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Your First Year

Course Descriptions

Fall 2019 FYS courses
FYS 101-10  Close to the Edge: Hip Hop Turns 40

Prof. Sufia Abdur-Rahman, English

Forty years after the Sugarhill Gang released the first commercially successful rap song, hip-hop still has to justify its cultural relevance and fight for recognition of its artistic contributions. But by addressing issues of race, class, gender, justice, self-perception, and community, hip-hop has literally changed the rhythm of American lives and how we’re perceived around the world. In this course, we’ll examine some musical and cultural contributions hip-hop has made since 1979 and why, as a genre, hip-hop continues to need to demand respect. After closely listening to the music, watching the videos, and reading criticism and academic articles, students will be able to question, research, analyze, and make their own arguments about why hip-hop remains at the edge of society. TuTh 10 - 11:15 am, Goldstein 107


FYS 101-11  Feminism and the #MeToo Movement

Prof. Jennifer Benson, Philosophy

In October of 2017 the project of preventing and healing from sexual assault went viral in the form of the #MeToo movement. The Me Too project had long been underway as community activism, especially activism undertaken by women of color working to address sexual assault and violence in the lives of children. In this course we will examine the feminist concepts that made the #MeToo movement possible and the ongoing effort to alter campus communities so as to prevent and heal from sexual assault. What do we mean by terms like oppression, sexual harassment, and rape culture? How has the Federal Title IX Policy made it possible for students to hold their colleges and universities accountable in the work to address and prevent harassment and assault? How can we be allies to those who are harmed in sexual assault and harassment? What must we do in order to promote healing? In this course we will examine the feminist foundations of the #MeToo Movement, the practical goals of the Movement, and consider how the #MeToo Movement may help us improve our own Washington College Community. TuTh 10 - 11:15 am, Smith 113

FYS 101-12  Consider the Tree

Prof. Benjamin Tilghman, Art & Art History

In many parts of the world, including the Eastern Shore of Maryland, trees are so common that people often don’t give them much thought. But trees also pervade our lives and culture in many ways, as crucial parts of the biosphere, as sources of raw material, and as symbols of ideas and institutions. In this course we will consider trees from many different perspectives, exploring how we can understand them better through such disciplines as history, economics, ecology, art history and anthropology. In the process, we will also explore the idea of a liberal arts education itself, developing an appreciation for how an interdisciplinary inquiry entailing careful reading, precise writing, and open dialogue can lead us to a richer understanding of any topic. MWF 11:30 am - 12:20 pm, Daly 106

FYS 101-13  Horror Films and Society

Prof. Alicia Kozma, Communication and Media Studies

This course introduces students to the key functions of college student life—reading, writing, notetaking, research, critical thinking, and cultural discovery—through an exploration of horror films and their relation to society. Utilizing U.S. and international horror films, we consider the social, cultural, historical, and political contexts of the horror film. Armed with these discourses as tools, students will unpack how horror films absorb and reflect collective social memories, traumas, and fears. Discussions topics include, but are not limited to: war, terrorism, social and political movements, the commodification of fear, and medical pandemics. By the end of the course students will have demonstrated facility around taking notes, reading critically and thematically, listening critically, source research, source citation, planning and managing research projects, oral presentations, and self-generated research. The course culminates with students completing a research project of their choice around any aspect of horror films discussed. Note: students in this class will watch a wide variety of horror films. TuTh 10 - 11:15 am, Goldstein 117

FYS 101-14  Monsters, Aliens and Superheroes: Pop Culture and Evolution

Prof. Martin Connaughton, Biology

This course will address common misconceptions or misuses of evolutionary theory in pop culture. Our approach will be, first, to learn enough about evolution that we can recognize when it is being misunderstood or misused. We will also learn the common misconceptions that often lead to erroneous conclusions or misuse of evolutionary theory. Second, we will examine the representation of evolutionary theory in science fiction, monster or superhero films and in some science fiction writing. What did these writers and directors get right about evolution, what did they get wrong and why? Finally, we will examine misunderstandings or intentional misrepresentation of evolutionary theory in other, nonentertainment aspects of current global culture, including politics, religion, and the presentation of other scientific advancements. How and why is evolutionary theory being manipulated by various groups and what angle or alternatives are they selling us? What have they to gain by misrepresenting evolution? TuTh 8:30 - 9:45 am, Daly 107

FYS 101-15  Storytelling

Prof. Dale Daigle, Communication and Media Studies

Storytelling is an essential and fundamental part of all human activity. From Homer to Harry Potter, from the Lascaux Cave Paintings to Instagram, from Mozart to Drake, storytelling is at the heart of all human communication. This course will examine storytelling through three lenses: 1) Historical: Why do we tell stories? Why has storytelling been an important part of every culture and civilization throughout history. 2) Structural: How are stories built? What are the essential pieces/elements that are a part of every effective story? 3) Performative: What are the performance techniques that make for good storytelling? Through papers, presentations, class interaction, and hands-on work, students will gain a critical understanding of the centrality of stories to our lives, and improve their own capacity to share the power of stories. MWF 12:30 - 1:20 pm, Gibson 204

FYS 101-16  Psychology’s Replication Crisis

Prof. Michael Dooley, Psychology

In recent years, numerous studies in the field of social psychology, including some classic ones like the Stanford prison study, stereotype threat, and power posing, have come under attack for difficulties replicating original findings. Replicability, a fundamental attribute of the scientific method, means that the results of a valid scientific experiment or study can be recreated by other researchers using similar tools or methods. Concern about the ‘replication crisis’ has quickly grown into a hot button topic, with media and academics debating the veracity of social psychological research. In this course, we will explore the controversy surrounding replication in social psychology. Students will explore why replicability is so important to the scientific method; delve into the questions, data, and arguments behind the controversy over replication; and learn key practices for sound research. TuTh 11:30 am - 12:45 pm, Goldstein 117

FYS 101-17  Schools on Film

Prof. Sara Clarke-Vivier, Education

Can a show like Glee really change the way students and schools think about singing (or sex education)? Did you suffer under a principal like Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull, or laugh at a beleaguered leader like The Simpson’s Principal Skinner? What does it mean when so many movies about teachers in inner cities depict white women as educators who save the day? This class provides an opportunity to think critically about the ways that classrooms, teachers, and students have been represented, misrepresented, or completely ignored in popular movies and television over time. By looking closely at these presentations, we can think about the way that popular culture shapes popular understanding about what does, can, and should happen in schools. By watching films and television, reading film critiques and social criticism and exploring visual culture studies we will begin to unpack how issues of sex, race, ability, class, and gender are transmitted through and reinforced in these visual mediums. Students can expect to watch, reflect, read and write on shared experiences, as well as to undertake and present on an independent research project. TuTh 2:30 – 3:45 pm, Goldstein 117

FYS 101-18  Becoming a Citizen Leader

Prof. Michael Harvey, Business Management

“Washington College,” declares our college’s mission, “challenges and inspires emerging citizen leaders to discover lives of purpose and passion.” But what exactly is a ‘citizen leader’? This course will explore this identity by connecting students with local citizen leaders in a wide range of areas (government, education, business, social service, environment, religion, arts, volunteering). Through research, interviews, visits, discussion, and collaboration, students will gain an understanding of the skills, tasks, values, and commitments of citizen leaders in our community. MWF 1:30 – 2:20 pm, Goldstein 117

FYS 101-19  Jane Austen and Fan Culture

Prof. Katherine Charles, English

Upon the two-hundredth anniversary of the author’s death, the Jane Austen brand has never been stronger: her novels and the literary tourism, fan fiction, film adaptations, and associated merch they inspire, together generate some hundreds of millions of dollars annually. How did Austen help create the modern novel? And what factors contribute to her novels’ enduring popularity and adaptability? This course will combine an intensive study of selected Austen’s novels (Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey) with a critical approach to the popular adaptations (Clueless, Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) that hook many of her new fans. MWF 1:30 - 2:20 pm, Smith 110

FYS 101-20  Ethics and Profits in Globalized Medicine

Prof. James Lipchock, Chemistry

Advances in modern medicine have led to more effective drugs and treatments, but the costs associated with these improvements can be prohibitive. As a result governments, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies need to make choices about which diseases to target and when to ration healthcare. These economically based decisions have dramatic ethical consequences that separate the rich from the poor and first world countries from developing countries. Through readings, documentaries, writing assignments and class discussions, students will investigate the money pipeline from consumers and the government to universities, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies and grapple with bioethical questions relating to the economic considerations of human life and which diseases are most important to cure. The process of designing, producing and marketing a drug, as well as the effectiveness and sustainability of healthcare models around the world will be discussed. MWF 9:30 - 10:20 AM, Toll S209

FYS 101-21  Food, People, and the Planet

Prof. Bill Schindler, Anthropology

Food: we all eat it, and without it we would die. But, have you ever stopped to consider how important food is to us beyond merely keeping us alive? Food is embedded within our culture; our food choices say a lot about who we are. The manner in which we select, prepare, and consume food is based upon culturally transmitted notions of taste, nutrition, social regulations, and religious meaning. This course will use food - and the many ways in which people utilize food for nutritional and cultural purposes - to better understand different societies throughout time and place. To accomplish this goal, students will make use of primary and secondary source materials from fields such as cultural anthropology, evolution, archaeology, and nutrition. In addition to group exercises, discussions, research, and writing assignments, the course will culminate in the preparation and presentation of a multi-course meal representing the research students completed throughout the semester. TuTh 10 - 11:15 am, Eastern Shore Food Lab 01

FYS 101-22  The Ethics of Humanitarianism

Prof. Carrie Reiling, Political Science

In the contemporary world, what is humanitarianism? What ethical and political considerations govern emergency and development aid? In this course, we examine and analyze the humanitarian phenomenon, the key actors (countries, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations), and the ethics of providing—or withholding—humanitarian aid. We will explore the history of international relief, competing logics of intervention, and key challenges and debates around issues such as sovereignty, neutrality, victimhood, and empowerment. Students will consider questions about what it means to “help,” how “need” is determined, and who decides, as well as their own responsibilities regarding humanitarianism. MW 2:30 - 3:45 pm, Goldstein 117

FYS 101-23  Genius: Deconstructing Intelligence

Prof. Emerald Stacy, Mathematics & Computer Science

Each year, millions of teenagers take standardized tests, aiming for a score high enough for college admission.  Colleges look at these scores, and hope that high scores are predictive of a student’s success in college, but what are we really testing?  In this course, we will deconstruct the idea of intelligence, and investigate how what “counts” as knowledge, and therefore learning, depends on the cultural context.  In particular, we will critique the concept of “Genius,” and explore how it is constructed through race, class, and gender.  Throughout the term, we will develop problem solving strategies through games and puzzles, and students will engage in personal reflection on their own journey as a learner, viewed through the lens of learning theories. MWF 12:30 - 1:20 pm, Lit House 01

FYS 101-24  Enemies, Terror, and Paranoia

Prof. Clayton Black, History

The modern world is a dangerous place, filled with threats both real and imagined. As if to compound that reality, modern societies seem to thrive on horror movies, murder tales, and representations of ghastly violence. What roles do enemies and terror play in the cultures of the modern world from the nineteenth century to the present? What are the connections between fictional representations of enemies, terror, and paranoia and the ways we perceive our actual world? This course will explore such themes through examinations of fictional works, films, and scholarly analysis. Students will hone their writing skills through a series of short papers and will give oral presentations based on original research. TuTh 8:30 - 9:45 am, Smith 110

FYS 101-25  The Science of Reality TV

Prof. Rebecca Fox, Environmental Science and Studies

This class explores the science and resource management behind popular reality television shows like the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch and Gold Rush and the History Channel’s Ax Men. These shows follow individuals who are making a living from the extraction or harvest of natural resources in the United States and around the world. These resources are limited and management regulations exist to minimize environmental harm and degradation. Ideally, these regulations are based on sound scientific research. In this course, we will delve into and discuss the science and regulations behind the resources featured in these shows, and we will critically assess whether the regulations are reasonable. Additionally, these shows will provide a platform for comparing the management of natural resources globally. TuTh 8:30 - 9:45 am, Daly 212.

FYS 101-26  Liberation

Prof. Emily Steinmetz, Anthropology

What is liberation? To answer this question, we must also consider the ways that we and other beings might be unfree. What imprisons us, individually and collectively? What are the barriers to freedom? In this course, we will explore some of the spiritual, physical, psychological, political, economic, and other dimensions of liberation. How are liberation struggles and liberation dreams rooted in histories of violence, inequality, and oppression? What can particular metaphysical traditions, like Buddhism and liberation theology, tell us about liberation and our deep interconnectedness? In addition to human liberation, we will also consider non-human experiences as we ask: Are humans, non-human animals, plants, and artificial intelligence equally entitled to liberation, and who gets to decide? We will draw from a variety of genres and interdisciplinary texts as we explore these questions and others. Washington College students enrolled in this FYS will have the opportunity to exchange their written work and collaborate on a project with incarcerated women who will be enrolled in a separate section of the course at a Delaware prison. These collaborations and exchanges will deepen our understanding of liberation as we consider the spatial (college vs. prison) and experiential perspectives that we bring to our inquiry. MW 2:30 - 3:45 pm, Smith 223

FYS 101-27  Imagining Leadership

Prof. Michael Harvey, Business Management

This seminar explores leadership from different perspectives, eras, and cultures—including ancient texts, literature, art, and modern scholarship. Through reading, discussion, field trips, interviews, movies, and creative artwork, students will develop their knowledge and critical thinking about the nature of leadership and the complex interactions between leaders, followers, organizations, and cultures. In addition to regular participation in discussion, students will undertake formal and informal writing assignments, conduct an interview, write a research paper, and make class presentations. MWF 12:30 - 1:20 pm, Goldstein 117

FYS 101-28  Exploration in the Age of Sail

Prof. David Wharton, Economics

Ever since the first humans gazed across an ocean and wondered what was over the horizon,  explorers have built ships, left the security of land, and set out on voyages in search of adventure and treasure.   From Columbus’s journey across the Atlantic to the voyages of Magellan to Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery, we will study their ships, their navigation techniques, their life on board ship, and the impact they had on indigenous cultures.   We will then look at the commercial sailing ships of the 18th and 19th centuries and the pirates and privateers that plagued them.  We will conclude with a look at more recent single-handed voyages including Joshua Slocum’s 1895-1898 journey around the world and Matt Rutherford’s 2011-2012 circumnavigation of the Americas.  Readings will include ship’s logbooks, first and second hand accounts, sea shanties, and scholarly articles. TTH 8:30 - 9:45am, Smith 113

FYS 101-30  Abroad: The Literature of Travel

Prof. Roy Kesey, English

There are as many reasons for writing about one’s travels as there are for lying about what happened out there. Students in this course will read widely across and deeply into the literature of world travel, beginning with the ancients (Herodotus, Abd-al-Razzāq Samarqandī, Ma Huan)and continuing on through the still-pretty-old (Daniel Defoe, Lady Montagu), the not-all-that-long ago (Mary Shelley, William Cobbett), and the moderns (Freya Stark and Robyn Davidson, among others). We will interrogate their texts to discover where they traveled, and why; what they fictionalized, and why; what they left out, and why. Students will hone their research, writing and public speaking skills, expand their rhetorical knowledge and information literacy, and develop their capacity for critical thinking through a series of student-led seminar discussions and short written assignments. In addition, each student will research, write, and present a paper on one travel writer chosen from the reading list. TuTh 10 - 11:15 am, Lit House

FYS 101-32  Writing Communitites

Prof. John Boyd, Education

In popular media, reading and writing are often portrayed as individual, solitary activities, but in fact, they are essential ways of connecting with others, forming communities, and getting things done. Working from that assumption, this class will explore the ways that acts of reading and writing shape both our individual identities and the social networks we participate in. Students will gain rhetorical concepts that are critical to understanding human communication, and they will apply those concepts by investigating the reading and writing practices of a particular group. The class will also serve as an introduction to academic research and will provide students with strategies for adapting to the context of our own academic community at Washington College. MWF 9:30 - 10:20 am, Daly 212

FYS 101-33  Fairy-tale Traditions

Prof. Katherine Maynard, World Languages and Culture

Many well-known characters in our favorite fairy tales—Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Beast—undergo dramatic transformations that fulfill, reveal, or transform their ‘true’ identity. But what about the fairy tales themselves? How do they change as they are retold and reimagined? What is the ‘identity’ of a story? What fragments of story, character, or moral insight endure, and what is wholly new or transformed? And how can we make sense of these transformations? Over the course of the semester, we will study different fairy tale traditions as well as contemporary fairy tale films in order to contemplate how and why fairy tales have endured—and been adapted to different cultural and historical contexts. We’ll consider the fairy tale from different disciplinary perspectives—through the lenses of literature, history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and science—to create paths of inquiry for research and writing projects that attempt to answer questions about the value and power of these tales and their transformations. TuTh 11:30 am - 12:45 pm, Daly 211

FYS 101-38  Dramatizing Discovery: Science and Math in Theatre

Prof. Laura Eckelman, Theatre & Dance

How do science and art fit together? What does nuclear physics have to do with memory? Does chaos theory have a place in the theatre? Over the last decade or so, intersections between science and art have become more and more prominent, and a new sub-genre—plays about science—has emerged. In this course we will explore theatrical works that incorporate science and mathematics in a variety of ways: as documentary content, thematic through-line, and even dramatic structure. We will examine plays both dramaturgically and scientifically, through discussion, research, presentation, and hands-on activities. By looking at each piece through these multiple lenses, we will develop a more nuanced understanding of the plays themselves and the genre as a whole, as well as broader insight into how science and art can inform and parallel each other. TuTh 1:30 - 2:20pm, Gibson 204