The First-Year Seminar: Self

Your first-year experience in the “Self” seminar, which we at E&H call CORE 100, will help you develop a foundation for critical thinking and learning at the college level as you begin to take responsibility for your own education. This will be your first experience in the E&H liberal arts core curriculum. You will have an opportunity to explore your identity, learn how to find reliable information as a student and a citizen, and gain skills that will help you be successful in college and beyond.

Please read the course descriptions below to determine which topics for the “Self” seminar interest you most. We will do our best to place you in one of your top four choices!

Banned Books: Controversy and Censorship

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” In this course, we will read three novels that have, at different times and for different reasons, been deemed so inappropriate, controversial, or taboo that public schools and libraries have pulled them from the shelves. Why were these books banned, and how have these books shaped society? Who gets to decide what is appropriate? We will explore concepts of censorship, culture, identity, power, and social change through our readings, writing assignments, and class discussions. Bring your love for reading and your willingness to step outside of your comfort zone. Required texts: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Instructor: Professor Travis Proffitt

Dystopia: Honors (Course required for Honors Students)

Dystopian world-building has become an “it” topic within the last few decades. Film, television, and literature, especially YA literature, propose worlds in which our society has crumbled, affected by global war, disastrous climate change, or totalitarian governments. This trend toward cataclysm and its main aesthetic foundations are rooted in a wider social obsession with what the future might hold. This course will consider how our understanding of the future and our fears of what might be have changed over time, based on an analysis of some of the major trends in dystopian literature starting after WWII. We will investigate why we see the future so bleakly, taking into consideration issues ranging from race and gender to social class and beyond. Taking 1984 as our founding text, we will read works including Octavia Butlers’ The Parable of the Sower , Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road . We will also discuss films and television, including Snowpiercer , Children of Men , and Watchmen .

Instructor: Dr. Jennifer Krause

Finding Your Expression

This course aims to explore the intersection of music and self-discovery. Throughout the course, students will delve into their musical tastes and preferences to gain a deeper understanding of themselves. The course will begin by addressing the fundamental questions of “Who am I?” and how one’s musical tastes may be influenced by prior exposure. This course will also focus on students’ responsibility to themselves and how they can use music as a form of self-expression. Students will reflect on how their musical taste changes with their mood and/or environment and explore strategies for discovering new music that resonates with them. This class will also cover information literacy and how students can find reliable information about the music they listen to. The role of social media in music consumption will also be discussed.

Instructor: Dr. Lauren Harding

Food & Place

This course explores two very important aspects of our lives: the food we eat and the places where we live. My favorite topic within the field of geography is rural place-making - how people “make a living” in a way that can last. This is not easy for lots of reasons, right? So we will be reading Charlie Thompson’s Going Over Home , a memoir of a SW Virginia native who struggled as a farmer and became a leading advocate for family farmers. Thompson talks about family, home, land, and place, our identity, and our food system. We do this too, in discussions and research on our foods and our places. We connect to the local farmers market, and we may do a service project at the local elementary school where kids are first learning about foods and where they come from. Helping those kids learn is another good way for us to learn.

Instructor: Dr. Ed Davis

“Fooled By Randomness”: Risk, Uncertainty, Identity, and Perception

N. Taleb once said, “be prepared for the fact that the next large surprise, technological or historical, will not resemble what you have in mind…learn to be abstract….” Careers and businesses of tomorrow will not resemble what we know today. The importance of how we think will be of vastly greater value than what we know. This course explores the problems of perception, anecdotal thinking, identity, and uncertainty. It focuses on the non-observable that disrupts our lives the most.

Instructor: Dr. Emmett Tracy

Global America

To borrow from the title of one of this course’s books, the United States is, and always has been, a “transnational nation.” For that reason, we will explore more than four hundred years of U.S. history, spanning the colonial period to the present, in a global context. I am a historian, but the course addresses such interdisciplinary themes as war and peace, race and gender, religion and immigration, economics and political culture, and other forms of global interaction. While some students will be interested in the localized impact of imperialism and globalization in the United States, others will want to study U.S. relationships, both state and non-state, with people and places in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. This course is a seminar, which means it centers on student participation and discussion. The readings and final projects will be based on primary sources – documents, or other artifacts, produced at the time by people who lived and experienced the history that we will collectively study. By the end of the semester, all students will understand the international and transnational connections between the United States and the world and be able to relate past developments to current global trends.

Instructor: Dr. Matthew Shannon

Hip Hop: Compassion and the Art of Listening

Hip-hop is the perfect modern avenue to so many expressions of identity: poetry, rhythm, and activism, to name a few. By studying the work of Kendrick Lamar, J Dilla, A Tribe Called Quest, and more, this course will focus on the relationship between ourselves and hip-hop’s unique ability to build empathy, community, and collaboration…no matter our many different life experiences as a listener. How can we better understand what we love and what we’re afraid of? This course is the soundtrack to that journey.

Instructor: Professor Bradley Hartsell

How Long to Sing This Song?: Culture & Community

In this course, we will dig into the complex concept of culture and examine what it has to do with things such as power, place, politics, identity, and faith, among others. We will utilize particular forms of cultural expression as we seek to understand how shared practices, representations, languages, and customs shape how we understand reality and ourselves. Our study will be framed by a series of significant questions that will prompt us to consider our own story and our own place in the world as human beings.  

Instructor: Dr. Scott Sikes

Me, Myself, and AI

The primary concern in this CORE 100 class is what it means to be human, but since that’s such a big question, we’ll first try to discover what it means to be a human in the first year of college at Emory and Henry. That’s something about which every student will have some perspective. The course will discuss the different kinds of intelligence and examine how to use our particular strengths to get the most out of the college experience. We’ll spend some time considering some of life’s big organizing principles: Science, Religion, Art, and Law, and the interplay of intellect and emotion in each. We’ll try to gain an understanding of what concepts like consciousness and sentience might consist of— in animals, in people, and in machines, and then we’ll consider Artificial Intelligence.

Since AI is already a presence in our lives and will have a major role in our futures, we’ll look at its appearances in various fictions and in our daily experiences. We’ll be trying to figure out how to continue being human despite increasing engagement with and reliance upon thinking machines of all sorts. How should we divide responsibilities in our future lives? Are there things that humans should insist on doing ourselves and other things we can allow machines to handle?

The course is more about the processes and pleasures of exploration than any particular body of knowledge. Many of the concepts we’ll discuss don’t even lend themselves to any factual conclusions. I’ll ask you to focus on finding questions to advance our conversations rather than any answers that end them. The exchange of ideas is what we’re after, and that will require a willingness to talk with each other and to listen.

Instructor: Professor Jerome Maddock


Myths are traditional stories that do three big things: 1) They entertain. 2) They explore big
questions such as, what is the point of life? What should we be willing to die for? Where did the universe come from? 3) They communicate information that a particular society thinks all of its members should know. Because they do these important things, myths are stories that stay around for a long time. In this class, we will look at how ancient Greek myths do the three big things above. We will read stories about Greek gods, goddesses, and heroes, and we will
compare the ancient Greek worldview with our own. We will also discuss whether the United
States have a collection of mythical stories, and see what our stories tell about us.

Instructor: Dr. Jack Wells

Our Backyard

Our Backyard here in Southwest Virginia is truly something special. In this course, we will explore the natural wonders and resources we have at our fingertips. We will work with various community partners to discover what makes our area unique and how we can be good stewards of this place. We will also analyze how the “backyards” we come from shape us and what it means to create a space we love no matter where we are.

Instructor: Professor Leah Wilson

Our Stories Are Our Common Ground

Our stories are our common ground. We all have stories. This community of co-learners and co-teaches will together celebrate the stories we each bring to this place. We will explore the ways that Emory & Henry can become a common ground we build through our stories. Multimedia projects and reading together Marilynne Robinson’s novel, Gilead, will offer opportunities for reflection and exchanging the stories we bring to this place.

Instructor: Dr. Tal Stanley

See No Stranger: Navigating Religious Diversity in America

Have you ever wondered what makes us who we are and how our beliefs, practices, and values shape our sense of self and community? Are you curious about the diversity of religious traditions in America and how they intersect with other aspects of identity? In this class, we’ll explore the rich tapestry of religious traditions in America and learn to move beyond mere tolerance to build understanding, respect, and empathy across religious divides. We’ll examine how religion shapes our individual and collective identities and explore the challenges and opportunities of navigating multiple identities in a diverse society. By the end of the course, you’ll have gained a deeper appreciation for the complexities of religious diversity and identity formation in America and developed the skills to engage with people of different religious backgrounds with respect and empathy.

Instructor: Professor Sharon Wright & Professor Sam Davis

The Mind, Body, Spirit Connection

We live in a day and age where we are constantly consumed with information. We find ourselves putting our attention outward most of the time, which leads to less focus, productivity, creativity, and learning. Science now proves that, in actuality, we need to be going inward to find an abundance of these things. How does the mind-body connection affect our stress levels, learning, and ability to create? In this course, students will learn the science behind learning, the effects of stress, and practicing mindfulness as a means to ensure their education is successful and productive.

Instructor: Professor Megan Hamilton

The Promise Of Crypto

In this section, we will explore the foundations of cryptocurrency. What was the original purpose of Bitcoin, and what problems was it attempting to solve? Since Bitcoin’s Genesis Block in 2009, how has the advent of such tools as NFTs, decentralized exchanges, and stable assets impacted the trajectory of the crypto space? In order to fully place these questions in today’s economic environment, we will pay close attention to current events and allow space for discussions on current events as appropriate. Students will have the opportunity to explore and research other crypto projects and place those in the context of Bitcoin’s original purpose. Ultimately, we will consider whether or not crypto is simply unfounded hype or whether it has a place in an ever-digitizing society.

Instructor: Professor Ryan Bowyer

What Disability Studies can do for You

Are you disabled? Are people you love or care about? What does it mean to be disabled? There’s a lot we can all learn from disability studies (DS). DS explores how bodies, moods, and minds are categorized as normal or abnormal. Whether using a wheelchair, having an autistic brain, or living with anxiety disorders, we will examine different ways society challenges and supports different minds and bodies. We will apply the perspective that the problem is not the person who is different but the ways society does not accommodate difference. Learning about the experiences of disabled persons can offer unique insights and skills for all persons. These can help us understand other challenges, such as addiction and trauma. In this introduction to Disability Studies, we will learn about disability activism, how to conduct disability audits, and conduct a “disability lineage” project exploring the ways disability impacts our own lives and families.

Instructor: Dr. Travers Scott

What is Love?

Every person knows love. Or, at the very least, every person has felt its presence and its absence. But is that all there is to love? A feeling? Does love only exist in the abstract, or is there something more? Writers and thinkers have thought and written about love for as long as there has been language. In this course, we look at fiction, poetry, music, and other forms of art to explore the various ways that love exists in the human experience. Throughout the class, we read writers, such as Adrienne Rich, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Natalie Diaz, bell hooks, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Carmen Maria Machado, and listen to music from music artists such as Lil Baby, Olivia Rodrigo, and Taylor Swift to discuss literature through the lenses of the various forms and concepts of love. In addition to reading through the literature, students complete writing exercises in relation to the readings in order to redefine their relationship to love and its manifestations. Students will leave the class having developed their own definition of love and having coordinated and implemented a community service project inspired by their love ethic.

Instructor: Professor Matthew Kelly

Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

Should you use Wikipedia? Should you believe Wikipedia? What can one of the world’s largest and most frequently used resources tell us about the world, communities, and even ourselves? In this course, we will explore Wikipedia, its content, and its creation. We’ll also dive into concepts around online communities and life on the internet. We’ll even do some content creation ourselves in a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon later in the semester.

Instructor: Professor Ruth Castillo