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.

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.

FS: First-Year Seminar

BIOL 180 - Toporikova, Natalia

Topical description when offered.

Fall 2015 topic:

BIOL 180: FS: The Networks Within: The Architecture of Living Systems (3) . First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing. Biological systems often include complex interactions with each other. A branch of mathematics called graph theory has been recently used to describe such interactions. In this course, students learn basics of graph theory and its application to analysis of biological systems such as spread of diseases, food webs, cellular pathways, and neuroscience. (SC) Toporikova. Fall 2015

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. No credit for students who have completed GEOL 101. Offered on occasion as a First-Year Seminar. Contact the instructor for additional information. Laboratory course.
GEOL 100A: FS: General Geology with Field Emphasis (4): First-Year Seminar .

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. No credit for students who have completed GEOL 101. Offered on occasion as a First-Year Seminar. Contact the instructor for additional information. Laboratory course.
GEOL 100A: FS: General Geology with Field Emphasis (4): First-Year Seminar .

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

LIT 180 - Pinto-Bailey, Ana C. (Cristina)

First-year seminar.

Fall 2015, LIT 180-02: The Female Self and Society: Latin American Women Writers (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-Year class standing. This course presents a historical overview of Latin American women's writings, from the early 1900s to the present day. Students read, discuss, and analyze literary works by some of the most important Latin American female authors, among them Victoria Ocampo (Argentina), María Luisa Bombal (Chile), Clarice Lispector (Brazil), Elena Poniatowska (Mexico), and Julia Alvarez (Dominican Republic-U.S.). We study all literary genres--poetry, narrative fiction, essay, drama. In order to further students' understanding and appreciation of Latin American women's writings, the class views and discusses movies by Latin American women directors and/or based on the lives or works of Latin American women writers. (HL) Pinto-Bailey .

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.

Fall 2015, PSYC 111A-01: FS: Brain and Behavior (3). First-Year seminar. Prerequisite: First-Year students only. Lorig

FS: First-Year Seminar

REL 180 - Marks, Richard G.

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Fall 2015, REL 180-01: First-year Seminar: Travel, Mythic and Modern (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing. What is travel? How does travel change people? When can we call travel religious? And when we study travel, what questions should we ask? We address these issues by learning theories about what happens when we travel, and by studying some of the journeys of mythic heroes from various cultures (such as Odysseus, Moses, the Buddha, Rama of classical India, and the Chinese trickster called Monkey), of shamans and pilgrims, of modem non-religious travelers (such as Darwin, Nellie Bly, and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness), and then of "new-age seekers" and religious tourism. This discussion-based seminar raises questions about both "religion" and "travel" and challenges the usual meanings. (HU) Marks. Fall 2015

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.

FS: First-Year Seminar in Anthropology

SOAN 181 - Gaylord, Donald A.

2015 Fall SOAN 181-01: FS in Anthropology: Discovering W&L's Origins Using Historical Archaeology (3) . First-year seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing. An introduction to the practice of historical archaeology using Liberty Hall Academy and our ongoing excavations there as a case study. With archaeological excavation and documentary research as our primary sources, students use several software packages common in the archaeological sciences and approaches from the digital humanities to analyze our data and to explore the range of questions and answers that these data and methods of analysis make possible. Hands-on experience with data and its analysis is the focus of this course, with students working together in small groups deciding how to interpret their findings about the University's early history to a public audience. The final project is a museum-quality display of our research installed on campus. (SS4) Gaylord.

FS: First-Year Seminar

THTR 180 - Levy, Jemma A.

First-year seminar.

Fall 2015, THTR 180-01: First-Year Seminar: Scum and Villainy: A History of Theatre through the Characters We Love to Hate (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-Year class standing. This seminar examines the idea of villains and villainy as it is reflected in dramatic literature. Through readings and discussions, we come up with our own ideas about how the significance of villains has changed over time -- sociologically, historically, psychologically, and as a source of entertainment. We look at the ways theatre history both reflects and affects changes in our ideas about "bad guys". A combination of frequent shorter writing assignments and two longer papers allow students to hone their writing skills while reflecting on larger questions of good and evil. (HA) Levy.

Spring 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.

FS: First-Year Seminar

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

Spring 2015 topic:

BUS 180: First-Year Seminar: International Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability (4).  Prerequisite: FY standing and instructor consent. This course travels to Denmark and examines the debate regarding the roles of business, government, not-for-profits, and individual members of society in balancing the economic and social consequences of commercial business activities.  This topic is especially relevant in light of a range of recent events including environmental catastrophes, the global economic crisis, and corporate scandals.  Students look at a range of businesses and industries, both in the US and Denmark, to compare and contrast what firms are (and are not) doing to simultaneously maximize both traditional business outcomes and social impact.  While in Denmark  considered to be one of the most progressive countries in terms of sustainable business, students will visit several firms for first-hand conversations with managers about the challenges of leading sustainable businesses. Tentative visits include a pharmaceutical firm, health care equipment firm, beverage firm, and professional services firm. Additional cultural trips will be included as well.  Oliver and Straughan.

Science of Cooking

CHEM 155 - France, Marcia B.

The course will build upon the foundation developed in CHEM 154.  Lectures will focus on the biological structures of more complex food organisms such as meat, fruits, vegetables, and eggs, as well as the chemical reactivity involved in cooking and spoilage.  Lectures will also include more in-depth discussions of these chemical processes.  Instruction at an Italian cooking school and visits to local food production facilities will supplement the classroom work.  The course will take place on location in Siena, Italy for four weeks. CHEM 154 must be completed with a grade of S in order to fulfill FDR SL credit with CHEM 155 .

FS: First-year Seminar

PHYS 180 - Mazilu, Irina

Spring 2015 topic:

PHYS 180: 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) I. Mazilu. Spring 2015 and alternate years

Winter 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.

Introduction to the Science of Cooking, with Laboratory

CHEM 154 - France, Marcia B.

Graded Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. This course serves as the foundation for CHEM 155, providing an introduction to the structure of molecules as well as their inter- and intramolecular interactions, with an emphasis on those species of importance to food and cooking. Chemical reactivity as it relates to cooking, food preservation, and spoilage is also discussed as are methods of heat transfer. Each meeting consists of a one-hour lecture and a three-hour laboratory. The lecture is devoted to gaining a thorough working knowledge of the basic concepts of structure and bonding, particularly as these relate to the important food molecules. Chemical reactivity and methods of cooking are also discussed. The laboratory consists of demonstrating chemical principles using food- and cooking-related experiments. Students who receive an Unsatisfactory grade may not continue to CHEM 155, but they remain liable for their committed course costs. Laboratory course with fee.