First-year seminars are interdisciplinary, seminar-style courses taught by Johnson State 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 2016 First-Year Seminars
If I Can’t Dance – Keep Your Revolution
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
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.
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.
Music and Culture of New Orleans
Looking for something that will change your life? This course might just be it! We will look at the rich musical environment in New Orleans and the cultures that have supported it, while covering 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 $900 covers everything (airfare, accommodations, food, ground transportation). 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!
Critical Thinking in an Age of Media Confusion
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.
Journaling: Writing in New Territory
“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory,” advised Alan Alda. Every first year college student is in new territory, and the process of journaling is a journey of discovery. Through journal-writing, students will both explore their new surroundings as well as arrive at new places because of the mental mapping they embarked upon through this writing process. The daily writing assignments are designed for students to examine and experience their own unique world in ways that bring new insight into their lives and build connections through their examinations of culture, interest, ideology, and community. In addition to keeping their own journals, students will read excerpts of other diarists/journal-keepers’ work.
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 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.
Art of the Social Imagination
Art of the Social Imagination creates a sense of place. 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
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.
Cultivating the Cross-Cultural Mind
How does your cultural identity affect your understanding of the world and its people? In this course, we will first examine our own perceptions, attitudes, values, beliefs, and needs. Who are we as cultural beings? After this exploration, we will cross into new terrains. Here, we will come to identify, understand, and appreciate certain features of new cultures so that we may, as individuals, deepen our understanding of the world we live in and our place within it.
A Call to Action
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 Johnson State’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, online forums, etc.) and to explore how communities can effect 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.