First Year Seminars

Student ImageThe First Year Seminar allows you to become a member of your new community in a dynamic environment and to experience intellectual life at the university level. Taught by professors with a passion for the subject and a passion for teaching, these courses are designed to encourage exploration of new ideas, examine a range of academic topics, challenge you to set high goals for your academic career, and promote a lifelong love of learning. First Year Seminars count as a core Liberal Studies requirement for all degree programs.  

Honor’s Credit

Many seminars can be offered for Honor’s credit with an individual contract.  Please talk to your advisor and instructor if you want to pursue this option.

First-Year Seminars: Spring 2015


BIO 190 – Mountain Biodiversity
10095 BIOL 190 01
Meets Wednesdays from 11:15 am - 2:05 pm, Spring semester 2015
*Required overnight field trip on the last Friday in April.
The southern Appalachians have an incredible richness of biodiversity. This course takes a broad approach to understanding the region’s animal and plant diversity through in-class discussions and projects, and field trips to the surrounding mountain habitats.  We will explore both terrestrial and aquatic habitats, the processes that may account for this tremendous biodiversity, and environmental issues of the southern Appalachians.   Near the end of this course we will spend a night at the Highlands Biological Station, an inter-institutional biological field station, located in Highlands, NC.If you enjoy learning about animals and plants and like to explore outside, then this is the first-year seminar for you.

BIOL 192 – Plant Diversity                                                                   
10096 BIOL 192 01
10097 BIOL 192 30 - LAB
Would you like to learn more about how plants grow, flower, and fruit so that you can grow your own plants successfully?  Have you ever wished you could identify the plants around you and know their nutritive, medicinal and other values? Have you ever wondered where the plants that are used to produce coffee, tea, beer, wine, aspirin, codeine, marijuana, and chocolate grow naturally, as well as how they are harvested and processed into the foods, drinks, and drugs that have changed human history forever?  If so, Plant Diversity is the first-year seminar for you!  Students in Plant Diversity rarely sit still: students are often outside, in the lab, or producing their own plant products.  This course can be challenging because a lot of information is covered in one semester; however, for those students with an interest in plants or the natural world, the knowledge and experience gained is worth the effort.


COMM 190 - A User’s Guide to the Mass Media                                                                        
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10935 COMM 190 02
An increasing number of media streams vie for your attention every day. But the messages may not always be as simple as they seem. Learn to read between the lines and recognize the what is going on in the background of all media.  Take a look behind the curtain to see how diverse motives, agendas and practices affect the media you consume.  See how that same media responds and reacts to pressures and trends from the listeners, viewers, and consumers.  Media and culture are bound together in an elaborate dance. This course will help you understand that dance and make you a smarter consumer of media.


CS 191 – How Does Software Work?
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How do computer programs create interactive websites, games, and many other types of applications? Learn through a programming experience. Students in some sections will learn to write programs in the Scratch programming environment, to create animations and games and others will learn to write programs in Javascript to create interactive web applications.  The ability to write software is a powerful tool that can be used for good or bad. Consequently, we will also reflect on the implications of software on society. For example, what restrictions on privacy are needed for safety from malicious software? Is initiating cyber-warfare ever justifiable? Are software patents encouraging innovation or not?


ENGR 190 - Technology Systems: How Things Work                      
10636 ENGR 190 01
ENGR 190 is an introductory engineering course for non-engineering majors.  This course provides an in-depth view of the engineering and technology that we rely on every day in every aspect of our modern life. Whether it is the digital SLR camera that takes breathtaking pictures of the Great Smoky Mountains in autumn, the Hubble Telescope offering views of the deepest portions of the universe, using Twitter, Skype, or smart phones to connecting you instantaneously to your family and friends anywhere in the world, the hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) that help you find your way when  lost on a deep mountain trail, or the pacemaker that save people’s lives, these innovative engineering advancements have become an integral part of our culture. Together, we will investigate where these technologies came from, how they work, and where they might take us in the future.   The course will also incorporate four hands-on projects ranging from making images from Hubble Telescope data of the deep universe to building and testing a medieval Trebuchet.  Advanced mathematics will not be required for this course.  The challenging modern topics will be presented conceptually and only basic math (some trigonometry and simple algebra) will be needed to complete the projects.  The focus will be on conceptual understanding, proportional reasoning, estimating, and graphical interpretation.  Verbal and written communication of scientific ideas will be emphasized throughout the course.


ENGR 199 – Introduction to Engineering Practice and Principles                                
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12297 ENGR 199 30 – LAB
12300 ENGR 199 31 – LAB             
Introduction to the engineering disciplines, curriculum, personal and professional development, teamwork, project planning, communication skills, and conceptual design engineering. This is a required class for all students considering majors in engineering or engineering technology.


ENGL 190 – First Year Seminar in Literature
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12361 ENGL 190 03
This course will examine reading and writing about literature, with an emphasis on human experience and values.
As an introduction to some facets of “English” as a discipline, this seminar will explore different ways that “home,” “family,” and “a sense of belonging,” are presented in short stories, poetry, essays, and film. For example, we will read Barbara Kingsolver’s 2001 collection of personal essays, Small Wonder, as well as Sir Thomas Moore’s 1516 fictional “novel,” Utopia. Short stories and poems by American and international authors, and films such as A River Runs Through It, The Joy Luck Club, and City of Joy will provide other views and perspectives in addition to an introduction to different literary genres. Further, the class will engage in experiential and service learning projects, such as doing a “Family Heritage” interview and oral presentation, learning about the history of Sylva and Cullowhee, and helping build homes with “Habitat for Humanity.” Students will do a variety of writing assignments, from literary and film interpretation to personal as well as researched essays.


ENGL 192 – First Year Seminar in Motion Picture Studies
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Reading and writing about motion pictures, with an emphasis on critical viewing practices. The final project will be a student-run film festival.


ENT 195 – Social Entrepreneurship: Innovative Solutions                   
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This course will introduce students to the concept of social entrepreneurship as a mechanism for individuals to develop innovative solutions to society’s most pressing problems. Whether is using football (soccer) to keep children around the world out of gangs, saving old growth forests by printing Harry Potter on recycled paper or saving or creating a new type of bank to address poverty in India, social entrepreneurs use their drive and passion to combat problems governments and industry have failed to solve (  This course is designed to help students explore their ability to create social change by developing an organization that is self-sustaining, delivering value and doing good. In this course, students will learn by doing. They will develop an initial, simplified plan for a new venture to address a significant social issue

ENVH 190 - From Black Death to Bioterrorism
10234 ENVH 190 01
This course uses current events to examine basic public and environmental health concepts as they apply to the average U.S. citizen; critical evaluation of various public health components such as environmental disease agents, radiation, chemical exposures, biological hazards (including potential bioterrorism agents), noise, air, water, and soil pollutants, and food safety; and, an assessment of the various ways that the public can be protected.


FIN 195-30 - You and Your Money
10725 FIN 195 01
Do you want to learn how to manage your money?  Then this is the course for you.  With good money management skills you will be able to budget your money each month, reduce expenses, set financial goals and control your debt.  You will learn the good and bad of credit cards and how to establish a strong credit score.  This course will also introduce you to topics about insurance, investing and making large purchases such as a car or house.  Having a sound grasp of money management will make your college experience much more enjoyable as well as help you in the years beyond college when you will be faced with many important financial decisions. 


LAW 195 – Contemporary Legal Issues: Law for Life                                       
10533 LAW 195 01                                                                                                      
The law is everywhere –on TV and in movies, in politics and current events, and in the fine print on everything from credit card receipts to websites. Every day the law impacts our individual lives and guides our conduct and decision making in our roles at school, in business, and in the community. In Law 195, emphasis is placed on exploring the legal issues of today, from understanding the right to privacy in a social media world to understanding how private legal organizations and alternative dispute resolution methods are supplanting more traditional legal systems to meet the needs of the global economy. Hands on activities will provide insights as to the development of legal systems and institutions, the application of  law to real-world situations and debate and discussion of contemporary legal issues.


MKT 195 – Facebook Generation: Marketing                                        
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Do you really want to be a Facebook "friend" with Wal-Mart?  Would you actually read up dates from Coca-Cola in your Twitter feed?  Few would argue that social networks have generated a tidal wave of change in the way people communicate and get information.  As a result, companies are often left bewildered, anxious and just plain frustrated as they deal with new approaches toward marketing, advertising and consumer behavior.  Oddly enough, insight into handling these changes is starting to emerge from an unexpected place -- ancient history -- and a possible link between the age-old process of "friending" in tribal societies and its budding equivalent in latest and greatest cutting edge communication networks.  This course will explore this exciting idea of linkages between human communications in past and present, bringing together ideas and activities from several camps of thought, including media theory, anthropology, communication studies and marketing.  Through this multi-colored lens, this seminar intends to shed light on why we typically avoid spam on our Facebook Wall, but at the same time are willing to embrace online relationships with some brands and companies.


MATH 192 – Fractals: The Geometry of Nature             
11393 MATH 192 01
Investigate basic mathematical principles behind fractals with connections to literature, art, science, and the general world.


MUS 190 – Women in Popular Music                                                                                       
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In this class we will investigate women’s and girls’ experiences as performers, fans, critics, and music industry professionals. Readings and class activities will highlight women’s and girls’ experiences during different historical eras. Regular listening assignments will include a variety of American popular music from the 1920s through the present day. We will approach the material chronologically, moving through different genres of American popular music (eg., blues, tin pan alley, girl group, folk, punk, etc.), as well as topically, addressing specific social issues that shaped women’s and girls’ lives and how popular music has been and continues to be implicated in these issues. From reading and listening assignments, we will examine and analyze the ways in which women and girls constructed their identities through music, how they negotiated power dynamics in political, social, and cultural situations, and how music establishes and defines generational and cultural affiliations.


ND 190 - Personal Nutrition                                                                             
12170 ND 190 70
How do I avoid the freshman 15?  What are the healthiest foods to eat on campus?  Should I still be taking vitamins?  Explore the answers to these questions and more, design your own personal eating plan (chocolate cream pie included) and discover how the foods you eat influence your appearance, energy level, health, and longevity. 


PSC 190 – First Year Seminar in Political Science
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This course will offer an intensive exploration and application of selected concepts, principles, theories, and modes of inquiry in political science.  As you make new discoveries, you will be encouraged to develop rigorous intellectual habits and participate in seminar-format discussion.



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