First-year Seminar Descriptions

After reading the descriptions below, please return to the Advising Questionnaire to list which seminars interest you the most. Please note that the meeting time for all seminars is Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30-12:00.

ART 197F: The Political Print (4 credits)

How does art act as an agent of change? How did social change occur before Facebook, Twitter, and Memes, and how does it ignite today? This course will examine the intersection of art and activism within printmaking, which has a unique history of involvement in ideas and work for social and political change. We will investigate printmaking’s role within various historical movements, including the Works Progress Administration (WPA), German Expressionism, and Social Realism. The course will include research component(s) into these movements and individual artists, as well as studio-based projects in printmaking. There is a small course fee for studio supplies.

Instructor and Advisor: Professor Martens  |  Student Success Leader: Selden Frissell


BIOL/PHYS 197F: Lasers, Nanoparticles, and Molecular Medicine (4 credits)

Have you ever wondered how MRIs and CT scans work? Would you like to learn about the emerging field of nanomedicine? Are you interested in the latest methods for detection and treatment of diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer? Would you like to understand the connection between biophysics and medicine in these new and innovative technologies? Are you curious about new career options in fields related to biotechnology and medicine? In Lasers, Nanoparticles, and Molecular Medicine we will investigate not only the technologies at the forefront of these biomedical fields, but will look deeper into the physical principles involved in their construction and operation. We will examine areas where physics and biology intersect as we strive to understand the human organism, the diseases that affect it, and how we might be able to treat them.

Instructor: Professor Gentry  |  Advisor: Professor Wahl-Fouts | Student Success Leader: Aqsa Fazal


CLAS/ENG 197F: Reimagining Ancient Women (4 credits)

Women from antiquity, with few exceptions, did not get to write their own stories for posterity, so they appear as fragments, uncontextualized, even nameless in the histories and narratives that survive. Students will read a selection of ancient literature, across multiple genres, with an eye to finding the women in ancient Greco-Roman mythologies and Judeo-Christian texts, and follow up with contemporary retellings that fill in the gaps, unearth silences, and animate the original narratives. Steeped in these reimagining’s, students will do their own imagining work on a relevant and resonant character; researching primary and secondary sources to provide background and context, they will then write original poetry or prose that illuminates the gaps in ancient tales.

Instructors and Advisors: Professor Salowey and Professor van Eerden |  Student Success Leader: Kath Ham


COMM 197F: Erasing History? Rhetoric and Public Memorials (4 credits)

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Public memorials are inherently rhetorical, created to express particular interpretations and valuations of the past. Arguments about memorials are also rhetorical. A prime example in the U.S. is the claim that removing Confederate monuments “erases history.” This course introduces you to the analysis of memorial rhetoric’s. We will investigate the ways that monuments themselves tell persuasive stories, and how their interpretation, use, and even destruction offer alternative narratives. Contexts of study include the U.S., Greece, France, Israel, and other nations. We will learn, courtesy of guest lectures, about different scholarly perspectives on these issues (e.g. history, international studies, political science, English), and as a class we will actively engage with the rhetoric of memorialization here at Hollins.

Instructor and Advisor: Professor Richter  |   Student Success Leader: Hanna Ko


COMM 197F: New Communication Revolution: Mind-reading Robots are Coming! (4 credits)

About 30 years ago, starting with the invention of the Internet, we entered the digital era in human communication. Previous communication revolutions like the invention of spoken language, written word, or mass communication profoundly changed the way we lived our lives. In this class, we will study the consequences of previous communication revolutions and infer the possible outcomes of the new Digital Revolution. We will begin by analyzing the impact of new communication technologies (e.g. computers and cell phones) and new communication platforms (e.g. social networks) on human communication. We will then learn about the new digital inventions like computer algorithms, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. Finally, we will hypothesize whether the new mode of communication such as mind reading can realistically be achieved in the near future.

Instructor and Advisor: Professor Bratic  |  Student Success Leader: Joey Mathis


ENG 197F: Folk and Fairy Tales (4 credits)

The fairy tale is a wondrously complex form rooted in possibility. In this course, we will look at this rich literary tradition not as an isolated form but as a dense space full of subgenres. Our goal will be to gain a better understanding of its formal possibilities and imaginative spaces, from a craft perspective, with an equal measure of depth and breadth. We will concern ourselves with the “aboutness” of the form, its varied themes, uses, history, evolutions, and permutations, discuss the tales themselves, along with a plentitude of supplementary articles and coinciding lectures on fairy tale/folklore, a number of adjacent forms—from fables, tall tales, allegory, parable, myth, to even creepypasta and beyond—and even do some storytelling ourselves.

Instructor and Advisor: Professor Burnside  |  Student Success Leader: Finn Webster


ES 197F: Appalachia Dreaming (4 credits)

Appalachia evokes many ideas—hollers and hills, coal, opioids, tradition. Yet, there is much more to Appalachia than this; it is a world of immense biodiversity, mist rising in the mornings, poetry, pride, and activism. We will think about communities, both ecological and human, to help you understand your place here at Hollins, and in the environment around you. In addition to time spent reading and writing, we will also cultivate the skills you need for a successful time at Hollins.

Instructor and Advisor: Professor du Bray  |  Student Success Leader: Tate Hurley


FILM 197F:  Cellphone Cinematography (4 credits)

In today’s world, our bodies have adapted to a new appendage that daily affects/reflects our modern lives. Is this the work of evolution? Perhaps! As you may have guessed, it’s one of the most precious devices we hold in our hands, our phones. Smartphones, now an integral physical and mental extension of ourselves, have also given us two extra eyes: tiny phone lenses that help us express ourselves in new and interesting ways. This course explores the innate “up-close-and-personal” characteristic of cellphone filmmaking while also experimenting with its flexible, compact size. Students produce cellphone videos throughout the semester and learn basic skills for making short digital films from concept development to finished piece. Course format includes screenings, discussions, technical instruction, and critique. A smartphone that records video is required for the class.

Instructor and Advisor:  Professor Gerber-Stroh |  Student Success Leader:  Kasey Copeland


HIST 197F: What is a Nation? (4 credits)

In this course, we will explore the “nation” as a distinct type of community and “nationalism” as a powerful ideology that has shaped the modern world. When, where, and why did the concept of the nation first emerge? How do nations secure the loyalty of their citizens? Why are people willing to die for their nations? How do nations determine who gets to be a citizen and who doesn’t? What is the relationship of nationalism to revolution, war, and violence? We will use a case study approach and explore the emergence and development of nationalism in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Students will hone their ability to think historically and to draw on a variety of types of primary sources—from speeches, laws, novels, and memoirs to films, paintings, and propaganda posters—to make persuasive, evidence-based arguments.

Instructor and Advisor:  Professor Nuñez |  Student Success Leader: Jaiya McMillan


HUM 197F: An Introduction to Haitian Literature and Culture (4 credits)

They had to leave their home country of Haiti, their local community, their social and cultural network behind to find refuge in North America. According to data provided by the journal Migration Information Source, more than 670,000 Haitians were living in the United States in 2015. As a result, the U.S. is home to the largest Haitian migrant population, followed by the Dominican Republic and Canada. But looking beyond the numbers, we must ask: How does one live in exile; try to make a home away from home? How does one adjust to American society? What does it mean to be a member of a “diaspora”, to become Haitian American, while some family members are still in Haiti? How does one adapt, adjust to the cultural, racial, religious, and social differences between Haiti and the US? What are the strategies Haitian authors develop to cope with the trauma caused by years of dictatorships, European and American imperialism? Is an author who has lived outside Haiti for over 20 years still considered part of the Haitian Canon? How does exile impact their literature? The objective of this class is to develop your understanding of Haitian culture and society in a course structured around leading themes in Haitian and Diasporic Studies. During the semester, we will read and analyze poems, short stories, novels, and movies produced by authors of Haitian origin living outside their native island.

Instructor and Advisor: Professor Jégousso  |  Student Success Leader: Naomi Rajoo


INTL/REL 197F: God and the Ballot Box — Global Politics and Religion in the 21st century (4 credits)

The separation of church (faith) and state (politics) is a foundational principle for most liberal democracies around the world. But, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.” Politicians in the United States and around the world routinely discuss their religious faith publicly and attend rallies and fundraisers supported by religious organizations. How do politicians negotiate the tenets of their own faith while attending to the needs of a multicultural and interfaith constituency? As (post) modern societies, have we truly abandoned our moral and religious principles in favor of cultural and social politics that are relativistic, or is the exact opposite of this more correct, suggesting that open integrations of faith and religion are actually more common?

In this course, we will ask many of these philosophical questions while we examine practical case studies of the intersections and interactions between religion and political life. Students, working in both group and individual projects, will follow political issues in the United States and worldwide where religion is a major issue in the daily life of its citizens. In addition to U.S. case studies on evangelical voting and religion and protest within Native American communities, additional case studies examine contemporary and historical issues of religion and politics in Europe, the Near East, Jerusalem, West Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. We intend the course to be a critical space where we examine these controversial issues in a safe and accepting environment where we can learn from the different perspectives and experiences of our colleagues.

Instructor and Advisor:  Professor Bohland | Student Success Leader:  Elizabeth Dion


POLS 197F: Finding Hidden Messages (4 credits)

Are there any such things as simple stories? Do all works of literature have political messages? In this course, we will look at a wide variety of literary genres, from children’s books to classic epics. In some, we will find obvious political messages; in others, the message, if there is one, will be much more subtle. The process of finding political messages will reveal much about political science, related social sciences, and the analytical process.

Instructor and Advisor: Professor Lynch |  Student Success Leader: Maggie McCroby


PSY 197F: Interpersonal Relationships (4 credits)

This course will provide an in-depth examination of interpersonal relationships such as theoretical perspectives, research methods, various types of relationships (e.g., parent-child relationship, peer relationship, romantic relationship, marital relationship, workplace relationships, online relationships), relationship threats, and contextual influences on relationships. Students will have opportunities to think about their past, current, and future relationships and obtain knowledge to build healthy relationships.

Instructor and Advisor: Professor Han  |  Student Success Leader: Fiona Grannan


REL 197F: Disabling Ableism (4 credits)

“Ableism: Discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ableism. The dictionary definition of ableism tells us what it is, but it does not capture what it is like to be a person with a disability living in an ableist culture; nor does it proscribe solutions for confronting ableism in all of its manifestations. Using disability theory, memoir, and activism as a starting point, this class explores how ableism is reinforced and resisted, constructed and contested. We will pay particular attention to the potent intersections of disability, race, class, and gender as we investigate where and how ableist practices and systems prevent people with disabilities from flourishing. We will not be satisfied, however, to stop at the level of critique; we will also examine strategies for coalition building and creative imagining as we strive to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive community. The class will be of particular interest to students curious about the ambitious work of disabling ableism.

Instructor and Advisor: Professor Schumm  |  Student Success Leader: Tyler Sesker


SOC 197F: Gender, Sexuality, and Hip-Hop (4 credits)

Hip-hop has been a subversive music genre in undermining and reimagining mainstream gender and sexual politics, while simultaneously reinforcing gender and sexual inequalities. In this course, we will examine how hip-hop grapples with constructions of gender and sexuality. We will also highlight the contributions of women/femmes, trans, and nonbinary people to the genre. In addition, we will explore how hip-hop challenges the status quo and amplifies the voices of marginalized groups.

Instructor and Advisor: Professor Turner|  Student Success Leader: Kendall Sanders


THEA 197F: Performing the Unknown: Improvisation for the Stage and Beyond (4 credits)

In this course, students will learn the tenants of improvisation including spontaneity, collaboration, active listening, and building and sharing a narrative. Through practice and performance of improvisation games and exercises, formal research, live improv show attendance, and self-reflection, students will learn to embrace chaos and become more comfortable with the unknown. Applied improvisation takes the concepts, skills and techniques of improvisation for the theatre and applies them to everyday life. Applied improvisation teaches us an approach to our academic, personal, and professional lives that not only entertains but inspires us. Applied improvisation is experiential, and effective, and it is currently used across the globe in a wide range of professions to improve communication skills, leadership, and innovation. The study of both improvisation and applied improvisation will prepare students for a more balanced and connected life both on and offstage.

Instructor: Professor Trowell |  Advisor: Professor Wahl-Fouts | Student Success Leader: Zoe Raba


UNIV 197F: Ask Not What Your Community Can Do for You: Sustainability and Social Innovation (4 credits)

At the heart of the concepts of sustainability and social innovation is stewardship—the responsible use and protection of the environment around you through thoughtful and intentional practices that enhance ecosystem resilience and human well-being. The concept of stewardship can be applied not only to the environment and nature, but also to economics, health, information, theology, cultural resources, and beyond. The United Nations has identified sustainable development goals addressing the world’s most pressing problems. This class embarks on exploring ways to address those problems as they present themselves in our local community. Students will be challenged to develop innovative solutions to complex problems by applying design thinking principles while working in multidisciplinary collaborative teams. FYS facilitators will challenge students to ask not what your community can do for you but what you can do for your community.

Instructors and Advisors: Professor Wagner and Professor Carmichael |  Student Success Leader: Zahin Muhbuba