First-Year Seminars

First-Year seminars are designed to introduce you to a field of study by way of a special topic, issue, or problem of interest to you. You will have the challenge of exploring the course material in depth with a faculty member and a small group of peers. These topics are accessible to all students either with no prerequisites or with prerequisites first-years should have completed, such as the writing requirement. Limited to 15 students, these seminars will be reading and discussion-based with an emphasis on papers, projects, studio work, or hands-on field experience rather than exams. All of the first-year seminars are regular courses, worth either 3 or 4 credits, and most fulfill an FDR requirement. In some cases, these seminars may serve as a prerequisite or satisfy a requirement in a major.

More than three-quarters of first-year students at Washington and Lee fulfill their FDR FW requirement in WRIT 100, Writing Seminar for First Years. 24-26 sections taught by professors of Classics, English, Journalism, History, Religion, and Philosophy are offered annually in fall and winter. These Writing Seminars for First-Years emphasize the development of argumentative writing skills in topical courses  on a variety of subjects, from "Faith and Doubt" to "I See Dead People." See the course offerings for more information.

First-Year students who have been exempted from FDR FW because they have an AP Literature or Language score of 5 or an IBE score in specific areas of 6 or 7 should still consider taking a First-Year Seminar (though they should not take WRIT 100).  These FYS courses nearly always qualify for FDR credit (check the 5th column in the Course Listings).

First-year students may take both the Writing Seminar for First-Years (WRIT 100) and a First-Year Seminar, unless they have already fulfilled FDR FW as described above.

Please take this opportunity to review these exciting course offerings. For full descriptions of the seminars follow the links.

Spring 2016

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

FS: First-Year Seminar

BUS 180 - Straughan, Robert D. (Rob) / Oliver, Elizabeth G.

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Earth Lab

GEOL 105 - Knapp, Elizabeth P. / Mitchell, Euan C.

The emphasis and location of the study area differs from year to year. Most course activity involves outside field work with a series of multi-day to multi-week field trips. The primary goal of this course is an in-depth introduction to a particular region or field of geological study for introductory level science students. Information about the course is made available prior to the end of the fall term. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different but only four credits may be used toward major requirements.

Spring 2016, GEOL 105-01: First-Year Seminar: Earth Lab: Introduction to the Geology of Hawaii (4). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-Year class standing. Instructor consent required. An introductory study of earth science and the geology of the Hawaiian Islands.  Its purpose is to provide an unparalleled opportunity to observe a wide variety of geologic processes in action.  This course entails close interaction with the faculty and intensive study amongst the students during the term. (SL) Knapp.

FS: First-year Seminar

PHYS 180 - Khalifa, Moataz

A seminar for first-year students.

Spring 2016, PHYS 180-01: FS: Introduction to Nanoscience (4). First-year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing. An interdisciplinary introduction to the emerging field of nanoscience. The course covers a broad range of topics: fundamentals of nanoscience, self-assembled nanostructures with applications to nanomedicine, graphene, carbon nanotubes, quantum dots. Students discuss current and future nanotechnology applications in engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, and materials science, and gain experience in scientific writing, literature surveys, and improve their presentation skills. This course Includes traditional lectures as well as seminar-type workshops and "hands-on" lab projects using the scanning electron microscope and the thin-film lab on campus. (SL) Khalifa .

Winter 2016

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

FS: First-Year Seminar

ARTH 180 - Bent, George R.

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Fall 2015

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

General Geology with Field Emphasis

GEOL 100A - Rahl, Jeffrey M.

The study of our physical environment and the processes shaping it. The materials and structure of the Earth's crust, the origin of the landforms, the concept of geologic time, and the nature of the Earth's interior are considered, with special emphasis on field study in the region near Lexington. Laboratory course.

General Geology with Field Emphasis

GEOL 100A - Greer, Mary L. (Lisa)

The study of our physical environment and the processes shaping it. The materials and structure of the Earth's crust, the origin of the landforms, the concept of geologic time, and the nature of the Earth's interior are considered, with special emphasis on field study in the region near Lexington. Laboratory course.

FS: First-Year Seminar

HIST 180 - Stillo, Stephanie E.

Topics vary by term and instructor.

Fall 2015 topic:

HIST 180-01: FY: Fashion in Global History (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing only. This course uses fashion as a way to explore economic, social, and political changes throughout the globe from antiquity to the French Revolution. By placing clothing and ornamentation within its historic context, we explore how different peoples have used adornment as a marker of status, conformity, and resistance. Topics include: the historic demand for luxury, the role of ornamentation in empire and colonialism, and the way fashion contributed to modern globalization. This course also offers students the opportunity to engage sources about fashion in global history through digital humanities projects. (HU) Stillo. Fall 2015

FS: First-Year Seminar

JOUR 180 - Coddington, Mark A.

Fall 2015 topic:

JOUR 180: FS: The News About the News: Does Journalism Need Saving? (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing. We're living in the most chaotic period in modern journalism history. It' s a time of failure and fear, full of laid-off journalists and shuttered startups. But it's also a time of innovation and explosive growth, when brilliant ideas for new forms of news can go from seed to fruition in a matter of months. Everyone in the news business is asking the same pressing questions: Can journalism survive this frenzy intact? What will it look like? We dive deep into these questions in this course and take a close look at how the news industry got to this point, what the landscape looks like right now, and where things might be headed. Students leave this course with a keener sense of how the news they consume and interact with is produced, why that matters, and what role they can play in making it better. (SS5) Coddington.

FS: First-year seminar

POL 180 - Kemerli, Pinar

First-year seminar.

Fall 2015, POL 180-01: The Ethics of Citizenship (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-Year class standing only. This seminar is a thorough survey of the concept of citizenship, with a focus on its historical origins, ethical implications, and contemporary global challenges. We start with a historical overview of the origins of the concept of citizenship in classical Greece and continue with its historical developments. This introduction to the different historical traditions informs our understanding of citizenship--including the civic republican, liberal, cosmopolitan, and multiculturalist approaches--provides the background for the second part of the course where we turn to the applications of these approaches to concrete ethical dilemmas concerning citizenship in our societies. We examine a wide range of issues that raise important ethical and political questions concerning citizenship today including difference, inequality, poverty, immigration, and global governance. (HU) Kemerli. Fall 2015

Poverty and Human Capability: An Interdisciplinary Introduction

POV 101A - Brotzman, Kelly L.

An exploration of the nature, scope, causes, effects and possible remedies for poverty as a social, moral, political and policy, economic, legal, psychological, religious, and biological problem. The course focuses on domestic poverty but also considers poverty as a global problem.
Fall 2014:
POV 101A: FS: Poverty and Human Capability: An Interdisciplinary Introduction (3). First-Year seminar.

Poverty and Human Capability: An Interdisciplinary Introduction

POV 101A - Pickett, Howard Y.

An exploration of the nature, scope, causes, effects and possible remedies for poverty as a social, moral, political and policy, economic, legal, psychological, religious, and biological problem. The course focuses on domestic poverty but also considers poverty as a global problem.
Fall 2014:
POV 101A: FS: Poverty and Human Capability: An Interdisciplinary Introduction (3). First-Year seminar.

Brain and Behavior

PSYC 111A - Schreiber, William B.

An introduction to behavioral neuroscience, including the physiological bases of sensation, learning and memory, motivation, cognition, and abnormal behavior.

FS: First-Year Seminar

REL 181 - Marks, Richard G.

A seminar for first-year students.

Fall 2015, REL 181-01: FS: Perspectives on Death and Dying (3). A comparison of ways in which various religious traditions, as well as modern secular writers, describe and conceive of death and the meaning of life in the face of our human mortality. Students study scripture, poetry, memoirs, novels, essays, and film, and write a journal and essays. Includes several guest speakers and visits to a funeral home and cemetery. Note: Should not be repeated in the future as REL 213. (HU) Marks.

FS: First-Year Seminar in Sociology

SOAN 180 - Chin, Lynn G. (Lynny)

First-year seminar.

Fall 2015, SOAN 180-01: FS: Standing With and Against the Herd: Navigating the Treacheries of Expectations, Identities, and Hierarchies (3) . First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-Year class standing. This seminar explores the tension between our desire to achieve individuality versus our need to belong to a group.  It explores how similarity and differences in social identities can be used to create a sense of uniqueness, carve out status rank, and create conflict, but also lay a foundation for a sense of connection to others. The aim of this seminar is to help students appreciate the complexities of the group processes we encounter on a daily basis and start to understand the linkages between our micro-level experiences and more macro-level processes. (SS4) Chin . (Fall, 2015)

FS: First-year Seminar

WGS 180 - Bell, Melina C. (Melina)

First-year seminar. Topics vary with term and instructor.

Fall 2015 topic:

WGS 180: FS: Gender and Sport (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing. This course introduces students to the fields of feminist theory and women's and gender studies by acquainting students with key theoretical concepts of the discipline, while exploring how the social practices and representations of sport are influenced by the gendered social framework within which they occur. Through an interdisciplinary approach, students learn to use gender as an analytical tool that intersects in complex ways with other categories of social power, such as race, class, and sexuality, focusing on the domain of sport. A central aim of the course is to encourage students to think critically about the relationship between their identities and their participation in sports, academics, and other pursuits, and their experiences as women and men in contemporary society. (HU) M. Bell. Fall 2015