The First-Year Seminar Program offers courses across a wide range of disciplines and topics.

Enrollment is limited to a small number of first-year students, and the courses emphasize active, collaborative, and creative learning. Courses may fulfill specific distribution and/or major requirements.

The following courses are available during the 2015-2016 academic year.

ARTH 164  - First-Year Seminar: Women Making Movies

Women started making films at the same time as men did in the 1890s! Did you know that the first person to use close-up shots in film was Alice Guy-Blanché? This seminar will take you on an exciting exploration of films directed by women, from the time of the birth of cinema to the present day. We will watch, discuss, analyze and write about films by women from around the world: Hollywood, Bollywood, Europe and other national and independent cinemas. The journey will reveal the world of women’s cinema, enrich your love and appreciation for film, enhance your analytical, writing and speaking skills. And you will never see films again the same way you have been!

Instructor: Mekuria
Prerequisite: None
Distribution: ARS
Term(s): Fall

BISC 101 - First-Year Seminar: What's up with Men & Women? ... The Science Behind Female/Male Differences

Beyond the social construct of gender, what are the actual differences between the sexes? How do variations in the hard wiring of our brains, in our hormones and in our biochemistry make women and men different? Do men and women fall into distinct categories or onto a continuum?  We will investigate the biochemical origins and consequences of female/male differences in our minds, our bodies, our affections and our abilities. Lectures, active learning exercises and class discussions of papers from the primary literature will allow students to acquire a basic understanding of biochemical processes and gain insights into the methods used to address scientific questions. Writing assignments will challenge students to investigate what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.

Instructor: Koniger, Reisberg
Prerequisite: None. Open to First-Year students only.
Cross-Listed as: CHEM 101
Distribution: NPS
Term(s): Fall

BISC 112 - Exploration of Cellular and Molecular Biology with Laboratory

Seminar-style introduction to life at the cellular and molecular level, designed as an alternative to BISC 110 for students with strong high school preparation (such as AP, IB, or other). The course will include eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell structure, function of biological macromolecules, cellular metabolism, molecular genetics, and mechanisms of growth and differentiation, with an emphasis on experimental approaches to investigating these topics. This course will aim to develop students' skills in data analysis and scientific writing along with building foundational knowledge in the field. Lab sections are shared with BISC 110. This course differs from BISC 110 in its small class size and discussion-based format; it meets for one discussion and one lab session per week. Either BISC 110/BISC 112 or BISC 111/BISC 111T/BISC 113 may be taken first.

Instructor: Staff
Prerequisite: A score of 4 or 5 on the Biology AP exam or equivalent experience or permission of the instructor. Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Not open to students who have taken BISC 110.
Distribution: NPS
Term(s): Fall; Spring
One Fall section of this course is a First-Year Seminar, reserved for first-year students only. The Fall section will be shadow graded.

BISC 113 - Exploration of Organismal Biology with Laboratory

An exploration of the central questions, concepts, and methods of experimental analysis in selected areas of organismal biology, designed as an alternative to BISC 111 for students with strong high school preparation (such as AP, IB, or other). Topics include: the evolution and diversification of life, the form and function of plants and animals, and ecological interactions among organisms, with an emphasis on laboratory methods, data analysis, and science writing. Lab sections are shared with BISC 111. This course differs from BISC 111 in its smaller class size, a seminar-style format, and a focus on discussion of landmark scientific studies that shape this field; it meets for one discussion and one lab session per week. Either

BISC 110/BISC 112 or BISC 111/BISC 111T/BISC 113 may be taken first.
Instructor: Staff
Prerequisite: A score of 4 or 5 on the Biology AP exam or equivalent experience or permission of the instructor. Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Not open to students who have taken BISC 111/BISC 111T.
Distribution: NPS; QRF
Term(s): Fall; Spring
Ann E. Maurer '51 Speaking Intensive Course
One Fall section of this course is a First-Year Seminar, reserved for first-year students only. The Fall section will be shadow graded.

CAMS 105 - First-Year Seminar: Twenty-first-Century Cinema: An Introduction to the Cinematic Experience

An introduction to the art of film designed for first year students, this course explores the excitement of contemporary global filmmaking. Through selected films and readings, the course focuses on the basic elements of filmic language including mise-en-scène, editing, cinematography, the relation of sound to image, and narrative structure. Students learn to view the art of film not only as a medium for personal expression, but also as a complex interplay between aesthetic, ideological, economic, and technological concerns. Discussions will examine in detail how today's filmmakers are utilizing both traditional cinematic forms and emerging new media technologies and the ways they are changing the cinema experience in the twenty-first century.

Instructor: Shetley
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: ARS
Term(s): Fall
Shadow graded.

CHEM 101 - First-Year Seminar: What's up with Men & Women? ... The Science Behind Female/Male Differences

Beyond the social construct of gender, what are the actual differences between the sexes? How do variations in the hard wiring of our brains, in our hormones and in our biochemistry make women and men different? Do men and women fall into distinct categories or onto a continuum?  We will investigate the biochemical origins and consequences of female/male differences in our minds, our bodies, our affections and our abilities. Lectures, active learning exercises and class discussions of papers from the primary literature will allow students to acquire a basic understanding of biochemical processes and gain insights into the methods used to address scientific questions. Writing assignments will challenge students to investigate what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. 

Instructor: Koniger (Biological Sciences), Reisberg (Chemistry)
Prerequisite: None. Open to First-Year students only.
Cross-Listed as: BISC-101
Distribution: NPS
Term(s): Fall

ENG 150 - First-Year Seminar: Creating Memory

Participants in this seminar will delve into the workings of memory--a term that encompasses several different kinds of remembering and recollecting. What makes something memorable? To what extent can we choose or shape what we remember? Does memory constitute identity? How has technology altered what and how we remember? As we ponder such questions, our primary focus will be on literature (including Wordsworth, Emily Bronte, Christina Rossetti, Proust, Conan Doyle, Woolf, Borges, Nabokov, Heaney and Rita Dove). We shall also draw on philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science and explore creative arts such as drawing, photography, painting, sculpture, book arts, film, and music. Students will write in several genres--creative, critical, and reflective—and experiment with different ways of collecting, curating, and presenting memories in media of their choice.

Instructor: Hickey
Prerequisite: None. Open only to first-year students.
Distribution: LL
Term(s): Fall

ENGR 111 - First-Year Seminar: Product Creation for All

This hands-on first-year seminar will explore how products are created, including an exploration of ideation and brainstorming, reverse engineering, and the product development process. An emphasis will be placed on the role of human factors engineering, including usability successes and failures of specific products. Students will learn about these topics through two approaches: disassembly and study of existing products and creation of simple product prototypes for specific, local nonprofit organizations serving populations such as those with developmental or physical limitations. By the end of the semester, students will be able to comprehend and independently apply both the product development process and specific human factors engineering approaches used in the design of many everyday objects; they will also have developed their own creativity and better understand how to further develop and apply that skill.

Instructor: Banzaert
Prerequisite: Open to first-year students only. Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement.
Distribution: MM
Term(s): Spring
Mandatory credit/noncredit

ES 103 - First-Year Seminar: Environment and Society: Food, Agriculture, and Sustainability

Where does our food come from? Is the way we grow, distribute, and consume it sustainable? What is the difference between organic and conventional agriculture? Are technologies, such as genetic modification, ethically defensible? How does our assessment change if we consider agriculture in a developing country in Africa? To answer these questions, students will take an interdisciplinary approach to environmental studies that draws on economics, politics, history, ethics, and the sciences. Students will actively investigate these questions through activities such as hands-on research on a long-term agricultural research plot on campus, fieldtrips to investigate practices at nearby farms, and policy-relevant debates in class. This course fulfills the 100-level interdisciplinary course requirement for the Environmental Studies major; it does not fulfill any college-wide distribution requirements.

Instructor: Turner
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: None
Term(s): Fall
Shadow graded. Ann E. Maurer '51 Speaking Intensive Course=

FREN 150 - First-Year Seminar: 1913: A Year in the Life of the World (in English)

Three novels anchor our in-depth exploration of the year 1913: Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, and Andrei Bely’s Petersburg. Around these three works we will examine not only the multiple artistic paths or venues that arise as of 1913, but also the canals (of Panama and Venice), the channels (of the Freudian subconscious), and the trenches and ditches (of the Balkan Wars and the impending World War I) that begin to redraw the bewildering aesthetic, geographical, mental, and sociopolitical landscape of the year 1913. Throughout the course, we will examine how, in the crucial year of 1913, the arts, sciences, and politics of the time are entwined to produce a new landscape in which the vision of Europe as the radiant center of the twentieth-century global structure begins to be profoundly altered. The course is primarily discussion-based, with students presenting independent research in class, and writing frequent short assignments.

Instructor: Petterson
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: LL
Term(s): Fall
No letter grades given

HIST 115 - First-Year Seminar: Routes of Exile: Jews and Muslims

This course will examine exile—both internal and geographic—through contemporary memoirs, letters, novels, and films. Our primary focus will be on Jews and Muslims living in North Africa and the Middle East. Questions to be asked include: How was community defined? What provided the author with a sense of belonging? What prompts his/her exile? Is the homeland portable? If so, how, and on what terms? Each week we shall explore a different expression of exile. Discussion will include comparisons and contrasts with previous readings.

Instructor: Malino
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: HS
Term(s): Fall
No letter grade.

ME/R 110 - First Year Seminar: With Nature, Against Nature: Mapping Passions and Identities in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

This seminar is dedicated to an analysis of the theme of nature in a range of works from the European Middle Ages and Renaissance. The understanding of nature in this period crosses diverse disciplines such as cosmography, natural philosophy, early science (physiology and medicine), metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics. The topic of nature is thus presented as a means for students to explore a truly interdisciplinary facet of medieval and Renaissance culture by entering a world at once familiar and strange. Themes for study will include: the order of creation, the ‘book’ of nature and how it should be read, tensions between law and pleasure, nature, desire and reason, creativity, procreation, and sterility, and other forms of desire considered ‘unnatural’ or as going ‘against nature’.

Instructor: Southerden
Prerequisite: None. Open to first year students only.
Distribution: LL
Term(s): Fall

PHIL 111 - First-Year Seminar: Right and Wrong: Ethics in Action

Life is full of moral decisions that we believe we can get right or wrong. For example, you probably think it is wrong to cheat on a test. But what if no one would ever know that you cheated? What if you discovered that everyone else in the class was cheating? If you still think it’s wrong to cheat in these cases, why is it wrong? This class will encourage you to think critically about questions like this, and about the ethical commitments that support your answers. Topics we will cover include: abortion, genetic selection and enhancement, disability accommodation, cosmetic surgery, and the state’s role in regulating recreational drug use.

Instructor: Gartner
Prerequisite: None
Distribution: REP
Term(s): Fall

POL 103 - First-Year Seminar: Mexico: Revolution, Democracy, and Drugs

Mexico is a country of remarkable contradictions. Unleashing one of the great revolutions of the twentieth century in 1910, the revolutionaries and their heirs then ruled Mexico for 71 years. Developing a genuine multiparty political system only since 2000, Mexico's democracy now faces an array of daunting challenges, including the increasing power of drug cartels whose  

tactics of violence and intimidation threaten the entire nation. Our seminar will aim to make sense out of the fascinating puzzle that is Mexico. We will focus on its twentieth-century Revolution, its distinctive political system (including the return to power of the PRI in 2013), and its current social, economic, and political challenges. We will examine its complex relationship with the United States, emphasizing the dual issues of immigration and drugs.

Instructor: Wasserspring
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: SBA
Term(s): Fall

POL 112 - First-Year Seminar: Wars of Ideas in International Relations

This first-year seminar examines "wars of ideas" in international politics. How do changes in ideas shape international conflict? To what extent do ideas and identities motivate foreign policies? Has international relations moved beyond states and their security interests, and is now driven by a "clash of civilizations"? Historically, we will explore the role of religion in shaping the modern state system in the 17th century, nationalism and imperialism in the 19th century, and fascism, liberalism, and communism in the 20th century. Contemporary case studies will look at ethnic conflict, the "resurgence" of religion in international politics, and the role of American national identity in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instructor: Goddard
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: SBA
Term(s): Spring
Ann E. Maurer '51 Speaking Intensive Course

POL 116 - First Year Seminar: Authoritarianism in the 21st Century

Despite the trend towards democratization in recent decades, the world is full of a great variety of functioning authoritarian regimes. How do authoritarian leaders react to the challenges of globalization in the 21st century? Does globalization undermine their power? How do authoritarian regimes navigate today’s highly globalized world economy? This seminar will explore the puzzling relationships between “free” global markets and “unfree” domestic political structures, which will require a discussion of complicated concepts that are fundamental to the study of politics such as “authoritarianism,” “globalization,” “capitalism,” “democracy,” “property rights,” and many others.

Instructor: Logvinenko
Prerequisite: Open to First-Years Only.
Distribution: SBA
Term(s): Fall

REL 114 - First-Year Seminar: Science and the Bible

Discussion of controversies over the Bible and its relevance to scientific inquiry. Examination of significant areas of perceived conflict between science and religion such as: evolutionary theory, geological history, environmental stewardship, neuro-scientific models of the mind, and genetic engineering. We will ask how religious believers have drawn upon the Bible to develop critical perspectives toward aspects of the scientific project, and we will assess the benefits and limitations of using ancient texts in this way.

Instructor: Silver
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: REP
Term(s): Fall
No letter grade.

SOC 114 - First-Year Seminar: So, You Want to Be a Doctor?

This course is not intended to persuade you to choose, or dissuade you from choosing, a career in medicine. It will introduce you to medical sociology, focusing on who  

becomes a doctor, the doctor’s socialization in medical school, and the life of medical practice in a changing health care system. It will also consider whether a life in medicine is a spiritual vocation and the implications that such a “calling” has for the relationship between doctor and patient. Attention will be given to thinking and writing about the meaning of work in other than financially remunerative ways.

Instructor: Imber
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: SBA
Term(s): Fall

SOC 137 - First-Year Seminar: Reading Sociology: What Literature and the Media Teach Us about Social Life

What do we learn about class, race, and gender by reading novels? What difference does it make when we read about these ideas rather than watching programs about them on TV? This course treats novels, short stories, poems, films, and radio and television programs as sociological texts. We will read and analyze them together to learn new concepts, methods, and analytical approaches. Class projects include debates, "author" interviews, and a creative writing project.

Instructor: Levitt
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: SBA
Term(s): Fall
Registration in this section is restricted to students selected for the Wellesley Plus Program. No letter grades given.

THST 101 - Can We Have an Argument? Understanding, Employing, and Delivering Sound Rhetoric

This course will apply theatrical performance training to the art of public speaking or rhetoric. One of the three original Liberal Arts, the art of discourse has long been recognized as fundamental to the creation of knowledge, and the development of thought. Employing dramatic and nondramatic texts, original student-written work, and an occasional Saturday Night Live sketch, students will discover the power of words to change hearts and minds, as well as their ability to undercut the speaker who does not know how to use them properly. The course is intended to develop communicative and expressive skills in students who might not be drawn to the fine arts, but who might benefit from theatrical training to become more effective thinkers, writers, and speakers.

Instructor: Arciniegas
Distribution: ARS
Term(s): Fall; Summer I; Summer II
This course will be offered as a First Year Seminar in Fall 2015 and open to First Year students only; when offered in the summer session enrollment is open to all students.
Ann E. Maurer '51 Speaking Intensive Course.

WRIT 101-ANTH-114 - First Year Seminar: Mediums and Messages: Digital Storytelling as Cultural Anthropology I

This seminar is the first course in a year-long sequence that combines elements of writing, anthropology, geography, audio/video production and storytelling to create a multidisciplinary experience like nothing else.  Using a variety of media (video, audio, writing, photography) this course asks students to analyze the ways that digital media has shaped, and continues to shape, how society writes itself into existence at the beginning of the 21st century and how we produce the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves.  In an era of everything-all-the-time, it is increasingly important to step back and consider the past, present and future of the stories that make up our everyday lives.

Instructor: Armstrong (Writing Program)
Prerequisite: This course is part of a year-long sequence (WRIT 101/ANTH 114 followed by WRIT 102/ANTH 115). Students must complete both semesters in order to fulfill the college's writing requirement. Open only to first-year students.
Distribution: SBA; W
Term(s): Fall
No letter grades given.

WRIT 102-ANTH-115 - First Year Seminar: Mediums and Messages: Digital Storytelling as Cultural Anthropology II

This seminar is the second course in a year-long sequence that combines elements of writing, anthropology, geography, audio/video production and storytelling to create a multidisciplinary experience like nothing else.  Using a variety of media (video, audio, writing, photography) this course asks students to analyze the ways that digital media has shaped, and continues to shape, how society writes itself into existence at the beginning of the 21st century and how we produce the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves.  In an era of everything-all-the-time, it is increasingly important to step back and consider the past, present and future of the stories that make up our everyday lives.

Instructor: Armstrong (Writing Program)
Prerequisite: This course is part of a year-long sequence (WRIT 101/ANTH 114 followed by WRIT 102/ANTH 115). Students must complete both semesters in order to fulfill the college's writing requirement. Open only to first-year students.
Distribution: SBA; W
Term(s): Spring
No letter grades given.

WRIT 103 - CLCV 110- First Year Seminar: Archaeology and Artifacts

This seminar begins a year-long sequence in which students examine the past through direct engagement with ancient objects. We will develop a material-based approach to culture and society, as we consider how artifacts communicate information about past times and other places, and how they exist in our own world. Students will practice diverse forms of writing as we consider the ways in which ancient material is discovered and preserved, and each student will develop the collaborative skills that are essential to participating in archaeological fieldwork. We will focus on cultures of the Bronze Age and Iron Age Mediterranean through analysis of Egyptian, Near Eastern, and Greek artifacts in campus collections.

Instructor: Burns (Classical Studies)
Prerequisite: This course is part of a year-long sequence (WRIT 103/CLCV 110 followed by WRIT 104/ARTH 110). Students must complete both semesters in order to fulfill the college's writing requirement. Open only to first-year students.
Distribution: SBA; HS; W
Term(s): Fall

WRIT 104-ARTH-110 - First Year Seminar:  Artifacts  and Museums

How do museums rewrite controversial histories, tell compelling stories, and make convincing arguments through the display and publication of ancient artifacts?  To answer these questions, we will conduct field work at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and other nearby museums, where we will speak directly with curators, conservators, and other experts in the field.  To understand how artifacts are explained to different audiences, in class we will analyze labels and wall text from museum galleries, as well as interpretive essays presented on museum websites and printed in exhibition catalogues.  Assignments will encourage students to become skilled in these different modes of writing, while also introducing them to Greek, Roman, Assyrian, Celtic, and Etruscan art.

Instructor: Cassibry (Art)
Prerequisite: This course is part of a year-long sequence (WRIT 103/CLCV 110 followed by WRIT 104/ARTH 110). Students must complete both semesters in order to fulfill the college's writing requirement. Open only to first-year students.
Distribution: ARS; W
Term(s): Spring

WGST 100 - First-Year Seminar: The Body: From Reproduction to Fashion

This course explores the ways in which the body, as a reflection and construction of the self, is tied to social and political relations. The body is also a surface upon which we inscribe cultural norms. Through this examination of the role that our bodies play in daily life we will delve into the study of gender, sexuality and power. We focus on three major areas: (1) the medicalization of bodies (such as abortion and infertility); (2) the discipline of bodies (cosmetic surgery, fitness); and (3) the use of the body as a vehicle for performance, self-expression, and identity (drag queens, fashion, sports). Throughout the course we will look at how ideas about bodies are transported across national borders and social, sexual, and class hierarchies.

Instructor: Hertz
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: SBA
Term(s): Fall
No letter grade. Ann E. Maurer '51 Speaking Intensive Course