First-Year Seminars

Students in lab

Seminars are taught by faculty from a range of disciplines throughout the university. Seminar topics focus on exciting and important questions that provide students with the opportunity to explore issues, gather and evaluate evidence, and develop their ideas through writing. By participating in a First-Year Seminar, students develop essential academic skills that they will use throughout their time at KU.

Student FAQs

  • Taking a First-Year Seminar will enable you to explore an unfamiliar area that intrigues you or delve into a topic related to your academic interests.
  • First-Year Seminars are designed to help you develop university-level skills in critical thinking and writing that you will use at KU and throughout your professional career.
  • All First-Year Seminars have fewer than 20 students. You will get to know other students in your class and your professor.
  • First-Year Seminars involve active learning, discussion, and engagement with peers in your class.
  • First-Year Seminars provide hands-on experiential learning opportunities, such as field trips, laboratory research, service projects, or attending artistic performances or exhibits.
  • The only prerequisite to enroll in a First-Year Seminar is freshman status. Prior knowledge of the subject matter is not expected.

First-Year Seminars

AMS 177 Section 26179, SLAV Section 25327, MW 12:30 - 01:45 PM, Online KULC

How do turbulent political events and natural disasters affect the social conditioning of young people? How do individuals born in the same period come to form an identifiable “generation”? How can novels create a sense of community and generational identity?

Unlike familial generations, social generations are not born, but made. The members of an age group become transformed into a generation only when many of them realize that they are bound together by the experience of a major social cataclysm. The development of a distinctive generational consciousness does not necessarily take place in the midst of the formative event. This may happen years later when the individual memories gradually amount to a more or less coherent generational discourse.

In this course we will examine how the classical genre of the ‘coming-of-age’ novel is used to validate collective experiences of major political and social upheavals. We will read and interpret several Polish and American coming of age novels whose protagonists’ transition into adulthood overlaps with equally transformative events in their countries’ socio-political life. We will examine literary, historical, sociological and psychological studies related to the concepts of the coming-of-age novel and generation formation and explore how knowledge from one field of study can illuminate another.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Svetlana Vassileva-Karagyozova

Svetlana Vassileva-Karagyozova was born and raised in Bulgaria. She grew up under communism and witnessed the fall of the totalitarian regime during her freshman year of college. Her first book focused on pseudo-autobiographical novels of contemporary Polish writers, who like her, experienced a cataclysmic political change on the threshold of their early adulthood, and pondered the existential questions “Who am I now?” and “How should I live my life?” Professor Vassileva-Karagyozova speaks 5 languages and has spent time in 15 countries in Europe, America and Asia. She has a soft spot for ethnic jewelry and never comes back from a trip without a new item for her growing collection.


Section 19891, TuTh 09:30 - 10:45 AM, WES 4040

We have heard about the “war on drugs” but what do we really know about the people at the center of the battle? We will engage with and challenge stereotypes and propaganda about drug users and American drug policy, and encourage the development of empathy for those caught in the drug war, regardless of societal position. We will focus on the following key questions: Who are drug users?  What are the links between drug use and crime in America? What are the social and legal responses to drug use? Finally, how do we approach this social problem as scholars? This First-Year Seminar takes a close look at the world of homelessness and drug addiction in the contemporary United States by examining street heroin users.  Through discussion, oral presentations, and unique writing assignments, we will tackle some difficult material about “the drug problem” that continues to devastate American communities and families.​

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Margaret Kelley

Professor Margaret Kelley has been interested in deviance, drugs, and crime since her undergraduate work at Wichita State University. She had a class in deviance that captured her attention and motivated her to know more about people that live on the margins of society, either by choice, status, or circumstances. She then spent one summer working as a volunteer with the children’s visitation program in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in upstate New York, and saw first-hand the damage the war on drugs was doing to women and their families. About the same time, Professor Kelley read The Radical Vision of Saul Alinsky by P. David Finks. This account of Alinsky’s social activism inspired her to pursue research that could be used to make the world a better place.

Sections: ANTH: 23779, LAC: 29395, MW 11:00 - 12:15 PM, WES 4040

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to discover a lost city? Or how to tell the difference between real discoveries and hoaxes? This seminar will use real and imagined archeological discoveries in order to understand how the scientific method and critical thinking are equally vital components of inquiry in this and other scientific fields. Through our studies of how the imagination, creativity and new technologies are used to solve mysteries and produce new understanding about the ancient past, we will examine the excitement of scientific discovery, along with the dangers of errors in method and interpretation.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, John Hoopes

John Hoopes is an archaeologist who has done lots of fieldwork in Central and South America. He has been featured in numerous film documentaries about ancient mysteries and the scientific realities behind them. He's an internationally recognized authority on topics such as Maya calendar prophecies, the stone spheres of Costa Rica, and the "Lost City of the Monkey God" in Honduras, as well as the archaeology of Latin America. He also supervised a research project that used satellite imagery to study ancient irrigation systems in Afghanistan.

Section 25966 , MW 12:30 - 01:45 PM, MAR 305

Have you ever seen a building and wondered why it looks the way it does? When you've seen pictures of campus, are you inspired or intrigued by the architecture? This seminar will be an introduction to analyzing and critically understanding architecture for those who appreciate, but do not necessarily want to major in architecture studies. We will take behind-the-scenes tours of campus buildings, visit archives to see original historic building drawings and photos, and hear from guest speakers about KU campus architecture. We will try drawing exercises, 3D scans, and documentation of buildings to analyze architecture. All the techniques used in the class are ones that “real” architects use, but will be presented in an introductory and accessible method. No special equipment is required for the students. 

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Amy Van de Riet 

Amy Van de Riet is a licensed architect in Kansas. She received her Bachelor in Architecture from the University of Kansas in 2003, and her Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Columbia University in 2005. She worked in New York City as a preservation architect until 2012 when she began teaching adjunct for Florida Atlantic University School of Architecture. In 2016 she began teaching adjunct at the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Design. Amy’s courses taught include Foundation Studios ARCH 108 and ARCH 109. Amy also teaches ARCH 649 Historic Preservation Technology, one of four courses that constitute the Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation. Amy has been on the council for Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council since May of 2019.

Section 29085, MW  12:30-1:45, MAR 101

Have you ever thought about big ideas while building in Minecraft? With limited resources on the earth, this Minecraft collaboration class explores topics of how we design and build cities while preserving waterways and the environment. Students learn the fundamental aspects of how to design a city through the “Garden City Movement”, understand the impacts of engineering dams, and develop strategies for preserving the environment. Students collaborate through sharing ideas on how to build and create for a better tomorrow. Each week we have a small lecture focused on issues around the built environment, explore campus, and downtown Lawrence to experience how buildings work in cities. Together, we respond to the conversation by developing a new world in Minecraft. This collaboration is open to all fields of study and teams will be comprised of students in a variety of majors. 

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Thom Allen 

Thom Allen is an urban designer and community planner. He received his Bachelor in Architecture from Kansas State University in 2005, and his Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University in 2013. He has worked as a civil servant in Washington DC and New York City on community-focused projects and has also taught at Kansas State University, Montana State University, Catholic University, and MIT through the program Urbanframe. He began lecturing at the University of Kansas in 2010 and teaches architecture foundation studios and the theory of urban design. He currently serves as a commissioner for the Lawrence Multi-model Transportation Committee and is an affiliated faculty member with the Kansas City Design Center.

Section 18527, TuTh 09:30 - 10:45 AM, CHAL 423

We sometimes lament our role as passive ‘observers’ in the visual culture that surrounds us...have we moved on to become passive "makers" in that same culture?

Is there a role for the “Artist” in our future, or has the proliferation of images (and the ease with which they seem to be made) rendered the artist obsolete? Is everyone an “Artist”?

Images are constantly being created (and recycled) at a rapid pace, created using technologies that have become widely available. Participants in this course will explore the intersection of “looking” and “making” in art and visual culture, examining the use of digital tools and technologies in contemporary art practice. We will attempt to analyze and critique this situation in kind: capturing images with our cell-phones and surfing the Internet for pictures, we will embrace lo-fi and hi-tech, and consider how images might be recycled into new “works of art.”

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Luke Jordan

Chances are that Luke Jordan is looking at, thinking about, or making photographs at any given moment. To help support this habit (and provide cover), Luke teaches in KU’s Department of Visual Art, works as a Specialist in Photography at the Spencer Museum of Art, and is the staff photographer for the KU University Theatre. Luke is enthralled by 19th Century Photography and Contemporary Art; he is also obsessed with soccer and music (garage, punk, soul, blues, and jazz).

Section 19048, MW 01:00 - 02:15 PM, CAPF 4041

In today’s business world, cultural diversity plays an ever more important role. The understanding of cultural differences is a critical skill in today’s business world; whether working in a foreign country, communicating with a foreign business partner, or working in today’s increasingly diverse U.S. workplace. Culture matters in every aspect of doing business.

In this seminar, we will examine cultural differences in the workplace using eight aspects of conducting business. These aspects include communicating, evaluating, persuading, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, and scheduling. Students will engage in critical discussions about how cultural context influences business practice, and identify ways that enhanced cultural competency might advance business needs.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Dan Galindau

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, upon graduating from high school Dan Galindau knew exactly where he wanted to go in life; somewhere new. Thus began a 35 year adventure that included moving to LA to obtain degrees from both UCLA and USC, four years of service in the U.S. Navy that found him living in Florida and sailing the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, and a twenty year career with a European company that included 11 years living and working in Seoul, South Korea and Hong Kong. During this time, he traveled and worked throughout 13 countries in Asia Pacific. He now teaches International Management and Cross-Cultural Business both at the University of Kansas, and in China for several weeks each summer in a Chinese University Executive MBA program.

Section 29109, MW 04:00 - 05:15 PM, WESC 4011

When establishing the U.S. constitution, the Founding Fathers consciously looked back to
the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome to find models for their political institutions and
ideologies: institutions such as the Senate came from Rome, while ideas about democracy
originated in Greece. In this course we will consider how ancient ideas about democracy,
tyranny, and citizenship have influenced the foundation and development of modern states,
and ask how relevant these ideas are to understanding politics today. We will read extracts
from the enduring political works of ancient thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero,
and see how their critiques of despotism, mob rule, and oligarchy can be applied to current
political events. By analyzing the arguments of ancient thinkers and applying them to the
events in the world today you will develop the critical thinking and communication skills
needed to succeed in future college coursework, as well as a deeper understanding of the
stakes and consequences of your own political actions.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Gina White

Gina White is originally from the UK but has spent most of her adult life in Europe and the
USA. As a student of ancient Greece and Rome, she has always been fascinated by how much of an impact the ideas of the ancient world have on our lives today. The huge influence that ancient political thought has had on our contemporary institutions is just one part of that. Studying the modern reception of ancient political thought is also a good way to make use of her addiction to politics podcasts and news websites.

Section 28307, MW 11:00-12:15 PM, BA 105

Human beings are obsessed with depictions of sex and violence—not just in popular culture, but in literature, mythology, and throughout world history. Simultaneously, contemporary popular culture is full of stories about destiny—time travel stories that fix (or cause!) temporal paradoxes, narratives about a heroic “chosen one,” or the same day being lived over and over by the main character. This course argues that these two phenomena are two sides of the same coin: We are drawn to narratives about destiny, of time travel, and prophecy to manage our anxieties around inescapable questions we have about sex and death. To that end, we will study films, television shows, books, works of art, and other artifacts of popular culture to figure out why we collectively keep looping back to these same questions, and whether it’s possible—or desirable—to find a way out.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Robert McDonald

Robert McDonald is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies, and has never seen a time travel film he hasn’t liked. Originally hailing from Massachusetts, he received his undergraduate degrees and his master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and his PhD from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, so he is a proud Longhorn, Tarheel, and Jayhawk. When not teaching courses on popular culture, speech interpretation, and persuasive speaking, he studies how depictions of economics in culture and politics shape the ways that ordinary people view the economy as a whole.

Section 20311, MW 03:00 - 04:15 PM, WES 4068

How have science and literature shaped our understanding of what it means to be human? How have they drawn distinctions between humans and animals? What implications have these distinctions had for society, particularly for our understanding of evolution, race, and culture? In this seminar we will explore these questions through works of fiction, art and nonfiction that have asserted and challenged definitions of what it means to be human over the centuries. We will read stories about humans' relationships with other animals, comparing scientific texts with literary ones (e.g. Charles Darwin's Descent of Man and Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves). We will also study works that dehumanize others to justify slavery and colonialism. Finally, we will also look at how modern writers like Toni Morrison portray the violent legacy of theories of the human from previous eras.

First-Year Experience Instructor, Anna Neill

Anna Neill grew up in Auckland, New Zealand.  She moved to the US in 1990 to attend graduate school at Cornell University, and then joined the KU faculty in 1996.  She teaches courses on Victorian fiction, on human evolution and literature, and introductory English courses to students new to KU. In the past, she has also helped to organize and teach poetry classes at the Douglas County Jail. She has written two books, one on sea voyaging and global commerce in the 1700s and one on psychology, evolutionary theory, and British novels of the 1800s.  She is currently writing another book, this time on human evolution and science fiction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She is a parent; she has two corgis; and she wishes she could own a horse.

Section 27812, MWF 02:00 - 02:50 PM, WES 4068

The 1893 Chicago World's Fair was attended by more than 27 million people during its six-month run. It represents a pivotal moment, influencing many areas of American life: architecture, sanitation, the Arts, ideas about the West, marketing, race relations, women's issues, and even electricity. In this class we will explore this question: How can a large cultural event be read through images, personal narratives, and controversies to tell us about the world that created it?   Together we will learn about the fair and the ways that this past event has affected our present, and students will research specific controversies (for example: Civil Rights, electricity infrastructure, law and crime) according to their own interests. You will develop skills for college-level coursework through collaborative class projects, developing your own individualized research
project through the study of documents about reactions to the fair, and creating a website as a class. This World's Fair changed the nation by celebrating consumption and technology, and we will consider the impact of these changes on the U.S. today. We will examine the tensions between those who wanted to represent the ideal city and those who were ostracized from that city but created their own spaces as critiques of the fair. Our discussions will be framed by Eric Larson's fictional account of the fair, The Devil in the White City.

First-Year Experience Instructor, Sonya Lancaster

Sonya Lancaster is an Associate Director of First and Second Year English. She was born in Oklahoma and grew up in New Mexico. Her father's family is from Mississippi, which inspired her interest in race and gender in Southern kitchens. She read Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, a historical novel about a serial killer of women who visited the 1893 World's fair, and realized the many ways in which the fair brought together odd information she had collected over the years: an account from Helen Keller of her visit to the fair, a woman named Ann Douglas dressing like Aunt Jemima and serving pancakes at the fair, the Kansas exhibit at the fair being on display in the KU Natural History museum, Frederick Douglas speaking. In addition to her interest in cultural moments, she studies and writes about teaching literature and writing. Her favorite classes to teach are those with students who are at beginning stages of their work: first-year students, new majors, and new teachers.

Section 27813, TU THU 01:00 - 02:15 PM, WES 1017

How do writers and filmmakers capture what happened in the past? Must they portray
events exactly as they happened? Or is that even possible? How might fiction and film
provide better access to the past than traditional works of history? In this seminar, we
will study novels, films, and a play that portray events in the history of the United States.
Taking up works in particular by KU faculty Kevin Willmott, Laura Moriarty, and Darren
Canady, we will learn about the past but also about how and why people keep making
art out of the past. Most importantly, students will conduct independent historical
research and write their own creative works. In the process, they will acquire academic
and practical skills aimed to help them during the rest of their college studies.

First-Year Experience Instructor, Laura Mielke

Laura Mielke is a professor in the Department of English, where she teaches courses in
American literature, especially of the nineteenth century. Born and raised in the mountains
of North Carolina, Professor Mielke still finds herself occasionally overwhelmed by the
Kansas sky. She enjoys reading and writing about books, but she also loves baking, live music, and anything involving her kids. Professor Mielke is passionate about introducing students to the topics that drive her research: performance, sympathy, and the long history of struggle for racial justice in the United States.

Section 17859, TuTh 11:00 - 12:15 PM CAPF 3011

Entrepreneurs are passionate, creative, idea people. They ask the tough why not questions, they seek and seize opportunities, they rarely accept the status quo, and throughout history entrepreneurs have developed innovative answers to the most challenging issues in technology, business and society. This course will allow students to become rigorous, versatile and agile thinkers by flexing their own critical thinking muscles through an examination of the entrepreneurial mindset. What made entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mary Kay, Mark Zuckerberg, and Oprah so wildly successful? We’ll look at them, and look at ourselves to see if and how to apply their innovative techniques to our own pursuits.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Lisa Bergeron

Lisa Bergeron was born in New Jersey but spent the majority of her childhood in Manhattan, Kansas.  She attended her first Capital Budgeting class, taught by her dad, at age 7 when her mom had a last minute meeting, so her dad had to take her with him to class. She knew from that day forward she would be involved with business and finance. While her dad was Dean of the School of Business at K-State, Lisa came to KU for her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Business. Lisa has worked at Hallmark in the New Ventures Group where she was involved with many new business acquisitions and new product launches. She now enjoys teaching about the entrepreneurial mindset to students at KU. In her spare time, Lisa coaches football and spends time with her family.

Section 24372, MW 12:30 - 01:45 PM, LIN 401

The larger question for our class will be: what role can apocalyptic literature play in our understanding of and approach to climate literature?The apocalypse metaphor has been used to imagine the end of the world based on various causes: alien or monster invaders, nuclear war, and environmental destruction. These threats symbolize a crisis that authors and filmmakers represent in order to speculate on potential outcomes or solutions. Climate change presents a contemporary crisis that literature, broadly defined, increasingly grapples with, and so much so, that scholars now refer to “cli-fi,” or literature that examines the impact of human-caused climate change during the Anthropocene. In this class, we will examine novels, films, TV shows and/or short stories that use narrative techniques to shape our conception of global warming. We will address debates surrounding ethical human-environment interactions, the role technology plays in environmental solutions, and will reflect on the social conflicts that are heightened in climate-changed futures. The larger question for our class will be: what role can literature play in our understanding of and approach to climate change?

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Ali Brox

Ali Brox was born in Kansas, and her interest in literature and the environment started young; family travels often involved trips to national parks and forests. Always a reader, Ali’s research interests solidified while she attended graduate school at the University of Nevada, and her brother’s family had to evacuate New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. She watched the situation unfold on the news, and her experiences in the city after people were allowed to return influenced her decision to research the way environmental disasters are represented in literature and the media. Ali has a deep connection to the University of Kansas. Her parents met at a dormitory on campus, and she completed both her B.A. and B.S. degrees while competing as a varsity athlete at KU. She is a lifelong Jayhawk.

Section 28577, TuTh 11:00 - 12:15 PM WES 4046

When you picture the Middle Ages a lot of ideas probably go through your mind: maybe the gruesome violence of Game of Thrones or the high fantasy of Lord of the Rings, or maybe even the fairy tales you learned as a child. The medieval narratives that inspired these stories, though, have a lot more to say for themselves than you might think. This course will explore the fascinating collisions between real and magical worlds in medieval narrative by not only studying authentic medieval stories but also by comparing them to more recent cultural products they inspired. As we will see, medieval fantasy universes often provide surprising perspectives on many of the same social issues we still grapple with today. And so, by analyzing, re-imagining, and contextualizing medieval fantasy stories, we will not only gain new understanding of the far away past; we will also work toward a better understanding of the shortcomings, triumphs, and moral dilemmas we face as a modern society.

First-Year Experience Instructor, Christine Bourgeois

Christine Bourgeois grew up in Montreal and completed her graduate and undergraduate degrees on the east coast before coming to teach at KU in 2014. Her main academic interest is in medieval French literature and its relationships to the modern world. In her free time, Christine loves to travel. One of her favorite memories from her Ph.D. was the year she got to spend in Paris, and she enjoys going back whenever she can. Her current ambition, though, is to visit all fifty states; so far, she has been to forty-two... only eight to go!

Section 28578, TuTh 11:00 - 12:15 PM WES 4014

What do Beauty and the Beast, Planet of the Apes, and zombies all have in common? These and similar-themed stories have been told and retold over the centuries in different cultures, nations, and circumstances. Story-telling is as old as humanity and is part of our
deep quest to understand ourselves,who we are, and why we are here. This seminar will look at how depictions of the non-human can be used as a means of tackling serious issues such as racism, gender stereotypes, sexuality, and national identity. We will look at
some well-known stories involving animals and the non-human involving highly evolved apes, transformed monsters, and the walking dead. As well as dealing with these familiar themes with new eyes, we will look at French and American versions of the same topic to examine how these different variations function in a specific cultural and political context, be it France before the Revolution, the 1960s in America, or post-9/11, emphasizing the rich
potential of fantasy and science fiction to challenge and provoke.

First-Year Experience Instructor, Paul Scott

Paul Scott is originally from the UK and has spent 11 years in the US and 7 years in France, which broadened his cultural horizons and helped show him that the unfamiliar has as much to teach as the familiar. He teaches French literature and culture and is interested in science
fiction, fairy tales, eccentrics and eccentricity, and the history of male fashion. He is an affiliate faculty member of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at KU. He enjoys discovering new countries and food, and is a trained barista. His high-school English teacher was J. R. R. Tolkien’s personal student.

Section(s) GIST: 25441 / LAC: 21050 / PORT: 29393, TuTh 01:00 - 02:15 PM, SNOW 302

This seminar will explore environmental issues in the Amazon through the lens of literature and film.  How do narratives of place shape our understanding of our relationship to the natural world?  What role do novels and films play in bridging local realities to a broader global context?  Students will read news stories and journal articles to establish a framework for present-day environmental challenges in the Amazon.  Through course activities, students will critically examine how different sources build understanding and serve as catalysts for change.  Additionally, students will consider how the lessons of the Amazon apply to local and national debates about preservation issues, for example, through investigations of the Baker Wetlands and the Badlands of South Dakota.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Luciano Tosta

Luciano Tosta is Associate Professor of Brazilian Literature and Culture. Born in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and the grandchild of a Tupinambá woman, the Amazon Rainforest has been dear to him his whole life. As a professor, he continues to be fascinated by the region, which contains the second largest river in the world, produces 20% of the Earth’s oxygen, and is home to countless animals and plants. The region is also under constant threat by mining, bio-piracy, poaching and deforestation. His research focuses on hemispheric American studies, with the goal of discussing Brazilian cultural production from a comparative perspective.  In his spare time he plays capoeira and the mandolin.  

This course does not require any previous experience or instruction in the Portuguese language.

Section 28175, TuTh 09:30 - 10:45 AM WES 4002

How does the introduction of new machines affect the way we understand ourselves, as well as our conceptions of space and time? Additionally, how can the historical study of this process of adaptation help us understand our current relationship with technology? This course will investigate humans’ relationship with technology over the past two centuries, paying particular attention to the ways that machines such as locomotives, artificial lighting, telephones, telegraphs, watches, bicycles, automobiles, and airplanes have been constrained by historical precedent while challenging and altering our attitudes toward spatiality and temporality. By studying these and other examples from the past, students will develop and practice skills that will help them in future college courses..

First-Year Experience Instructor, Nathan Wood

Nathan Wood was born in the West, grew up in the South, and did his graduate work in the Midwest, at Indiana University. He has also spent a tenth of his life in Poland, where he lived in the early nineties, 2001, and most recently, as a Fulbright scholar from August to December, 2011. His major research interests include modernity, identity, cities, and technology in East Central Europe from the 1880s to 1939. His current research on bicycles, automobiles, and airplanes in Poland before WWII intersects well with his passion for cycling and learning about fast machines he’ll never be able to afford. As befitting his last name, he also really likes trees.

Section 28178, TuTh 01:00 - 02:15 PM SMI 108

The body is a site of contradiction. It is the primary place where we assert ourselves as individuals but is governed and judged by society’s laws and norms. It offers a seemingly blank canvas for self-expression but is limited by the stubbornness of flesh and bone. These tensions between individual expression and social expectation make the body a valuable historical tool. The ways in which the body is perceived as beautiful, fat, healthy, unclean, or perverse tells us as much about the political and social values of a particular time and place as any government document or politician’s speech. In this wide-ranging, globally focused seminar we will examine the pain and pleasure of foot-binding in China, the rehabilitation (and sometimes mechanization) of soldiers’ bodies after WWI, medical responses to intersex persons in early America, and the connections between soap and conquest in colonial Africa. Join us to explore not only how perspectives on the body have changed over time, but how history itself is written onto our skin.

First-Year Experience Instructor, Marie Grace Brown

Marie Grace Brown is an Associate Professor of Middle East History, and has been at KU since 2012. She traveled to the Middle East for the first time when she was a junior in college and didn’t speak one word of Arabic. It was the best foolish decision she’s ever made! She ate pounds of hummus, got lost in an oasis town, and slept under the stars in the middle of the Sahara Desert. In graduate school, Marie realized that so many of our histories—especially those of women, people of color, or queer communities—can’t be captured by the written word alone. In her work, she argues that the shapes and scars of our bodies can also serve as an important historical text. When Marie is not teaching or writing history, she can be found in and around Lawrence knitting, gardening, or boxing.

Section 25852 , TuTh 11:00 - 12:15 PM WES 4068

To paraphrase Raymond Carver, What do we talk about when we talk about love? How is love represented in cultural products (literature, music, theater, cinema, etc.)? How are we affected by these representations and their changes over time? Perhaps Emily Dickinson was right when she wrote, “That Love is all there is, / Is all we know of Love”, for what do we know about it after all? The main goal of this course is to investigate love as a mysterious, most pleasant and most deceitful subject, while in the process becoming better readers, critical thinkers and writers. Through the analysis of novels, short stories, poetry, music and live theater, we will consider how humans relate to love relationships as a main bond among individuals and as a tool of self-discovery as well. Read about Dante’s lustful souls in the Inferno, debate Boccaccio bawdy tales from the Middle Ages, and listen to Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Verdi’s La Traviata.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Patrizio Ceccagnoli

Born in Perugia, an Etruscan city in the center of Italy, Patrizio Ceccagnoli received his Ph. D. in Italian from Columbia University in 2011. He joined KU in 2014 and is currently the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Italian. Trained in classics, he is an expert of the Italian avant-garde movement called Futurismo and works as literary critic and translator in a comparative perspective. He equally loves Franz Kafka and Roger Federer. As a kid, he wanted to be Oscar Wilde, when he grew up, or at least Sherlock Holmes. Now he wishes he could have had a gelato with the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi.

Section 16653 , TuTh 09:30 - 10:45 AM BL 206

Our identities are complex, and expressed in different ways – how we dress, what we participate in, and how we talk. Many of us are familiar with language reflecting something about us, such as where we are from. If someone says “y’all” they might be from the Southern U.S., or if someone says “I’m knackered” then there’s a good chance they’re British. But, someone from Wisconsin might could say "y'all" because they want to be and show that they're gender-inclusive, even if they've never been to the south. Despite awareness of language being a marker of who we are, we don’t always think critically about the role language plays in how we create and recreate our identities. This seminar examines the role of language in the construction of identity. We’ll focus largely on issues related to gender and sexuality additionally touching on topics like race, ethnicity, social class, and geographic region.


First-Year Seminar Instructor, Philip Duncan

I was born in Lubbock, Texas, and pretty much grew up in Kansas. So, you might hear me say things like "might could" - like I did in the course description in case you missed it ;) - or "I do that a lot anymore." I took my first class in linguistics having absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, but I quickly fell in love with it. I'm currently an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Linguistics. My degrees are in Linguistics and Indigenous Studies, and I received my Ph.D. from none other than the good ol' University of Kansas! My research investigates word and sentence structure (morphology and syntax), and how these interact with other components of grammar, such as the component responsible for building meaning (semantics). Within these sub-disciplines, I have had the privilege of working with Indigenous peoples and languages in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, Nigeria, and Ghana, recognizing the inherent value of Indigenous languages and the need for diversity in order to understand what human language is. In addition to theoretical linguistics and linguistic documentation, I also spend time investigating things that pertain to social life of language, looking into how our beliefs, attitudes, knowledges, and identities shape and are shaped by language use. When I'm not teaching and doing research, I'm usually having a good time with my fantastic partner and kids. 

Section 24388 , TuTh 02:30 - 03:45 PM LIN 401

This First-Year Seminar is designed to allow students the opportunity to research and discuss mainstream and underground music trends while addressing key aspects of the music industry that shape our lives. How do places shape the music industry? How are the music industry, music “scenes” and even music itself shaped by technology and changes in our culture and society? Are the spaces and places used to organize and understand music changing? We will study the industry from a variety of perspectives and engage with participants of the industry (musicians, technicians and managers) to develop an awareness of these complex questions. At the end of the semester, students will apply what they’ve learned to design 3 hypothetical concert (live music) plans with University of Kansas college students as the audience.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Brandon Draper

Brandon Draper is a drummer, DJ, producer, composer and educator, involved in every genre of music. He has performed in both traditional classical music settings and in contemporary/jazz settings. He recorded and toured the U.S. with the “live-tronica” pioneers Particle. He has performed in the critically acclaimed world premiere of the new hiphop musical "Venice" (Los Angeles, Fall 2010), and he premiered his own original work “Bass Darabukas” with the “cirque” performance group Quixotic and with the Kansas City Symphony (Spring 2011).  More recently, Brandon has joined KU’s music faculty, where he teaches jazz drums, world percussion and steel band, while also directing KU’s Music Enterprise Certificate, an innovative academic program combining music business and entrepreneurship. According to, "Draper mashes up his DJ and percussion talents into a world-music dance party with some of the most polyrhythmic beats you'll hear this side of the Atlantic Ocean."

Section 29393 , TR 1:00-2:15 PM, SNOW 302

This seminar explores environmental issues in the Amazon through the lens of literature and film.  How do narratives of place shape our understanding of our relationship to the natural world?  What role do novels and films play in bridging local realities to a broader global context?  Students will read news stories and journal articles to establish a framework for present-day environmental challenges in the Amazon in order to critically examine how different sources build understanding and serve as catalysts for change. Students will consider how the lessons of the Amazon apply to local and national debates about preservation issues, for example, through investigations of the Baker Wetlands and the Badlands of South Dakota.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Luciano Tosta

Luciano Tosta is Associate Professor of Brazilian Literature and Culture. Born in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and the grandchild of a Tupinambá woman, the Amazon Rainforest has been dear to him his whole life. As a professor, he continues to be fascinated by the region, which contains the second largest river in the world, produces 20% of the Earth’s oxygen, and is home to countless animals and plants. The region is also under constant threat by mining, bio-piracy, poaching and deforestation. His research focuses on hemispheric American studies, with the goal of discussing Brazilian cultural production from a comparative perspective.  In his spare time he plays capoeira and the mandolin. 

This course does not require any previous experience or instruction in the Portuguese language.

Section 24683 , TuTh 01:00 - 02:15 PM SMI 208

In today’s American society, environmentalists and religious people are often portrayed as opponents: environmental activists sometimes blame religion for getting in the way of change, while some prominent religious leaders portray environmentalists as godless radicals. Yet many people see their religious convictions and their commitment to protecting the environment as closely connected. This seminar cuts through the heated rhetoric to ask what role religion plays in how humans respond to the natural world. Does religion tend to alienate people from the environment, or foster a sense of superiority over other beings, as some environmentalists claim? Or does religion promote connection to the environment and foster an ethic of responsibility, as many people of faith have argued? The answer, of course, is “both”! In this class we will examine the variety of ways religious and environmental attitudes intersect, studying the writings of famous environmental and religious thinkers such as John Muir and Pope Francis, among others. We will also explore the idea of “the sacred” in the natural world: What does it mean to consider nature to be sacred? How have such ideas been expressed across different religious traditions?

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Molly Zahn

Molly Zahn’s deep love of the natural world and her interest in religion both trace back to her upbringing in central Wisconsin. Her research and teaching focus on the Bible in its ancient context, and on the early Jewish and Christian worlds in which the books of the Bible were first read. Intending to study music and environmental science at the University of Minnesota, she instead became captivated by the amazing variety of ways religious communities read and interpret their sacred traditions. Most of her work involves manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, which preserve some of the earliest evidence for these creative interpretive processes. After growing up in Wisconsin and college in Minnesota, Molly lived and studied in Germany, the UK, and Sweden, before completing her PhD at the University of Notre Dame. She has been teaching full-time at KU since 2010. In her spare time, she keeps up her music as a member of the viola section of the Topeka Symphony, and enjoys getting outdoors to hike and watch wildlife with her husband and daughter.

Section 28611, TuTh 01:00 - 02:15 PM WES 4068

Most Americans take a couple of years of a language in high school and feel that they never learned very much, often because the process is a passive endeavor and they think of language-learning as a scholastic requirement to check off. They have been convinced that learning a language either happens by the age of 9 or can never happen or only “special” people can learn languages. Horsefeathers! This course will dispel the myth that adults cannot learn languages: on the contrary, adults have significant advantages in learning a second language that children lack. This seminar has the potential to change your life, not just by helping you discover how to become an effective adult language-learner, but to empower yourself to take control of learning anything you want to learn. Moreover, choosing to take the dive into a new language opens up myriad life-changing possibilities: gaining perspective on your life by seeing it from the viewpoint of another language and cultures; supercharging your lifetime earning potential by becoming culturally mobile.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Marc L. Greenberg

Prof. Marc L. Greenberg was born and raised in a monolingual (English-speaking) environment in Los Angeles. He was the first person in his family to finish college. Growing up during the Cold War, he was fascinated with the legacy of World War II and the mysteries beyond the Iron Curtain. He started teaching himself German and other languages from books and then took Russian in college, spending part of his junior year in the USSR and part of his senior year in Czechoslovakia. There he met his future wife, from Yugoslavia, with whom he at first spoke only Czech, the only language they had in common (her native language not being Czech!). He later became proficient in her language, Slovene, and conducted research on its structure and history. In 2017 he was elected to the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and in 2019 became the first non-Slovene to be named Ambassador of Science of the Republic of Slovenia. Professor Greenberg is also the first person in his family to master a musical instrument, the classical guitar, and taught himself other instruments, as well: the viola, the ukulele, the renaissance and baroque lute, and the Russian seven-string guitar. You get the idea: he is all about learning stuff, whether in a classroom or on one’s own. He is eager to bring you into the world of lifelong learning and owning the learning process. He is very proud of his former students from Kansas and elsewhere in the Midwest who have become diplomats, educators, foreign-area officers in the military, intelligence specialists, international lawyers and businesspeople, as well as lead interesting lives.