First-Year Seminars

Students in lab

Seminars are taught each fall 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 24 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 first-year status. Prior knowledge of the subject matter is not expected.

Spring 2023 First-Year Seminars

FMS 177, TR 1-2:15p | Wescoe 4067

Ukraine is on top of the U.S. headlines: what is the authentic image of Ukraine represented through its own national cinematography? How can I understand better the experience of my own nation, race and country through the Ukrainian experience? The seminar is designed to teach the ‘critical thinking of Ukraine’ through film history and theory. We regard the Ukrainian film history primary source timeline in relation to the timeline of Ukrainian national history with a strong focus on the most important episodes of XX-XXI centuries in a struggle for independence and democracy. We examine the question of identity in relation to the Ukrainian national identity manifested in the film art as well as to the general identity of the spectator as a subject. We examine what the ‘filmic language’ is and what is the potential of learning the Ukrainian language through the film. The seminar includes full-length screenings and short fragments of Ukrainian films and online meetings with the representatives of the contemporary Ukrainian film industry. The feedback from students might involve both their critical thinking and their creative skills such as scriptwriting, filmmaking, and storytelling with digital media. The first-year students face the opportunity to get the first-person narrative of Ukraine from the bearer of both Ukrainian academic experience and the war trauma.

First-Year Seminar Instructor, Olga Kyrylova

Dr Olga Kyrylova comes from Kyiv, Ukraine where she held the position of the Full Professor of Cultural Studies at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy (the first Ukrainian-American bilingual educational project for Liberal Arts which was revived in Post-Soviet times on the basis of the eponymous legendary Ukrainian collegium/university of XVII-XVIII centuries). Master of Philosophy in European Literature, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (Jesus College, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, Department of Slavonic Studies). Dr Kyrylova participated as a film critic in many international film festivals. She interviewed most of Ukrainian actors, filmmakers, stage directors working as a journalist and as a film critic for ‘Kino-Teatr’ film magazine at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy since her student years. In her later years, Dr Kyrylova focused on the archival research having discovered unknown findings of early Ukrainian silent films of the fin-de-siècle decadence. Apart from that, Olga Kyrylova is a winner of a number of awards for Ukrainian-speaking writers (poetry, short prose, translation).


COMS 177, MW 12:30p-1:45p | HAW 2046

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.

PUAD 177, Tuesday 2:30pm - 5:00pm | Snow 201


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.