First Year Seminar (FYS) Course Descriptions

Augustana’s First-Year Seminar (FYS) is a two-semester program that serves to orient you to academics and campus life at AU.

FYS 110: First Year Seminar I (4 credit hours) MWF 10:40-11:50
These courses are designed to develop students’ abilities in writing, critical thinking, and information literacy through critical inquiry on a specific topic. FYS 110 courses also include an orientation component to help students adjust to Augustana and learn about resources and opportunities that are available. 

First Year Seminar Fall 2018 Course Descriptions:

FYS 110A Not at the Dinner Table: Discussing Religion and Politics
Emily Wanless (Government)
Two things people are told to never discuss at the dinner table are religion and politics. Not at the Dinner Table: Discussing Religion and Politics allows students to do both. Focusing specifically on the relationship religion has with the political world, this course will analyze topics such as religion’s impact on the development of our political preferences, presidents and the concept of civil religion, the influence religion and religious entities have on the legislative process, and Supreme Court case law on the 1st Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses.

FYS 110B Fecal Matters: A Critical History of our Global Sanitation Crisis
Daniel Gerling (English)
2.4 billion people worldwide have no access to a toilet; meanwhile, Americans flush more than 2 trillion gallons of drinking water down the toilet annually. Neither of these trends is sustainable, and we are at a moment of significant change. In this course, we critically analyze the social and environmental consequences of the way our culture and others treat excrement. Using essays, field trips, and interviews with engineers, authors, and activists, we examine various cultures at key historical moments when the role of excrement shifted—for example, from a commodity to a waste. We also consider the future of sanitation technologies and cultures.

FYS 110C War and Memory
Patrick Hicks (English)
Is there such a thing as “war literature” or would it be more correct to talk about literature that focuses on warfare? Are these narratives of violence, at their core, really just subversive “anti-war” statements that yearn for peace? In this class we’ll discuss what it means to go to war, what it means to cope with PTSD, and how writing can help with the healing process. What does it mean to be a veteran? What can a nation demand of its citizens? We will read novels and poems from various wars over the last 100 years, and in so doing we will explore the common (in)humanity among all soldiers—friend and foe alike.

FYS 110D Coming of Age in American Literature
Mitch Harris (English)
The coming of age tale, or bildungsroman, is a common motif in literary history. And growing up (or “coming of age”) is something that you, as a college student, are in the process of doing— leaving your family to embark upon your college experience and begin a life of your own choosing. In this course, we will examine literature that explores the continuities and discontinuities of various coming of age experiences in the United States. In turn, we will explore how these novels can help us reflect upon, and grow to understand, our own formative life experiences

FYS 110 E For Tradition's Sake
Ann Kolbrek (English)
Our world of progress offers all the modern conveniences one can imagine – from cars that govern themselves to cell phone control of our household appliances. But in this world of innovation, where does tradition fit? Companies like Ancestry.com remind us that knowing one’s heritage is back in fashion. Following trend, this course examines diverse traditions (e.g. familial, cultural, educational) and determines where is tradition’s place in a modern world. The works we read will help inform us of our own traditions and invite us to reflect on this peculiar space we occupy between remembering the past and embracing the future.

FYS 110F The Rise and Fall of Nations
Cory Conover (History)
What makes a country great? What factors cause the decay or even collapse of societies? To understand the dynamics of creation and destruction, this class analyzes examples drawn from history--including the Greeks, Romans, the British Empire, and Nazi Germany. We will think broadly to consider culture, economy, military, politics, and natural resources. With these lessons, we examine the present to assess the fates of nations today.

FYS 110H Fight the Power! Radicalism in American History
Matthew Pehl (History)
Radicals perceive injustices in the world, and they seek change—big change, systemic change, immediate and total change—to economic systems, political structures, human behaviors, and ideas about the self and society. But how does a socially conscious person seek to actually effect big change? What tactics or strategies are both ethical and effective? What outcomes would actually produce a better, as opposed to simply a more chaotic, world? And, given all the potential sources of injustice, where does one begin? This course will consider these questions through an exploration of the world of American radicals during the “Progressive Era” of the 1880s-1920s. At a time when capitalism, feminism, pluralism, spiritualism, socialism, and anarchism were all up for debate, American radicals struggled—more successfully on some issues than others—for a fairer future.

FYS 110I Cuba and the Superpowers
Pilar Cabrera (Spanish)
When Americans think of Cuba, they usually recall the Missile Crisis. And understandably so, since in those days of October of 1962 this seemingly insignificant island was the reason for a conflict that led the world to the brink of nuclear war. Cuba is a small Caribbean nation whose history has been shaped by several world superpowers: Spain, the U.S., and the U.S.S.R. A fourth superpower in Cuban history is its African heritage. This course explores Cuban history and culture in light of those forces, and ponders possible futures for the socialist island.

FYS 110J Get Lost: The Art of Wandering
Beth Boyens (English)
Wandering in the unknown has occupied minds of explorers, philosophers, artists, and writers for centuries, yet we are often expected to know exactly where we are going and how we will get there. In this course, we will consider connotations and social constructions of wandering, being lost, and purposeful traveling; orientation and disorientation; crossable borders and impenetrable barriers. Examining the writings of those who brave the wilderness, map the unreadable, lose themselves in the unfamiliar, and wander the landscape of the mind, we will ultimately explore what wandering and getting lost have to do with vocation, education, inquiry, and discovery.

FYS 110K Music Is Education
Larry Peterson (Music)
Numerous scientific studies have long shown how music education enhances the mastery of science, math, and reading for learners. This course will study the history and evolution of education in the United States and will focus on how best practices of music education are actually the best practices of all education, regardless of current trends. Particular focus will be on the constantly shifting educational approaches since the 1980’s that have attempted to turn around an educational system considered in decline and facing increased scrutiny and regulation.

FYS 110L Dying to Know: Dying as Personal Journey in a Social Context
Sue Schrader (Sociology)
“Death will come to thee, and to thee, and to thee, but not to me.” Sentiments like this cloud our understanding of and preparedness for the dying process and the inevitable...death. What constitutes a life “well lived” and how does the answer to that question shape the conversation about what constitutes a “good death”? Using readings, film, and field trips, this course will invite reflections on the personal, social, economic, ethical, and familial implications of how, when, and where dying occurs.

FYS 110M A Passage into India: a History of the Making of British India
Margaret Preston (History)
In 1877, Queen Victoria became empress of India, making it the jewel in the crown of the British Colonial Empire. India was important to Britain in many ways including militarily, economically and socially. This course will introduce students to India and focus on how the sub-continent became essential to the British Empire. In addition to understanding the story of India’s colonization, the course will look into how Indians responded to Britain’s increasing political control of their nation.

FYS 110N The Politics of Seeing
Anna Reich (Art)
In this section of FYS, students will develop their writing skills while considering the way we look at and interpret visuals. As citizens of a digital world, several thousand times a day we assimilate visual imagery at high speed. This course will investigate the complex dynamic between world and image in our visually mediated society. We will think critically about the sociological, historical, and cultural construction of our understanding of images and discuss topics as diverse as the censorship of social media, the emergence of selfies, the portrayal of violence, and the notion of the gaze.

FYS 110O Nevertheless, She Persisted
Heather Bart (Communications)
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Senator McConnell’s rebuke of Senator Elizabeth Warren ended with her official silencing. These words could just have easily been spoken to many women in the early days of the United States. This course examines the history of women’s rights movements from the middle 1800s to 1920 (suffrage). We will explore themes, rights sought, arguments for and against rights, and speeches from women in the movements. In other words, we study women who persisted. At the end of the semester, we relate elements of history to contemporary women’s rights issues.

FYS 110P Rhetoric, Life Experience, and the Social Fabric
John Bart (Communications) 
Human experience often calls forth public rhetoric. We will examine rhetoric’s role in creating the American social fabric. Examining Commencement Addresses, Eulogies, Declarations of War, and other rhetorical situations will allow us to discover common themes and values. We will look at rhetoric, how to critique it, create it, and learn from it. As you begin your educational journey, we will think about that journey’s purpose.

FYS 110Q Sasquatch Meets Science
Michael Nitz (Communications)
For centuries, countless people have “seen” a huge manlike creature in the woods of North America. Scientists dismiss these reports as nonsense and folklore. Nonetheless, a unique pop culture around Sasquatch has continued to flourish. Rejecting reflexive debunking and credulous belief alike, this course will develop strong intellectual practices in critical thinking, effective communication and information literacy as we study the practice of science communication surrounding this “mythical” beast.

FYS 110R HA! Laughter, Humor, Comedy
Richard Bowman (Religion)
Jokes, sketch comedy, stand-up comedy, late night comics, sit-coms, rom-coms. Comedy is an integral part of human life. Comedy can amuse and entertain but still offend. Laughter can wound as well as heal, condemn as well as commend. Humor can instruct, critique, and transform society. View, read, and think about comedy and comedians. Ha! FYS doesn’t get any better than this!!

FYS 110S What Does it Mean to be Human?
Stephen Minister (Philosophy)
This course will explore some of the fundamental questions of life with philosophers from Plato to the present day. What does it mean to be human? Why are we here? What matters in life? What’s our relationship to others, to society, and to the world? How should we live? We will study a variety of answers to these questions as we think through them deeply for ourselves.

FYS 110T The Philosophy and Science of Happiness
Leigh Vicens (Philosophy)
This course will involve an interdisciplinary exploration of happiness. We will attempt to answer such questions as: What is the nature of happiness? Can happiness be achieved? If so, how? What are the key elements to a happy life? Is happiness what makes a life worth living, or are there more important things we ought to pursue? Can we be mistaken about our own happiness? In seeking answers to these questions, students will study classic arguments in philosophy as well as contemporary research in psychology.

FYS 110U How To Make Your Ideas Clear: Thinking Like Plutarch And Cicero
David O’Hara (Philosophy)
This course is an introduction to the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plutarch, and the Roman Stoic philosopher and legal orator Cicero. Both philosophers wrote letters and essays about how to be good students: how to read well, how to listen to lectures, how to think clearly, how to remember complex ideas, and how to make persuasive speeches. This course will focus on these writings, examining their content and their context, with the aim of learning from Plutarch and Cicero how to listen, think, and argue well. In short, this is a course about how to succeed in school.

FYS 110V Put Me in, Coach: The Reality of Disability in Our Society
Matthew Johnson (Education)
This course will introduce students to a variety of readings and activities to promote the development of perspective-taking, critical thinking, and constructive discussion skills necessary to analyze the experiences of children and adults with varying abilities (e.g., autism, Down syndrome, and others). The focus will be on the process of formulating thoughtful, intellectually appropriate responses to difficult questions. This course will also help students develop their ability to use written and oral communication as tools of thought, analysis, and argumentation.

FYS 110W Myth in Movies
Rocki Wentzel (Classics)
This course will examine the way in which Greco-Roman myths, such as those of Pygmalion, Demeter and Persephone, and Orpheus, permeate film. We will begin with the hero’s journey in Star Wars and then look at direct adaptations of myths, such as Hercules and Clash of the Titans. We will finish with more subtle appearances of myth in films and TV, including Ex Machina, Room, and Stranger Things.

FYS 110X Mythbusters: Psychology Edition
Elizabeth Babcock (Psychology)
Will listening to Mozart make you smarter? Can you save time studying by listening to audiobooks while you sleep? What do your dreams mean? Are you left-brained or right-brained? Do men and women really communicate in completely different ways? Are subliminal messages by advertisers controlling which products you buy? Do some people really go crazy during a full moon? Do schizophrenics have multiple distinct personalities? This class will critically examine these and other myths of popular psychology. We will investigate where the myths come from, what evidence there is to support the myth, and ultimately decide whether the myth is supported or “busted.”

FYS 110Y Food Fights
Sherry Barkley (Exercise Science)
Diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are major health problems in the US and around the world. All of these can be affected by what we eat. Should we blame the fat in our diets? What about sugar or processed foods? Is there an advantage to organic foods? What about vegetarian, paleo, and other diets? Are there good foods? Bad foods? Who should be responsible for our food choices? Through readings, writings, and discussions, students will learn to critically evaluate the evidence surrounding the various arguments about what people should—or should not—be eating.

FYS 110Z Politics in Drama: The Moral Dilemma
Daniel Workman (Theater)
Does art imitate life or does life imitate art? This class will use four plays, including November by David Mamet and All the Way by Robert Shenkkan, to examine and analyze some of the moral implications of politics. We will seek to understand the point of view of the playwright and identify the major dramatic question in each work. We will use the current political landscape to compare and contrast the ideological, thematic, ethical, and moral standards presented by the playwrights, and to examine our own moral codes.

FYS 110AA The Curies, a Remarkable Family
Amy Engebretson (Physics)
Members of the Curie family were awarded a total of three Nobel Prizes in nuclear physics and chemistry. In addition to their scientific research, the Curies were very engaged in the world around them. They felt a deep civic responsibility to France and Marie’s native Poland. As we trace this remarkable family’s history, we will discuss the responsibility of scientists for the uses of their research, the effect of honors on research, the challenges faced by women scientists, the strength gained through family ties and other topics. We will also discuss the science behind the many discoveries of the Curies.

FYS 110BB Verdier: The Ideals by which We Wish to Live Our Lives
JJ Gohl (English)
Responsibility. Courage. Compassion. Honesty. Friendship. Faith. Persistence. As students begin their educational journey at Augustana, we will delve into the virtues and values that have guided individuals and communities throughout history. This seminar will highlight writings from Thomas Aquinas, William J. Bennett, the Dalai Lama, Krista Tippett, Henry David Thoreau, and Tim O'Brien. We will analyze how traits of good character fit with Augustana's five core values: Christian, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community, and Service. We will discuss how these values build a sturdy foundation and become a compass for the way we wish to live our lives.

FYS 110CC Prairie Roots: Discovering Heritage
Monica Lhotzky (Modern Foreign Languages)
The book Giants in the Earth will serve as the cornerstone of an inquiry into the prairie experience of our ancestors and into how that experience informs and influences the Midwestern identity. Students will research family ethnic identity and heritage as well as the geography of self.