First-Year Seminars 2020

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.

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.

“Media Madness!” (FLT 190-P)

Image for Seminar “Media Madness!” (FLT 190-P)

In 1964, the media theorist Marshall McLuhan declared “the medium is the message,” arguing that it is the forms of media we consume that shape our society, not merely the ideas those media are used to convey. 56 years later, we consume (or are consumed by) more media than ever before, and the issue of how the media shapes us and the world(s) we inhabit has never been more pressing. This seminar will investigate media in all its multitudinous varieties. We will read work by canonical media theorists and philosophers, we will study the impacts of media on society and politics, and we will analyze specific forms and genres—from photography to film, TV to software. In the process of investigating these topics, you will also make media objects. Scholarly assignments in this course will take the form of photojournals, video essays, web sites, and more.

Instructor: Nathaniel Deyo, Lecturer in English Composition

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

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

“Here Be Dragons: Mapping Your World” (FLT 192-F)

Seminar image for “Here Be Dragons: Mapping Your World” (FLT 192-F)

Every map tells a story. From medieval maps that placed monsters at the edge of the world, to world maps that distorted the relative size of continents, to digital maps with hidden locations, each map presents an idea of the world, grounded in the time and place of its creation. In this Freshman Seminar we’ll explore maps as practical tools, tangible art objects, and historical records. We’ll consider how and why maps are created, how they reflect and shape our understanding of places and people, and how they tell stories by what they show and by what they don’t. We’ll look at how mapping is used not only in geography but also in politics, medicine, history, astronomy, psychology, literature, and art. Finally, we’ll become mapmakers by creating our own digital maps, choosing the stories we want to share and deciding how we want to tell them.

Instructor: Valerie Gramling, Lecturer in English Composition

“Being a Scientist” (FNS 190-P)

First year seminar about "Being a Scientist” (FNS 190-P)

Human beings’ curiosity about how things work has led to many fields of study including science. Science has been a major player in not only rationalizing what goes on around and inside us, but also to the changes in our environment. In addition to helping build a better future, however, the mastery of scientific phenomena has also led to detrimental outcomes. Contributions to a better future thus require knowledge of both the good and bad aspects of science, especially from the young people who will be the scientists of the future. “Being a Scientist” will analyze the contributions and the lives of scientists. The course is designed to bring awareness to students about what it takes to be a successful scientist, why a career in the sciences is worth pursuing, and how it can be intellectually and occasionally financially rewarding.

Instructor: Dr. V. Ramamurthy, Professor of Chemistry