First-Year Program Course Descriptions

Media and International Politics

What do we know about the world, and how accurate is what we think we know? Nearly everything we learn about international affairs, particularly international politics, comes to us through some kind of media filter. Not surprisingly, these media have a profound influence on our perceptions of the rest of the world.

Stories: Seen, Heard, Told

Storytelling and story reading are fundamental human activities and make up the backbone of this course. Using various media including print, film, radio, and electronic, we will explore questions such as: How do we organize our experiences into stories? How can learning about the choices that go into creating a story help us as readers, writers, and performers? To what extent does language shape the content and order of stories?

Blues People: Race, History and Music in the U.S.

This FYP approaches the issue of U.S. race relations through the prism of African/American music and history. We will explore the ways in which music has tended to draw African-Americans and whites together and how it has, at other times, been manipulated to reinforce separation between the races.

The Human Body: Metaphor and/or Physical Reality

Linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson assert that the physical experiences of our bodies generate the metaphors we use to describe how we think. For example, we grasp an idea. Bodily metaphors also convey what we do or don't value. In times of happiness, we say our spirits are lifted and things are looking up. On the verge of a new experience, we take the plunge. If we agree with this claim about the body metaphor, how might the analysis of body metaphors give us insight into the values of different cultures or subcultures?

Coldest Cold War Flicks: Cold War History, Cold War Film

This course will examine the earliest and coldest days of the Cold War, a period extending from the end of World War II in 1945 to the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, through a sampling of historical texts and American movies made during that time. Movies are often more than just mindless escapism: the stories and texts continually recast by our culture not only entertain but also can provide a window into who we are, and were.

The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien

This course will explore J. R. R. Tolkien’s imagined world of Middle-earth through The Lord of the Rings and other writings, while also placing Tolkien’s creative work within the context of the real world in which Tolkien lived. Through historical investigation of twentieth-century Britain and Europe, literary analysis of Tolkien’s novels, and exploration of Tolkien’s linguistic scholarship, religious beliefs, and personal life, we will gain a rich understanding of Tolkien and his work.

Reading the Body

A friend looks at you with an expression of concern and asks, “Are you OK?“ Your opponent on the playing field takes a moment to size you up before a key play. Airport security asks you to please stand on the colored markings with your hands over your head.

Children’s Literature and Its Life-long Lessons

Stories exert a profound influence on humans by engaging our imaginations and teaching us life lessons while entertaining us.  From economics to advertising to the inspiration to follow your dreams, chances are, it was a piece of children’s literature that led to your initial understanding of the concepts and themes now guiding your young adult life.  As we explore the power of story-telling, you will learn to identify the many life lessons we first encountered as children and to consider their importance in your current life from a variety of different perspectives and di

Guitar as Instrument and Icon

Modern guitars as tools to make music reflect a long and continuing evolution shaped by the interaction of music, society, craft, materials and technology.  The woods from which guitars are made, for example, might be appreciated for their beauty, measured for their physical and acoustic properties, but also examined as a focal point of international conflict over the survival of rare species and the exploitation of the resources of developing nations.   Understanding contemporary design of guitar amplification requires looking back to the antiquated technology of vac

The Geography of Hope

Some of our most potent and enduring relationships are with places and regions. We visit them, learn to find our way through them, master their nuances, and eventually develop powerful relationships that nurture and shape us.  “Home” is a word that resonates emotionally and intellectually.

Unlocking the Heart: Creating from the Inside Out

Pablo Picasso once said, “We artists are indestructible; even in a prison, or in a concentration camp, I would be almighty in my own world of art, even if I had to paint my pictures with my wet tongue on the dusty floor of my cell.”   How is it that in such heavy and dark times the punished or oppressed are able to create, and what role does creative expression play in healing and rehabilitation?  In the United States we use the term “correctional facility,” but is our criminal justice system correcting anything?  Why do we have one of the highest incarceration rates

Children’s Literature and Its Life-long Lessons in Business [CBL]

For many of us, our first experience in the world of business is the lemonade stand at the end of the driveway and the first key decision is what to charge for a glass of lemonade. A nickel, a dime, or a dollar? The price will make or break the business -- charge too much and no one will buy your lemonade; charge too little and you will not have enough. Welcome to your first lesson in business. Or is it? Our business education starts at a much earlier age. Children’s literature is ripe with economic metaphors and references to business.

Sherlock Holmes and the Art and Science of Reasoning

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth!"  This is a famous maxim of Sherlock Holmes, a rule used to reason through crimes and solve mysteries.

Paths, Pilgrimages and Perspectives: A Study of Personal Narrative

What defines a journey? Movement? Travel? If we stay in the same physical place, do we not, nevertheless, still experience an internal journey? In all our commonalities, we come from different places and yet have all arrived here at St. Lawrence. You all took a journey to get here, and you are all about to embark on the journey known as “college.” You will learn things about this place and, more importantly, yourself. The goal is to write the journey as you have experienced it and to immerse yourself in the journeys of others.

Your Place in the World: What it Means to be Local

There is no single definition of "local" in common use today; it means many things to many people.

Back to the Land: Seeking Simplicity in an Age of Complexity

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to own a hobby farm or a homestead or live as part of a self-sustaining community? What is the allure of such a lifestyle? Would you be able to do it? Recent history is full of examples of individuals and communities that have returned “to the land” to seek the simplicity of life in harmony with the natural world. What does this lifestyle entail? How do these practices impact the local economies? More importantly, is it a life worth living?

Rural Dreams: Surveying the Plight and Promise of America’s Small Towns [CBL]

While rural areas currently account for less than a fifth of America’s population, small towns have played an outsized role in the  nation’s history, political economy, and understanding of itself, even as they have faced existential challenges for much of the past century.   In this course, we will closely examine the histories, present circumstances, and potential futures of rural America. As a class, we will debate whether small towns need or deserve special protections in a world that is rapidly urbanizing.

Developing the Leader Within: What Makes A Leader? [CBL]

Leadership involves influence. The modern view sees it more as a process of mobilizing a group toward a common goal than a set of inborn traits. Throughout the course, we will explore leadership theory and discuss how it applies to real life situations. Topics central to leadership include self-confidence, motivation, vision, integrity, and overcoming adversity. Clearly communicating a message through public-speaking, prose, or modern media is essential to influencing others.

Revisiting, Representing and Reimagining Education: (Re)Telling School Stories

Did you receive a good education? What is a “good” education (and is it something you “receive”)? What is education for, and for whom?How could your K-12 education have been different? This course asks you to revisit your schooling experiences using sociological, cultural studies, historical, and philosophical lenses, which you will develop during the semester. We will examine the purposes, practices, and contexts of education and the stories we tell about school.

Identity and Belonging in the St. Lawrence Valley

What does it mean to live on or near an international border, specifically one created by the natural landscape, such as the St. Lawrence River? How do these political and geographical borders shape the identities of people living there? Your university sits in the St. Lawrence River Valley, which has occupied an important place in the history of North America since the pre-contact period between First Peoples and Europeans. It has served simultaneously as a place of residence, transportation route, conduit of commerce, and sometimes national symbol.

Health and Wellness for Life

Mental and physical well-being is, in part, determined by individual behavior, personal choice, and circumstances.  Due to an increased understanding of the myriad benefits of a healthy lifestyle, coupled with nationwide attention to physical, mental, and social issues impacting today’s society, maintaining a healthy, well-balanced existence is more important than ever.  This course is intended to expand students’ awareness of lifestyle choices that will have a positive impact upon health and well-being throughout the college experience and beyond.  During the course

Murder and Mayhem: Literature and the Law

Victims and villains, sleuths and scenarios, destruction and deduction… from the Victorian parlor to the modern-day movieplex, audiences have long been fascinated by stories of murder and mayhem. These stories, however, do a lot more than entertain.  Every mystery is an intellectual invitation to construct a narrative that makes order from chaos.

The Creative Process

Creativity seems to be the buzzword of the decade, a trait valued not just in the arts, but in science, business, therapeutic modalities, and in our most prized self-images. Like the children of fictional Lake Wobegon, we all hope that we possess creativity in levels “greater than average.” But what is creativity?  What is going on in the mind and body when one is producing a creative work or solution?