Take a first look at the latest introductory seminars – URNow

The first-year seminars cover a wide range of topics from all disciplines, giving new Spiders the opportunity to explore areas of interest not necessarily related to their intended major. More than 50 will be offered this year for the curious.

“The first-year seminars inspire students to explore while encouraging the development of critical reading, thinking and communication skills,” said Nicole Maurantonio, professor of public speaking and communication who leads the program. “The sheer range of courses offered by the five schools is phenomenal.”

Seven new first-year seminars will be offered this year, including one conducted by President Kevin F. Hallock.

Monumental change

Maurantonio’s seminar looks at the summer of 2020 as a defining moment in American history and memory. “Protesters across the United States began toppling monuments celebrating the Confederacy and other icons of racial and ethnic oppression,” Maurantonio wrote in the course description. “The importance of this historic moment is undeniable, but what does it mean to bring about ‘monumental changes’?”

She wants to engage students in larger conversations about public memory and the meaning of symbols. “My goal is not just for students to become stronger communicators, but for them to recognize their power as agents of change.”

The art of the picture book

In this course, students examine what makes a successful, modern illustrated book, said Angela Leeper, director of the Curriculum Materials Center.

“Many adults relegate picture books to bedtime, but when words and art are woven into a story, the effect can be beautiful, humorous, thought-provoking, or even subversive,” Leeper said. “Dealing with a variety of picture books, critical reading, and research leads to free writing, critical reviews, academic writing, project-based writing, and a marketing plan.”


President Hallock is back in the classroom as he begins his own second year as President of the University. Hallock’s course is designed to help students understand why people deserve what they deserve.

“Billions of people work and most of them get paid for it, but compensation goes far beyond wages and salaries and encompasses issues such as bonuses, contingent pay, benefits, working conditions and work-life balance,” Hallock said. “This course will tackle major societal issues like inequality by focusing on an issue that matters to most people: how we get paid.”

trauma and resilience

Psychology professor Janelle Peifer teaches a course that focuses on psychological trauma and how cultural lenses can affect the way people experience significant events that impact the way they see themselves, others, and the world.

“I think this seminar is perfectly coordinated after the pandemic,” said Peifer. “As a global community, we are grappling with the far-reaching impact of such an ongoing and significant mental health threat. I look forward to engaging students with an experiential approach to learning that combines theory and research with their real world implications.”

dances for everyone

Taught by dance professor Alicia Diaz, students on this course will explore how the performing arts can serve to explore issues such as inclusivity, equality and justice. For the first time, the dance department is offering a freshman seminar.

“We can engage with the basic elements of dance and theater to create awareness and understanding of many issues because movement is a universal language,” Diaz said.

Diaz is aligning this new seminar with another class taught by theater professor Patricia Herrera, which will focus on HIV, a disease that disproportionately affects communities of color, and the classes will collectively inform a documentary project.

Medieval England and France in conflict

This seminar, led by history professor David Routt, examines the political, socio-economic and cultural life of the Middle Ages.

“Students can engage in the process of reconstructing part of medieval English and French history by reading materials from the period and then comparing their conclusions with those of scholars who have written about the period,” Routt said. “The course is also attractive because it offers some lively, strong personalities for the students. Even better, there were interesting cinematic treatments of the period, both serious – The Lion in Winter, The Last Duel, Henry V – and bizarre, such as A tale of knights and parts of Monty Python.”

places go

History professor Carol Summers leads this course on the history of people who travel – and what you can learn from stories about those travels.

“Travelling places, observing, reflecting, and telling others about their travels has been an important part of how people learn and understand the world, both in the past and today,” Summers wrote in the course description.

“I hope that everyone who attends the seminar will be able to come up with some ideas about what’s possible, how to understand and ask questions, and some terribly good stories and ideas that provide examples of how things could always be worse,” Summers said. “The best stories are generally not about successes, but about surviving disasters. That seems like a context and mindset to learn from.”

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