The First-Year Seminar Experience

The University’s First-year Seminar program, a requirement for all new first year students, is designed to help you through what is sometimes a challenging process. The First- year Seminar is your first chance to experience what it means to be in a liberal arts college, allowing you to see and understand life from various perspectives. These seminars are designed to serve as an academic bridge between high school and college and, no matter what the course content; your seminar will help you apply learning tools such as critical thinking, careful reading, successful writing, and how to participate effectively in the give and take discussion expected of you in the college classroom. Your professor will be your initial academic advisor at the University. Each professor offering a first-year seminar selects a seasoned, friendly and helpful University of Redlands student who will serve as your peer advisor.

Some of our seminars have a living/learning component where students in the seminar will live in the same residence hall. Others involve field trips and service work. Below is a sampling of some of our recent seminar offerings:

Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Speaking Truth to Power
This seminar is intended to be an introduction to some of the major moral, ethical, and political issues of social justice in the 21st century. Although most of the topics will be seen through the eyes of an American experience, issues will also be discussed from a global perspective. We will look at poverty, racism, environmental concerns, economics, peace and justice issues, with special attention to the experiences of women and children.

A major concern of this course will be the discovery of examples of the lives and experiences of individuals who have made contributions to the idea of speaking truth to power and how they made a difference on behalf of social justice. The goal of this course is to hopefully engender a strong passion about understanding our world from a moral, ethical and political perspective. It is also hoped that this passion will lead to a life of activism that helps bring closer a world of hope and possibility. The ideal will be the empowering of your own moral imagination to speak truth to power.

Connecting to the Wild: Wilderness Leadership and Adventure
This seminar focuses on leadership, wilderness travel and environmental stewardship. It will take place not only in the academic classroom, but also in the mountains and deserts of Southern California. We will apply the lessons we learn as leaders in a wilderness setting to our roles as leaders on campus and in the community. During the semester, there will be two weekend trips to places like the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Death Valley National Park to immerse ourselves in hands-on leadership exercises and outdoor skills.

On campus, the class will get a taste of the backcountry through the experiences and writing of some of the world's renowned nature writers, explorers, and outdoor adventurers. While on our overnight trips, we'll be exploring these wild places, practicing the skills and leadership styles that we have studied and discussed in the classroom. In the field, our activities will include backpacking and hiking, rock climbing, journal writing, teambuilding initiatives, map and compass, and, last but not least, reflection on the area's natural history.

The Science of the Sea
 More than two-thirds of our planet is covered by water. From the 50-foot waves of Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline to the 6 mile deep black smokers of the Mariana Trench, the oceans play a dominant role in shaping Earth’s environment. And yet, we currently know less about our world oceans than we do about the surface of Mars.

Why is it that our oceans remain an undiscovered frontier and what secrets have they yet to reveal about our planet’s past and looming future? This first year seminar will tackle these questions by examining the history of oceanography – from the first explorations of uncharted waters to the evolution of the field as a science.

Global Issues for American Business
This seminar focuses on the major issues facing American corporations conducting business beyond our borders. The issues of conducting business in the European Union, Japan, China, India and South America are explored and contrasted. One of the keys to the seminar will be understanding how governments and businesses, outside the United States, interact and cooperate to further national agendas and what issues U.S. companies face when they enter various national markets. We will explore what U.S. government resources are available to U.S. national companies before and while conducting business abroad.

The roles of the U.S. Department of Commerce, The U.S. Foreign Service, The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, The Agency for International Development and the U.S. Trade Representative, are each explored. How do U.S. firms work cooperatively with host national governments and host regional governments? What sort of business partnerships do U.S. firms develop with companies from other nations?

Harry Potter and the Widely Applicable Skillset 
I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death . . . Yeah, I know that’s what Snape claims, but hear me out. If you’re willing to work hard and take some intellectual risks, I can teach you how to read a text closely, carefully, and critically, opening up the nuance and ambiguity at its heart. I can also teach you the precise, powerful, and persuasive use of language, to make an argument, to win support, to prove a point. We all know great works of literature are timeless, so that pretty much stoppers death, and if you can find your own voice and make it heard in the world, fame and glory are yours for the taking.

We will (re)read and discuss the Harry Potter series, along with many feet of secondary articles examining the novels from a number of different critical and theoretical angles. In essence, we will be pairing children’s fiction with sophisticated literary criticism. There will be a lot of reading, and a lot of writing, and even more discussion. No quick-quotes quills allowed. There will be movies. There will be a house cup. There may be Quidditch. Mischief will be managed.

Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss, and Once Upon A Time: Preparing to Return to Elementary School

This is a seminar for the student who envisions a career as an elementary school teacher. The theoretical discussion of teaching, the opportunity for community service work in an elementary school, and all of the oral assignments are based on this premise. You will be asked to construct lessons that embrace the language arts, arts, social sciences, mathematics and science curriculum of the elementary school, and anchor all of these in the wonderful world of children’s literature.

You will then be asked to “teach” the lessons you construct...sometimes to your peers, sometimes to “real” elementary school students. Each student will spend considerable time in a variety of ways at Franklin Elementary School, a wonderfully creative and rich elementary school near the university campus. Here my Mother Goose students will have a chance to observe early in the term, then with increasing challenge and responsibility, assist in the instruction in an elementary classroom, and finally, tutor and do some teaching as well. Matter of fact, the Final Exam for the class will be a half hour teaching unit at Franklin!