First-Year Seminar Course Topics for Fall 2024

Updated: 05/31/2024

First-Year Seminar (FYSM) course topics are approved by the General Education Program and Assessment Committee to be included in the General Education program. Below is a listing of topics that are scheduled to be taught in Fall 2024, with the name of the professor(s) who will be teaching at least one section of the topic.

All FYSM courses have the same course prefix and number: FYSM 100.

  • Body Adornment, Tattoo & Other Modifications

    This course introduces the global significance of body adornment and modification, specifically how the body has been used as a means of expression over time and across cultures. Skin art and other forms of body modification including tattoo, piercing, and plastic surgery will be studied along with hairstyles, clothing, and jewelry as examples of adornment. These forms and others will be explored through the lenses of history, health, gender, class, race, culture, identity, and art.

    Professor: Dr. Peg Speirs, Art Education

  • Bueller? Teachers in the Movies

    This course taps into the power of movies to explore the portrayal of teachers to better understand their place in American society. By examining teachers in pop-culture films ranging from classics like "To Sir, with Love" to "School of Rock," students will discuss the messages in the films covered; assess the strengths and weaknesses of each film's message; and apply the lessons from these films to controversial questions that surround American education.

    Professors: Dr. Deborah Johnson, EMLT

                        Dr. Brenda Muzeta, Secondary Education

  • Career Habits of Highly Effective Leaders

    The Career Habits of Highly Effective Leaders is a student success course designed with the end in mind: success in college, career and life. Themes include securing, maintaining, and enjoying your future careers, and becoming your best future self. Students will participate in career assessment, practice networking, and ultimately develop a personal brand. After completing this course, students will possess a competitive edge through two separate, notable achievements: KU's Career Exploration Certificate and the Franklin Covey Personal Leadership Certificate.

    Professor:  Dr. Qin Geng, Business Administration

                       Dr. Jason Crockett, Anthropology & Sociology

  • Complementary Health Strategies: Tools for Successful Student Performance

    This course is designed to promote the student's overall health through the development of personal skills to enhance their well-being. Students will be introduced to the benefits of stress management; the development and practice of stress management tools, activities (meditation, Tai Chi), and personal enrichment activities. Students will be introduced to strategic self-enriching personal skill development and research-based exploration of topics that range from: depression, prescription drugs, illicit drugs, as well as relaxation techniques.

    Professor: Dr. Duane Crider, Sport Management

  • Creative Problem Solving

    From the invention of the wheel to the invention of the internet, innovation is what has helped our society to advance. In order to innovate, we must learn to be creative problem solvers. In this course, students will develop creative problem-solving skills by working in teams to solve problems generated by Creative Competitions Inc. for the Odyssey of the Mind program. There will be script writing, device building, and more!

    Professors: Dr. Muhammed Dalgin, Business Administration

                        Dr. Shawn Riley, Business Administration

  • Doomsday: Would You Survive?

    Catastrophic events like meteorites, volcanic eruptions, and ice ages have repeatedly decimated life on Earth, causing mass extinctions. Scientific evidence implicates different culprits acting at different times throughout Earth's history. We will explore the scientific techniques used to study the causes and the results of mass extinctions. Students will incorporate scientific principles and creative thinking to project whether humans, as individuals and as a species, could survive these life-altering events if - and when - they occur again.

    Professor: Dr. Sarah Tindall, Physical Sciences

  • Envisioning the Future

    This course explores what the future may look like, and what it will mean for our lives and values. It will address issues such as when it becomes possible for some humans (but not others) to possess enhancements to their mental and physical capabilities, what will the words "all men are created equal" mean? When government and corporations have the power to monitor our thoughts, movements, and emotions, what will the right to privacy mean?

    Professor: Dr. Glenn Richardson, Philosophy & Government

  • Exploring Your World & Others

    This course uses geographical principles to examine maps, both real and fictional, to learn about the world around us.  Gaming strategies are employed to help learn about the university and locations central to the student.  This is done through various means of historical and modern techniques such as orienteering, augmented reality gaming, sandbox environments, and roleplaying.  At the end of the course, students will gain a greater appreciation of the geographical elements that shape their world.

    Professor: Dr. Michael Davis, Geography

  • Exploring Kutztown University Through the Things We Keep

    Kutztown University is home to numerous collections, including bugs, rocks, trees, artifacts, musical instruments, oral histories, archives, and more. This seminar will introduce first-year students to the issues those working with collections face as they explore some of the collections that exist in disciplines from across Kutztown University. First-year students also will learn how to conduct research using a specific collection or collections, depending upon the expertise of the instructor. Finally, first-year students will learn about the resources available to them to work with faculty as they pursue innovative research programs focused on those collections.

    Professor: Dr. Khori Newlander, Anthropology & Sociology

  • Fake News: Fact, Opinion or Fabrication

    Trustworthy information is necessary to fuel positive change with and on behalf of those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. The "fake news" trend in our public discourse provides an opportunity to learn how to retrieve, interpret, and evaluate information. This course challenges students to be critical consumers of information in pursuit of a more equitable society and to better engage in the life of the university as well as in their professional and civic communities.

    Professor: Dr. Stephen Stoeffler, Social Work

  • Finding Your Voice

    Our voice is the instrument that allows us to speak and sing, cheer and whisper, but how does our voice work? Just like other instruments, if we fine tune our vocal qualities, we improve the impact of our expression no matter how we use our voice. Additionally, understanding vocal mechanics helps prevent vocal problems. This seminar will explore the beauty and power of the natural voice for singing and speaking. No previous singing experience required.

    Professor: Dr. Henry Alviani, Music

  • Global Social Problems and Social Change

    The world today is experiencing the most pressing social problems. During this course, students will learn about different global social issues, human rights framework, and promising approaches and solutions. Through problem-solving activities and teamwork, participants will have opportunities to deepen their self-awareness and cultural competence, and explore their potential for becoming leaders and social change agents to serve on the frontline of the global social change. This course features international guest speakers.

    Professor: Dr. Juliana Svistova, Social Work

  • Globalization and Challenges to Identity

    The terms globalization and internationalization have been described as full of opportunity, challenging, and ultimately unavoidable. This FYSM section centralizes international short films as tools for learning about cultural perspectives, diversity, as well as national and personal identity. We also use the short films to practice thinking critically and coming up with original research topics that we will pursue throughout the semester.

    Professor: Dr. Lynn Kutch, Modern Language Studies

  • Horror in Contemporary American Culture

    Horror has long been a popular genre in visual arts, fiction, and other media. Over the last 30 years, horror's popularity has intensified, especially in film, comics, and series produced for the web and television. The course examines the tropes and techniques of contemporary horror in American popular culture. It asks why we are compelled by and attracted to images and texts designed to scare or repel us.

    Professor: Dr. Anthony Bleach, English

  • Mathematical Puzzles and Infinity

    When we think about infinity, we imagine a limitless, never-ending state. Nevertheless, this fascinating idea also brings many self-contradictions and counterintuitive consequences. Investigating these strange phenomena helps us acquire skills and concepts that expand our thinking. Using a variety of mathematical concepts in discovering the wonder of infinity, students will develop better problem-solving skills and an appreciation for the beauty of mathematics.

    Professor: Dr. Wing Hong Tony Wong, Mathematics

  • New Adulting

    New Adulting infuses themes in pop culture and social awareness to develop essential skills for enhancing the academic experience. Exploration of trends in social media, television, and literature are used as a platform for self-reflection, critical thinking, and problem solving. Social, political, economic, and technological trends will be explored and discussed. Participants will develop personal understanding of the tools and strategies necessary for successful academic planning in addition to personal and professional growth.

    Professor: Dr. Heather LaBarre, Social Work

  • Prison Industrial Complex

    This class will take an in-depth and critical look into the corporate, financial, and political interests behind the U.S. prison expansion, while helping students successfully transition to Kutztown University and adapt to the college environment. We will explore many resources that KU offers for students to be successful in their academic endeavor as well as to be responsible members of society.

    Professor: Dr. Mahfuzul Khondaker, Criminal Justice

  • Research is My Superpower; What's Yours?

    What can the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, and other popular culture phenomenon teach us about what we value as a society? Through readings, discussion, collaborative activities, research and, of course, watching movies, students will explore the historical origins of some of today’s most popular intellectual properties (IP) and examine why these stories continue to resonate through multiple generations. Students will use what they discover to contribute to current conversations around representation in media, the impact of large media corporations on copyright and intellectual property laws, and how the themes we find in popular culture might reflect current events.

    Professor: Dr. Roseanne Perkins, EMLT

  • Simple Living: Life of Reason and Virtue

    In parallel with familiarizing students with KU resources for success in college, this course teaches them the art of simple living, understood as a life of virtue and reason. It studies some of the themes in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, a book of deep personal reflections of an emperor philosopher. The course explores the relationship between virtue, rational thinking, and human happiness. Logic for rational decision-making will also be covered.

    Professor: Dr. Mohammad Adeel, Philosophy & Government

  • Socially Just Hip-Hop

    This course is designed to support student learning and academic success with a focus on hip-hop based practices to foster career readiness for students who are unsure about a major or career path. The course will address academic skills, career, and academic planning as well as financial literacy. By engaging in these topics, students will learn specific strategies that contribute to their overall academic success as they express their individuality through hip-hop music and culture. Emphasis is placed on the student's academic and personal development in the college environment who are either undeclared or unsure about their major. Students will explore majors and minors offered at Kutztown University and learn about their strengths, and interests as well as gain a better understanding of how to plan for their academic future.

    Professor: Dr. Marlene Fares, Academic Enrichment

  • Tell Me A Story

    What did you imagine your first day and first year in college would be like? What dreams, goals, issues do you bring with you to college? The answers to these questions have no doubt been influenced by the stories you tell about yourself and those that your family and friends tell about you and you all. Stories empower us and define us ... sometimes a bit narrowly. Understanding how personal, cultural, and academic stories operate is useful for school, work, and life.

    Professor: Dr. Carolyn Gardner, Business Administration

  • The Power of Place

    Places are more than geographic coordinates; they are centers of meaning and experience that powerfully influence us. How does place shape us, and how do we shape the places around us? We will explore the ways that people interact with places and give them meaning, and the ways that places teach us about our cultures and ourselves, through various media including film, graphic novels, readings, fieldwork, art, interviews, and personal reflections.

    Professor: Dr. Steven Schnell, Geography

  • The Secret Lives of Food

    Eating is both a popular pastime and an activity necessary to sustain life. A very small percentage of food is eaten raw. Most food is baked, fried, broiled, grilled, fermented, or processed in some way. In this course we will examine the physical and chemical changes that occur when food is prepared, including traditional methods, "processing" as it is carried out in the modern food industry, and new techniques known as molecular gastronomy.

    Professor: Dr. Daniel Blanchard, Physical Sciences

  • Truth or Consequences: White Lies and Manipulation

    "Do I look fat in these pants?" "I'd really like to just be friends." "Tell me the truth; I can handle it!" We all engage in white lies and manipulations to make people feel better, make ourselves look good, or to conceal the truth from others. Telling the truth all the time is hard. This course will explore truthfulness, deceit, trust, justification, excuses, and their effects on relationships and the moral choices we make.

    Professor: Dr. Keith Massie, Communication Studies

  • What's Your Style?

    *This course is only for students accepted into the TRIO Student Support Services program.  To find out whether you're eligible for the program, please visit

    Want to maximize your success in college?  Find out how learning comes easily and maximize your academic potential through self-discovery in this course.  Explore the different learning styles through various self-assessments and activities and determine those that will most enhance your college experience.  Content includes a thorough analysis of the visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic/tactile (VARK) learning styles. 

    Professor: Ms. Loriann Irving, TRIO Student Support Services