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.


Fall 2021

AFAM 83 (3 cr) Themes in African American Digital Humanities (IL, US, GH)

Class #27555 | MoWeFr 11:15AM - 12:05PM | Instructor: James Casey

This Freshman Seminar introduces some of the major themes for studying the relationship between digital technologies and African American life, history, and culture. We will read some of the foundational and recent work in Black digital studies and explore a wide range of digital projects and social media. Course readings and activities will focus on ways of telling stories about the past, including opportunities to practice curating archives, building exhibits, and storytelling. We will make class visits around campus to the libraries, centers, and departments related to African American Studies. The course is designed to help introduce you to life as a college student at Penn State, and to identify the resources and opportunities that will help your personal, academic, and professional journeys.

ANTH 83S (3 cr) First Year Seminar in Anthropology (GS)

Class #27527 | MoWeFr 10:10AM - 11:00AM | Instructor: Laurel Pearson

This seminar introduces students to anthropology as a scientific discipline with ties to other social and natural sciences. Through active participation in the seminar, students will be exposed to an aspect of anthropology that corresponds to a faculty member's area of expertise. Because students are introduced to cutting edge research, the course content will vary from one semester to the next. Seminar topics highlight current debates in the discipline and the research process. Research design, analytical methods, and sampling issues are covered by having students read and discuss new and controversial developments in anthropology. Strong emphasis is placed on the broader societal significance of scholarly research related to the seminar's principal focus. Student comprehension of topics raised in class will be assessed by classroom participation, exams, and papers.

APLNG 83 (3 cr) Language as Social Practice (IL, US, GH)

Class #18028 | TuTh 1:35PM - 2:50PM | Instructor: TBA

This course introduces the idea of understanding language use as social practice. This means studying how language serves to represent and to constrain  speakers in various social and cultural contexts. The activity of using language will be viewed through the lens of several research domains in the field of Applied Linguistics, a discipline that studies language in the way that real speakers and writers actually use it. The class will present readings taken from fields as varied as sociolinguistics (language as social performance); second language acquisition research (language as cognition, language as participation); language and identity; pragmatics (speech, act theory; conversational analysis); and language and power (language an power (language policy; gender and language). Whether being studied as a formal school subject or learned at a mother's knee, language is in extricabley bound up with who we are and who we become. Theoretical terminology, research-based findings, and innovative ideas about what language 'really' is will be introduced and explored through accessible and engaging readings and activities.

Students will learn to look at language use in social contexts from multiple perspectives, seeing how it both reflects, and shapes, identity in context (while at the same time allowing speakers to modify and shape those very contexts). Given that this is a first-year class for first-semester students, emphasis will be placed on how the understanding these basic ideas of Applied Linguistics can help us to pursue a satisfying and enriched sense of self, whether as a speaker of a specific language, or as a member of multiple discourse communities. Students will conduct an interview project to better understand the issues faced by language learners in the local community. International students are particularly invited to join this course.

CAMS 83Y (3 cr) Populism, Democracy, and Empire in Ancient Greece and Rome (IL, GH)

Class #18296 | TuTh 3:05PM - 4:20PM | Instructor: Jake Nabel

In recent years, talk of "populist revolts" has seized headlines across the globe, especially in Europe and the United States. These movements are diverse, but they share common elements, especially mistrust of elites, resistance to immigration and cosmopolitanism, and appeals to the dignity of a narrowly defined "common people." This course will trace this brand of politics to the ancient Mediterranean, where the societies of Greece and Rome were sometimes riven by similar tensions. Case studies from Athens, Sparta, and Rome will explore the domestic pressures that animated ancient populist movements, as well as the exacerbating forces of foreign conquest and imperialism. Readings will include works by ancient authors (in translation), but also modern scholarship in political science and comparative history. Assignments will afford training in political oratory and policy writing in addition to academic prose.

CAS 84 (3 cr) First Year Seminar in Communication Arts and Sciences (GH)

Class #29259 | TuTh 1:35PM - 2:50PM | Instructor: TBA

Conspiracy Theories & Rhetoric

Often used to delegitimize political opponents, the term “conspiracy theory” can refer to stories that range from the fascinating to the frightening, and from the insightful to the ridiculous. An ever-present deliberative practice within our society, conspiracy theories attempt to explain how our world works in the face of government and corporate secrecy. For those of us seeking to understand rhetoric and public culture, conspiracy theories raise important questions about civic engagement and the role of “truth” in politics. This course seeks to identify and explore some of these questions.

CMLIT 83S (3 cr) First Year Seminar in Comparative Literature (IL, US, GH)

Class #27731 | TuTh 1:35PM - 2:50PM | Instructor: Linda Istanbulli

This course has two main purposes: to introduce first-year students to college study in the Liberal Arts, especially in literature as a humanities field of lifelong value, regardless of their majors; and to explore one of the most important trends of our time, which is the emphasis upon globalization and intercultural competence. In a small-class format that fosters individual engagement, the course includes practical guidance to help students optimize the opportunities available to them at Penn State, along with experiencing an international, intercultural approach to ways that literature addresses issues of crucial personal and social importance. With an entire world of literature to choose from, the theme of each seminar varies. Sample themes include "Hero-Tales: Boundaries between Fact and Fiction," "Literature, Health, and Wellness," "Cosmopolitan Cities, Real and Imagined," "Books that Change Lives," "America Seen from Elsewhere," "World Literature, Human Rights, and the Environment," "Myth, Legend, and Gender Identities," or "Forbidden Stories: Literature and Censorship." Course materials will cross boundaries of time, place, identities, languages, and cultures, and will often include media such as graphic narrative (comics) and film.

GER 83-001/JST 83 (3 cr) German Reactions to the Holocaust: From the Nazi Years to the Present (IL, US, GH)

Class #19815 | TuTh 12:05PM - 1:20PM | Instructor: Yaakov Kabalek

In many depictions of the Holocaust and the Second World War, Nazi Germany stands for absolute evil. Instead of exploring how and why "ordinary Germans" responded to the Holocaust, many ignore their motives or simply condemn non-Jewish Germans as a collective. This course offers a different perspective on the topic. In its first part, we will try to understand the varying reactions of the German populace to the reality around them during the Nazi years, beginning with those who were actively involved in the mass killing of Jews, to the bystanders and rescuers of Jews. What did they know and do? How did they experience the Holocaust? In the second part of the course, we will look at postwar attempts made by Germans (and Austrians) of different generations to work through this difficult past. How did they integrate the persecution and mass murder of the Jews into their personal and national history? What was the role of family stories, public debates, and cultural representations in shaping their attitudes toward this event?

GER 83-002 (3 cr) Dutch Culture: Art, History, and Society (IL, US, GH)

Class #20623 | TuTh 9:05AM - 10:20AM | Instructor: Bettina Brandt

This course focuses upon the rich history, culture, and society of the Netherlands and its inhabitants. From the founding of Amsterdam by damming off the Amstel River in the 12th century, to the Dutch Golden Age of world trade domination, to the modern-day country that shines as a beacon of liberalism and democracy, the Dutch have consistently proven that there is something remarkable about their society and way of approaching life.

This course is designed to give the student an introductory overview of certain important aspects of German culture and its development during the past 1500 years. The topics selected will give the student an introduction to major periods and representative thinkers that have helped shape the destiny of German-speaking countries and much of Europe as well. As Goethe noted, our views of the past are a mirror in which we dimly see our own reflection. Serious examination of the issues raised in this course also result in learning something about one's self and the world in which s/he live today.

LER 83S (3 cr) First Year Seminar in Labor and Human Resources (GS)

Class #17993 | TuTh 4:35PM - 5:50PM | Instructor: Michael Maffie

Students enroll at Penn State, at least in part, to prepare themselves for rewarding and satisfying careers in the workforce of the 21st century. However, as we embark on a new century, we are in the midst of major changes in the world of work and employment with an uncertain future direction. In this seminar we will examine a number of major trends transforming the nature of work and employment in the 21st century. The central question this seminar addresses is changing nature of work. What jobs will exist 20 years from now? Are unions still relevant? Why do millennials change jobs, on average, 10 times during their 20s, while previous economic cohorts did not? How is automation changing the workplace? This course begins with current workplace challenges, where "Uber for X" is paramount, and then returns to the New Deal to see how life has changed in the American workplace. Along the way, you will have a chance to debate these ideas, improve your writing, work in teams to critically analyze a current occupation, and improve your critical thinking skills.

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

Class #20091 | MoWeFr 9:05AM - 9:55AM | Instructor: Theodore Bergsma

First-year seminars in philosophy provide critical introductions to fundamental philosophical issues and problems. Each first-year seminar develops a broad overview of historical and contemporary thought through readings, discussions, and student writings. In this way, students will gain an understanding of important figures, ideas, problems, and theories that have shaped and continued to influence thought and practice around the world. Students will examine diverse viewpoints that will allow them to understand a wide range of views and challenge them to defend their own positions. First-year seminars involve active use of writing, speaking, and group projects. They provide opportunities for gathering information, analyzing problems, and synthesizing diverse perspectives. Finally, each first year seminar in philosophy allows students to link theory to their own lives.


Class #18057 | MoWeFr 1:25PM - 2:15PM | Instructor: Gretchen Casper

 In this course, we will discuss the current democratization trend by focusing on the experiences of up to twenty-four countries. The goals of this class are four-fold. First, students will learn how to conduct research, analyze information, and present the findings through class discussion and in written form. Second, we will learn how to compare countries from different regions of the world. Third, students will have a better understanding of the democratization process in general and will be able to explain or predict democratization beyond the three cases discussed in this class. Finally, the experiences of these countries offer a deeper understanding of what democracy is and why this type of political system can be difficult to install and maintain.

PSYCH 83S (3 cr) The Social Psychology of Social Justice and Social Change (GS) 

Class #17995 | TuTh 12:05PM - 1:20PM | Instructor: Theresa Vescio

The historical emergence of social psychology paralleled twentieth-century movements toward postcolonial independence and civil rights, the demise of the eugenics movement, and challenges to ideologies of ethnic and gender hierarchies. Yet striking social inequities persist in the 21st century. In recent years, grassroots organizations and social alliances have demonstrated and taken action in the quest of racial, gender, class, and environmental justice, with attention drawn toward intersecting identities (e.g., violence toward people of color who are trans-women, young, and/or also have disabilities). Classic and contemporary psychological research on intra- and inter-group relations, implicit bias, power, and collective action will be discussed and used as a framework for thinking about contemporary quests for social justice and social change.  The primary goals of this course are to introduce students to psychology as a social science, to help students develop critical thinking and communication skills, and to engage in psychological inquiry into issues of social meaning while working together as a collaborative, engaged, challenging, and support group of peers and scholars.

SOC 83 (3 cr) Social Interaction in Everyday Life (GS)

Class #19993 | TuTh 1:35PM - 2:50PM | Instructor: Melissa Hardy

We all are members of many different social groups that connect us to other people. Through social interaction and group dynamics, we participate in complex webs of social relationships that influence who we are and how we act.  Our attitudes, values, and how we see ourselves are shaped by these social experiences.  In this class, we will explore how we build our understanding of who we are and how we understand others.  We will learn about different types of groups, such as families, work groups, and voluntary organizations; group dynamics, such as inclusion/exclusion, stigma, and cohesion; and how to manage social interactions, build trust, resolve conflicts, and listen to each other.  Our goal is to better understand how we use these experiences and the meaning we take from them to be the people we hope to be.

WMNST 83N (3 cr) Women Writing: The Literature of Resistance (US, GH, GS)

Class #18092 | TuTh 10:35AM - 11:50AM | Instructor: Manini Samarth

Can a novel or a poem be experienced as a form of personal, social and political interrogation -- and still remain, primarily, a work of art? Without recourse to essentialist definitions of 'women's writing,' can we postulate ways in which an awareness of 'female' identity influences acts of literary resistance across cultures and historical periods? In framing our responses to these and related questions, we'll explore the evolutionary directions of this sometimes implicitly and often directly subversive literature in three particular ways: through the connections between race and gender; through the representation of women in art and popular culture; and through the tension between gender and sexuality.

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