First-Year Seminar (FYS)


As part of the General Education Program, we are proud to offer all first-year students the opportunity to explore in depth academic topics selected by professors representing a variety of disciplines

Acclimating to RIC and Academia

These First-Year Seminars (FYS), limited to twenty students each, are designed to provide an introduction to the academic world and to our community, and to help students advance with confidence as Rhode Island College scholars.​

First-Year Seminars

Fall 2023 (as of 4/11/23)

FYS 100-01 (10101) MW 8 - 9:50 a.m.  Self, Mind, Heart in Eastern Philosophies (Shogenji)

There are deep differences between Eastern and Western understandings of self and related concepts such as mind and heart. This course examines how self, mind, and heart are viewed in Eastern philosophies, and explores implications of these views in goals of life, moral conducts, and social relations. Eastern philosophies to be examined include Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism, and the concepts in these philosophical systems are studied in comparison with their Western counterparts.
FYS 100-02 (10102) MW 4 - 5:50 p.m.  Star Wars and Theory (Hawk)

Since the late 1970s, Star Wars has been a pop-culture mainstay, and new Star Wars media make it clear that the franchise is still very much alive. But as its prominent place in culture would suggest, Star Wars is more than merely entertainment. This course asks students to hone their critical thinking skills by combining analysis of Star Wars material (films, television shows, and other media) with an introduction to critical theory. Students will come away with a broad foundation in cultural studies as well as a new appreciation for the power of the Force.

FYS 100-03 (10120) MTh 12 - 1:50 p.m.  Narrative Power: Stories about Stories  (Boren)

Stories are integral to our lives, our fields of study, and our workplaces. This course looks at the many ways we tell stories and the stories that our told to us. We will challenge our ideas of story, explore the structures of stories, and consider how different fields of study use narrative. 

FYS 100-04 (10103) TTh 2 - 3:50 p.m. The Rhetoric of Toxic Masculinity (Michaud)

Toxic masculinity has been defined as a set of behaviors exhibited by men, but really it’s an outcome. It's the personality or self that emerges in boys and men after years of being taught that emotions like fear and sadness must be suppressed, that violence signifies power, and that an appearance of stoicism and strength must always be projected. The main question we will explore in this class is: Who is teaching boys and men to behave in these ways, and how are they doing it? In our search for answers to these questions we’ll examine the rhetoric of toxic masculinity through representations of boys and men in film, literature, and popular culture. The term ‘rhetoric’ refers, simply, to the ways we as humans are persuaded to believe in certain ideas or to become certain kinds of people. As we work to make sense of the rhetoric of toxic masculinity we’ll strive, ultimately, to imagine better and saner ways to be a man in the 21st century.

FYS 100-05 (10104) MW 2 - 3:50 p.m. Language, Gender, and Social Identity [online synchronous] (Basile)

This course will explore the concept of gender as a social construct, and how men and women use language to reflect cultural expectations of masculinity and femininity. It will analyze a variety of materials that illustrate how we perform our gendered identity through language and provide a critical discussion of theories of this interdisciplinary field of study. 

FYS-100-06 (10105) TTh 4 - 5:50 p.m.  Talkies and More: The Social Context of Cinema in the United States (Chaudhuri) 

In Talkies and More: The Social Context of Cinema in the United States we look at some recent Hollywood films and how their storytelling is relevant to an American way of life in 2023. Based on a select list of films, concepts including but not limited to race, gender, social class, crime and deviance, globalization (among other themes) will be addressed in class. In the process we try to figure whether films are pure entertainment or a medium that plays an important role in how we perceive society.

FYS 100-08 (10107)    TTh 8 - 9:50 a.m.  Technological Design and Innovation (McLaughlin)

Technology! We are surrounded by it, but do we understand it? Technology is one of the greatest liberating forces in human history. We are consumers of technology without equal, but we have a certain lack of knowledge about the materials and processes used to make the things we use daily. During this seminar, we will research historical technological design and innovations that make our lives better. The class activities will require us explore the processes of innovation and invention, designing, prototyping, and building simple products. This course will contribute to our understanding of technology. 

FYS 100-09 (10108) MW 6 - 7:50 p.m.  Performance in First Person: This is ME! (Pennell)

You are a Primary Resource!  Your life stories and experiences are unique, interesting and exciting.  This class will explore a variety of methods of journaling, personal narrative/memoire writing and storytelling.  It will also involve theatre exercises and methods for presentation.  No text required.

FYS 100-10 (10109) TTh 10 - 11:50 a.m.  Sun, Wind, and Earth: A Greener Future (Padmanabhan)

This course will take you through the concepts of energy consumption, its connection to economic progress and the environmental consequences. We will learn about the science and technology behind renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal energies. You will also learn how math-tools such as graphs and charts can help us better understand the world around us. Throughout the semester, you will work with your peers to identify issues, analyze data, formulate relevant questions, and engage in the process of developing solutions.

FYS 100-11 (10110) MTh 12 - 1:50 p.m.  Class Matters (Schuster)

Americans don’t like to speak about or recognize social class. For some, the topic raises resentments or defenses. Others see differences between people as solely a matter of taste and choice and believe mobility and success is open to everyone. But we all have been raised in a social class that to some degree has shaped our expectations, opportunities, values, and life chances. We only need to think about the people around us (or the Kardashians, the immigrant woman who collects aluminum cans in the PC neighborhood, Donald Trump) to see that social class plays a role in our opportunities and attitudes. Class is a largely hidden system and lens that shapes our experiences and responses to the world. In this course we will investigate class – the representations of rich and poor in popular media, the impact of social and economic structures, and the connections to opportunities, identities, values and expectations. It is always eye-opening and interesting and gives rise to great conversations.  Whole Foods or Price Rite?

FYS 100-12 (10111) MW 8 - 9:50 a.m.  Leadership Studies Through the Biography (Kunkel)

This course will look at the dimensions of leadership primarily through the study of biographies and biographical portraits. The class will explore qualities of various leaders though online sources, print, and media. For final projects, students will conduct research as well as read a biography of their choice and share portraits of their subject based on their original research.

FYS 100-14 (10112) TTh 10 -.11:50 a.m.  The Art and History of Chinese Writing (Kim)

How and why did ancient people in East Asia start writing? What did they record on animal bones, bronze vessels, and bamboo slips? How can we read and decipher the messages from ancient East Asians? In this seminar, students will examine the origin of characters in East Asia, learn the evolution of characters and writing methods, decipher ancient records, and practice Chinese calligraphy with brush and ink to fully understand the history and art of Chinese writing.     

FYS 100-15 (10113) TTh 2 -.3:50 p.m.  Entertainment-Education: Popular Media and Education [in person] (Galvez)

Bill Nye the Science Guy, Norman Lear, Sesame Street, EE and Me. An exploration of how we learn and what we learn through popular television and film. Students will discuss the impact of media on how we learn and what we learn. Dominant themes associated with early childhood development, health communication, and social justice, as portrayed by popular media, will be examined. 

FYS 100-16 (10114) MW 10 -.11:50 a.m. "¿Dónde está mi gente?": Latinx Culture in the U.S Taught in Spanish (Ramirez) 

This course is an invitation to explore, celebrate, question, and reimagine Latinx culture in the U.S. We will discuss novels and songs, films and telenovelas, works of art and memes. We will read and debate about what it means to be Latina/o. Or is it Hispanic? Or Latinx? We will learn about Latinx history. How did Latinx people arrive in the U.S.? Did they arrive? We will also tell stories, hear stories, and reflect on the powers and limits of storytelling. Finally, we will talk about the future, about the challenges and opportunities lying ahead for la comunidad latina.   

FYS 100-17 (10115) TTh 8 -.9:50 a.m.  Shock Therapy: Drama as Action (Abbotson)

Throughout history, rulers have viewed the communal opportunity offered by theater as a dangerous form of communication, and have striven to censor anything perceived as threatening the social order. Students will explore socio-cultural boundaries enforced and broken by drama from the Greeks to contemporary works, as playwrights provoked attention toward a variety of inequities and wrongs. Protest drama is by its very nature shocking, but can it go too far, does it still work, and can we create some of our own? Requirements include active participation in discussion, class presentations, an independent research assignment, a short paper (3-5 pages) and a final group presentation.

FYS 100-18 (10116) MW 10.-1.1:50 a.m. Exploring Cultural Landscapes: Placing Power, Symbolism, and Identity (Dixon)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words; the same visual literacy that is used to understand, analyze, and critique pictures is needed as we examine places. Places manifest power, symbolism and identity. We will evaluate what the cultural landscape that a society creates says about it, and how public spaces are used to shape communal identities. In this course, students will explore symbolism and meaning embedded in cultural landscapes, both everyday places close to home and internationally iconic landscapes.   

FYS 100-19 (10117) MW 8.-.9:50 a.m. Sex Rights, Sex Wrongs (Edelman)

When it comes to sex, sexuality, and even gender, how do we know what is ‘right’ versus what is ‘wrong’? The legal system, our families, schools, and our communities all have a hand in telling us what we are to think about or do with our bodies. In this course we explore how gender, sex and sexuality‐specific ideologies shift and morph over time, as well as how they broadly impact and structure our lives in important ways. We will explore these complex topics through a diverse selection of theoretical and ethnographic texts as well as through films, art, and graphic novels.

FYS 100-20 (10118) MW 2 - 3:50 p.m. Health Communications (Connolly)

This course was set up as a fun, interactive course, designed to help you understand health communications today and recognize the impact of communication on the success and failure of meeting health care needs.  It will provide you with learning tools for success in an interactive and creative way. We will read, write, discuss, role play, and orally present scenarios in health care to become better advocates. You will become familiar with health care initiatives and will learn how to use scholarly resources to research, assess, critically analyze, create, and communicate information to different target groups in health care.   

FYS 100-21 (10119) MW 2 - 3:50 p.m. Evaluating Headline News: Current Events and Political Controversies (Noh)

In this seminar, we explore current political events and controversies in the US and around the world – such as migration, war, race, gender, democracy, and more. We study these issues from different viewpoints by reading and watching a variety of news sources, including but not limited to traditional media, social media, and online forums. We also critically evaluate the degree of bias in the news.

Program Information

What is FYS?

First Year Seminar is part of Rhode Island College's General Education Program, and is a required class for all first year students at the College.

What makes First Year Seminars special?

First Year Seminars provide you with a great opportunity to explore a fascinating subject with a full-time faculty member and a small group of your classmates. The class size (no more than twenty students) and intensity of the work fosters lasting connections with faculty and other students. Plus, you get to hone academic skills crucial to success at college and beyond.

What can I expect to do in my First Year Seminar?

  • Explore the academic world. Read the most recent scholarship on a topic. Join others in addressing topics from disciplines across the College.
  • Connect with scholars. Work closely with other first year students and a full-time Rhode Island College professor. Make connections that can last a lifetime.
  • ​Expand horizons. Pose questions, identify solutions, and communicate your newfound knowledge to others.

Are there specific academic skills that I can expect to polish in this class?

In your First Year Seminar, you will sharpen skills that will be crucial in your studies at the College, and in your life beyond: critical and creative thinking, effective oral and written communication, group collaboration, and the ability to research efficiently and ethically.

The FYS topic I’m interested in seems pretty advanced.  Are you sure that that I am qualified to take the class?

Each First Year Seminar is designed for students with no previous knowledge in the field. So, for example, if you are interested in a physics based class, but have no background in physics, have no fear. The class will be designed to provide whatever introduction is necessary for in-depth discussion.

When do I have to take FYS?

All First Year Students (those entering the College with 23 or fewer credits transferred from another college) must complete a First Year Seminar in one of their first two semesters on the campus.

What if I am a second or third year RIC student?  May I still enroll in a First Year Seminar?

Unfortunately, First Year Seminars are only open to first year students. If you are interested in a particular topic, please feel free to contact the professor to see if she or he will be looking at similar material in other classes.

Who do I contact if I have any other questions?

Please direct any questions to the First Year Seminar Coordinator, Dr. Maureen Reddy, at​​.​​​

Where can I get academic help?

Do you have other questions or concerns?

Please direct any questions to the First-Year Seminar Coordinator, Dr. Leslie Schuster at

About FYS

This innovative and important program is designed to introduce first year students to both the challenges of academic engagement and the pleasures of belonging to the RIC community of scholars. We hope that students will remember their First Year Seminar course as one of the most important classes in their college careers.

FYS 100 is an opportunity for faculty members to pursue a personal interest or passion that may or may not be directly connected to their usual areas of academic expertise or pedagogy. Professors are encouraged to think creatively to construct projects and experiences so that students will not merely be the recipients of knowledge, but will be actively engaged in the learning process. Because the course is open only to first or second semester students, the instruction should be targeted at that level, and cannot assume prerequisite skills or knowledge.

First Year Seminars should:
  • Engage students in academic conversation
  • Offer students opportunities to work collaboratively with others
  • Guide students in constructing academic questions
  • Introduce students to college-level academic writing and speaking
  • Help students begin to learn how to evaluate all information critically, including its sources and authority; to recognize quality of material or point of view; and to respond to quality of material and/or point of view
  • Provide incoming students with academic role models
  • Establish standards of academic behavior and college expectations
  • Teach skills and introduce Rhode Island College resources organically throughout the class as they become relevant
  • Provide support for the transition from high school to college
  • Encourage connections among the students, with faculty, with the College, and with the broader community
FYS should NOT:
  • be dominated almost entirely by lecture
  • be online or hybrid courses. (Blackboard, however, may certainly be used as a tool for student engagement)
  • be introductions to a discipline or a survey of a field
  • use exams, whether mid-term or final
  • require "term papers" or other lengthy, research-based essays
Teaching First-Year Students: 

While developing the course, professors should remind themselves that these students are inexperienced with the academic world, but that they are very excited about being a part of it and are willing to work hard to succeed. Some may see the College as a place for a fresh start, where they can develop skills with which they may have struggled in high school. FYS is designed to channel that excitement into an active and informed participation in academic discourse. At the end of the First Year Seminar, students should feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for tackling a rigorous class successfully.

Course Format and Assignments: 

Creative assignments, including field experiences and assignments that make imaginative use of technology or ask students to engage in service, are welcomed. Professors should be aware of their own pedagogical strengths, and centralize those strengths for this class. Each FYS course should be designed to introduce students to the General Education Outcomes listed below, with assignments and activities designed to help students begin to master these outcomes. Help and advice are available both from the First Year Seminar Coordinator and from the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL).

General Education outcomes associated with FYS: 

All the outcomes should be considered at the introductory level. So, for example, for the research and information literacy outcome, FYS is following the example of First Year Writing and focusing on helping students to understand that research is an iterative process. In FYS, students should begin to learn how to evaluate all information critically, including its sources and authority; to recognize quality of material and/or point of view; and to respond to quality of material and/or point of view.

  • Collaborative Work
  • Critical and Creative thinking
  • Oral Communication​
  • Research and Information Literacy
  • Written Communication
Rhode Island College entrance

First-Year Seminar Coordinator