styles. One page papers allow students to summarize and reflect on these surveys. In class art making provides concrete experiences to empower students with what can be done using simple materials. This can-do/ I-am-a-maker attitude provides a foundation for end-of-semester connections with community. This course is designed to facilitate self-discovery and community involvement.

Art of The Social Imagination: Discovering a Sense of Place -- Cari Varner
Cultivating skills to work with others is built on a foundation of personal self-awareness and mutual understanding. An important part of human identity is the place where we are from. Places are given meaning by human experiences, memories and emotions. Sense of place, or genius loci, refers to that set of emotions, meanings of and attachments to places that are held by individuals or by groups. This course will explore the places that have given meaning to your life, and how they impact your values, behaviors and identity using discussion, readings, mapping, observational sketching and photography. We will seek to define and understand the architecture, natural environment, social constructs and physical infrastructure that that contribute to a sense of place through course trips, observation and surveys in Burlington and surrounds. Finally, we will also explore our own conceptions (and misconceptions) about urban, rural and suburban places and the people that inhabit them in the United States and abroad, as a way to understand how place shapes perception, stereotypes and judgment.

Dystopia: Cautionary Tales of a Nightmarish Future -- Tyrone Shaw
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.

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."

The Language of Film -- David Grozinsky
This course explores the richness of the art form of film through screenings, discussions, readings, writings, and hands-on video production. This class is not a film history class, but instead will focus on the basic conventions of film expression including narrative, mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, sound genre, and more. Over the course of the semester, we will watch a broad mix of international films from the past 100 years of cinema. In class we will discuss films and required readings. Participation in discussion is necessary and expected, and you may also be called upon to lead a discussion yourself. Additionally, you will write film reviews and get to make a couple short films of your own.

Music and Culture of New Orleans -- Clyde Stats
This course will look at the rich musical environment in New Orleans, and the cultures that have supported it. We will cover the following musical styles: jazz, r&b/funk, cajun, zydeco, brass bands, and Mardi Gras Indians music. In early November we will travel to New Orleans for 5 days to experience the music and culture firsthand. The trip will also include a day of community service, as well as visits to important cultural sites in and around New Orleans. The course fee of $850 covers everything (airfare, ground transportation, accommodations, food). Financial aid may be used to cover the course fee. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about and soak up the sights and sounds of New Orleans and receive college credit while you're doing it!


Pretty or Nasty-- Dr. Liz Dolci
The popularity of cosmetics has increased significantly during the 20th century in western societies particularly in the United States. This course will look at cosmetic usage from its beginnings 6000 years ago to the current worldwide $18 billion industry. As an introduction to our topic, the class will attend a make-up session offered by a representative from a cosmetic company. We then investigate the role of cosmetics in self image as a more comprehensive understanding of the influence of one's social environment (including the media) is developed in the course. An introduction to cosmetic chemistry will allow students to evaluate safety and ethical issues. The course concludes with a personal reflection and analysis of cosmetic usage.

Songwriting for Beginners: Finding Your Inner Dylan -- Steve Blair

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 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. Students taking this class should either have a basic knowledge of music or should be interested in the subject. Students should also be willing to participate in the production of their songs by playing an instrument, singing, etc.

Thinking Globally, Eating Locally -- Russ Weiss
This course concerns itself with the growing field of study related to how colleges can best institute environmental innovations, particularly as relates to food production and consumption. As this burgeoning new discipline of "Campus Greening" is explored, emphasis will be placed upon students developing the critical reading and thinking, expository writing, and research skills what will serve them well throughout their college career. An important aim of the course will be to sharpen student awareness of how their social patterns related to their food consumption affects themselves and the local foodshed. Another objective will be to "educate in order to activate," inspiring students to play an ongoing role in the stewardship of the JSC Community Garden. All students will choose a project related either to the garden or to the JSC cafeteria and also make contributions to the food-related sections in the pending "JSC Eco-Master Plan."

Traditions and Identity -- Emily Neilsen
As you transition to life at Johnson there will be so much that is new: where you live, the people who surround you, perhaps even the ideas you think about and activities you take part in. You will be presented with a unique opportunity to redefine yourself. But, as author Junot Diaz so aptly puts it, "You can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in." In this vein, this class seeks to examine how we build identity. It asks: how do cultural traditions shape who we become? How does our heritage influence us, for better and for worse? Are there parts of our current selves that we would like to leave behind as we enter a new chapter in our lives? And, if so, from where can we borrow to imagine and construct ourselves anew? Through contemporary literature - essays, fiction, memoir - we will investigate others' relationships to familial, cultural, ethnic, and regional traditions in order to examine how individuals define and redefine themselves; and to tease out how we might do the same.

What Is Called Thinking? -- Richard Shanley
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.