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

Participating First Year Research Exchanges

Dr. Donna Alvah, Department of History

Animals in US History: In this seminar we'll study historical examples of the use, treatment, representation, meaning, and perhaps even perspectives of animals in the United States. People used animals for labor, food, clothing, shelter, tools, decoration, sports, entertainment, scientific experimentation, and companionship, among other things. Some animals were beloved and even treated as part of the family. Others were exploited and degraded. Animals have been featured in literature, film, art, and other cultural texts. Animals have also been hidden away in factory farms and research labs. We will consider such questions as: What have been animals' roles in American society? What have animals meant in American culture, and how have meanings and representations of animals varied across time and place in the United States? What efforts have been made to understand animals' perspectives? We also will contemplate questions pertinent to our relationships with animals in the present, such as: What do animals mean to us today? What rights do animals have? Could animals be considered "persons"? What responsibilities do humans have toward animals in any capacity? Students will conduct focused research projects on historical or current topics of their choosing. 

Dr. Sara Ashpole, Environmental Studies

Green Cities: Growing a Community: This course will meet off campus at the Environmental Studies Living Laboratory; transportation will be provided. Today, more than half of the world's population lives in cities. As the urban population grows, so does the demand on urban resources and the impact from energy, water, waste, air, and food. The ecology of urban systems considers the interactions of living and nonliving components and ecological planning seeks a restorative footprint. Often food resources are overlooked when designing cities and supporting healthy diverse communities. A broken food system endangers our environment and our health. Sustainable cities incorporate food-how it is grown, distributed, consumed, and disposed of-into the urban design. Eating locally and food-growing projects are rapidly evolving movements in urban settings. This course will explore sustainable communities and examine alternative food systems in cities from around the globe that are shortening their food chains, taking food security into their own hands, and bridging cultures.  

Mr. Matt Burnett

Biomimicry: Using Nature as a Model for Contemporary Design: This course will emphasize the research, analysis, and exploration of natural patterns and systems as a model for contemporary design. After researching recent biomimicry developments in industry, the sciences, and other fields, students will employ several design media (including but not limited to: drawing, photography, digital modeling, and 3-D printing) as an analytical method in their investigations of nature's "systemness." In the words of Dr. Janine Benyus, after 3.8 billion years of research & development, nature knows what works, what is appropriate, and what lasts. The course culminates in a semester-long design project and presentation.  

Dr. John Collins, Global Studies

Grassroots Media for the Next Generation: Independent, grassroots media spotlight stories, voices, and struggles that are too often absent from daily news reports dominated by official sources and narrow political debates. Equally important, grassroots media can help promote a deeper form of democracy by giving ordinary people an active stake in the work of producing media and seeking social justice. Grassroots media work, in other words, is an essential form of information activism. In this seminar, students will conduct research on influential grassroots media platforms, the challenges they face, and the models and strategies that have made them successful and sustainable. Then, building on what they have learned, students will work collaboratively to create a detailed set of recommendations for improving the work of Weave News (, a St. Lawrence-based grassroots media project focused on underreported stories.

Mr. Devin Farkas, Outdoor Programs Office

What’s so great about outdoor education?: 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, and 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? This class will give students first-hand experience with current OE practices, and current practices in more traditional education through volunteering in local schools. These first-hand experiences will bring relevance to the current literature critiquing the strengths and issues with OE.

Dr. Rob Haney

The Benefits and Consequences of Technological Development: 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. Mark Oakes, Psychology

Mindbugs and Blindspots: The Psychology of (Hidden) Bias: For as long as people have formed social groups, prejudice has existed. For nearly as long, scholars have thought and written about prejudice. The focus of this course will be on how psychologists understand this construct, exploring the ways that prejudice remains, for the most part, hidden despite its capacity to guide behavior. In addition to psychological research, we will look to artistic, cinematic, and literary depictions of inequality. The intersection of these disciplines will help illuminate topics such as the origins and persistence of prejudice, experiences of those targeted by prejudice, and techniques to reduce prejudice. Although scholars have focused on race and gender, we will also consider prejudice based on sexual orientation, age, ability, and appearance.

Dr. Jennifer Thomas, Performance and Communication Arts

Beginning Acting: 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.