CORONAVIRUS UPDATES: Select the "more info" link for coronavirus-related resources and updates for Liberal Arts students, faculty, and staff. More info >

First-Year Seminars by Semester

You are here: Home / Current Students / Undergraduate Students / Education / First-Year Seminars / First-Year Seminars by Semester

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

Summer 2020

Because summer 2020 classes will all be online, all first-year students at University Park are required to register through the Learning Edge Academic Program (LEAP). Students may register for LEAP prior to New Student Orientation. If you are accepted to the College of the Liberal Arts for summer 2020 (or are in DUS with an interest in a Liberal Arts major), and wish to aspire for entry to the Paterno Fellows Program and Schreyer Honors College, you may register now for your Pride. More info on Paterno Fellows Prides… 

Students who are not planning to aspire for PFP may register directly through LEAP


Fall 2020

APLNG 83 (3 cr) First Year Seminar in Applied Linguistics (IL, US, GS)

Class #17527 | TuTh 1:35PM - 2:50PM | Instructor: Deryn Verity

Description forthcoming

ASIA 83S (3 cr) Asia on Display (IL, GH)

Class #17596 | TuTh 10:35PM - 11:50PM | Instructor: Chang Tan

How we "see" cultures depends on how they are displayed. For centuries, we have come to know distant--or seemingly familiar--cultures through their art and artifacts, the selection, arrangement, and reception of which, in turn, have been shaped by sociopolitical forces as much as by aesthetic considerations. This course studies the collections, exhibitions, and receptions of Asian arts from the late 19th century to the present day, with an emphasis on the agents and institutions in the United States. We will discuss how those displays are connected to issues such as "taste," value, and status, diplomacy and rivalry between nations, modernization and colonialism, cultural appropriation and ethnic identity, the commodification of "cultural heritages," and the potentials as well as limits of multiculturalism. We will also learn how to read scholarly writings, how to seek and evaluate research materials, and how to react critically to visual and material culture. In addition to short assignments, you will also review a current exhibition and curate an exhibition of Asian art.

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

Class #17826 | MoWeFr 1:25PM - 2:15PM | Instructor: Jacob 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) Rhetoric and Earthly Coexistence (GH)

Class #25771 | MoWeFr 10:10AM - 11:00AM | Instructor: Joshua Trey Barnett

How should we dwell upon the earth? In an age of human-caused climate change, no challenge is more pressing. In this course we will explore a range of rhetorical discourses which seek to answer this question, from Aldo Leopold’s “The Land Ethic” to Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle’s “Ecosexual Manifesto,” from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring to Greta Thunberg’s speech at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, from image events staged by radical environmental activists in the 1970s and 1980s to recent nonviolent demonstrations staged by indigenous peoples. Through careful reading and discussion, we will illuminate how these and other rhetorical discourses powerfully shape our thoughts and feelings about the practice and prospects of earthly coexistence.

GER 83-001 (3 cr) Dutch Culture: Art, History, and Society (IL, US, GH)

Class #19996 | 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.

GER 83-002 (3 cr) Rammstein, punks, and turn tables:  A history of contemporary Germany through the lens of popular music and film (IL, US, GH)

Class #29580 | TuTh 1:35PM - 2:50PM | Instructor: Michael Putnam

Art truly does imitate life in all its facets. In this course popular music and film unveil developments and major historical events in modern German society. Our inspection will pay particular attention to the rise and fall of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and cultural developments following the Fall of the Berlin Wall until today. Through this course we simultaneously gain a deeper understanding of modern German society through the lens of popular culture (i.e., music and film).

HIST 83.001 (3 cr) Political Scandal in U.S. History (GH)

Class #19514 | MoWeFr 10:10AM - 11:00AM | Instructor: Amy Greenberg

Recent events might suggest that political scandals are a recent phenomenon, or worse now than in the past. In fact, political scandals date back to George Washington's presidency, and no period of American history has been immune from at least one scandal that appeared, at the time, to call the health of America's democracy into question. This class will explore the long history of political scandal in national politics, from Thomas Jefferson's affair with his slave, Sally Hemmings, through Watergate, the Monica Lewinsky affair, and the controversies of the Trump presidency.

HIST 83.002 (3 cr) Introduction to the African Diaspora (GH)

Class #27208| TuTh 1:35PM - 2:50PM | Instructor: Janelle Edwards

In this course, students will be introduced to the key topics of the forced and voluntary migration of African and African descended people to the Americas. As a broad survey, this course will focus on the cultures, identities, and experiences of African peoples as they created and recreated communities and societies in the United States, Caribbean, and Latin America.

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

Class #17489 | TuTh 3:05PM - 4:20PM | 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 #26424 | MoWeFr 2:30PM - 3:20PM | Instructor: Eduardo Mendieta

This first year seminar will focus on the questions what is a “lie” and what is “truth”? These questions are fundamental to philosophy, but also to politics and science. They are also at the heart of what is called epistemology, which is the sub-discipline within philosophy that concerns itself with the question of knowledge, and more specifically: how do we know what we know? But, can we establish once and for all the conditions under which we can be assured that what we claim to know is in fact the case? Most tellingly, the question of the essence of truth remains one of the most debated within philosophy, which means that philosophers have not come to a consensus on how to establish the truth of truth. Additionally, the questions of truth and lying intersect with questions of agency, morality, character, language, and the philosophy of science. The truth of a claim is not simply dependent on the objectivity of a claim, but also on the subjectivity of the one that claims that something is or is not the case. Can one tell the truth without intending to: like when a broken clock tells the right time twice, at least, but haphazardly. Is a lie merely the result of the intent to say the opposite of what is the case? Can one lie unintentionally? Is lying permissible? Do we have a duty to be absolutely truthful? Is it more useful to be truthful than to play loose with the truth? Why is truth-telling and truthfulness virtues and why is lying and mendacity vices? Is truth important to democracy? In order to explore these questions and more, we will focus on some of the philosophers who have contributed most substantively to the question of what is truth and what is lying? We will read and discuss works by Arendt, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Rorty, and Alcoff and Zagzebski.


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

Class #17560 | 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 83 (3 cr) Moral Minds in the Modern World (GS)

Class #17491 | TuTh 12:05PM - 1:20PM | Instructor: Christopher Cameron

Philosophers and ethicists have long debated what it means to be moral: what are our duties to each other, how do ensure the best outcomes for the most people, and what kinds of virtues lead to a good life? Moral psychology approaches these classic ethical questions by asking how people think, feel, and act when it comes to ethics and morality. When we decide whether an action is right or wrong, does this depend on our gut feelings, our deliberations, or some combination of the two? How do people resolve tradeoffs between harming a smaller number of people in order to achieve a greater good that saves more lives? How do we explain moral disagreements, where clashes of values and beliefs seem to lead to intractable conflicts? Can we predict when people will decide to have empathy and compassion for the suffering of others, and act generously? And why does empathy sometimes break down, and what does this mean for its moral value? Each week we will examine one of these questions, among many others, and we will continually connect scientific theories to potential real-world implications and practical applications (e.g., how these theories might speak to everyday ethical questions faced by incoming freshmen, as well as to global events such as intergroup conflicts, natural disasters and outbreaks). Over the course of the semester, we will discuss how psychological science approaches the question of human morality and ethics, with three goals: 1) develop a foundation for how to think about human morality and ethics from an empirical, scientific perspective; 2) discuss relevant theories, models, and findings in the field and learn about prominent debates; and 3) engage in sustained consideration of how these theories relate to current events. The final project will consist of developing a project that applies moral psychology to current events and real-world ethical dilemmas. Students are expected to leave the course with a grounding in empirical approaches to morality and how it can be used to explain and motivate everyday ethics.

SOC 83 (3 cr) First Year Seminar in Sociology (GS)

Class #26129 | TuTh 10:35AM - 11:50AM | Instructor: Melissa Hardy

People in societies are members of many different social groups.  Through interpersonal interactions and group dynamics, each of us becomes embedded in complex networks of social relationships.  Large or small, temporary or long lived, the groups we join influence our behavior, attitudes, values, and how we see ourselves.  In this class, we will explore how we build our personal networks through group connections and activities.  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 social interactions, such as cooperation and conflict, reciprocity and fairness.  Our goal is to better understand how we use these experiences and the meaning we take from them to learn about who we are.

WMNST 83N (3 cr) First Year Seminar in Women's Studies (US, GH, GS)

Class #17599 | MoWeFr 11:15AM - 12:05PM | 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? 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. 

Return to Top