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.

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

Fall 2018

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

DCI 180 - Abdoney, Mary / Teaff, Elizabeth A.

A seminar for first-year students.

Fall 2018, DCI 180-01: FS: Black Mirrors and Digital Culture (3). First-year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing only. How do various web tools and platforms dictate how we interact with each other? Why do we use some platforms for personal reasons, others for coursework, and some for professional purposes? Is there one correct way to use the web? In this seminar, we critically examine social media platforms, information repositories, apps, and other tools to create personal understandings of how a tool or company's motive influences our personal use of information and how we interact with our community. Themes include online identity, privacy, democracy, and the academic web. We explore these topics through the lenses of inclusiveness, information bias, "Big Data", and social networks. The course culminates in a multimedia narrative, giving students hands-on experience with various web publishing and content management technologies. (HU) Abdoney, Teaff.

Foundations of Education

EDUC 200 - Sigler, Haley W.

An introduction to the issues relating to American public education in the 21st century. Students are introduced to information about teaching strategies and school policy upon which future courses can build. Emphasis is given to school efforts to create environments which promote equity and excellence within a multicultural system. Required for teacher licensure in Virginia. Fall Term 2018 : EDUC 200-03 is a first-year seminar and open only to first-year students.

General Geology with Field Emphasis

GEOL 100A - Rahl, Jeffrey M.

Preference given to first-years and sophomores . GEOL 100A: First-Year seminar, open to FY students only. 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. Laboratory course. Lab fee required.

FS: First-Year Seminar

HIST 180A - DeLaney, Theodore C., Jr. (Ted)

Topics vary by term and instructor.

Fall 2018, HIST 180A-01: FS: Uncovering W&L's Past HIST (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing. 180A-01 is a research seminar that will be reading and writing intensive, and focus on the African American past of W&L and other colleges. We will focus solely on archival research and the issues that eastern colleges have dealt with in reclaiming this past. (HU) DeLaney.

FS: First-Year Seminar

HIST 180B - STAFF / Michelmore, Mary (Molly)

Topics vary by term and instructor.

Fall 2018, HIST 180B-01: FS: Topics in European History (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing. (HU) Staff.

FS: First-Year Seminar

LIT 180 - Radulescu, Domnica V.

First-year seminar.

Fall 2018, LIT 180-01: FS: Modern French Theater and Film (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing only. An incursion into some of the most representative dramatic and cinematographic works in modern and contemporary France. Thematically, the readings and films focus on representations of love, romance, and the couple. Some of the playwrights studied include Eugene Ionesco, Yasmina Reza, and Erik Emmanuel Schmidt. Films by Francois Truffaut and Claude Lelouche, among others, form the cinema component of the course. (HL) Radulescu.

FS: First-Year Seminar

LIT 180 - Prager, Debra N.

First-year seminar.

Fall 2018, LIT 180-02: FS: Living by the Code: Honor, Love, and War in the Literature of the High Middle Ages (3). First-year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing only. An exploration of notions of honor and honorable behavior in European aristocratic culture of the High Middle Ages, as represented in literary texts of the 11th and 12th centuries. Students chart the transformation in court literature of the Germanic and feudal warrior (Hildebrandslied, Song of Roland ) into the chivalric knight (Arthurian romances), whose adventures are motivated by the quest for honor and the love for an ideal woman. We also study the ways in which warrior and courtly codes of conduct, the ethos of chivalry and courtly love, and conceptions of the feminine ideal were articulated, constructed, and critiqued. (HL) Prager .

Seminar in Metaphysics and Epistemology

PHIL 197 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2018, PHIL 197-01: FS: Animal Minds (3). Prerequisite: First-year standing. First-year seminar. This course explores the philosophical and scientific literature on animal cognition. It examines questions such as: Do rats laugh? Does the praying mantis have the concept of prey? Do primates exhibit rudimentary moral behavior? Do animals attribute "mindedness" to other creatures? Does animal cognition involve beliefs, concepts, and rationality? Can the study of animal cognition tell us something about human cognition? How do we investigate these kinds of questions scientifically? What role does philosophical inquiry play? We explore both the history of thought on animal cognition as well as the most current scientific and philosophical literature to arrive at our best current understanding of these issues. (HU) Cooper.

Brain and Behavior

PSYC 111 - Lorig, Tyler S.

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

FS: First-Year Seminar

PSYC 180 - Stewart, Robert E. (Bob)

Topical description when offered.

FS: First-Year Seminar in Sociology

SOAN 180A - Chin, Lynn G. (Lynny)

First-year seminar.

Fall 2018, SOAN 180A-01: FS: Health and Concept of Race (3). First-year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing only. A deep examination of how people think about what race is, and how societal conceptions of race affect people's health, whether health policy, health outcomes, access to healthcare, or relationship to the medical establishment. We tackle questions such as: What are different conceptions of race and what are some the institutions that socialize people into understanding what "race" is? Is skin color or ethnic predisposition to diseases like Sickle Cell Anemia indicative of a biological basis for race? Should race be used as a factor in medical diagnosis and is it an important factor to account for in medical research? What are some of the causes and outcomes of racial health disparities? Does race denote something inherently biological, cultural, or structural about one's ancestry, background, or lifestyle? In the end, students should be better able to articulate the complexities of that undergird racial disparity in health outcomes. (SS4) Chin.

Spring 2018

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.

Topics vary by subject and term.

Spring 2018, BUS 180: First-Year Seminar: International Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability (4). Prerequisite: FY standing and instructor consent. ACCT 201 recommended. Do corporations have an obligation to manage their social impact in addition to maximizing sales, profits and stock price? What happens when these objectives are in conflict with each other? This course seeks to explore the relative roles of businesses, not-for-profits, government and individual citizens in managing social and environmental impact. Significant time is spent exploring case studies and interacting with senior management of various companies. Recent examples include Carlsberg, Dr. Pepper-Snapple Group, Dunkin' Brands, Norden, Novo Nordisk, Pandora, Proctor & Gamble, Starbucks, and Unilever. The class culminates with two weeks in Copenhagen visiting numerous Danish companies and developing a group research project on a topic chosen by the students. The time abroad also includes cultural excursions to places such as Frederiksborg Castle and Tivoli, dinners with Danish families, a harbor/canal tour, and a closing dinner featuring New Nordic cuisine. Oliver and Straughan.

Earth Lab

GEOL 105 - Harbor, David J.

Preference given to first-years and sophomores. 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. Lab fee required.

Spring 2018, GEOL 105-01: FS: Earth Lab: Sand (4). First-Year seminar. A Jockey John Robinson Seminar. Prerequisite: First-Year standing. Sand is everywhere. It is between our toes at the beach, sweeping beneath us in rivers, and blown against us in stinging desert storms. And yet, this ubiquitous, ordinary substance tells incredible stories of plate tectonic upheavals, vast seas covering now-dry continents, and journeys through rivers, into inland deserts, and along ocean shores. This field-based seminar explores the origin and nature of sand, its journeys, and how geologists use observations in modern environments along with detailed microscopic and field descriptions of rocks to define the conditions of landscapes long past. Participation requires camping on eastern barrier islands, travel to the Colorado Plateau of Utah, and a healthy imagination. Most expenses are covered by the Jockey John Robinson Fund. (SL) Harbor.

Winter 2018

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.

Greek Literature from Homer to the Early Hellenistic Period

CLAS 203 - Crotty, Kevin M.

Readings in translation from Homer, Hesiod, the tragedians, the comedians, and the lyric and pastoral poets, including selections from Herodotus and Thucydides, and from Plato's and Aristotle's reflections on literature. The course includes readings from modern critical writings. We read some of the most famous stories of the Western world--from the Iliad and the Odyssey , to Milton's Paradise Lost and Joyce's Ulysses , via Virgil's Aeneid and Lucan's Civil War . All of these works are epic narratives, each presenting a different concept of the hero, and yet, at the same time, participating in a coherent, on-going and unfinished tradition. We consider such questions as the role of violence in literature; the concept of the heroic as it reflects evolving ideas of the individual and society; and the idea of a literary tradition.

FS: First-Year Seminar

DH 180 - Brooks, Mackenzie K.

A seminar for first-year students.

Winter 2018, DH 180-01: FS: Born Digital (3). First-year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-Year class standing only. This seminar explores the concept of "born digital" archives and our relationship to them as humans and scholars. The information that we create, consume, and communicate is almost entirely digital. Entire libraries fit in our pockets and every day sees 500 million new tweets of human expression. We now have constant access to a vast archive of human record - or do we? The average lifespan of a webpage is 100 days. Studies show that that 20 percent of academic articles contain broken links. How will future scholars understand our world of fragmented and fragile knowledge production and storage? Through discussion and lab time, students explore methods for studying and preserving contemporary culture and events. We examine issues related to the ethics of appraisal, privacy, digital obsolescence, under-represented communities, media studies, and collective memory. Students learn the basics of archival theory, practice, and technology in order to create a web archive of their design. (HU) Brooks. Winter 2018 and alternate years.

FS: First-Year Seminar

LIT 180 - Alon, Shir

First-year seminar.

Winter 2018, LIT 180-01: FS: Jinn and Ghosts: Poetry, Madness, and Memory in Modern Arabic Literature (3). First-year seminar. Prerequisite: First-year standing. Completion of FDR writing requirement (FW). This course traces the trope of the jinn in Arabic literature: from the place of jinn in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition, through their entanglement with poetic inspiration, to their reincarnation in modern works of literature. More specifically, we ask why do modern authors call up demons and resurrect ghosts, and what political and cultural work these beings, which are neither human nor divine, not quite living and not quite dead, are required to do. Consequently, we explore the manner jinn are latched onto modern debates on personal and collective trauma, memory, madness, relations between East and West (or North and South), political violence, gender difference, and virtual realities. (HL) Alon.

Greek Literature from Homer to the Early Hellenistic Period

LIT 203 - Crotty, Kevin M.

Readings in translation from Homer, Hesiod, the tragedians, the comedians, and the lyric and pastoral poets, including selections from Herodotus and Thucydides, and from Plato's and Aristotle's reflections on literature. The course includes readings from modern critical writings. We read some of the most famous stories of the Western world--from the Iliad and the Odyssey , to Milton's Paradise Lost and Joyce's Ulysses , via Virgil's Aeneid and Lucan's Civil War . All of these works are epic narratives, each presenting a different concept of the hero, and yet, at the same time, participating in a coherent, on-going and unfinished tradition. We consider such questions as the role of violence in literature; the concept of the heroic as it reflects evolving ideas of the individual and society; and the idea of a literary tradition.

FS: First-year Seminar

PHYS 180 - McClain, Thomas J. (Tom)

A seminar for first-year students.

Winter 2018, PHYS 180-01: FS: Re-creating Great Experiments in Physics (3). First-year seminar. Prerequisite: First-year standing. When thinking about the principles and equations of physics, we often wonder, "How did they come up with that?" Follow in the footsteps of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein as you re-create some of the greatest experiments in the history of physics and explore physics' biggest ideas by examining the lives and philosophical impact of its most illustrious pioneers. Students read about and discuss the historical context and philosophical implications of these experiments, re-create and iteratively improve upon their ground-breaking discoveries, and demonstrate their proficiency in critical and quantitative analysis through short, weekly writing assignments and a research paper. No background in physics or mathematics beyond high school algebra is required. Laboratory course. (SL) McClain.

FS: First-Year Seminar

POL 180 - Morel, Lucas E.

First-year seminar.

Winter 2018, POL 180-01: FS: Black American Politics (3) . First-year seminar. Prerequsite: First-year standing. This course explores the diverse political philosophies of influential black Americans as they sought to secure their dignity as human beings and rights as citizens. In particular, we examine the fundamental tension between human equality and government by consent, a tension present at the birth of the American Union in 1776. (SS2) Morel .

FS: First-Year Seminar in Anthropology

SOAN 181 - Thomson, Marnie J.

First-year seminar.

Winter 2018, SOAN 181-01: FS: Writing Africa (3). First-year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing only. Africa is the world's second-largest continent, comprising more than 50 countries, over one billion people, more than 800 ethnic groups, and almost 2,000 languages. This course provides a glimpse into the diversity of African people and cultures and focuses on some key issues contributing to an understanding of certain aspects of contemporary Africa. While we examine some of the more publicized aspects of Africa such as wars, aid and development, and HIV/AIDS, we also cover topics less readily associated with the continent such as hip hop, romance, and study abroad programs. (SS4) Thomson.