Skip to main
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.

You'll also meet your peer mentor in your FYS course, who supports you during the class and for your whole first year. They'll share advice on the full McDaniel experience, from how to use the STEM Center to where the best study spots are on campus.

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

“To me, being a peer mentor is using my experiences as a college student to provide the most comfortable transition for first-year students. While other campus offices target academic, mental health, or advisory needs, my role is to simply be their motivator and supporter.”

Ashleigh Lobbins, 2023 peer mentor

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.

Are U Ready 4 Some Football?

​​​​​​Football is America’s most popular sport. It’s a cultural phenomenon that brings together family, friends, and communities, while providing a source of “friendly” competition between towns, cities and states. At the professional level, the NFL is a multi-billion-dollar industry that’s essential to national media, local journalism, and many other areas of the economy. But for all its popularity, football remains a source of persistent social and political controversy. In this course, students explore the virtues and vices of America’s game, including a central focus on the problem of player safety and head trauma. Students will also explore issues surrounding youth football safety, player activism, racial justice, gender equity, LGBTQ rights, domestic violence, public funding of stadiums, players unions, ownership power, sports betting, pay for college athletes, sports journalism, the role of analytics, and more. This course focuses primarily on the NFL; students will be asked to stay up to date on the current football season and to participate in a class fantasy football league. Students will not be asked to play football or attend games in person.

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.

Odyssey: Africans to France

​​​​​​This course is an overview of the African presence in the French imaginary and society. Considering that the colonies were once part of the French colonial empire and that the indigenous were French citizens, this course will analyze the successive statuses and the trajectories of the African subject in contact with France from the colonization to the contemporary period. By analyzing the period of colonization, the successive waves of migrations and finally the difficulties faced by French citizens of African descent, students will learn about the complexity of the relationship between France and Africa. Ultimately, students will learn through a variety of materials that the African subject who was first a native, then an immigrant and finally a “banlieusard” seems to remain a second-class citizen in the French imaginary.

Unseen Math in Puzzles and Games

Do you like to solve puzzles and play games? This is a hands-on, active-learning style course where we will play games and solve puzzles and along the way discover interesting ideas in mathematics. Students will be introduced to elementary ideas in college mathematics by looking for patterns. The mathematics in this course is designed to be accessible to all incoming students. Topics we explore will include graph theory, topology, probability, and cryptography.

Take It to the Streets!

​​​​​Finding your voice, making change, and building a movement are increasingly important as we look toward the future. But how do we do it? And more importantly, how do we do it effectively? What works and what doesn’t? Research shows that nonviolence is the most successful strategy. Does that surprise you? Let’s talk about what nonviolence really means, why it is so successful, and how you can use it to amplify your voice, work for social change and bring others to your cause. We’ll have a good time unearthing some real creativity along the way as we figure out how to make change happen.

A male student holds a video game controller and smiles at the camera next to a large TV screen with a video game playing on it.

Students explore history in video games for this First Year Seminar class

In The Middle Ages though Video Games, Lecturer in History Jillian Bjerke is guiding first-year students through a journey into the past with video game play. A First Year Seminar, the course pairs an academic subject with an introduction to McDaniel and the college experience.

Students in Find Your Strong: Running for Your Life jog on a track.

Students run, jog, and walk their way through their First Year Seminar

Students in Adjunct Lecturer Lisa Lebo’s First Year Seminar course, Find Your Strong: Running for Your Life, are off to a running start at McDaniel. That is, they’re spending time at the track and in the classroom exploring the physiological, emotional, and community-building benefits of running as part of their introduction to McDaniel.

A group of students plays Tripoley in a classroom. The professor points at the board.

First-year students discover unseen math in puzzles and games

From cards to board games, you can find math in surprising places, as students in the First Year Seminar Unseen Math in Puzzles and Games are learning from Senior Lecturer of Mathematics Michele Gribben '87. The interdisciplinary course is one of many First Year Seminars that introduce the newest Green Terrors to academics and resources at McDaniel.

Student Varia Alston reads a comic in the First Year Seminar course titled I am Groot.

Students gain storytelling powers in Marvel-themed First Year Seminar

Students in Associate Professor Paul Muhlhauser’s First Year Seminar are discovering that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to their favorite Marvel superheroes as they examine tropes, representation, and transmedia in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.