FYP Courses 2012

For copies of syllabi, please contact the First-Year Program office, e-mail fyp@stlawu.edu or call 315-229-5909.

St. Lawrence University
FYP Course Descriptions – Fall 2012

Making a Difference: The Role of Active Citizenship in a Democracy (CBL)
Brown College – Jennifer Hansen and Elizabeth Regosin

What should a thriving democracy look like? In an era of economic crisis, perhaps now more than ever we should be reflecting upon how well our democratic institutions meet the needs of a diverse citizenry and what role citizens should play in ensuring the health of these institutions. What does it mean to be a member of a society that proclaims a “government of the people, by the people, for the people?” As we wrestle with these questions, we’ll examine America’s founding principles and the fundamental debates over our core values as a nation. We will look at concerns about the wealth gap, racial tensions, a broken criminal justice system, a faltering public education system and a disconnected citizenry. To enhance their engagement with these questions and to assume their role as active citizens, students will be required to perform 2 hours per week of community service in the local community during the fall semester (20 hours total). This will be a core component of our course. We hope this experience will push all of us to ask, how can we make a difference? (CBL)

In the Eyes of an "Other": Travel Narratives and Immigration Literature of the Francophone World
Buys College – Donna Alvah and James Norminton

This course will introduce students to diverse cultures of the francophone (French-speaking) world through novels, films, and other texts (translated into English), which convey what it is like to find oneself in a foreign land. One thing that ties places as distant from one another as Haiti, Quebec, Belgium, France, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and Senegal together is the commonality of the French language as a means of expression. Yet despite a shared language, there are significant cultural differences between cities, countries, and continents, and these can become heightened when experienced by someone from an "other" culture. We will investigate notions of identity in the context of global modernity, and what it means to exist in terms of both cultural similarity and difference. To experience a place in the Francophone world, our class will take a field trip to Montréal, Quebec.
No prior knowledge of French is required to take this course. First-year students interested in participating in the Global Francophone Cultures study abroad program in Spring 2013 should consider taking this course, and one of the fall course instructors will also teach the spring First-Year Seminar abroad. For more information, please see the section on "Global Francophone Cultures" at http://www.stlawu.edu/ciis/program/france/introduction.

Blues People
Campbell College – Peter Bailey and Mary Jane Smith

This FYP approaches the issue of racial relations in the U.S. through the prisms of blues, folk, and popular music. Beginning with the creation of spirituals during slavery, 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. Specific musicians will help us to tell the story of the ways in which American racial history and music culturally intersect—particularly during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950-60s. The evolution of the blues in the early twentieth century pioneered by musicians such as W.C. Handy, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson inspired the creation of jazz (Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, among many others) and, in the 1940s-50s, rhythm and blues (Fats Domino, Little Richard) and its racial tempering into rock ‘n’ roll (Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix). Gospel music, deriving from spirituals, will also be considered, along with its transformation into soul music (Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin) during the Civil Rights era. We’ll conclude the semester by looking at the appropriation of blues and other African-American musics during the second half of the twentieth century by white musicians—The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton. Though a musical background is not required, the course can include a performative component for the musically inclined.

From Poverty to Prosperity: A Critical Examination of Poverty and Wealth in the North Country
Corey College – Robin Rhodes-Crowell and Karyn Crispo

What does poverty look like in the North Country? How has poverty been defined since The Great Depression? How does poverty affect North Country sectors such as health, education, housing, food, transportation, business, and the environment? What are the root causes of poverty? To explore poverty in the North Country, we will take regular field trips performing community service for various agencies in our local area. This will be a core component of our course and serve as a tool to explore and reflect on this complex issue in our geographic area. Critical examination of poverty will arise from community engagement and articulation of our ideas with community members involved in poverty issues.
As we reflect on the history of poverty, we will investigate strategies to address this issue and use creativity and innovation to work towards positive social change. We will ask, how has poverty been defined for the past 100 years and how can we move forward? What are the larger questions surrounding the path to prosperity? Our experiences inside and outside the classroom will push us to ask, where is the North Country in terms of moving from poverty to prosperity? By the end of the semester we will be better equipped to have meaningful dialogue with community leaders and support socially and culturally relevant ways to address poverty.

The Power of Place
Curtin College – Kathleen Buckley and Amanda Lavigne

Congratulations, you took first place! There’s no place like home. My place, or yours?
I felt so out of place. Simultaneously, people define and are defined by “place.” Throughout time and across cultures, the importance of place has been central to how people understand their world and interact with the environment.
This course will examine the idea of place from a variety of perspectives. Some of the questions we will consider are: How do we define “place”? Is it physical, cultural, spiritual, virtual, etc.? How important are conceptual places, like “the commons”? Are virtual realms, like Facebook, places? What constitutes a sacred place? What about our inner places? How do different definitions of place influence human impact on the environment?
In this course we will explore two particular “places” in more depth: the St. Lawrence University campus (your home for the next four years), and Turtle Hill, a local neighborhood committed to sustainable living. This course will involve multiple field trips, creative communication projects, and critical discussion/debate. Throughout, you will have the opportunity to reflect on how places have shaped you, and how you, in turn, shape them.

Sciences of the Occult: Magical Thinking for the Enlightened Modern
Eaton College – Laura Desmond and Sid Sondergard

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." [Hamlet, 1.5.166-7]

Do disembodied spirits communicate with those able to hear their messages? Do magical spells work? Does astrology accurately predict the future? Do people communicate telepathically? Do we alter reality with the power of our minds? Such possibilities seem to contradict the physical laws of the universe, and yet many of us have experiences that are not easily explained by or even compatible with those laws. Shouldn't we test and revise our knowledge when we encounter phenomena that can't be explained by existing methodologies, philosophies, and spiritual systems? And how do we evaluate the capabilities and limitations of competing or alternative explanatory models?
This course assumes (1) that it is worth exploring weird, anomalous experiences and (2) that there are ways of making sense of them. Magicians, alchemists, natural philosophers, psychics, spirit mediums, shamans and healers have developed rigorous systems of thought and practice for understanding and making use of occult forces. By considering the philosophies and tools they offer, in combination with contemporary studies of paranormal phenomena, we will develop ways to talk intelligently about anomalous experiences. By the end of the course, we will have greater clarity about many wonders of nature and consciousness that remain to be explored.

Creating the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project
Ford College: Daniel Macfarlane and Robert Thacker

Students at St. Lawrence University may not realize their proximity to one of the greatest North American megaprojects of the twentieth century: the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project. Constructed jointly by Canada and the United States (and Ontario and New York) between 1954-1959, the dams built as part of the project turned much of the St. Lawrence River into a lake that provided a deep canal system and allowed for the production of hydroelectricity. The flooding required a massive, and seldom seen, manipulation of the environment. On both sides of the border, whole communities, farms, roads, and infrastructures were submerged by the Seaway and had to be moved.

In this course we will look at the ways that governments in national capitals, engineers in planning offices, and citizens directly affected by the flooding understood what they were doing and what was happening. We will look at conceptions of nature and the environment and will examine the idea of progress, the role of the state, and the reach of technology as understood during the mid-twentieth century. We will look at national and local impacts. In addition to exploring these ideas in a transnational context, this course will take an interdisciplinary approach and explore literature and other forms of popular culture concerning the St. Lawrence project. With the Seaway located just minutes from Canton, we will take field trips and explore the St. Lawrence environment – and “Lost Villages” – directly ourselves.

Finding a Voice: Creativity, Community and Performance
Gaines College: Lawrence Boyette and Michael Farley

Each of us is moved in a unique, individual way by the beauty of the artistic expression that we see, hear or produce, but the meaning we draw from art is shaped as well by the experiences and ideals that we share within communities. This college will both investigate, and be invigorated by, the power of the social act of performance. We will learn, in part by regularly becoming performers ourselves, ways in which an artist, whether poet, dancer, actor or musician, can clearly communicate with an audience. We will also connect creatively with cultural realities outside of our experience and attempt to understand forms of art whose meaning might otherwise elude us.
The course requires no prior training or proficiency as a performer. We ask only that you be willing to express yourself creatively and to share that expression. The college will be housed in a residence that provides proximity to SLU’s Fine Arts, Music, and Performance and Communication Arts departments, and is next to "The Annex," the student Arts Performance Residence in which many Finding a Voice veterans reside. Taught by an ethnomusicologist and a historian, who sometimes share the stage as saxophonist and guitarist in a local rock and roll band, this FYP college will seek to foster a community that connects serious academic inquiry with artistic creativity, where students can seek their own voices in an actively supportive environment.

Individual and Social Wellness: Legal and Medical Issues
Herrick College – Diane Exoo and David Hornung

Mental and physical well-being are, in part, determined by individual behavior, personal choice, and circumstances. Stress, body image, alcohol abuse, fertility control, and AIDS represent a small sample of the legal and health issues that face all generations in our society, particularly college students. The course will begin with an examination of personal mental and physical health values and then move to an exploration of how well-being may be influenced by gender, race, class, genetic make-up, government, and the environment. These themes will become the basis for examining significant legal and medical health issues.

Representations of Africa: Myth and Reality
Holmes College: Matt Carotenuto and Rosa Williams

Images of untouched landscapes filled with wild animals, "tribal violence" and endemic disease often dominate popular portrayals of Africa. But to what extent do these everyday myths and stereotypes reflect the reality Africans have historically faced? This course will require students to consider the representation of Africa and Africans in a range of cultural texts from feature films, television documentaries, and artworks to novels, travel writing, and newspapers. By reading the work of scholars across the disciplines, students will be introduced to different perspectives on the ways African societies have been represented in popular discourse. Students will not only gain an understanding of the changing historical image of Africa from beyond the continent's borders, but also pay particular attention to the important role Africans themselves have played in shaping and combating these notions.

Lifestyles: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (CBL)
Manley College: Jodi Canfield and Cheryl Stuntz

Statistics imply that Americans may be in the midst of an obesity epidemic. By understanding the various factors influencing our lifestyle behaviors (including the mass media, age, gender, socioeconomic status, technology), we can hopefully devise ways to “get us out of this mess.” This course will examine historical, cultural, social and psychological predictors of lifestyle behaviors, with a focus on physical activity and food choices. We will investigate changes in food sources, food production, and work/family life to understand our own and others’ lifestyle choices within a broader historical context. We will also examine the social and global implications of these lifestyle decisions. In addition, students will be engaged in community service, partnering with groups in the local community. (CBL)

Reflections on the Evolution of the Environmental Conscience: from Walden Pond to ArcGIS
Plaisance College: Jessica Rogers and Peter Warden

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.” This phrase from Thoreau’s Walden begins an examination of the roots of our environmental consciousness. The course will explore changing attitudes toward our environmental philosophies, both as individuals and as a culture. Our society’s approach to environmental issues has evolved over the last 200 years, with dramatic influxes of new ideas from Thoreau to Darwin, Muir to Carson, and Ehrlich to Quamman. Many of these ideas have been the result of historical changes in the nature of society. We will examine the changing concepts of wilderness, the introduction of a fossil fuel based society, and the changing uses of technology in a sustainable paradigm. Examining the changing conscience of environmentalists reveals a lot about society itself and will help us to examine how some of the beliefs we hold today came to be. Students will be required to read about these philosophically divergent ideas and engage in rigorous discussions concerning these changing thought patterns and their background assumptions.
Throughout the semester we will be working on several short written projects based upon various opinions on our evolving environmental consciousness and creating oral presentations based upon these reflections. You will also be introduced to ArcGIS (a mapping and analysis software system for understanding our world) and begin to learn how to it is being used to navigate this strange new world.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It!
Priest College: Maren Hansen, Matthew McCluskey and George Repicky

You have just survived the apocalypse. Was it global warming that finally caught up with us or did “peak oil” negate our energy-dependent lifestyle? Did our debt levels, general environmental degradation, or political conflicts send us over the edge? What about nuclear proliferation or that latest pandemic on CNN? The survivors ask how we got here and what’s left to salvage.
Every day we hear stories about our society being just one moment or misstep away from destruction. What attracts us to such “end time” narratives? Is the prevalence of such stories unique to our time and place or have they been a dominant story of all human societies? In this FYP, we will examine multiple apocalyptic claims, analyzing the assumptions, details, and evidence offered up in these narratives. We will look to the fields of history, psychology, philosophy, and religion to see these disciplines’ treatment of end time stories. We’ll also see how scholars wrestle with the question of whether humans are preternaturally disposed to revel in stories of their own potential doom. The class will proceed to consider another possibility—that we are often overly optimistic and should be paying closer attention to global threats. Perhaps we should even be listening to “preppers,” who actively prepare for impending civil chaos. This “doomed” course will end on a hopeful note, as we discuss examples of people’s resilience in response to existential threats, catastrophes, and great setbacks throughout history.

What Makes a Leader? The Creative Experience of Leadership (CBL)
Reiff College: Paul Doty, Ashley Pike and Deshaya Williams

Leadership is the art and science of inspiring others to work together toward a tangible goal. Are the visionary imagination, oratorical skills, and confidence of an effective leader intrinsic qualities, or is being a leader really about being adaptable and observant, as John Fitzgerald Kennedy suggested when he observed, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” There are many philosophies on leadership. Throughout the course, we will be asking you to read a variety of texts, as well as undertake a series of writing assignments, group projects, and community-based learning experiences to foster a critical understanding of entrepreneurial leadership, servant leadership, ethical leadership, team work and motivation. As you journey through this course our expectation is that you will learn that one of the most important perspectives on leadership is the one you develop through your experiences in the classroom, in your residence hall, and in your local community. A liberal arts education is about making the classroom connect to the important endeavors in your life—here’s our version. (CBL)

Reason and Debate in Scientific Controversies
Romer College: Samantha Glazier and Karen Johnson

What is science? What makes a scientist? How do scientists communicate—with each other and non-scientists--and why? This course is designed to deepen your interest in science by examining controversies, both within science and between the scientific community and the larger society. Controversies we will consider include: were some dinosaurs warm-blooded? Should scientists believe in atoms? What is the relationship between vaccinations and autism? Is it possible to re-create human intelligence? How vulnerable is the electric grid to space-weather? We will all bring to bear our critical thinking skills and scientific reasoning to help us think through the evidence invoked in these questions, and in the process help you develop successful learning strategies for college-level science courses. Written and oral assignments will expose you to various kinds of scientific literature, develop your capacity to communicate scientific information clearly for different audiences, and teach you to formulate arguments based on various kinds of evidence.

Identity and Belonging in the St. Lawrence Valley
Romoda College: Neil Forkey and Sandhya Ganapathy

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. French explorer Jacques Cartier christened it the “River of Canada.” Indeed, the capital and technological flows between Europe, Montreal, and the Great Lakes region spurred new opportunities and migrations that owe so much to the force of this majestic river.
In this course, we will focus on the differing local and national cultures of the United States and Canada as seen in the St. Lawrence Valley. Using a roughly historical approach, we will trace early contact between First Peoples and European settlers, the portrayal of cultures and identities, colonization and expansion, and the development of each nation to the contemporary period. Our prime concern will be the definition of this borderland region as part of the two nation-states and the continuing role its First Peoples play in it. Case studies include differing approaches to Western expansion, models of settlement, trade (the fur trade to free trade), environmental issues, and approaches to social policy. We will expand our exploration of the cultural experiences of Canada and the United States, both mythic and real, outside the classroom through at least one field trip.

Connections and Intersections: Identity, Relationships, Culture
Sawyer College: Rebecca Daniels and Traci Fordham

Though we have a tendency to think of the “self” as fixed and immutable, the reality is that identity is a set of social constructs and practices. We all create, communicate, and perform the multiple facets of our selves (or have them constructed for us by others) every single day. Using communication theories, acting/performance analyses, and embodied practice in classroom interaction and performance, we will explore the means by which we create our various selves, while also examining the idea that none of these selves are "natural" or singular. We will discover the performative nature of how selves are socially positioned, exploring gender and sexuality, race, and socioeconomic class, as well as delving into the intersections (both positive and negative) created between these various performances of self.

We will use various genres of texts, with different styles of writing, speaking, and research, as well as embodied/enacted learning to problematize the notion of the “self” as a fixed entity and how identities are created and performed in U.S. dominant and popular cultures. There’s no need for previous performance experience in this class, but you must have a willingness to try various kinds of embodied learning (improvisation, movement, performance, etc.) and to talk critically about performing/communicating yourself to others and to the broader culture(s) we live in/that live through us.

Children’s Literature and its Life-long Lessons in Business (CBL)
Sprague College: Cynthia Bansak and Karen Gibson

For many our first endeavor into the world of business is the lemonade stand at the end of the driveway and the first key decision is what to charge. 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. While Farmer Boy teaches children about sustainability, The Lorax forces us to consider how business activity interacts with environmental concerns. In these and other ways, stories exert a profound influence on humans, by engaging our imaginations and teaching us economic concepts while entertaining us. While learning about the power of storytelling, students will become better versed in some basic economic principles and explore the many ways these ideas are communicated to children at a very young age. As a culminating experience, students will create their own project to further economic literacy in local schools. (CBL)

I was a Teenage Teenager
Young College: Daniel Look and Jennifer MacGregor

Alternately feared and revered by adult society in the 1940s and 50s, American teens became an essential target market of both the fashion and entertainment industries, leading to such film classics as “Blackboard Jungle” and “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” Ever since, it has largely been American and British youth that have defined which aspects of western pop culture become mainstream and which sink into the backwaters of obscurity. In this course we will examine the historical precedents of what we now call “adolescence” and explore how in the 20th century, industrial, economic, and structural factors conspired to create something altogether new in the experience of the interface between childhood and adulthood: the American teen. Additionally, we will consider the effects of the burgeoning Internet, globalization, and the 9/11 bombings on today’s teens and their sense of self in their world. In an attempt to understand this unique social invention called "the teenager," we will critically analyze a variety of texts, including novels, yearbooks, comic books, films, sitcoms, “educational shorts” aimed at teens, and fads and fashions.