Participating First Year Research Exchanges | St. Lawrence University FYS Research Exchange

Participating First Year Research Exchanges

Professor Katie Halleron Murphy:

Questions of Travel: Literature, Place, Identity
First Year Student Liaison: Byrnne O’Connor
Global travel has become such a widespread activity—and presumed catalyst for personal growth—that we rarely pause to reflect on its history, purpose, and value. The 20th-century American poet Elizabeth Bishop asked, while visiting Brazil, “Should we have just stayed at home and thought of here?” Why have humans been impelled historically to move between far-reaching locations? How has this impulse for travel (and the twin expectation of a broadened identity) been captured in literature? In this seminar, we will examine texts that focus on travel for leisure, adventure, and contemplation, as well as accounts of travel borne from necessity. Students will read and analyze narratives of journeys, pilgrimages, migration, and immigration; in doing so, we will consider how travel both forms and fractures our concepts of identity and home. Students will lend their voices to the conversation through a culminating research project that develops their own critical perspective on the subject.

Dr. Christopher Hagerman
We are Making a New World: Human, Cultural, and Environmental Trauma in the First World War
The Great War did not inaugurate trench warfare, but it brought to such fighting an unheralded degree of industrial intensity. The inevitable corollary of this evolution toward perfection was a four-year spasm of destruction and trauma unprecedented in scale and severity—one that visited unspeakable horrors upon millions of soldiers. None emerged unchanged. Taking as its focus the three great traumas of trench warfare manifest on the Western Front—the destruction of human life, of civilization, and of the environment—this course explores the Great War’s impact on individual soldiers and, through them, culture at large.  Our approach will be interdisciplinary, compassing studies of the physical environment, traditional historical documents (diaries, letters, government documents, and memoirs), and trench maps, photographs, film, poetry, painting, novels, and music. It will also be active, emphasizing group and individual projects involving original research. Circumstances permitting, students will have a chance to conduct archival research in the collections of the Military History Research Centre at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. 

Professor Devin Farkas
What's So Great About Outdoor Education? (CBL)
First Year Student Liaison: Kat Moody
The term Outdoor Education (OE) has been applied to a wide range of programs including international service learning expeditions, white water rafting trips, high ropes course sessions, geology or ecology field trips among others. Advertising pamphlets are littered with terms like character building, leadership, and environmental stewardship. A perceptive critic, however, might wonder: how does an environmental steward reconcile the carbon footprint of transporting their class great distances; does cheering-on a peer to climb higher instill confidence or just strengthen the imperative to listen to peer-pressure; or, what does taking students outside offer that the classroom does not? In this FYS, students are expected to engage in non-traditional classroom exercises, many of which will take place outside during the winter months. These exercises will give students first-hand experience with current OE practices. The course’s CBL component, volunteering in local schools, will give students first-hand experience with current practices in more traditional education. Research, discussions and first-hand experience will give students the tools needed to critique outdoor education and to find if it has a place alongside more traditional education. The capstone project for this course is to design and implement an outdoor education program either at SLU or at the CBL site. (CBL)

Dr. Rosa Williams
Race, Power, Resistance: Freedom Struggles in Southern Africa
First Year Student Liaison: Abigail Adjuma
In the 1960s, people in Southern Africa who had lived for generations under colonial and white settler regimes took up more radical forms of resistance to these racist power structures. That resistance took many forms: from civil disobedience, to artistic expression, to the taking up of arms. It provoked intense debates among supporters of these movements, of all races and ethnicities, about how the struggle should be fought and about what a future society should look like. From the mid 1970s, white supremacist political systems across Southern Africa were gradually defeated, and, in 1994, the world celebrated when Nelson Mandela, a former political prisoner, become the first president of a democratic South Africa. But the debates which emerged during these years of struggle continue. Today, younger generations who were ‘born free’ in Southern Africa question why their societies remain so unequal; they ask what can be learned from the past and how they can transform their futures. This FYS will ask you to consider these questions yourself, through researching the perspectives of Southern Africans expressed in sources ranging from political speeches, underground newspapers, memoirs and fiction to posters, films and music.

Dr. Robert Haney
Technology: Benefits and Consequences
First Year Student Liaison: Ryan Kelley
Since the Industrial Revolution, new technologies have transformed the functioning of human society, and this process accelerated after the Second World War. Technological advance has become an accepted feature of modern life, and new technologies are rapidly assimilated into the workplace and into the home. While the benefits of technology are often apparent to those who use them, the consequences or costs are often not considered, or even well understood at the time of the adoption of a given technology. This course will focus on a deep consideration of a series of technological advances, from plastics to fracking to gene editing. Students will learn to understand the science behind these new technologies, and will undertake a unique research project in which they will contemplate the benefits that accrue from them, and reflect on whether there are negative consequences for society or the environment due to their use.

Dr. David Murphy
Energy, Our Environment, and You
First Year Student Liaison: Sarah Brock
Most of the major changes in civilization since the last ice age are correlated with changes in how humans harness energy. Whether it is the development of sailing (wind power), domestication of horses (horse power), development of the steam engine (fossil fuel power), or the discovery of nuclear energy, society has advanced only so far as the energy that powers it. We enjoy many of the benefits of energy exploitation, whether it is flying around the world, better healthcare, or even just eating fresh fruit out-of-season. But these benefits have not been distributed evenly around the world, nor have they come without environmental cost. Billions of people around the world live in dire poverty and the Earth is showing numerous signs that it is seriously ailing, including coral bleaching, increasing rates of extinctions, deforestation, sea level rise, glacier and permafrost melt, and, quite literally, the demolition of entire mountains. This class will examine the intimate relationship of these three variables, energy, the environment, and you, the consumer. We will read about the impacts that energy extraction and consumption has on the environment and how we, as consumers, can make practical choices to better our lives and Earth’s environment. This is not a class about how to be “sustainable,” rather it is a class about how to be a better global environmental citizen.

Dr. Jennifer Thomas
Beginning Acting: Investigation, Inference, and Imagination
First Year Student Liaison: Hannah Bushara
Investigation, Inference, and Imagination is an introduction to the work that goes into creating a character. Students will begin the course with critical self reflection on how their bodies, voices, and behaviors impact how the world interprets and receives them. The three major projects include: reading a play research and presentation, a scripted partnered scene from a contemporary play which allows students to research the character and the world of the play before bringing the character to life, and the final project is a solo monologue performance from a contemporary play which showcases the personal self awareness and research skills developed over the course of the semester. Coursework includes traditional research, creative physical and vocal work, solo and partnered performance work, and critical self reflection. This course is the equivalent to PCA 107: Beginning Acting

Dr. Emily Keck
Brave New Worlds: Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Nightmares
First Year Student Liaison: Skyler Zhou
Babies grown in bottles. Psychic police forces. Religious dictatorship in New England. Dystopian literature seems far removed from the “real world”—but such texts raise questions that bring us face to face with our values, our societies, and ourselves. What makes a “good” society, and what are acceptable sacrifices to maintain it? Is individual freedom always a good thing? Can technology really advance society? What does it mean to be human? This course will explore the fantastic in novels, short fiction, graphic narratives, and films, including work by Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula LeGuin, Alan Moore, Aldous Huxley, Octavia Butler, and Steven Spielberg. Each student will be asked to take up a research question that connects one of these texts to the social and political challenges of the twenty-first century, and in so doing inspire each to examine what our imaginary futures can say to the present. This course fulfills the FYS general education requirement.

Professor Kimberly Covill
Literature, Ecology, and the Apocalypse
First Year Student Liaison: Colby Kellog-Youndt
n this course we will explore several dystopian futures based on the current trends of the Anthropocene, or “the age of man.” These trends include immense loss of biodiversity (what scientists have deemed the “sixth mass extinction event” in the entire history of planet earth), an ever-more erratic global climate, massive amounts of plastic accruing in the ocean (one site observed to be larger than the country of Mexico), contaminated air and water sources across the globe, etc., etc. Contemporary works of fiction such as Don DeLillo’s White Noise ,Margaret Atwood’s&i>Maddaddam Trilogy, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road illuminate apocalyptic worlds that sometimes don’t seem so far off from the present. Literary critic and environmental philosopher Timothy Morton writes that for many people, it may be “easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” Why does he say this? How do we move forward? What role does literature play in contemporary times, specifically in relation to humanity’s impact on the earth? These are the types of questions we will ponder and among which you will select one for a research project you will conduct throughout the semester. 

Dr. Sarah Barber
Sesame Street & Kids’ TV
First Year Student Liaison: Jill McKillop
In recent decades, few American children have grown up without watching at least a little Sesame Street; in fact, the educational television program was so popular for so long that many were shocked when the show left PBS, its long-time home, for HBO, and some have even argued that HBO’s premium pricing and ethos as a network mean Sesame Street has abandoned its original ethos and commitment to quality free children’s programming. This semester, we’ll evaluate those arguments, as well as the question of how TV has come to be an educational resource for children and families. In addition to watching episodes of Sesame Street, we’ll read about the history of the program. Course work includes a research paper on television for children and a group research project in which you will design a pitch advocating for the return of a “classic” kids’ show. Course objectives include a sharpening of students’ critical thinking, writing, and communication skills, and an increased familiarity with research methods. This course fulfills the FYS and HUM graduation requirements.

Dr. Neil S. Forkey

Canadian Environmentalism

Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 poem and song—“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”—expressed Black rage as well as criticized consumerism and the Nixon presidency.  His phrase is also an apt phrase to characterize the uniqueness of the Seventies. To some, the decade merely filled the gap between the idealistic Sixties and the shallow “Big Eighties.” However, a reassessment of the Seventies yields a different story: consider the contributions of the anti-war movement to ending the Vietnam War.  As well, the period saw the evolution of Black Power, Feminism (including Title IX legislation), Gay Liberation, the American Indian Movement, and Disability Rights activism. Language laws in French-speaking Canada sparked a cultural renaissance in Québec and New Brunswick.  Women’s reproductive rights in both countries were established.  Earth Day was born.  So, too, was the microprocessor.  Free agency revolutionized labor-management relations in baseball and other sports.  In hockey, the 1972 Canada-Soviet Union Summit Series became the stuff of sport legend and promoted the sport as Canada’s national game.  In introducing students to primary and secondary sources—including music and film—from this decade, they will be encouraged to take up a research question that investigates how the Seventies influenced subsequent generations, including their own.