First-Year Seminar Descriptions

After reading the descriptions below, please return to the Advising Questionnaire to list which seminars interest you the most. Please note that the meeting time for all seminars is Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30-12:00.


ART 197F: Pirate, Princess, Prioress: Uppity Women in the Middle Ages (4 credits)

Despite the male-dominated society that Game of Thrones evokes, individual women in medieval Europe did exercise power as political and religious leaders, as artists and writers, as patrons of the arts, and as shoppers. This seminar will think about the lives of ordinary medieval women but will focus on the standouts like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hildegard of Bingen, and Isabella d’Este. We will be thinking about social history and art history, using tests and works of art from the Middle Ages, but we will also look at how medieval women have been interpreted in our own time in literature, film, and television. The core of our class will be student-led discussions, but following the ancient link between women and the textile arts, we will also spin, stitch and knit.

Instructor: Professor Nolan
Student Success Leader: Wibecka Oliver

ART 197F: Theories of Color: Beyond Red, Yellow, and Blue (4 credits)

Is the red you see the same color as the red I see? Why is red a primary color, and who decided, and when? In this class we’ll investigate the multiple conflicting theories of color and the social significance of particular pigments, from precious Lapis Lazuli blue to “mummy brown” (made from real mummies!) We’ll experiment in the studio with paint and pigment, we’ll encounter color as physical effect of light on our retinas, and we’ll discuss color as a philosophy composed of our biases and ideals.

Instructor: Professor Schweitzer
Student Success Leader: Madeline Hurley

COMM 197F: Analyzing Pop Culture (4 credits)

In this class, we will examine the nature and importance of popular culture. We will look at historical development of popular culture and focus on its creation through mass media. We will analyze media texts (e.g. TV shows, music, films) and their meanings and then examine our media consumption and responses to those texts. We will learn to interpret, evaluate and critique modern popular culture drawing on academic research, theories, and argument-building process.

The course hopes to examine popular culture by encouraging students to create their own critique of the culture. For example, students will be asked to present their own academic argument on the pop culture that is based on the rigorous process of academic research and argument building. Most importantly, we will be focusing on the structure of academic problem solving. We emphasize the importance of the structure that involves asking a question/stating the premise, making a response while supporting the evidence, and finally reaching a conclusion.

Instructor: Professor Bratic
Student Success Leader: Elizabeth Trout

COMM 197F: How to Watch TV (4 credits)

Have you watched any TV shows this week? According to the Nielsen Co., 18-24 year olds in the US watched between 17 and 20 hours of TV programming per week on average in 2014—even more if streamed content is included. We tend to spend less time thinking about TV viewing and production processes than we do actually watching, but the goal of this course is to challenge how you think about, talk about, and most of all, watch TV. How do viewers make sense of the flow of images?  How and why are audiovisual narratives created?  What are the ways TV is changing, and in what ways does it stay the same?  These are some of the important questions we will address.  You will learn about the aesthetics and visual grammar of television productions, how these are shaped by the television industry, the effects of television on individuals and society, and the effects of changing technology on the TV industry and our viewing experience.  In the process, you will also sharpen your oral presentation skills and learn how to produce “live-on-tape” television in our multi-camera television studio.

Instructor: Professor Richter
Student Success Leader: Emili McPhail

ECON/ES 197F: Incompatibles? Economics, Nature, and Globalization (4 credits)

This seminar offers students an opportunity to learn basic principles of economics and to understand the interaction between economics and global environmental distress.

Students will encounter cross-discipline approaches and the execution of tasks in a team environment. Finally, the course gives students an opportunity to learn the very basics of how to conduct scholarly research. Group discussions and team presentations based on assigned readings are the regular learning catalysts. Experiential learning through a short day trip to a state park and a think tank in Washington, D.C. will help students sharpen their presentation and oral communication skills.

Instructor: Professor Hernandez
Student Success Leader: Andrea Guerra

ES/INTL 197F: Consuming French Culture (4 credits)

Food is a window into the culture and values of any society, and for the French, food and culture are inseparable. Their passion for food is reflected in literary works and in luminous paintings which record an appetite for life, food and conviviality. Whether whipping up a savory quiche or creating a canard en croûte, the French are feverishly passionate about their food. What was French cuisine like before bœuf bourguignon, coq au vin and molecular cuisine? We explore the idea and reality of French cuisine through critical reflection on menus, recipes, cookbooks, cooking shows, restaurant guides, culinary history, film, cooking and tasting. The goal of this seminar is to develop a cultural perspective on the French connection to food, on the socio-economic conditions that made cuisine French, and on recent food issues. What is the French paradox?  Is French baguette dying? Is French cuisine losing the race for excellence? Who are the celebrated women chefs in France today? We examine France’s complex relationship to food and the enduring importance of the culinary in French culture. Discover how terroir, the geographical characteristics of an area, or as a food critic once said, “location, location, location” contributes to the cuisine of each region. This class is a virtual (alas!) gastronomical excursion across France and a celebration of the French culinary landscape; however, we will cook and eat together and hopefully plant our own vegetables or herbs!

Instructor: Professor Sampon-Nicolas
Student Success Leader: Kayla Deur

ENG 197F: Your Life and Middlemarch (4 credits)

Middlemarch: A Story of Provincial Life (1871-2) describes a world far removed from 21st century America. Set in a small English village in the first part of the 19th century, the novel opens with the story of Dorothea Brooke, who, like all of you, is on the verge of a new life. While the options available to Dorothea are very different from those of first-year students at Hollins, the questions she asks resonate for all of us. We will move slowly through the eight books of this novel, reading carefully, responding to the choices Eliot’s characters make, and reflecting on the ways this powerful novel helps us understand our own lives.

This seminar serves as an introduction to the study of literature, to college-level writing, and to the life skills that will support your success. We will draw on feminist theory, cultural studies, history, psychology, and religious studies as we work to understand what Virginia Wolf called “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.” As members of this seminar, you will develop your skills as writers and thinkers, participate in experiential workshops, and become part of a community of women committed to supporting and challenging each other.

Instructor: Professor Pfeiffer
Student Success Leader: Mandy Moore

HIST 197F: What is a Nation? (4 credits)

Though the division of the world into nation-states may seem natural, this form of identity and political organization is a relatively recent development. In this course, we will explore the “nation” as a distinct type of community and form of identity. When, where, and why did the concept of the nation first emerge? How do nations secure the loyalty of their citizens? Why are people willing to die for their nations? How do nations determine who belongs and who doesn’t? What is the relationship of nationalism to revolution, war, and violence?

The course will begin with a general exploration of terms and concepts (nation, nationalism, patriotism, citizenship, etc). We will use a case study approach and explore the emergence and development of nationalism in specific contexts, drawing especially on primary sources, from speeches, laws, novels, and memoirs to films, paintings, and propaganda posters. Individual research projects will help students further develop their ability to read and analyze primary sources and to make persuasive, evidence-based arguments.

Instructor: Professor Nunez
Student Success Leader: Lauren Earley

HIST/CLAS: Rome and Shakespeare (4 credits)

Historians both establish facts about the past and interpret those facts: what do they mean?  Which facts are significant?  One of the most sensitive and perceptive interpreters of Rome’s history is Shakespeare; and Rome provided Shakespeare with some of his best source material.  We will read, view, and discuss Shakespeare’s four Roman plays (Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus) coupled with study of the relevant periods of Roman history (early republic, late republic, late empire).  The goal is both to study ancient sources and their transformations and also to see Shakespeare as an interpreter of Roman history for the page and stage.​

Instructor: Professors Franko and Leedom
Student Success Leader: Amelia Verkerk

HUM 197F: (The) Passion for Power and the Power of Passion (4 credits)

Power and passion are forces that have led human beings to act in extreme and extraordinary ways throughout history.   While the feats of powerful and passionate men abound in the annals of history, many of the women whose actions are no less impressive have been written out of the so-called “official story.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in patriarchal and third-world societies where women who have had a thirst for power or who have overstepped the rules for passion have been silenced, ostracized, imprisoned, or killed.   This course will focus on a number of extraordinary women in Latin America who have, without receiving due credit, changed the course of history with their passion for life, love, and power.

  • Did you know that there was at least one female conquistador? Inés Suárez, lover of conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, was feared by the indigenous tribes of Chile for her fierceness in battle and loved by her people for her commitment to building a nation based on freedom and equality.
  • Or, did you know that behind Simón Bolívar was a fiery and passionate woman named Manuela Sáenz? She has been all but written out of the history books because of her outrageous lifestyle, but her actions led her to being named the Liberatress of the Liberator for having saved Bolívar’s life on more than one occasion.
  • Have you ever heard of Camila O’Gorman? Her love affair with a parish priest led to the ultimate downfall of the Argentine dictator Manuel de Rosas.
  • You have all heard of Evita Perón, but did you know that her passion for power continues to influence people from beyond the grave?

In this course, you will learn about these extraordinary women and many others who, through strength of character, have managed to live freely and defy the rules of their day.   We will study their lives through novels, movies, articles, and music. Do you have what it takes to become a passionate and powerful woman? You do not need to have studied Spanish to take this seminar. Open to anyone who is intrigued by power and passion!

Instructor: Professor Ridley
Student Success Leader: Pavithra Suresh

INTL 197F: Science Fiction, Politics and Society: A Critical Introduction (If you think this universe is bad, you should see some of the others.) (4 credits)

The American Astronaut Mae Jameson once commented that, “Science fiction helps us think about possibilities, to speculate – it helps us look at our society from a different perspective.” In this class, students will critically engage and analyze texts of visual science fiction (television and film). Students will learn tools of critical analysis used in cultural studies and sociology and apply them to works of science fiction and fantasy. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to develop their own creative works of science fiction to present to their classmates. The course takes popular science fiction seriously as a location for students to engage issues of contemporary politics and society. For example, how are issues of race/class/gender/sexuality portrayed in The Hunger Games? What does Gattica suggest to the viewer about issues of medical ethics and genetic testing? What does Blade Runner suggest about issues of human rights and cybernetic beings?

Instructor: Professor Bohland
Student Success Leader: Taylor Walker

MATH 197F: Games, Puzzles and Logic (4 credits)

Games, puzzles and logic provide us with much pleasure and enjoyment. In this seminar, we will analyze problem solving strategies and determine which games do and do not have winning strategies. We will consider games and puzzles of Martin Gardner (his puzzles appeared in Scientific American for 30 years), Sam Lloyd (Game of 15) and Raymond Smullyan (Knights and Knaves), as well as present day board games (Blokus), card games (Set, Blackjack), and newspaper favorites (e.g. Sudoku, Kakuro, and Cryptograms). Along the way, we will work at strengthening our problem-solving abilities and learning how the analysis of puzzles and games can lead us to important ideas in logic, mathematics, and brain development. Come and join the fun!

Instructor: Professor Diefenderfer
Student Success Leader: Caileigh Bravo

MUS 197F: Girls in Pink Tights: An Exploration of Women on Broadway (4 credits)

Do you sing, dance, or act? Love musical theatre? Write plays or scripts of your own? This is the seminar for you! We will be studying women on Broadway from multiple angles. On one hand, we will delve into the portrayal of female characters and archetypes, as seen in both historical and present-day productions. On the other hand, we will explore the actual women involved in the creation of live Broadway theatre as actors, directors, choreographers, producers, designers, and more. We will review scripts, study musical scores, take a closer look at notable Broadway women, and even sing a few songs. As an “o” course, students will spend time developing speaking and presentation skills, culminating in a final project and oral presentation.

Instructor: Professor Wahl-Fouts
Student Success Leader: Kendra Davis

PHIL 197F: Biff! Bam! Kapow!: The Philosophy of Superheroes (4 credits)

Have you ever found yourself chasing after a runaway bus full of schoolchildren while your evil arch-nemesis threatens the life of your beloved by dangling her from a rooftop? If so, you just might be a superhero. In this class, we’ll consider thorny philosophical questions by looking at how they arise in the lives of superheroes. We’ll scour comic books, TV shows and movies to find stories of superheroes that address questions of good and evil, moral responsibility, personal identity, the relationship between the individual and the state, human nature, and what it takes to be a superhero. We’ll learn how these questions also apply to the lives of ordinary individuals, and we will explore special bonus content: Supervillains!

Instructor: Professor Gettings
Student Success Leader: Erin Bragg

PSY 197F: (The) Creative Brain (4 credits)

Why do our brains yearn after beauty and truth, as if they are all we know on earth and all we need to know?” Nancy Andreasen, 2005.

Ancient cave paintings show that humans have been creative for thousands of years. What underlies this basic and distinctive human ability? This course will examine the nature of creativity and how the brain reacts to and produces creative works. We will explore different definitions of creativity and create our own. After covering basic brain structure and function, we will then explore the relationship between the brain and the creative process. Among the topics we’ll be covering are: “Your brain on music”, “Visual arts and the brain”, “The dancing brain”, and “Eureka! Scientific creativity.”

We will be reading original research articles as well as more popular works such as Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. In class, along with lecture and discussion, we will be doing hands-on activities such as interviewing creative people about the creative process and measuring our own creativity. You will have the opportunity to conduct research on a topic that interests you and to present your findings to the class, as well as to write a paper on your topic. Along the way, we will learn guidelines on how to give oral presentations competently, how to locate research literature and use the information effectively, and how to critically assess different types of evidence.

Instructor: Professor Bowers
Student Success Leader: Emily Dodson

THEA 197F: Mythbusters (4 credits)

Have you ever wanted to see if a myth was really true? This seminar explores the science and ingenuity necessary to identify, solve, and present findings on whether or not an urban legend or myth is true or false. Through required readings and using the popular television series, Mythbusters, as an example, students will be presented with a series of myths or urban legends and be required to prove them true or false by using the scientific method. Students will also be required to design and build, with instructor approval, small-scale experiments to prove their findings using the scene shop in the theatre. Students will then present their findings to the class in an oral presentation, as well as submit their research, findings, and conclusions in a research paper format for each myth.

Instructor: Professor Forsman
Student Success Leader: Rachel Harris