2015 First Year Seminar Courses

The first year seminar (FYS) focuses on a specific topic in a wide range of areas. The small class size allows you to interact closely with a professor who will help you cultivate a vision for your liberal arts education. The FYS will also expose you to basic writing, communication, and critical thinking skills, among others. Additionally, the faculty member who teaches this seminar will serve as your initial academic advisor during the fall semester and will help you explore the opportunities of a University of Mount Union education, including scheduling for classes until you’ve declared a major.

These courses are full four credit hour courses that will last throughout the entire fall semester and have the same academic rigor and expectations as any other college course. Please carefully consider this as you share your preference for your First Year Seminar below. To aid you in making this decision, please read the descriptions of the seminar courses to help you choose your top five FYS choices.

Robert Buganski, “Monuments & Memorials: A Design Perspective (01)
This course will examine how monuments and memorials are conceived and designed.  Students will become aware of the social, political, and environmental events that shape the circumstances for the creation of large and small, local and national monuments.  The course will introduce students to the many varied design considerations that must be factored into the artist’s interpretations of what has been termed “the collective memory.”  The course will demonstrate through an interactive, collaborative, hands-on studio application of design processes of how abstract ideas are manifested into the real structures and environments that individuals, communities, nations and cultures can both accept, appreciate, revere, and also reject, diminish, despise.

Jeff Buth, “Moneyball: The Art of Sport Performance Analysis (02)
Over the last decade, a data revolution has swept through sports.  Teams now seek to gain competitive advantages by objectively analyzing every conceivable aspect of player performance.  More-and-more, general managers and coaches are valued not for their experience as former players, but for their ability to systematically evaluate data to make optimal decisions.  The movement has gained traction with fans, as well.  Statistics that once seemed like complex mathematical jargon are now routinely used by fans to evaluate players and construct fantasy teams, and Moneyball has become a box office hit.  In this course, students will learn to gather and evaluate numerical and observational player performance data.  They will assess uncertainty and bias and explore how the pendulum of risk and reward shifts in different game situations and throughout a season.  Ultimately, students will formulate arguments for particular decisions based on the conclusions of their analyses.

Steve Cederbloom, “The Big Bang Theory”   (03)                                                           
How did our universe begin?  Why do we think there was a Big Bang?  What is our universe really like?  In this conceptually based course, we will explore the vast reaches of intergalactic space to infinitesimal workings of subatomic particles, and such ideas as anti-matter and parallel universes. 

Danielle Cordaro, “Creativity, Maker Culture & You” (04)                                        
Do you ever wonder where creativity comes from or how you could be more creative? Do you feel like you could invent something but don’t know where to start? In this course you will have the opportunity to examine a number of popular and scientific theories of creativity and discover why creativity is highly valued in our culture yet rarely discussed in productive ways. You will engage in thought-provoking discussions and engage in exercises that will expand your knowledge of how creativity works. You will also have the opportunity to make a project of your own design and tell others about your creative process through writing and presentations.

Theresa Davis, “Pandorans, Wookies & Spock” (05)                                                                
In this seminar we will use science fiction and fantasy to delve into the way that our most “far-out” thinkers have handled historical issues such as slavery, gender relations and war.  We will watch movies and series episodes, read graphic novels and excerpts from traditional novels.  Science fiction is more than speed-of-light star ships, big blue people and transporter beams.  We will find that it has very interesting and insightful things to say about important social and political issues.

Jack DeSario, “A Legal Analysis of Race, Gender & Sexual Orientation Discrimination” (06)
This course will analyze issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation discrimination. It will provide an historic overview of how these groups have been treated in regard to the provision of basic rights such as education, housing, voting, and workplace treatment. This legal analysis will explain the evolution of the law from the legal denial of rights, to legal equality, to equality of outcome. Within this context, the issue of affirmative action will be explained and evaluated.

Rodney Dick, “Texting, Tweeting and Status Updates” (07)                                                    
It has been proposed that today’s generation of teenagers are writing and reading more than any other.  The catch is that much of this reading and writing takes place through texting, tweeting status updates, Wikipedia and webpages.  As a result, many argue that the very nature of how we communicate has changed, and that we, as a culture, are losing our competitive edge globally.  Others argue that these new communication technologies are actually changing how we think.  In this first year seminar, we will examine the many sides of this issue, paying attention to both popular and “scholarly” perspectives, in an attempt to answer the question: Is technology making use stupid?

Scott Gravlee, “Contagion: Ethics in a Time of Crisis” (08)                              
When there is a widespread outbreak of infectious disease, ethical, legal, and political principles are tested, and many questions arise.  Who should receive scarce medial resources when there is not enough for everyone?  If the disease is unknown and dangerous, are doctors still obligated to care for the sick?  What powers should the government have to force citizens into isolation or quarantine, or to receive unwanted vaccinations?  Through a variety of readings and case studies, we will explore human responses to the threats posed by infections disease, with a focus on the ethical aspects of such situations.

Michael Grossman, “On War” (09)                                                              
Why do we go to war?  What would drive groups of people to systematically kill other groups of people?  Is it human nature?  Are we hardwired to kill each other?  Is there something about the way countries function that drives them to fight?  Is it just the way the world works?  Is it possible to prevent war and is there such a thing as just war?  This seminar will examine these questions in order to try to explain why wars happen and whether or not they can be prevented.

Mike Kachilla, “Think Weirdly . . . Save Your Iceberg” (10)                                  
Do you want to become a more creative problem solver?  What is that issue that needs to be solved?  What do you see that needs to change?  How do you make life better for your neighbors, friends, family, or your community?  It could be building a more sustainable community, forming an athletic league where you live, or dealing with childhood obesity.  In this class you will learn how you take “what pains your heart” to a level that becomes part of the solution and do it creatively.  During the semester, you will study successful social projects that have identified social issues that need attention and develop a plan to present to future partners using an entrepreneurial process.  Because every organization must raise more money than it spends, you will need to identify various ways to fund your endeavor.    Finally, you will study the change process developed by Dr. John Kotter that will help you implement your solution.

Jim Klayder, “Sleight of Hand Magic – Theory & Performance” (11)
Want to learn how to create and perform your own sleight of hand magic effects, as well as critique your performances and the performances of others?  In this class you will study how to create each of the nine major types of conjuring effects: appearance, vanish, transposition, transformation, penetration, restoration, extraordinary feats, telekinesis, and extrasensory perception.  Theoretical topics will include (but not be limited to) visual illusion, cognitive illusion, faulty logic, good continuation, active misdirection, time misdirection, social misdirection, inattentional blindness, change blindness, and the misinformation effect.  The instructor for this course was a full-time professional magician for five years.

Mark McConnell, “Anywhere but Home: Exploring Adventure Travel”   (12)
Pack your bags, and get ready to embark on an in-depth look at the joy of travel.  In this course, you’ll discover and discuss what renowned authors have to say about leaving home (as we also engage in a bit of our travel-related writing).  Together, we’ll explore both the spiritual and practical sides of away-from-home adventures. . . examining everything from cultures and customs to planning and packing.  If you believe that the journey can be as captivating as the destination, we’ll save you the aisle seat.

Sheryl Mason, “Go Jump Off a Cliff! Latest Health Fad or Educated Choice” (13)
Have you grabbed a Red Bull® or Monster® lately?  How about that Cross Fit Extreme Fitness program you started last week?  Would you like to choose the DNA for your future children?  Hey, that TV commercial just said that Cymbalta® will help me cope!  Every day we are bombarded with statements about the latest and greatest thing we should do to make our lives better.  Is there truth behind them?  What are the consequences?  What does better really mean?  Have you taken the time to really think about these decisions?  This course will examine some of the latest fads related to human health, the science behind them, the pros and cons, and lead you on the path to making more informed decisions for your life.  After all, if your best friend told you to “go jump off a cliff”, would you?

Ron Mendel, “The Culture, Cost & Politics of Obesity” (14)                
This course will focus on what actually constitutes proper nutrition for general health & wellness as well as those who participate in exercise. What we eat and how much we eat certainly has a direct impact on the environment. This course will examine those effects on the environment and compare different cultures based on their health status. America is experiencing a health crisis in obesity beyond what is occurring in other parts of the world and that is a terrific point of discussion. Obesity has recently been declared a disease by the American Medical Association and this has broad ramifications for society and requires careful reflection. Students will be exposed to scientific literature, pop culture based information as well as their own experiences when examining these issues.

This course will also review and analyze the politics behind current United States governmental food subsidies along with policies that impact the nutrition choices available in schools and other public institutions. Analysis of who is making the decisions and why those decisions are made will be central. A discussion and evaluation of nutrition labels will also play a relevant role in examining the politics of food in the United States. If time allows, the course will also examine the differences and similarities in America’s policies compared to other similar developed countries along with a direct comparison of nutrition labels requirements between American products and other countries’ products.  This course promises to be a real eye opener.

Kevin Meyer, “Demons and Diagnoses” (15)                                                         
Historically, illnesses such as schizophrenia, autism, and epilepsy were viewed as cases of demonic possession.  The afflicted would be subject to exorcism to drive the demons out to cure the individual.  The rise of psychiatric knowledge allowed for different explanations and treatment for individuals suffering from mental disorders.  However, in modern society exorcisms and claims of possession are curiously on the rise.  Is demonic possession possible?  Are cases of possession explainable through a Psychiatric lens?  You will investigate these questions as we engage in an exploration and debate between an ancient rite and a modern practice. 

Michael Olin-Hitt, “Myth and Meaning” (16)                                                                            
Myths are prominent in popular culture right now, from Percy Jackson to Lord of the Rings.  Because myths are narratives that provide meaning and perspective for our life journeys, is the use of myth in books and movies a sign that our culture is seeking order, meaning and direction?  Explore the earliest stories from around the world and discover the deep meanings behind the myths.  In this class, we will read ancient myths to contemporary works that utilize mythic characters and structures.

Naoko Oyabu-Mathis, “Different Realities: Inter-Cultural Encounters” (17)
This seminar will address how the world is perceived and experienced differently in different cultures.  This will be facilitated by deliberately creating a class made up of half U.S. students and half international students.  Using sociological methods, at each class meeting students will examine differences in social structures and social processes experienced among the countries they come from through discussions, demonstrations, and cooperative explorations.  This early opportunity to understand their own identity and their own taken-for-granted assumptions through being exposed to cultural diversity as well as learning how to make successful interpersonal relationships – friendships – with a diverse group of people will help students widen their horizons and lead then to take better advantage of opportunities offered to them to enrich their experiences during their four years at the University of Mount Union.

Bruce Peitz, “Freshman 15: Reality or Myth” (18)           
The Freshman 15!  This phrase has been floating around college and university campuses for decades.  Are you afraid this could happen to you?  Can you avoid gaining 15 pounds your first year of college? In this FYS, we will explore social, environmental, economic, and emotional issues associated with the freshman 15.  You will critically examine your daily nutritional intake and determine how to achieve a healthy balance between nutritional intake and physical activity.  In this seminar, you will learn to examine the environment around you to better understand how to make balanced choices.

Jim Perone, “Beyond the Beatles” (19)                             
“Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!”  With these words, spoken by television’s Ed Sullivan on February 9, 1964, Americans were introduced to an exciting new form of rock and roll from Great Britain.  The British Invasion was launched.  You will learn about the economic and social factors  in post-World War II Britain that helped lead to the development of British Invasion rock and roll.  You will also learn about performers such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Who, the Dave Clark Five, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, and others and their commercial, musical, and cultural impact on the United States.

Ray Posey, “Finance for Successful Living” (20)                                                                   
The objective for the course will be to acquaint students with many aspects of finance that they will encounter in their lives.  After becoming acquainted with these concepts, we will explore them in more detail and develop an understanding of how to think about them and make good decisions about them in their future lives.  In essence, this is a financial planning course.  We will also consider the uncertain economic environment in which we live as we consider individual financial well-being.  It assumes no background and is intended for anyone.

Louis Rees, “The Holocaust in Print & Film” (21)                                                       
How effective is propaganda in encouraging racial/ethnic hatred?  What steps were taken to bureaucratize the extermination process?  How can otherwise ordinary people be transformed into merciless killers of men, women, and children?  To what lengths will people go to stay alive?  To what extent are people willing to turn against their long-time neighbors?

Pete Schneller, “Kree-ey-tiv-itee” (22)                                                                         
Sir Kenneth Robinson claims, “Creativity is as important as literacy.”  This seminar is an exploration of the creative process . . . how people are creative, why people are creative, when people are creative . . .  The course will develop creative problem-solving and critical thinking skills as well as examine current cognitive research regarding (capital-C) CREATIVITY as well as more common forms of creativity including what might appear to be serendipitous creative acts.  Biographies of Capital C Creative folks will be investigated, including Albert Einstein, T.S. Eliot, Sigmund Freud, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, Martha Graham, and Mahatma Gandhi.  Special topics will include the necessity of imagination as a by-product of globalization, empathy as a feature of the “new” creativity, education and curiosity (and other C-words, e.g. cosmopolitanism), future thoughts, the “optimism” bias, humor and creativity, multiple intelligences ala Howard Gardner, IQ and Creativity Tests, the new Bloom’s Taxonomy, lateral thinking and Eureka Thinking, creativity as a function of the human spirit, as well as common mental locks that inhibit creativity – and education as a conspirator to these locks.  The class will take on a group creative project, which will involve a product to be on display on campus, as well as in one of the local schools.

Whitney Snyder, Inventing the Captain: Group Process in Teams (23)                   
In sports, the team captain is usually the fans’ hero.  They lead our favorite teams to the biggest victories.  They make mesmerizing, breathtaking, and fantastic plays as well as make others around them perform even better.  From Derek Jeter and LeBron James to Ray Lewis and Sidney Crosby, these sports heroes provide the leadership that their teams need to win.  This seminar explores the role of leadership in group process.  Are leaders born or are they made?  How does one define effective leadership?  And how do leaders emerge?  As we answer these questions and others, our main focus will be on the ways communication-within the group or team context – contributes to and inhibits effective problem-solving, decision making, and the development of group cohesion.  To do so, we will read and discuss the memoirs of some of our most effective sports leaders and watch sport films that dramatize their greatest accomplishments.

Francis Schortgen, “The Challenge of Radical Islam: A Clash of Civilizations” (24)
After the events of September 11, 2001, people began to quickly embrace the “clash of civilizations” hypothesis that Samuel Huntington advanced in the early 1990s to much criticism. Some 15 years later, the specter of civilization clash still grabs global attention with the expanding violence of radical Islam around the world. The Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 provide just the latest evidence of this unsettling trend. In this seminar, we will shed some light on the initial hypothesis and, by studying actual events that unfolded, and continue to unfold, around the world since, and assess how these dynamics affect us as individuals and as societies. Can we successfully manage the emotions of fear, humiliation and hope that seem to contribute to an undermining of hope for a peaceful world? What role does cultural awareness and tolerance play in this regard? Do the actions taken by Western countries in response to the threat of radical Islam help in preventing a clash of civilizations or do they merely add fuel to the fire? Where and how does the media fit into the civilization clash/radicalization reality? Drawing on a number of actual events from 9/11 to the present, we will grapple with these questions, and much more – questions that powerfully and directly shape the world you grow up in.

Frank Tascone, “Cleveland Rocks: Stories of the Western Reserve” (25)                          
In this course we will take a close look at the Western Reserve (Northeast Ohio) through stories both written and spoken.  The stories may be by or about people like John D. Rockefeller, Toni Morrison, Elliot Ness, or your grandmother.  About places like Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the West Side Market, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Lake Erie, a cemetery in your hometown.  About events like the building of the Ohio and Erie Canal, the first use of an electric streetlight, and the founding of your hometown.  Think nothing ever happens around here?  You might be surprised.

Paul Tidman, “The Meaning of Life”   (26)                                                             
What is the meaning of life?  Those who believe in God often claim that, apart from God, life would have no meaning.  Is that true?  Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living.  Is that true?  What makes life worth living?  Many argue that science shows that there is no intelligent design behind the universe.  Does it?  In this seminar you will explore questions like these.  At the end of the day, we may not all agree about the meaning of life, but we will have explored interesting and thought-provoking answers to life’s ultimate question.

Bob Woodward, “From Breaking Bad to Ebola: Science is Sexy!” (27)             
Were you fascinated by the TV show Breaking Bad and its account of a high school teacher turned drug kingpin?  Were you afraid when Ebola came recently to the United States?  This course will examine such topics and show how they are connected by considering how science is presented to the public in TV, movies, books, and theatre.  We will specifically discuss how science and scientists are portrayed in each setting and how these portrayals might help or hinder the public from appreciating science.  In doing so, we will seek to answer questions including: why do we care about science?  Is the science shown in TV and movies real?  Do I have to understand all of the science to appreciate it?  Should we celebrate science of be afraid of it?

Liangwu Yin, “The Great Wall of China: Myth & Reality” (28)                    
The Great Wall of China is one of the greatest wonders on earth.  This seminar is designed to explore its architectural grandeur, historical significance, and relevance to the contemporary world.  In this seminar you will examine various aspects of the Great Wall and through our discussion broaden your world view of different cultures and history. 

Sarah Torok-Gerard, “Ultra: Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things” (29)
Can you imagine running 135 consecutive miles, starting at the basin of Death Valley and finishing at the 14,505 foot summit of Mt. Whitney . . . and doing it in temperatures that exceed 115F?  How about ascending and descending the 19,000 foot Mt. Kilimanjaro without any assistance, and doing it in just over 9 hours?  Or even still, how about swimming in open water for 2.4 miles, riding your bike for 112 miles, and then running 26.2 miles . . . on two prosthetic legs?  This course will explore the stories of athletes who sacrifice their time, energy, money, and bodies to achieve incredible feats.  Most of the examples we will discuss will involve athletes, but we will explore some cases that involve people in business, education, and the arts.  Over the course of the semester, you will be introduced to these people and explore the theories that attempt to explain 1) what motivates them, 2) what regulates their behaviors during training, and 3) whether they may apply the discipline in one domain to other aspects of their daily lives.  We will also look at the role of failure in their performances and discuss how we can learn and benefit from our own successes and failures in everyday life.  In addition to learning about other people’s adventures, you’ll be given the opportunity to train for your own feat of “endurance” during the semester.

Ting Shen, “Chinese Popular Culture” (30)                
This course is an introduction to contemporary Chinese popular culture. From film to literature, from music to theatre, from popular TV shows to social media, this course traces the sociopolitical, aesthetic, and affective impact on the contemporary world and explores popular culture’s relations to social change, technology development, public spaces, the state, national identity, and globalization.

Rodney Dick, “Texting, Tweeting and Status Updates” (31)                                                    
It has been proposed that today’s generation of teenagers are writing and reading more than any other.  The catch is that much of this reading and writing takes place through texting, tweeting status updates, Wikipedia and webpages.  As a result, many argue that the very nature of how we communicate has changed, and that we, as a culture, are losing our competitive edge globally.  Others argue that these new communication technologies are actually changing how we think.  In this first year seminar, we will examine the many sides of this issue, paying attention to both popular and “scholarly” perspectives, in an attempt to answer the question: Is technology making use stupid?

Deborah Lotsof, “Is Theatre Dead? Should it Be?”(32)                                         
Live theatre, which has been an important and integral part of the human experience for centuries, has taken a serious challenge in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries from a variety of electric and electronic technology, such as cinema, television, computers, etc.  Consequently, theatre is no longer the vital and immediate form of entertainment, to and for the general public, that it once was.  Considering this, is theatre still a viable art form today?  Should it be?  If theatre is essentially live actors with a live audience in the same place at the same time, is theatre still relevant and feasible today?  Or do we now have better ways for humans to examine their lives and their lifetime experiences?  Ultimately, is theatre dead?

Hans Tritico, Sports Cathedrals: The Design, Mathematics & Cultural Impact of Stadiums (33)
From modern day Progressive Field to the Roman Coliseum sports stadiums have inspired civilizations.  People propose marriage at sports stadiums – people actually say yes to these proposals!  Why is that?  What’s the magic that translates simple piles of bricks into cultural icons?  This course will explore the importance of a strong liberal education through the interplay of mathematics, science, communication, beauty, cultural awareness, and ethics as they are applied to the design of stadiums.  You will use case studies to investigate big questions and you will gain perspective on your path through college and beyond.                                                                                

Kate McMahon, The Human Question Explored in Literature and Film (34)  
What does it mean to be human?  Speculative fiction imagines times, places, situations that could or might be.  Literature like this challenges us to question who we are and helps us to explore our human identity and our humanity.  It asks the question “What if?”  What if science and technology developed conscious androids or robots?  Enhanced our brains or bodies with biotechnology?  How do we distinguish ourselves from smart machines? From clones?  In this class, using a variety of literary works and films, we will dive into this interesting question of who we are and what we mean by “being human.”

Susan Haddox, Genesis: In the Beginning (35)                                  
Genesis means “beginning,” and this first book in the Bible describes many beginnings: the beginning of the world, the beginning of civilization, the beginning of religion.  It is the beginning of sin, deception, war, and sex.  Essentially, however, it is a book of family relationships: the beginning of God’s relationship with the people who because Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  In this class we will look closely at this fascinating text using an Academic perspective on interpretation, and explore some of the many social controversies this book has generated.


Honors First Year Seminars/HON 110

Susan Haddox, “Gender in Disney” [HON 110((01)]
From sleeping beauty to disguised soldier, from evil stepmother to doting daughter, from charming prince to scheming uncle, Disney films offer a wide array of gender performances.  The various characters in Disney have been both shaped by cultural norms and exerted influence in reinforcing certain expectations of how men and women should look and act.  In this seminar, we will analyze the portrayal of gender in select animated Disney films and consider how these portrayals represent issues around gender in their cultural context.

Niki Johnson, “Martyrs or Fools? Heroes of Faith-Based Social Justice” [HON 110 (02)]
This course investigates the lives and work of individuals who, based on religious values and commitments, have worked for social justice and change in their particular contexts. Through the use of both primary and secondary resources, students will consider some of the “greats” in this area: Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Archbishop Oscar Romero, William Wilburforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others.  The course will also pay some attention to the work of more local individuals who likely will never be famous for their efforts but who nonetheless have dedicated their lives to the work of social justice and change.  The course will include a service learning option and a site visit to an appropriate venue(s).

Michelle Collins-Sibley, “Watching the Detective” [HON 110 (03)]                    
“I get so angry when the teardrops start/but he can’t be wounded ‘cause he’s got no heart,” sings Elvis Costello in his praise song to the hardboiled detective . . . a hard-drinking, cynical, street-smart anti-hero of a world where sometimes heroes are thugs and thugs are men (or women) of honor.  Hardboiled is attitude . . . at times the clear-eyed, objective forensics of a “high-functioning sociopath” – the cocaine-addicted consulting detective who investigates crimes to stave off boredom.  From Sam Spade to Spencer, Basil Rathbone to Benedict Cumberbatch (and Robert Downey Jr. too!) we’ll explore the worlds of the detective, women who love (or hate) them -- not to mention those who look to replace them – on screen and in print.  What can “watching the detective” teach us about masculinity and femininity? Truth and justice?  Heroes?  Villains?  Sidekicks?  “The game is on!”

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