First-year Seminars provide intro to the liberal arts

By Janet Garcia ’16

First-year Seminar (FYS) courses set the tone for the undergraduate experience at Cornell, introducing students to the liberal arts in their first college course while developing skills that are important to all disciplines. There’s something for everyone, and with a multitude of interdisciplinary courses one can experience a variety of subjects in just one block: whether it’s studying sociology through film or using philosophy to gain insight into environmental issues.

This year’s courses included Introduction to Creative Writing, in which Professor Rebecca Entel’s students examined a myriad of writing techniques and collaborated with the poetry club Lyrically Inclined in preparation to recite memorized poems. Professor Phil Lucas’s course, Baseball: The American Game, invited students to parallel the history of the United States with the history of America’s greatest pastime. And Professor Santhi Hejeebu’s economics course, Markets and Social Networks, stands out as strikingly relevant in our increasingly technological society.

First-year Seminar courses complete Block 1 with a multi-media festival on the Orange Carpet

Meanwhile three courses turned their final projects into a collaborative multimedia festival on the Orange Carpet. FYS students who had spent the month studying film analysis or sociology joined with a 200-level media studies course to present a range of video, podcast, and infographic projects with one another and anyone else who wanted to share in the experience.

These and other FYS courses find common ground when it comes to subverting student expectation. Lily Cott thought her creative writing class would focus on “getting prompts, and then answering them. I didn’t expect to be picking the subjects of my writing, but when the research project assignment came around, I got to start exploring and writing about a subject that meant a lot to me,” she said.

Similarly, Ethan Khanolkar expected his final economics project in social media analysis to be “structured precisely to what Professor Hejeebu wanted.” Instead, he was met with creative freedom and support as Professor Hejeebu told her students “to surprise her with an independent thought process.”

One of the goals of FYS courses is to supplement classroom content with specific skills in library research, writing, multimedia presentations, and quantitative reasoning through direct classroom involvement with Cole Library’s Center For Teaching and Learning. These liberal arts skills are further developed through a writing-intensive course, the next step after FYS in Cornell’s larger First-year Program.