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Fall 2018 First Year Seminars Announced

Warren Wilson’s distinctive First Year Seminar program integrates community engagement to enhance the first-year experience.

Each year incoming freshmen at Warren Wilson College participate in First Year Seminars, compelling courses designed to introduce new students to the academic richness of the college. Warren Wilson’s First Year Seminar experience is distinctive; in addition to scholarly study, each seminar integrates community engagement by partnering with a local non-profit organization, allowing students to apply what they learn in the classroom in our community, side-by-side with fellow students and their faculty member.

This year’s seminar line-up includes courses as varied as Food & Religion in Practice and American Roots Music.

Read on to explore the complete list of Fall 2018 First Year Seminars.

Water: The Science and Politics of the World’s Most Vital Resource

Water is the most common substance on earth, and the most important compound for all forms of life. It is what most distinguishes our planet from others. If one looks at the history of human settlement, there is one common factor about where we build communities–our proximity to water. Whether for transportation, drinking, irrigation, or power, water has been–and will always be–our most critical resource. In this course, we will look at water from an interdisciplinary perspective. In addition to scientific concepts such as hydrology, we will also try to understand the politics of water. Indeed, across the globe, the control of water leads to political power.

Dr. Mark Brenner majored in Biology in college, and specialized in water pollution ecology for his Ph. D. He loves all things wild and has a strong interest in obtaining food from gardening, fishing, hunting, and collecting wild mushrooms and berries.

The Biology of Sex

A key question has captivated natural historians and evolutionary biologists for centuries: Why does sex exist? In many ways, asexual (clonal) reproduction could be considered the ideal strategy: no mates are required and all parental genes are passed on to the next generation. By contrast, organisms that successfully reproduce by sex must first find and secure a mate. And after all this effort, only half of each parent’s genes are inherited by their offspring! In this course, we will study a variety of organisms–including microbes, insects, plants, insects, and humans–to explore the tremendous diversity of morphologies and behaviors that are associated with sexual reproduction. Students consider the ecological and genetic conditions under which sexual reproduction and different mating strategies evolve, as well as the evolutionary outcomes of sex. We will partner with local organizations that seek to preserve environments that provide suitable habitats for a variety of living organisms and that educate the general public about science.

Dr. Alisa Hove’s research focuses on identifying the ecological conditions that favor the evolution of different reproductive strategies, studying evolutionary responses to environmental stress, and investigating the conservation genetics of wild plant populations in the southeastern USA. She also supervises the Warren Wilson College Genetics Crew, a research group that provides crew members an outlet for channeling their interests in addressing innovative questions in biological conservation, molecular biology, and natural history.

The Music of Poetry and the Poetry of Music

Ancient epic poets regarded poetry as a form of music. The nineteenth-century cultural critic Walter Pater famously wrote that “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” This course explores the deep kinship between poetic language and musical “language,” and it also considers some of the fascinating research that connects these art forms more broadly to the human experience. Readings will include Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia: Tales of Music and The Brain and Daniel Levitin’s This Is Your Brain on Music.

An English professor, Dr. Michael Matin teaches and writes about modern literature of Britain and the former territories of the British Empire. When not reading a novel or playing his piano, he enjoys spending time with his family and his dog, Max.

Brain Basics:  Human Neuroscience for a Healthy Life

The human brain is one of the most complex systems ever studied and although there are still many unknowns in the field of neuroscience, there have also been many exciting discoveries that can help us understand our own thoughts, emotions, and actions. In this course, we will examine how the human nervous system supports behaviors like perception, attention, memory, problem-solving, and decision-making. We will focus on translating knowledge about neuroscience and psychology into strategies that can promote healthy habits for learning, growing, and connecting with one another. We will spend time reading and writing about the theories and applications of current research and we will also partner with local organizations who are working to enhance growth and well-being in our community.

Dr. Jen Mozolic is a psychology professor with a passion for exploring the environments and experiences that support healthy brains and behaviors. After earning her PhD in Neuroscience in 2009, she came to Warren Wilson to share this passion with students, to continue learning about learning, and to enjoy this vibrant and beautiful community.

Language and Identity in Community: Connecting through Culture

What are the intersections of language, identity and culture, and how do these factors shape who we are? By developing and practicing our Spanish language proficiency, we will explore questions of identity and intercultural learning. Students learn concrete linguistic information and the skills necessary to communicate with Spanish speakers in a culturally appropriate way. Through essays and reflections written in English, we will examine themes of home, places of departure and destination, layers of identity, belongingness, and bilingualism. Further, we will regularly partner with Spanish-speaking students who are newcomers to the Swannanoa Valley, seeking to understand our mutual and complex challenges of negotiating new places and communities. This seminar is ideal for any student wishing to develop Spanish language skills and to engage with Spanish-speaking students in the local public schools. Heritage speakers are encouraged to enroll.

Professor Christine Swoap focuses on Spanish language acquisition and pragmatics, critical reflection of service-learning and community engagement, and working with newcomers in the local area. She has studied and led courses in Spain, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

Holding Fruit: Creative Garden Trellis

This course will focus on art and craft and on how design and function coexist. Partnering with the Dr. John Wilson Community Garden, students will work directly in the garden to cultivate a plot of land with the end goal to install creative trellis designs. Students will gain a basic understanding of building techniques in combination with the principles and elements of design.  Form and function in horticulture will be examined and explored through presentations, lectures, demonstrations and experiential learning. Students will be required to utilize writing as a way to reflect upon working with a community partner and implementing creative, functional designs.

Professor James Darr has been creating sculpture and building functional objects for 20 years.  At the root is his great curiosity to solve creative and functional problems visually. He has spent the majority of his life growing his vast knowledge of materials and processes.  When he is not in the classroom he enjoys getting out in nature and playing a round of disc golf.

A Civil Right:  From Math Anxiety to Math Literacy

How is math literacy a civil right?  What is math anxiety and how does it prevent math literacy?  In this course students will join an intellectual discourse by exploring civil rights, math anxiety, and math literacy.  Students will research, read, and discuss, then share their learning at a local middle school afternoon program. This course is designed for students who wish to learn about the civil rights movement and to learn about math anxiety in order to help those who suffer from it (even if the afflicted person is you!).

An insatiable reader, who loves to play in the dirt, and an eternal optimist, Dr. Gretchen Whipple passionately wishes to improve everyone’s attitudes about, as well as understanding of, mathematics.

Traversing the Borders: Identity, Culture and Migration

Migration concerns the physical movement from one place to another. It also involves the repositioning of identities, cultural values, and belief systems. In addressing both geographical and cultural migration, this class will apply theoretical and practical approaches to analyze challenges, struggles, and strategies related to migration and other cross-border experiences. Through written critical reflection and analysis, students will consider their own and others’ perspectives on human migration. With off-campus partnerships in the local area, we will also interact and collaborate with immigrant communities.

Dr. Siti Kusujiarti and her family immigrated to the U. S. from Indonesia. She teaches study abroad courses and leads research trips with Warren Wilson students in several Southeast Asian countries. Transcending boundaries and traversing borders are a significant part of her teaching, research, and everyday life.

Food & Religion in Practice: Rituals, Dietary Laws, and Movements for Justice

Why does food play such a central role in so many sacred traditions? How do people use food to make sense of and connect with the world? From potluck meals to soup kitchens, rituals to dietary laws, and feasts to fasting as a spiritual practice, both religion and food have served as a central feature of the human experience. This course will explore the various components of this connection, including: myths, rules, and rituals from various traditions; ethical concerns about food, sustainability, and justice; the role that food plays in community building and passing down faith and culture; and the role food can play in interfaith work, as an entry point and as a barrier. In this course, we will have the opportunity to read, write, and engage with religious texts, faith leaders, and sacred storytellers to better understand the deep connection between religion and food. We will also partner with local organizations that are working at this important intersection to tackle the needs of people in Asheville and Buncombe County. Please note: students need not identify as religious to participate in this course.

Professor Matt Hoffman, who began teaching at Warren Wilson in 2015, has extensive work with interfaith organizing and community activism. This course will draw on his own research interests and passion, targeting the connection between food, religion, community building, and the practice of justice. In his free time, Matt is a Cajun food devotee, a community garden green thumb, and an avid board game enthusiast.

Monuments and Counter-Monuments 

Recent controversies over Confederate monuments in Southern U.S. have brought attention to deeply philosophical questions about the role of monuments in public spaces and their relation to a public (or publics) more generally. This course will take an in-depth, scholarly approach to these questions in order for us to better understand the attitudes and arguments about public monuments and to examine a variety of possible responses. Students will also gain practical awareness of these issues through service projects relating to a publicly-funded Visiting Artist Program that engages with the African-American community of Asheville.

Professor Jay Miller writes about the intersection of art and politics. He is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Warren Wilson College and is currently also Chair of the City of Asheville’s Public Art and Cultural Commission.

Tools and Processes of Successful Academic Writers

While all First Year Seminars involve writing assignments, this course is specifically targeted toward students who want to build their knowledge, confidence, and enjoyment of academic writing. We will practice selecting topics, reading and responding to texts, writing to document experience, adjusting our writing to meet the needs of different audiences, giving and receiving feedback on writing, and developing each student’s distinctive writing voice. We will resist the notion that all academic writing should sound alike, and instead seek models of linguistically and stylistically varied writing to support each of us in succeeding academically while also being true to our identities. We will also nurture the next generation of writers by traveling into Asheville weekly to participate in a writing and social studies unit with Ms. Duffy’s third grade classroom at Isaac Dickson Elementary School. We will support her students to learn how local government functions, research candidates running in the November election, form opinions on local issues, and use their opinions to write persuasive letters to people in government.

Dr. Julie Wilson directs the Warren Wilson Writing Studio, where she collaborates with peer writing assistants to demystify college writing expectations, explore new writing practices, publish undergraduate writing, and bring humor and joy to academic work. She holds a BA in English from Oberlin College and an MA and PhD in Education from UNC-Chapel Hill.

American Roots Music

The multicultural spectrum of American roots music comprises such captivating sounds as the Delta blues guitar, Cajun fiddle, gospel choir, Cherokee drum, bluegrass banjo, klezmer clarinet, Tejano bajo sexto, and zydeco accordion. In this course, we will explore these genres and how American communities make them meaningful and useful in their lives, especially as reflections of class, gender, race, and other markers of identity. Such scholars as Beverly Diamond, Benjamin Filene, and Thomas Turino will shape students’ thinking about regionalism, tradition, authenticity, syncretism, and other important issues as they engage such topics in various writing assignments. Through a program called “Just Press Play,” the class will partner with a local neurological treatment center, helping determine therapeutic music playlists for patients according to their individual identities and preferences.

Professor Kevin Kehrberg has performed and recorded as a professional bassist for over twenty years, primarily in jazz and traditional music settings. After earning a Ph.D. in musicology and ethnomusicology, he came to Warren Wilson in 2010 where he performs frequently as a freelance musician, researches the vernacular music of the region, and enjoys living in Swannanoa with his wife and three children.

Learn more about Warren Wilson College’s educational program.