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

Spring 2024

FYS 100-01 (20125) TTH 8–9:50 a.m. What is Native/Indigenous Art? (Lawrence)

This question drives the course focus on historic and contemporary visual and performance arts by Indigenous individuals and communities in response to colonial/settler societies. How do Indigenous People decolonize spaces? How does art allow for the reclaiming of Spaces? Identity? Cultures?

FYS 100-02 (20126) MW 8–9:50 a.m. Leadership Study Through the Biography (with just a touch of fantasy) (Kunkel)

This course will look at the dimensions of leadership primarily through the study of biographies and biographical portraits. The class will explore the 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 100-03 (20127) MW 10–11:50 a.m. Evaluating Headline News: Current Events and Political Controversies (Noh)

Media sources covering political news has expanded and diversified substantially in recent years. In addition to the traditional sources (newspaper, television, radio), online-only news, satirical news, social media forums, and other types of new media exist. In this seminar, we will explore current political events and global controversies regarding social movements, fake news, armed conflicts, and more. Students will read and watch a variety of news sources to study these issues from different viewpoints. We will also critically evaluate the degree of bias and prejudice in news reports. We will begin class by discussing current events, based on students’ postings and presentations, followed by assigned discussion questions or class activities.

FYS 100-04 (20128) MW 2–3:50 p.m. Coke is It! (Auger)

This seminar introduces students to the history of Coca Cola and its effect on national, international, and pop culture. Second only to ‘okay” as the most commonly understood word in the world, Coke’s brand has worldwide influence. Through film, Coca Cola’s website, and a textbook we will explore Coke’s responsiveness to changes in society from the patent medicine era to current concerns about the links between soft drinks and obesity.

FYS 100-05 (20129) MW 10–11:50 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 100-06 (20130) TTH 10–11:50 a.m. Exploring Wellness + Building Community at RIC (Pepin)

Wait. You’re telling me eating pizza at midnight and going to bed at 3am are not recommended in college?! We live in an age where health and wellness trends are broadcast daily - but we usually make choices on our own. This seminar is designed to investigate concepts of wellness and the culture of wellness at college. Through course readings, reflection, and class dialogue, students will jointly explore these ideas and co-construct a model of wellness to guide their college experience.

FYS 100-07 (20131) TTH 10–11:50 a.m. Collapse! (Gullapilli)

What happened to the ancient Maya? The Romans? The Mesopotamians? Why did these and other ancient civilizations “collapse”? Or did they? In this seminar we learn about these events and discuss the circumstances under which a variety of ancient societies underwent such dramatic changes. Along the way we will also delve into the question of whether or not collapse is inevitable – do all great civilizations eventually have to come to an end?

FYS 100-08 (20132) MTH 12–1:50 p.m. Hamilton Analyzed: History, Identity, Popular Culture, and Society (Miller)

This seminar explores the popular musical Hamilton for what it reveals about American society and our perceptions of history, identity, and popular culture. Students will examine various themes and issues raised by Hamilton, including how the musical shapes understandings of the history of the American Revolution, the impact of having people of color represent American “founding fathers” and the influence of Hip Hop as a musical genre in the play. An important theme will be the influence of Hamilton on how people think or experience issues of identity—as individuals, about gender, race, and ethnic identity, and about nationalism and national identity.

FYS 100-09 (20133) MW 4–5:50 p.m. Raid the Collections: Making Discoveries in Rhode Island College Collections (Barlow)

This course invites you to study an array of fascinating materials, including artifacts, art objects, and digital archives, from the collections of the James P. Adams Library. Together we explore critical approaches for thinking about material collections. You will have opportunities to conduct original research and develop fresh perspectives for the benefit of the RIC community.

FYS 100-10 (20134) MW 2–3:50 p.m. Language and Gender (Basile) ONLINE SYNCHRONOUS

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. Students 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 100-12 (20136) MW 4–5:50 p.m. The State Where You Live: Rhode Island’s “Secrets” (Schneider)

Have you ever asked why my street is named after a certain person? Why do some family names appear all over, for example, Williams, Slater, and Waterman? What do the old churches, buildings, or cemeteries in my town reveal about its heritage? This course exposes students collectively to the story of the smallest state in the union through its historic sites. These sites include Slater Mill, but also smaller museums and historic houses, which will be introduced through reading their literature, exploring their websites, and listening to presentations by on-site managers. Each student will have the opportunity to explore their home town or neighborhood for its history. This semester-long project will culminate in an oral presentation and a written report.

FYS-100-13 (20137) MW 6:00–7:50 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 100-14 (20138) MW 8–9:50 am 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 on a daily basis. 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 100-15 (20139) MTH 12–1:50 p.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 200-16 (20141) MTH 12–1:50 p.m. Building a “Balance of Stories:” Meaning Making from What we Carry (Donaldson)

Every day we move between people and places in our lives, carrying belongings and stories as we go: our phones full of photos; our fears down deep; our favorite talismans inked in skin. This seminar will explore the “things” we carry and how, where, and why we carry them. It will employ literary and media arts (writing, photography, audio production, and film making) to consider these ideas as they relate to the stories we know, tell, and are told. It will root this inquiry in a larger body of work that spans multiple disciplines (including literature, history, cultural anthropology, visual art, social work, and sociology) while consistently drawing on stories, storytelling, and the central metaphor of what we carry.

FYS 100-17 (20140) MTH 12–1:50 p.m. Coffee – Why do we love it?! (Ender)

What is it about the smell of coffee in the morning? What is it about the power of coffee at night? In fact, recent studies show that nearly 2/3 of people living in the US drink coffee on a daily basis. Beyond the US, over 2 billion cups are consumed every day. This seminar will examine cultural, historical, economic, and social perspectives into the popularity of coffee. Students will also have opportunities to interact with local community members who work with coffee. You do not have to be a coffee drinker; but if you are, this will be a course to be in!

FYS 100-20 (20833) TTH 2–3:50 p.m. Fried Brains (Hall)

The human brain is a complex orchestra of neurotransmitters, receptors and neurons. Chemicals can have a positive or negative affect on this orchestra. Drugs can be poisons and poisons can be pharmaceuticals. What makes this true? This question will be examined in light of current debates surrounding legal and illegal drugs.

FYS 100-21 (20834) TTH 2–3:50 p.m. Bill Nye the Science Guy, Norman Lear, Sesame Street, Elementary Education and Me. (Galvez)

An exploration of how we learn, and what we learn through popular television and film. Students will discuss the impact of media on how 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 100-22 (21324) MW 2–3:50 p.m. Exploring Cultural Heritage (Oliveira)

This seminar is about exploring the intersecting cultures that are part of the American cultural landscape, with a special focus on Rhode Island and Eastern United States. We will utilize genealogical tools and digital archives to place identity connections; research roots and heritages; identify languages and narratives of the community; and appreciate discovering and creating cultural objects and life stories.

FYS 100-24 (21634) MW 4–5:50 p.m.  Coke is It!  (Auger)

This seminar introduces students to the history of Coca Cola and its effect on national, international, and pop culture. Second only to ‘okay” as the most commonly understood word in the world, Coke’s brand has worldwide influence. Through film, Coca Cola’s website, and a textbook we will explore Coke’s responsiveness to changes in society from the patent medicine era to current concerns about the links between soft drinks and obesity.

FYS 100-25 (21663) TuFr 12–1:50 pm.  Health Communications (Bouchard)

This is a fun, interactive course designed to help you understand health communications today and recognize the impact of communication on the success and failure of health care in society. This seminar will provide you with tools for success in creative ways. You will become familiar with healthcare initiatives and learn to use scholarly resources to research, assess, critically analyze, create, and communicate information to different target groups.

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. Leslie Schuster​​.​​​

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.

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