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Professor lecturing class outdoors.

First Year Seminar

First Year Seminars (FYS) are innovative topical and thematic courses on a range of subjects suitable for first-year students that provide an introduction to the liberal arts and an academic transition to college. They seek to excite students intellectually and engage them as scholars. In addition to offering a rigorous academic content, First Year Seminars focus on fundamental skills that are necessary for academic success: critical thinking, effective writing, analytic reading, and oral communication.

Close Faculty Mentorship & Connection

We know that part of why you choose McDaniel is because of the close relationships you'll forge with faculty. Many students mistakenly believe that these kinds of relationships don't happen until junior or even senior year. But our First Year Seminars are designed to connect you immediately to one of McDaniel's expert faculty members. FYS instructors are deeply committed to student connection, but more than that, they are highly qualified academic thought-leaders. They will introduce you to college-level scholarship and academic rigor, serving as a guide so your adjustment to the pace and level of your college coursework is successful.

First Look Series

Integrated into the First Year Seminar program is our First Look Series. First Look covers a range of topics related to college life & transition, including:

  • Diversity & inclusion
  • Academics (led by upperclass students)
  • Academics (led by faculty)
  • Library resources
  • Health & wellness offerings
  • Career & experiential learning opportunities

Explore Recent Seminars

First Year Seminars are designed to be engaging and high-impact, exploring compelling topics that create vibrant class discussions and debates. The diversity of our campus contributes to the challenging and engaging work that happens in the classrooms, where many different opinions and experiences are represented. The seminars change each year and you'll have a chance to indicate your preference once you deposit. Explore some of our previous First Year Seminars.

Gender, Literature, Culture

Be a man! That's not very ladylike! We've all heard statements like these, but what do they really mean? What is "masculinity," what is "femininity," and how have these concepts changed over time? This course will examine the social construction of masculinity and femininity over the last century or so. We will read literature and examine cultural artifacts from early twentieth century Boy Scout manuals to contemporary magazine advertisements, and from a sex manual to popular movies and books in an attempt to chart some of the changes in the social construction of gender over the course of the twentieth century. How much have things changed? Have books, movies, television, advertisements helped advance new gender roles, or have they reinforced traditional ones?

Heroic Leaders & Evil Tyrants

George Washington, Winston Churchill, Queen Boudica, and Genghis Khan. The annals of human history are filled with examples of these and other valiant leaders and vile dictators. But how can we assess the positive and negative qualities of leadership that make leaders great, terrible, or merely mediocre? This course will examine theories of leadership that stem from multiple disciplines, including political science, communication, business administration, and military science, while also examining a rich diversity of political and senior wartime leaders, both past and present.

Animals, Ethics, & Policy

Cats have taken over the internet. Dogs spend their days in doggie-daycare. In ways large and small animals have never been more important to us. At the same time, factory farms and other industries are exploiting animals at unprecedented levels, leading to vast amounts of animal suffering. How do we make sense of these contradictions? And how do we decide the right way to treat animals? To answer these questions we consider contemporary readings and films on animal use, as well as readings in philosophy, law, and ethics. Alongside animal agriculture, students will debate the ethics of hunting, rodeos, zoos, pet stores and many issues large and small. Along the way they’ll discover how our treatment of animal connects to climate change, immigration, worker safety, science, human health, and other important topics.

Water, Foods, and Environment in China

Water and food have been a crucial but often overlooked part of Chinese history. How have changing patterns of its production and consumption shaped China's ecology and its daily life in history?  What elements have shaped the Chinese peoples' relations with water, food, and ecology? Despite lakes and rivers, why have people in China repeatedly suffered in history for lack of water? Which plants were served as staple or exotic foods in China? With diverse fauna and floras, why has China faced repeated famines? How have solutions to these problems been wrapped in economic shifts, cultural integration and disintegration, and the expansion/diminishing of state power?  Employing a range of disciplinary perspectives - historical, literary, philosophical, economic, technological, and ecological -this course examines the changing images of  water, food, and ecology in Chinese history. Students will consider issues of water and food in peoples' daily lives, in relation to the transformation of landscape, within market and non-market economy, and in water control projects over time.

Intro to Innovation

What does it mean to "innovate"? It's more than you think. And it's something you can do. Build a business. Start a nonprofit. Change the way things work, here and now. In this hands-on intro class, taught by the coordinator of the entrepreneurship program and full of special guests, we'll be engaging closely with real world scenarios as we research challenges and opportunities all around us, working towards creating effective solutions. Learn how to negotiate. Pitch your own business idea. And think outside of the box. Carroll County will be our laboratory as we bring in special speakers from the nonprofit and business communities, research challenges and opportunities, and work on launching YOUR own innovative idea—eligible to enter various funding competitions.

Chloe Irla's First Year Seminar Art on the Edge staged an Issues March with their art.

First Year Seminar Art on the Edge students parade their art to speak out on social issues What's Your Cause

Art professor Chloe Irla's Art on the Edge First Year Seminar students might be new to McDaniel, but they are well acquainted with the issues of the day. They reflected those issues in art projects and staged an Issues March across campus.

Student walking in front of Hoover Library.

Encore: Juniors return to First Year Seminar as peer mentors

Juniors Taylor Hoey and Matt Hopson are enrolled in another round of the First Year Seminar “Rebels in Early America” — and History professor Stephen Feeley couldn’t be more pleased to have them back in his class.

English professor Paul Zajac with student from his Shakespeare's Game of Thrones FYS

First-year students examine ‘Game of Thrones’ through Shakespeare’s lens

Any illusions that the HBO series based on George Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” series is breaking new ground in entertainment were pretty much shattered by the second meeting of professor Paul Zajac’s First Year Seminar, “Shakespeare’s Game of Thrones.”