First-Year Seminars

First-Year Seminars are small courses exclusively for first-year students in the College of Arts & Sciences. Courses are created and taught by distinguished University of Miami faculty and are designed to introduce first-year students to the breadth, depth and interconnectivity of the liberal arts. Examples of recent seminars include:

  • Becoming a Patron of the Arts
  • From Minerva to Mithras: The Religions of Ancient Rome
  • Greatest Discoveries and Experiments in Astronomy and Physics
  • Biodiversity and Conservation of South Florida

Mission of First-Year Seminars

A liberal arts education teaches you how to think critically, make connections across multiple disciplines, and communicate clearly and effectively. First-Year Seminars are a microcosm of the larger liberal arts experience at University of Miami. Topics are engaging and eclectic, showing the diversity and interdisciplinary of liberal arts research and scholarship.  Classes are small (capped at about 24 students) to create an environment conducive to discussion and debate. They offer a remarkable opportunity to engage with new ideas, new people and new academic possibilities. 

All seminars can be counted as one of three courses in a cognate.

"Immersive Experience and Virtual Reality" (FPR190-O)

Immersive Experience and Virtual Reality

Current research suggests that having new experiences is more valuable than acquiring material things. Living a good life means immersing yourself in interesting and diverse experiences such as traveling the world, meeting different people, and learning new skills. But this is changing. Recent technological advances are making it possible to have immersive and realistic experiences within the world of virtual reality. In this seminar, you will explore and directly engage with a variety of virtual reality devices that create immersive experiences, from 4-D movies and interactive art to computer games and art immersive virtual reality systems. You will look at the ways in which these devices shape our experiences and our sense of self; examine what they can tell us about how the mind works; discuss the ethical and metaphysical challenges they pose and consider the opportunities they present for learning and problem-solving. 

“Aesthetics and Meaning in African Art and Cultures” (FFA190-P)

Aesthetics and Meaning in African Art and Cultures

Prepare to be immersed in the ancient, modern, and contemporary art and cultural life of the African continent. In this seminar, you will closely examine the issues facing African art and culture today including the destruction of ancient art and manuscripts due to war and religion, the looting of archeological sites and its relationship to the global art market, questions around authorship, value, authenticity and the exhibition of African art in museums. The seminar will also examine the ancient carvings and paintings extending from the Tassili n'Ajjer region to Southern Africa, and the art emerging from the kingdoms of ancient Egypt, Kush, Ethiopia, Dahomey as well as the Yoruba, Akan, and Kongo kingdoms. 



“Reconsidering the ‘Selfie’” (FLT192-K)

Reconsidering the ‘Selfie’

Have you considered the motive or impact of when you take a selfie—both on yourself and others? Why are selfies so pervasive in our society and how harmful/beneficial can the practice possibly become? How do social media outlets effectively or ineffectively use images of faces to address/share social justice/injustices and create action? In this seminar, you will find many new challenging perspectives on this familiar ritual and have the opportunity to critically think and write about media you are exposed to—and perhaps participate in, on a regular basis. Through course readings, class discussion, and research, you will view the selfie from a historical perspective and study how it’s viewed in current political arenas. You will also understand its effect on language, legal issues, and mental health as well as its current discourse with identity, connection, self-preservation, and technology. 

“American Jewish Culture in Literature and Film: The Last 50 Years” (FLT190-F)

American Jewish Culture in Literature and Film: The Last 50 Years

Understanding how American Jewish life, as represented in literature and film, has been in the process of transformation over the past half-century is the core of this seminar. By using college-level methods of analyzing literature and film through in-class discussion, we will approach the topic by reading works of some distinctively Jewish modes of literary interpretation as well as examining films and television shows to help us consider perspective issues that preoccupy American Jews. By focusing on this transformation that has followed a period of widespread acceptance, the seminar will view a broad spectrum of Jewish artistry during the 1950s and 1960s to more recent experiences of 21st-century American Jews—for whom tolerance can seem increasingly provisional and uncertain. 


“iListen/uListen” (FNS190-Q)


We see it all the time: students walking around campus wearing earbuds and headsets—listening to music. The motivation for this seminar is to understand why and how people listen to music while also exploring how the act of music listening can be made fun and effective. During this seminar, you will listen to and discuss music with classmates, conduct music listening experiments—from making music recommendations to mood induction and music productivity—as well as reading and critiquing classic research studies about the field. 




“Building Peace” (FSS190-R)

Building Peace

Peace-building is one of the most difficult dilemmas facing Western governments today, exceeding that of military victory itself. The study of peace-building is a relatively new field that is constantly evolving, given the forces behind the violence that are hybrid and incessantly changing. This seminar will explore how to build sustainable peace by studying the world’s most recent peace processes in places like Bosnia, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Colombia. You will also be exposed to a myriad of sociopolitical issues and moral dilemmas that do not fit neatly into any single discipline, yet, are fundamental to building peace. We will also place particular emphasis on the role of social media, e.g. Facebook, in conflict and peace. 


“The Politics of Pain” (FLT193-P)

The Politics of Pain

In a time in history that pursues endlessly the ideals of compassion and empathy, privileges the transparency of self and emotion, and sheds increasing light on individual and collective injustices, this seminar invites you to think critically about the experience of pain in all its manifestations: ideological, emotional, psychological, bodily, historical, political, comedic, and aesthetic. We will begin with the inner life of pain and then build to consider the ways in which pain is an expression of larger social paradigms through which humanity is presented at both its best and its worst. Together, we will also explore the themes of loss, grief, vulnerability, envy, anxiety, anger, sentimentality, and betrayal through multiple mediums, including film, television, memoir, poetry, historical photography, and contemporary art. 


“A Transdisciplinary Look at Mindfulness” (FLT191-G)

A Transdisciplinary Look at Mindfulness

Interested in enhancing your undergraduate experience through mindfulness training and meditation? Developed as a hybrid seminar of research and practice, this seminar will guide you through meditation, journal writing, silence, research, and dialogue—practices that can offset the constant distractions of our multitasking, multimedia culture. Through focused self-exploration, this seminar will also give you the ability to be present in the classroom and in life; to engage in active listening with an open mind; to appreciate the value of another’s experiences and perspectives; to develop self-awareness and insight; to think critically with self-awareness; and to enhance your speaking and listening skills. 


“The New Artist: Integrating New media, Identity and Studio Practices” (FFA191-GH)

The New Artist: Integrating New media, Identity and Studio Practices


Held in both a media lab and a design studio, this seminar explores the evolving relationship between an art studio practice and digital media. Discover the creativity of project-based art making combined with multimedia software and conceptual challenges of today’s artist. This hands-on seminar is accompanied by screenings of obscure media art, explorations of current social media trends, selected readings on art theory, and class critiques.