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UNIV 197

First-Year Seminar

This course explores an interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary topic, with an emphasis on reading, class discussion and writing. Topics vary. Open to first-year students only.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1 course

Fall Semester information

Gregory Schwipps

197A: FYS: Sense of Place: Writing and Photography in the Local Landscape

Walk into the world of Greencastle in this class about sense of place. Examine a community that will become your home for the next four years. Learn about this county, its history, its people, its landscape and how it has been shaped over time. And learn about yourself, as you try to make sense of this new world, as well as the worlds you have left behind. Where we live shapes us. Our daily journeys define us, whether we walk through cornfields or back alleys. What we see in the living landscape on a daily basis forms how we see the world in general, and in turn how we function.

In this class, use your pen and a camera to craft your own vision of what you find in your new home. Dig deeply into your own heart and mind to reflect on your new community. Test your previous assumptions about identity and the Midwest. Take to the streets to speak with the people who actually live here, photograph the landscapes in front of you, and examine your own emotions. Shed your previous landscape for a new one.

What is home? How do we find home? What is the difference between a space and a place? Through photography and writing, students will engage with the community of Putnam County, their new "home" and explore some of the questions above. This course will offer students a foundation for their college career, preparing them to engage with a community rather than merely live in it.

Students will need a digital camera. A 35 mm Digital SLR is preferred, but a point and shoot or smartphone camera is acceptable. Some cameras are available for check out. Please contact Professor O'Dell if you have questions about a camera. Some good choices can be found here on this website.

Photography Lab Fee- $125.00
Printing Costs= $20.00

Tiffany Hebb

197B: FYS: All the News That's Fit to Print: Reading the New York Times

The New York Times is often referred to as "the paper of record" in the United States. Whether you ever pick up a hard copy of the paper or not, you will find yourself occasionally reading articles via links on social media, or through assigned readings by professors in other classes. In this seminar, we will examine the way news is published in the New York Times, and inquire about the messages and meanings in the content, and the power wielded by such a dominant publisher. As a result, you will become savvier consumers of content from all the media that you're inundated with daily. We will write about our opinions and the ways we interact with the stories we read, and you will have the opportunity to focus on a particular subject of interest, as it's reported in the New York Times.

Glen Kuecker

197C: FYS: City Lab: Complexity Thinking and the City

City Lab-Complexity Thinking is designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of complex systems theory. You will learn key concepts, such as feedback loops, thermodynamics, resilience, overshoot, oscillation, emergence, collapse, panarchy, and disruptive properties. You will apply complexity thinking to the study of 21st century urbanism through your participation in a research workshop called City Lab ( During Fall 2016 the workshop is focusing on Habitat III (, which is a 20-year planning agenda that will launch in October 2016. Students will apply their learning about complexity thinking in a research topic of their choosing about Habitat III and 21st century urbanism. By the end of the semester students will have gained facility with complexity thinking, gained insights to the challenges of 21st century urbanism, and will have undertaken a college level research project.

Tamara Pollack

197D: FYS: Dante's Journey from Hell to Heaven

What is justice? What do freedom and moral responsibility mean? What is the nature of good and evil? Does love really make the world go round? Why do we create art? Should art have an ethical and educational value? As human beings, what is our potential for virtue and vice? How do we face death and loss? Most importantly, what is happiness, and where does our quest for it lead us?

These are a few of the questions posed by Dante's "Divine Comedy," an epic poem about the regions of the afterlife which has captivated readers for the last 700 years. With the opening line -- "Midway along the journey of our life" -- we as readers are invited to make this journey along with the author: this will not only be his discovery, but ours as well. From the fiery Inferno, up the steep mountain of Purgatory, and through the luminous spheres of Paradise, this voyage also becomes an interior quest into the meaning of being human: its frailties, its capacity for good, and above all its power of transformation.

In our readings and class discussions we will discover what Dante himself thinks about these questions, and we will also learn about the medieval world-view that helped to shape his poem -- a world that is radically different from our own, yet an integral part of our heritage. We will follow Dante's lead and think about what it means to be a solitary voice as a reformer and social critic, taking an uncompromising look at contemporary society. We will also consider why the "Divine Comedy" continues to fascinate writers, artists, and filmmakers today, as we reflect on how some of our contemporary ideas and values are shaped by a medieval legacy.

Jeff Gropp

197E: FYS: Liberty and the Role of Government