First-Year Seminar

All students in the College of Arts and Sciences take a First-Year Seminar during the first semester developed around a particular topic. You register for the course that is of most interest to you. The purpose of the seminar is to help you improve your writing and presentation skills, while you learn to work in small groups and adjust to the expectations of college. At the end of the semester, you and your team present a final project to faculty, staff, students, and alumni, at the annual First-Year Seminar Symposium.

Fall 2022 First-Year Seminar Topics

The following First-Year Seminar courses (FYS 100P) are scheduled for the Fall 2022 semester.

Professor of English Bryan Sinche
TR 8:30 – 9:45 a.m.
CRN: 42590

Following the tumultuous summer of 2020, Americans of all racial backgrounds began to reconsider American history and confronted the problem of structural racism. Of course, for other Americans, those reconsiderations and confrontations have been going on for much longer. Whether you are new to thinking about these issues or have been thinking about them for a long time, in this class, we will use primary sources to consider two key questions: What has it meant to be white in America? And, what has it meant to be Black? Then, we will spend time talking about what it means to look toward a shared future while remaining cognizant of the past.

Assistant Professor of Psychology Wednesday Bushong
TR 9:55 – 11:10 a.m.
CRN: 42951

In this class, we will interrogate the assumption that there is only one correct way to speak English. We each express our identity (consciously or subconsciously) through the way we speak. In turn, we often use the way someone speaks to infer their identity and make judgments about them. We will explore language diversity in the United States, from bilingual communities, to regional dialect groups, to differences based on race, gender, sexuality, and economic class. Throughout, we will use public attitudes towards, and stereotypes about, these language groups as a lens for understanding American sociopolitical structure.

Professor of English Nels Highberg
TR 12:45 – 2 p.m.
CRN: 42593 

Since the late 1960s, more and more medical schools require student physicians to complete courses in the humanities; we will begin by perusing syllabi from medical school humanities requirements across the United States. Then, Prof. Highberg will orient the course around actual ethics cases he has used with first- and second-year medical and dental students at UConn School of Medicine, using them to examine humanistic perspectives on medicine from philosophy, history, literature, art, and jurisprudence, as well as interdisciplinary fields within gender, sexuality, and ethnic studies. Not just for future medical professionals but for past, present, and future patients as well (which is, like, kinda everybody). 


Associate Professor of Communication Branko Kovacic
MW 2:10 - 3:25 p.m.
CRN: 42600

Google has achieved consecrated status within the popular culture in the United States and many other countries. Google amplifies a belief that everything that is important is on the Web, and that all that is important to human beings can be achieved through information and communication networks. Google has become “the online Church of Google” that provides stability when everything seems to be in turmoil. And many of us have deep faith in Google. Why is it so? How did we live before Google? Were we better off? One way to answer these questions is to situate Google within a network of the four most powerful IT and communication companies in the world – Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. Another way to answer these questions is to situate Google within a networked culture revolving around spreadable media. We need to examine Google’s cultural impact by focusing on the tensions between the economic/commercial and the social/noncommercial logics of media content production and exchange.
Assistant Professor of Computing Sciences Sheikh Rabiul Islam
TR 3:35 – 4:50 p.m.
CRN: 42595

Do you want to stay ahead in the game of cyberwar? This seminar will examine multi-factor authentication, Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi safety, app security and privacy, oversharing and geotagging, phishing email, social engineering, imposter scams, “you’ve won” scams, healthcare scams, tech support scams, and identity theft. The use of Artificial Intelligence, by both attacker and defender, will be discussed along with advantages and disadvantages such as fairness issues with automated decisions and adversarial attacks. 


Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies and History Amy Weiss
MW 11:20 a.m. – 12:35 p.m.
CRN: 43719

How can literature inform our understanding of the American past? While fictional accounts (including short stories and novels) emphasize the use of the imagination, history instead relies on the interpretation of multiple sources to determine the truth. This course examines American literature, together with historical accounts of defining moments in United States history, to learn how fiction can teach us to empathize—and how non-fiction can help us reconsider our present and future.


Professor of Communication Sundeep Muppidi 
MW 11:20 a.m. – 12:35 p.m.
CRN: 42601

In this course students will explore the socio-cultural, politico-economic, and digital context of media audiences’ consumption of information, misinformation, and disinformation. In exploring the dynamics that determine such media consumption and subsequent social and political behavior, students will investigate various dimensions of the audience’s ability to distinguish factual and other information while understanding how search engines and algorithms guide media audiences down a rabbit hole and promote irrational and baseless fears of the unknown. The reasons why and how audiences populate and live in echo chambers without exposure to contradicting views and the impact on participation in a vibrant civil society will also be explored.

Professor of English Nels Highberg

MW 2:10 – 3:25 p.m.
CRN: 42596

EDM may seem like a twenty-first century genre with the popularity of superstar DJs such as Daft Punk, Calvin Harris, and Afrojack, and sold-out festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Zoo, and Sunburn, but there is not too much new about electronic dance music (EDM). In this cultural history of EDM, we will explore the roots, or history, of EDM by examining the twentieth-century genres upon which it has been built and the routes, or places, where EDM has been formed and transformed. Not surprisingly, this history is deeply related to the politics of race, gender, class, and sexuality, especially in the ways EDM has fluctuated between marginal and mainstream status.

Professor of English and Modern Languages Nicholas Ealy
MW 3:35-4:50 p.m.
CRN: 42592

What exactly is love and how have artists and writers explored and defined it? Why is it still a popular topic in movies, songs and novels? Can new love stories ever say something “unique” about this human experience? In this course, we will explore these questions by looking at a variety of literature, songs, artworks and films, all the while seeking to understand why love continues to hold a prominent place in cultural production. We will also give special emphasis to creative writing, academic writing and the work it takes to "think through" topics worthy of analysis and discussion.

Professor of Psychology Caryn Christensen
MW 3:35 – 4:50 p.m.
CRN: 42594

Every day we make countless choices, some which we later regret. Why did I buy that car?  Why does my friend continue to date that person? Why didn’t they sell that stock before it hit bottom? Decades of research in the psychology of decision making has helped us understand systematic biases in our thinking that impact the choices we all make.  In this seminar we will learn about these biases and explore strategies to, in the words of behavioral economist Richard Thaler, “improve decisions about health, wealth, and happiness.”

Assistant Professor of Biology Andrew Koob
TR 2:10 – 3:25 p.m.
CRN: 42597

The future impact of accelerating innovations in neurotechnology and connectivity has emerged as a fertile ground for the imaginations of writers, inventors, game designers and filmmakers. This seminar will explore examples from early cyberpunk literature, films such as The Matrix, and programs like Black Mirror to consider and compare the significance of these visions of cognitive manipulation. Students will also conceptualize and discuss possible threats or benefits of neuroscientific advances to the individual and society.
Assistant Professor of Politics, Economics, and International Studies Amy Schoenecker
TR 12:45 - 2 p.m.
CRN: 42599

This course will use the television series, Parts Unknown, by famed food critic and TV personality Anthony Bourdain, to explore conflict across the globe. Conflict is broadly construed in this course to include racial, ethnic, and religious conflicts; traditional war; guerilla war; and governmental abuse and corruption. Episodes may include racial conflicts/unrest in South Africa, Detroit, and the Mississippi Delta, religious conflict in Jerusalem, Punjab, India, and Senegal, and traditional war in Vietnam. We will tackle one new city or country per week.

Assistant Professor of Communication Deepa Fadnis
TR 2:10 – 3:25 p.m.
CRN: 43392

Hashtag activism builds public support for the rights of the oppressed and the underrepresented through social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Digital social movements such as #ArabSpring, #MeToo, and #Blacklivesmatter, for example, have allowed victims of human rights violations to disseminate their own accounts of their circumstances. In this course, we will read about digital movements around the world and discuss how hashtag activism has accelerated social change. Students will also explore issues related to the exploitation of social media networks by counterpublics to spread misinformation and regressive, sexist, white supremacist narratives.

Assistant Professor of Communication Goyland Williams
MW 9:55 – 11:10 a.m.
CRN: 44357

In this course, students will engage in the critical study of Black Power radicalism in the 1960s and 1970s and the ways that it has shaped African American political thought. We will discuss the ways that tenets of the Black Power movement's emphasis on state violence, police brutality, self-determination, respect, and a centering of a Black aesthetic have informed critical aspects of the Black Lives Matter movements. Using historical documents, autobiographies, speeches, critical essays, literature and film (documentaries), this course will assist students in understanding how the Black Power movement is pivotal to understanding our current struggles for social justice and how it continues to impact contemporary culture.


Associate Professor of Psychology Robert Leve
TR 11:20 a.m. – 12:35 p.m.
CRN: 42598

How do we know what we know? How do we understand our emotions? This course will provide an introduction to Complexity Science using information from the Santa Fe Institute, including an introduction to the computer program, Net logo. We will apply the models of complexity to understanding human cognition and emotion. We will also work on crucial college skills, including critical reading, writing, oral communication, and collaboration.