First Year Seminar (FYS) Course Descriptions

Augustana’s First-Year Seminar (FYS) is a two-semester program that serves to orient you to academics and campus life at AU.

FYS 110: First Year Seminar I (4 credit hours) MWF 10:40-11:50
These courses are designed to develop students’ abilities in writing, critical thinking, and information literacy through critical inquiry on a specific topic. FYS 110 courses also include an orientation component to help students adjust to Augustana and learn about resources and opportunities that are available. 

First Year Seminar Fall 2019 Course Descriptions:

FYS 110A Forming a More Perfect Union:  Designing and Debating the Constitution
Joel Johnson (Government)
This course is an introduction to the framing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  We will review the events leading up to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, discuss the issues that arose during drafting, and immerse ourselves in the debate over ratification.  We will see how the Federalists powerfully argued in favor of the new political order, while the Anti-Federalists offered shrewd warnings about the dangers of centralizing power.  By engaging some of the most insightful political thought of the modern era, students will better understand not only the fundamentals of government, but also the characteristics of effective written and oral argumentation.

FYS 110B Fecal Matters: A Critical History of our Global Sanitation Crisis
Daniel Gerling (English)
2.4 billion people worldwide have no access to a toilet; meanwhile, Americans flush more than 2 trillion gallons of drinking water down the toilet annually. Neither of these trends is sustainable, and we are at a moment of significant change. In this course, we critically analyze the social and environmental consequences of the way our culture and others treat excrement. Using essays, field trips, and interviews with engineers, authors, and activists, we examine various cultures at key historical moments when the role of excrement shifted—for example, from a commodity to a waste. We also consider the future of sanitation technologies and cultures.

FYS 110C War and Memory
Patrick Hicks (English)
Is there such a thing as “war literature” or would it be more correct to talk about literature that focuses on warfare? Are these narratives of violence, at their core, really just subversive “anti-war” statements that yearn for peace? In this class we’ll discuss what it means to go to war, what it means to cope with PTSD, and how writing can help with the healing process. What does it mean to be a veteran? What can a nation demand of its citizens? We will read novels and poems from various wars over the last 50 years, and in so doing we will explore the common (in)humanity among all soldiers—friend and foe alike.

FYS 110D American Gothic: The Dark Side of Paradise
Darcie Rives-East (English)
The U.S. is often viewed as a beacon of freedom and liberty; however, since the nation’s foundation, American literature has also critiqued this vision and exposed America’s “dark” side: a history of slavery, Indian removal, and fears of immigrants.  This course will think critically about our nation by engaging with the American Gothic, a literature which uses the supernatural to address topics difficult for a society to face.  Through novels such as Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, and Louise Erdrich’s Round House, we will confront America’s past and consider what its future should be.

FYS 110E For Tradition's Sake
Ann Kolbrek (English)
Our world of progress offers all the modern conveniences one can imagine – from cars that govern themselves to cell phone control of our household appliances. But in this world of innovation, where does tradition fit? Companies like remind us that knowing one’s heritage is back in fashion. Following trend, this course examines diverse traditions (e.g. familial, cultural, educational) and determines where is tradition’s place in a modern world. The works we read will help inform us of our own traditions and invite us to reflect on this peculiar space we occupy between remembering the past and embracing the future.

FYS 110F The Rise and Fall of Nations
Cory Conover (History)
What makes a country great? What factors cause the decay or even collapse of societies? To understand the dynamics of creation and destruction, this class analyzes examples drawn from history--including the Greeks, Romans, the British Empire, and Nazi Germany. We will think broadly to consider culture, economy, military, politics, and natural resources. With these lessons, we examine the present to assess the fates of nations today.

FYS 110G Hacking the Human Genome: past, present, and future of designer babies
Cecelia Miles (Biology)
Science is closer than ever to producing genetically modified human beings, GM babies. Cutting-edge biotech discoveries have made this a real possibility. Should they do it?  While the technological breakthroughs are brand new, ideas about manipulation of human genetics are not. We will examine the past, present, and future of “designer babies” by reading, discussing, writing, and constructing arguments to challenge each other on this controversial topic. What does the future hold for engineering the “perfect baby”?

FYS 110H Cat Massacres, Ritual Hangings, and Social Protest
Michael Mullin (History)
History is filled with episodes of social protest. In the 18th century apprentice printers hanged cats to protest their unhappiness, while working-class residents of Boston hanged effigies of the royal governor and others to express their unwillingness to pay a stamp tax. In the 19th century abolitionists and temperance advocates took to the streets to make their voices heard. More recently, Civil Rights protestors and Black Lives Matter proponents used street protests and social media to make their voices heard.  What do these advocates of social protest all share? They share a desire to alter the existing political and/or economic system. In some cases their protests led to revolution and change. In other cases, the promised social change was either temporary, or not as far-reaching as proponents envisioned. This course looks at social protests over the course of time, and tries to understand what social change might mean for those seeking a different type of world.

FYS 110I Cuba and the Superpowers
Pilar Cabrera (Spanish)
“Cuba’s history has been lived under the shadow of three superpowers: Spain (for centuries, Cuba being Spain’s last colony in the region), the U.S. (for sixty years) and the USSR (for thirty years). One could argue that there is a fourth superpower- from below: Cuba’s African heritage, a rich cultural heritage devalued by a history of enslavement and offering wellsprings for resistance, which has profoundly affected its music, religious practices and social mores,” writes Alan West-Durán in Cuba. A Cultural History (6-7). In this course, we explore Cuba’s African heritage through its literature, film, art, and music. We also examine some of its political dilemmas up to the present day.

FYS 110J Get Lost: The Art of Wandering
Beth Boyens (English)
Wandering in the unknown has occupied minds of explorers, philosophers, artists, and writers for centuries, yet we are often expected to know exactly where we are going and how we will get there. In this course, we will consider connotations and social constructions of wandering, being lost, and purposeful traveling; orientation and disorientation; crossable borders and impenetrable barriers. Examining the writings of those who brave the wilderness, map the unreadable, lose themselves in the unfamiliar, and wander the landscape of the mind, we will ultimately explore what wandering and getting lost have to do with vocation, education, inquiry, and discovery.

FYS 110K Keep Calm and Solve for x
Martha Gregg (Mathematics)
Math: what has it done for you lately?  Math is essential to many of the technological advances that make our modern lives longer, better, and richer.  We’ll learn about some of those advances and the mathematical engines that drive them – how game theory saves lives by optimizing kidney exchanges, how graph theory makes your internet searches more efficient, why understanding conditional probability is important to making decisions about medical treatment.  Disclaimer: this is not a math class; there is no mathematical prerequisite, and no computational work will be graded (although we may actually compute a few things)!

FYS 110L Asking the Right Questions
Reynold Nesiba (Economics)
Do you want to communicate more effectively, persuade readers and listeners to your point of view, and enhance your ability to analyze the arguments of those who disagree with you? If so, take this course. In it we will explore the building blocks of logical arguments as well as obstacles to critical thinking.

FYS 110M Unsinkable: The Titanic Embarks on its Maiden and Last Voyage
Margaret Preston (History)
The R.M.S. Titanic, the largest passenger liner in the world, set sail on April 10, 1912. On April 14, the ship struck an iceberg and sank; like most passenger liners of the day, the Titanic did not have enough lifeboats. This course will discuss the myth and history of the Titanic. This is a story of the class divisions that characterized British society and featured on the ship. The Titanic was constructed at Harland and Wolff, located in Belfast, Northern Ireland, a city characterized by religious sectarianism—another part of the Titanic’s story.

FYS 110N Lost Tribes and Buried Cities
Kristen Carlson (Anthropology)
This course provides an introduction to Archaeology and the deep history of humankind. Providing a world tour through time, we travel from our early origins in Africa through the cognitive development that emerges in the rock art caves of France. The course then travels through the development of agriculture in the Middle East to the emergence of complex societies throughout prehistory.  Explore the exciting sites of Egypt, the Southwest of North America, and Stonehenge all while learning about the development of humankind.

FYS 110O Nevertheless, She Persisted
Heather Bart (Communications)
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Senator McConnell’s rebuke of Senator Elizabeth Warren ended with her official silencing. These words could just have easily been spoken to many women in the early days of the United States. This course examines the history of women’s rights movements from the middle 1800s to 1920 (suffrage). We will explore themes, rights sought, arguments for and against rights, and speeches from women in the movements. In other words, we study women who persisted. At the end of the semester, we relate elements of history to contemporary women’s rights issues.

FYS 110P Rhetoric, Life Experience, and the Social Fabric
John Bart (Communications) 
Human experience often calls forth public rhetoric. We will examine rhetoric’s role in creating the American social fabric. Examining Commencement Addresses, Eulogies, Declarations of War, and other rhetorical situations will allow us to discover common themes and values. We will look at rhetoric, how to critique it, create it, and learn from it. As you begin your educational journey, we will think about that journey’s purpose.

FYS 110Q Truth is Out There? Conspiracies
Michael Nitz (Communications)
Why do people believe weird things?  A significant percentage of Americans do not believe a) that we landed on the moon, b) that terrorists acted alone on 9/11, c) that the Kennedys (both Robert and John) were killed by lone gunmen, d) that the Denver airport is safe or e) that contrails from jets aren’t government experiments.  This FYS course will utilize the tools of critical thinking, communication and effective writing to analyze these conspiracy theories.  We will discuss how conspirational thinking works and study conspiracies in a variety of media.  At the end of class, the hope is that students will be more literate consumers of conspiracy media.

FYS 110R HA! Laughter, Humor, Comedy 1.0
Richard Bowman (Religion)
Jokes, sketch comedy, stand-up comedy, late night comics, sit-coms, rom-coms.  Comedy is an integral part of human life. Comedy can amuse and entertain but still offend. Laughter can wound as well as heal, condemn as well as commend. Humor can instruct, critique, and transform society. View, read, and think about comedy and comedians. Ha! FYS doesn’t get any better than this!

FYS 110S What Does it Mean to be Human?
Stephen Minister (Philosophy)
This course will explore some of the fundamental questions of life with philosophers from Plato to the present day. What does it mean to be human? Why are we here? What matters in life? What’s our relationship to others, to society, and to the world? How should we live? We will study a variety of answers to these questions as we think through them deeply for ourselves.

FYS 110T  Making Monsters out of the ‘Other’: Philosophical Investigations of Inhumanity
Julie Swantstrom (Religion)
What does it mean to be not quite human, to be a monster? Philosophers have long discussed the boundaries between humanity and inhumanity. Understanding the strategies used to deem people sub-human is crucial to recognizing and resisting such determinations today. Students follow philosophers’ footsteps, tracing shifts in defining monstrosity. Moving from the ancient period to the modern day, students explore the ways in which certain types of people—women, for example—have been described as monstrous; assignments and projects give students the chance to critique and respond to the methods used to determine the monstrous.

FYS 110U The Curies, a Remarkable Family
Amy Engebretson (Physics)
Members of the Curie family were awarded a total of three Nobel Prizes in nuclear physics and chemistry.  In addition to their scientific research, the Curies were very engaged in the world around them. They felt a deep civic responsibility to France and Marie’s native Poland. As we trace this remarkable family’s history, we will discuss the responsibility of scientists for the uses of their research, the effect of honors on research, the challenges faced by women scientists, the strength gained through family ties and other topics.  We will also discuss the science behind the many discoveries of the Curies.

FYS 110V Put Me in, Coach: The Reality of Disability in Our Society
Matthew Johnson (Education)
This course will introduce students to a variety of readings and activities to promote the development of perspective-taking, critical thinking, and constructive discussion skills necessary to analyze the experiences of children and adults with varying abilities (e.g., autism, Down syndrome, and others). The focus will be on the process of formulating thoughtful, intellectually appropriate responses to difficult questions. This course will also help students develop their ability to use written and oral communication as tools of thought, analysis, and argumentation.

FYS 110W Robot Love and Mythology in Film
Rocki Wentzel (Classics)
The myth of Pygmalion tells of a sculptor who creates a beautiful and lifelike statue with which he falls in love. The goddess of love, Aphrodite, eventually brings the statue to life. The Pygmalion myth and its themes frequently emerge in films about humans and their often complicated relationships with technological beings, such as robots and AIs. In this course we will examine the ways in which the story of Pygmalion and related myths, such as those of Narcissus, Pandora, and Daedalus, illuminate questions about creativity, technology, and love. Films we will study include Blade Runner 2049, Ex Machina, and Her.

FYS 110X Verdier: The Ideals by which We Wish to Live Our Lives
JJ Gohl (English)
Responsibility. Courage. Compassion. Honesty. Friendship. Faith. Persistence. As students begin their educational journey at Augustana, we will delve into the virtues and values that have guided individuals and communities throughout history. This seminar will highlight writings from Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, William J Bennett, the Dalai Lama, Krista Tippett, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mother Teresa, Margaret Edson, and campus pastor Paul Rohde. We will analyze how traits of good character fit with Augustana's five core values: Christian, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community, and Service. We will discuss how these values build a sturdy foundation and become a compass for the way we wish to live our lives.

FYS 110Y Prairie Roots: Discovering Heritage
Monica Lhotzky (Modern Foreign Languages)
The book Giants in the Earth will serve as the cornerstone of an inquiry into the prairie experience of our ancestors and into how that experience informs and influences the Midwestern identity.  Students will research family ethnic identity and heritage as well as the geography of self.

FYS 110Z Staging the Future
Jayna Gearhart Fitzsimmons (Theatre)
Have you ever wished for the ability to see into the future? Contemporary playwrights imagine the future in a variety of ways—from sci-fi crime thrillers to dystopian dark comedies—and use drama to pose complex questions about our relationship to technology, our responsibility to our communities, our treatment of natural resources, and the way we define home, love, freedom, and personhood.  By exploring new performance texts like Speed of Light, Mr. Burns: a post-electric play, Urinetown: The Musical, and The Nether, we will think together about how staging the future might impact the way we live today.