First Year Experience Sections

On this page

First Year Experience Course Descriptions

Between Good and Evil

John Partridge, Gail Sahar
Monday and Wednesday 12:30pm – 1:50pm

This FYE links two disciplines, philosophy and psychology. The courses—”What is the Good Life?” and “The Social Psychology of Good and Evil,” examine the nature and meaning of these foundational concepts.  The courses will study real-world examples of individuals who embody the questions that are urgent for us.  Using a range of historical, contemporary, fictional, and scientific texts, this FYE empowers students to critically evaluate the phenomena denoted by the concepts and to engage in reflections, activities, and practices that, individually and jointly, make a difference in our lives.

Sports – The Economics, Marketing, and Importance

James Freeman, CC Chapman
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00am – 12:20pm

This Connected First Year Experience will use the love of sports as the foundation to examine its importance and impact on the world. We will use economic ideas and tools to study the operation of professional and amateur sports leagues in the U.S. and abroad and examine how government policies and culture impact the operation of these sports leagues. We will also look at the variety of different storytelling and tactics used by teams and athletes to market themselves to the world and how those have evolved over time.

In addition to the business side of sports, special attention will be given to discussions around equality, diversity, and advocacy that have always been a cornerstone of sports. Today, more than ever athletes are called upon to be role models and influential voices for the causes they believe in. We will also examine the ethical and legal issues around the global sports betting industry and the use of athletes’ image and likeness, especially amateur and collegiate athletes, in video and electronic games.

While there will be two separate courses that make up this FYE, it should be noted that the courses will share some readings/documentaries and organize one or two events together that will be announced during the semester.

Back to top ^

What is Art For?

Ellen McBreen, Claudia Fieo, Joe Wilson Jr.
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00 – 12:20pm

Why do we create art?  Does it have a broader social or political purpose beyond personal self-expression? In this FYE, we will focus as much on process as we do on finished product, to see how the creative disciplines of art writing, image making, and performance are connected modes of thinking, each with its own means for connecting to audiences. To write, make and perform are interrelated modes of communication with histories that inform each other. One commonality in the creative processes for each is that research is required to bring ideas to concrete fruition. Any writer, practicing artist, or performer working in the 21st century is keenly aware of historical precedents for their work. It’s where artists and writers locate voices, ideas, and purpose. This FYE team is taught by an art historian/museum curator, a visual artist, and a performance artist. Collectively, we will work in teams to create original work in multiple formats, as part of a sustained and specific response to historical objects from Wheaton’s Permanent Collection. Students will work collaboratively to give these objects multiple voices, both historical or imagined.

Back to top ^

Food for Thought: The Culture, Language, and Sustainability of What We Eat

Jesse Knowlton, Kent Shaw, Justin Schupp, Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00am – 12:20pm

This FYE will center around the topic of food–specifically the building and execution of rituals with/around food, writing about food, examination how society influences the food that we eat, and how our food choices affect the environment. This FYE will be taught in four sections led respectively by a biologist, an English professor and poet, a sociologist, and a Religion professor and rabbi. Sometimes we will meet together, sometimes separately in sections.

Back to top ^

What Is Music?

Kate Eskine, Will Mason
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00am – 12:20pm

“What Is Music” will study music from evolutionary, cognitive, neurological, compositional, cultural, and philosophical perspectives. Co-taught by a psychologist and a music theorist, the course explores questions about musical preference, aesthetic value, the ubiquity of music in human cultures, how music is processed in the mind, and the neurological underpinnings of listening and learning music. Students will engage with a diverse range of musical practices; see how different disciplines will approach a similar body of texts but arrive at a wide and even sometimes conflicting range of insights; and will learn how to design and conduct a successful experiment.

What Good is College?

Kate Mason, Linda Eisenmann
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00 – 12:20pm

In this first-year experience course, students will learn to use the tools of history, education, and sociology to make sense of an institution they have recently entered: college. Within U.S. culture, education—and higher education, specifically—has long been idealized as a meritocracy, offering opportunities for upward social mobility for any student with the drive, intelligence, and desire to succeed. In this sense, college can be thought of as a private good, benefiting individuals who invest in their education. Yet, most types of higher education institutions frame their missions as fulfilling a public good, ranging from the community-serving research mandates of public land grant universities, to the liberal arts mission of educating democratic citizens, to the work of educating underserved communities performed by institutions like historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), women’s colleges, and  Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs).

This FYE will explore the question “What good is college?” in three iterations:

  • In what ways is college a private good and a public good?
  • For whom is college good?
  • How is college good?

Back to top ^

“Make it New”: Modernism in Literature and the Arts

Del Case, Laura Bohn Case
Monday and Wednesday 12:30pm – 1:50pm

Do we experience the world as it really is?

Do the arts represent the world? Or do they create the world for us to understand?

Can we understand the world at all?

How about ourselves?

These are a few of the questions raised by the artists, musicians, and writers whose ideas became central to early-twentieth century modernism. We will focus especially on German and Austrian figures such as the psychologist Sigmund Freud, the artist Wassily Kandinsky, the composer Arnold Schoenberg, the architect Mies van der Rohe, and the writer Franz Kafka who didn’t just change their disciplines: they radically transformed the ways that humans thought about themselves, their relationships with each other and with society as a whole, and how the arts could be used to explore these new conceptions of the world. By questioning, reformulating, and even destroying 19th-century ideas about art, music, literature, and human nature, modernism paved the way for a new world: one marked by an unceasing critical exploration of nearly every aspect of human culture and society.

Cross-Cultural Encounters

Alberto Bianchi, Montse Toribio Perez
Monday and Wednesday 12:30pm – 1:50pm

What happens when cultures cross geopolitical, historical and imaginary borders?  How do they migrate through both time and place, navigate communication and exchange, and transform their identity and experience of others?  Through an exploration of musical, linguistic, artistic, visual, and literary texts, we will examine questions about personal belonging, identity, and home in order to understand the nature of community identity as a dynamic relationship between the shifting boundaries between self and other.

Back to top ^

“A Better and More Sustainable Future for All”: Policy, Social Innovation and the Politics of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Imran Chowdhury, Jonathan Chow
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00 – 12:20pm

Imagine a world with no poverty, a world in which hunger is a relic of the past, where clean air and water are accessible to everyone, quality education available to all, gender equity a universal reality, and societies becoming ever more prosperous thanks to advanced transportation and communications infrastructure. Although this may sound like a utopian fantasy, they are just some of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call for bold efforts to foster dramatic social and economic development around the world by the year 2030. Together, the SDGs are a summons to harness humanity’s ingenuity, organization, and idealism.

This course will introduce students to some of the world’s most pressing problems in development by exploring the UN SDGs and various efforts to achieve them. Through case studies and team-based exercises, students will learn about how different sectors–government, business, and the nonprofit sector–approach development from diverse perspectives.

For their final project, students will work in teams to design an initiative that will address one of the 17 SDGs. They will identify a development problem, assess its impact on a community, and then propose a set of solutions to the problem they have identified. Proposed solutions will identify: the stakeholders affected and how they will be engaged; the resources required and how they will be obtained; the impact of the political environment and how it might influence the course of the project, and the expected impact of the project on the community.

Life in 24 Frames per Second

Tom Dolack, Jim Mancall
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00am – 12:20pm

Human beings are narrative creatures.  We have always told stories as a way of understanding ourselves and the world around us. The common themes of these stories provide the broad outlines of a common human experience, while their variety embodies the richness of imagination and lived experience. Over the millennia, these stories have been told around campfires, acted out in ritual and theatre, and recorded in texts. In the past 120 years, film has become a powerful new way for human beings to tell and share stories.  With the advent of film, people from vastly different cultures could see and hear each other’s stories with a new immediacy. In this course, students will examine the phenomenon of human storytelling by learning to “read” films and connect them to cultural and historical contexts.  By engaging films and other texts, students will be able to draw connections, make interpretive arguments, and share what they have learned in oral and written presentations.

Back to top ^

Contact: Geography, Resources, and Cultures along Eurasia’s Historical Trade Routes

Geoff Collins, Nancy Evans Shenglan Li, Leah Niederstadt
Monday and Wednesday 12:30pm – 1:50pm

Globalization is not a new phenomenon. For thousands of years, links between people who began trading physical resources evolved into connections that spread cultural practices, artistic styles, religions, philosophical ideas, and technologies. Our FYE explores the history, cultures, and material artifacts of what is commonly known as the “Silk Road,” the historical network of trade routes that extended from East Asia and the Indian subcontinent through Central Asia and the Middle East into the Mediterranean region. Four interdisciplinary perspectives – Classics, Geology, History, and Museum Studies – will provide us with different tools to understand the history of contact across Eurasia. Scientific testing of objects in Wheaton’s Permanent Collection, together with analysis of historical documents and literature, will reveal valuable information about human networks in the past and their legacy in the present day.

Medical Mysteries

Claire Buck, Hilary Gaudet, M. Gabriela Torres
Monday and Wednesday 12:30pm – 1:50pm

How do we understand what is an illness, disease or contagion? Do individual experiences of illness clarify or muddle our medical mysteries? Can language express physical or mental distress? What role can writing play in making illness or disease into truth?

The Medical Mysteries FYE will consist of three connected courses from the disciplines of anthropology, biochemistry, and literary and writing studies. By uncovering medical mysteries, the connected courses in anthropology, biochemistry and literature/writing explore the ways that culture, natural science, and narrative all shape how medical knowledge is created.

Culture is central to biomedicine and the anthropological perspective in this FYE challenges the universality of a standard body, the scientific method, and the belief in the truth-to-nature assumption implicit in medical knowledge. Biochemistry focuses on understanding the importance of the patient story, the patient exam, technology, and medical testing in gaining biomedical knowledge and formulating a diagnosis. We will use the tools of literary and writing studies to investigate (in students’ own writing and published works) how the stories we tell about illness shape medical understanding, experience, and practice.

The FYE will offer students three core connected experiences: lab-based learning, content from all three disciplinary perspectives, and a shared final project.

Back to top ^