First-Year Research Seminars 2021

First-Year Research 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 and to the excitement of independent and group research.

Mission of First-Year Research Seminars

A liberal arts education teaches you how to think critically, make connections across multiple disciplines, and communicate clearly and effectively. First-Year Research 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 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.

"Wasted: Junk, Trash, Garbage and the Production of the Value in the Contemporary World” (FLT 190-R)

"Wasted: Junk, Trash, Garbage and the Production of the Value in the Contemporary World” (FLT 190-R)

Waste is typically understood as a problem–an issue of public and environmental health that should be practically approached. And indeed, waste is very much an issue in policy debates, municipal and federal governance, urban planning, and any number of other fields. With increasing concern about the impacts of anthropogenic climate change, waste in many forms has come to occupy thinking at a global scale: pollution, nuclear waste, discarded plastics accumulating in the Earth’s warming oceans, e-waste shipped transnationally for recycling, landfill’s everywhere overflowing with rubbish. Waste is also, though, a conceptual field into which we venture every day. We watch ‘Trash TV’; we filter junk mail from our inboxes; we eat junk food. We waste time, or opportunities. In short, waste, junk, trash, and garbage are everywhere in our thinking about value, both economic and cultural. This course will explore both sides of waste: waste that is the physical stuff in our garbage bins, our water, our air, even our closets, and waste as an evaluating category in a much broader sense.  Students will explore waste in interdisciplinary and experimental work. We will read literary texts that take up notions of waste, junk, trash, and garbage (both literal and figural), including works by Phillip K. Dick, Karen Tei-Yamashita and others. We will watch filmic approaches to waste, such as Agnes Varda’s 2000 film The Gleaners and I and George Miller’s recent Mad Max: Fury Road. These creative works will be supplemented by research from scholars in sociology, environmental studies, anthropology, geography, and history–all of which will allow us to trace the history of waste and outline its current social, political, and economic role in contemporary life. 

Instructor: Dr. Allison Schifani, Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

“Mindfulness & The College Student” (FLT 191-B)

Seminar image for “Mindfulness & The College Student” (FLT 191-G)

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, writing, silence, research, and dialogue—practices that can offset the constant distractions of our multitasking, multimedia culture. Through focused self-exploration, this seminar will help you develop the ability to be present in the classroom and in life; to engage in active listening with an open mind; to explore your world with friendly curiosity; 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 writing, speaking, and listening skills.

Instructor: Melissa Burley, Lecturer in English Composition

“How Do We Reverse Global Warming?” (FSS 190-P)

“How Do We Reverse Global Warming?” (FSS 190-P)

This is quickly becoming the dominating problem of this century and is one that we must quickly move beyond talking and begin meaningfully solving, hopefully to prevent catastrophic consequences and deterioration of civilization.  This hands-on course has students teaming with 2-3 others to look at specific solution possibilities in (a) changing human behavior, (b) imposed economic measures, and (c-e)) geoengineering solutions of atmosphere, ocean, land, and ice.  Each will be a two-week team research effort to understand, evaluate, conclude viability and risks, and provide a report.  Final class product will be a book summarizing and evaluating some 20 solution areas.

With necessary background and support from the instructor, it is the goal of this course to lead college students to become fearless in aggressively pursuing answers to critical questions that cross the boundaries within science and humanities.  This course will open new pathways for thinking, new research and policy fields, and unfamiliar opportunities to students.  Instructor will strive to guide students to research the literature more efficiently and effectively, better formulate and articulate essentials in complex inter-relationships, and better defend conclusions from research.

Instructor:  Dr. Harold R. Wanless, Professor, Department of Geography and Urban Sustainability

“Science, Society, and The Growth Of Knowledge” (FSS 191-G)

“Science, Society, and The Growth Of Knowledge” (FSS 191-G)

Team science has led to scientific breakthroughs that would not otherwise have been possible, such as the discovery of the transistor effect, the development of antiretroviral medications to control AIDS, and confirmation of the existence of dark matter” (“Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science”).  Though the aims of this course are somewhat more modest than confirming the existence of dark matter, the processes, questions, and methods we will use in our projects are similar.  This small, first-year community will create, design and research a multidisciplinary question or problem, culminating in a final written or multimodal product suitable for submission to an undergraduate research journal. Projects might include questions about “Love, Marriage, and Family,” “Crime, Punishment, and Justice,” “Food, Sustainability and Class,” or “Global Climate Crisis and Catastrophe”. The course will give special regard to two crucially important aspects of collaborative research: the “science of team science” itself (how to create collaborative and productive working environments) and the responsible conduct of research.  The role of critical thinking and writing will be central to the course.  This course is suitable for students in any major or discipline – although “science” is part of the description, it means science in its broadest sense, i.e. science as knowledge.

Instructor: Dr. Joanna Johnson, Associate Professor of Practice, English Composition