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 own 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!


Activism and the Arts: Dance, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts and the Vital Work of Social Change

Artists have always reflected and challenged the times they live in.  In this course, we will study the history of the connection between activism and the arts and imagine how we might use our own potential as artists to challenge the issues facing the world around us. 

Instructor: Dr. Kelly Bremner

Adventure in Place Identity & The Stories We Tell

Pascal Mercier once wrote, “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place; we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” What Mercier has described is called “place identity.” Intentionality within the story we create for ourselves as individuals, especially through college, is incredibly important. We can choose to create a self-identified story of adventure, healing, and growth within the place we choose to spend our college career. This course will feature poems and stories on landscape and its connection to place identity. It will allow students an opportunity to express themselves and their journey through their own writing. Through these readings and writings, students can develop intentional methods connecting to the surrounding world, thus empowering students to embrace their place identity.

Instructor: Ms. Alexandria Crowsen

Christianity in America: An Exploration

This class will explore the roots of Christianity as it arrives on the shores of North America with the early colonists of the 16th Century. The material will cover the formative role the Christian faith played in the lives and ideals of the earlier settlers and the founding of the nation, but also its complicated complicity in conflicts with Native Americans, the institution of slavery, and continuing legacies of violence and segregation.

Instructor: Rev. David Jackson

Energy and Sustainability

The United States consumes about 17% of the world’s energy consumption. Where does the energy come from? How do our energy choices influence the planet? Students will investigate the generation and use of energy with a hands-on experience and contemplate future energy choices. What role does each of them play in creating a sustainable energy future?

Instructor: Dr. James Duchamp

Exploring Appalachian Civic Identity (Honors)

This course will explore the meanings and understandings of a place-based civic identity in the Appalachian region. We will read novels, stories, and poems and experience a wide variety of visual and performing arts, all born of Appalachia’s diverse people and places. Together, we will use these forms to think about and better understand the history and culture of the region and will spend considerable time discussing and writing about the ways they may be used to both formulate and confront questions of identity and citizenship.

Instructor: Dr. Scott Sikes

Food and Place

Eating is an agricultural act, says the farmer-poet Wendell Berry of Kentucky.  Whenever we buy food, wherever we buy it, our choices determine what farmers can make a living at. The story of our food is an amazing one, and in this course, we explore many facets of it, particularly how Southern and Appalachian people have produced and prepared food.  Our college is located in one of the most diverse food regions in the country, and so we explore foodways and the work being done today to preserve history while respecting ecology.  We also ask some hard questions: Why does Virginia have one of the highest rates of obesity among five-year-olds? Why do we continue to see a decline in small farms? What efforts can we join in support of a healthy food system in this place?

Instructor: Dr. Edward 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, and think in second-order effects rather than being anecdotal.” 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 P. Tracy

Health homeostasis: The art and science of healthcare

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” At a minimum, all of us are healthcare consumers. Students will learn about the history and science of medicine and nursing and will explore the healthcare team, delivery systems, ethical issues, safety, infection control, communication, and professional disciplines.”                       

Instructor: Dr. Laurie Anne Ferguson

It’s All Love

Let’s talk about love, baby! Every story is a love story, so says the songwriter. One must only look at the last handful of songs they have listened to understand that. In this course, we look at novels, poetry collections, essays, and albums to explore the various forms of love that invariably exist in all writers’ work. When writers write about grief, they write about love lost; when they write about lust, they write about love to be had; when they write about politics, they write about love that ought to be. Throughout the class, we read women and/or queer writers of color, such as Adrienne Rich, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Natalie Diaz, bell hooks, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Carmen Maria Machado, Kendrick Lamar, and Olivia Rodrigo to discuss literature through the lenses of the various forms of love. While this class examines romantic love, we also look to narratives outside of romance to expand what our notions of love can be and to develop a more radical love that encompasses (or attempts to) the enormity of the human experience. 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. So get ready, because love is on the menu!

Instructor: Mr. Matthew Kelley

Knowing Places, Knowing Ourselves

In a 2015 lecture at the Business Innovation Factory’s Collaborative Innovation Summit, Jamie Casap, Chief Education Evangelist at Google, Inc., shared his personal trajectory to success. He emphasized the role Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, played in his early life, especially where people’s views of him were concerned. In this course, we will explore the intersection of identity and place, considering the ways places influence how we see ourselves and how others see us. Key discussion questions will include: How does place shape us as individuals and as members of a community? What makes us feel connected to or disconnected from a place? How is the perception of a place similar to or different from how it is experienced? Why does our investment in a place change over time?

Instructor: Dr. Nicole Drewitz-Crockett

Mind Control: How Language Shapes Reality

You know the saying. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…” Well, actually, words have much more power than we realize. The language we use (and the way we use it) shapes the lens through which we experience life. It informs the music we listen to, the jokes we laugh at, the ideas we believe, and even the people we find credible or interesting. In this class, we will work to understand why words matter and why analyzing the way other people use language is critical to understanding how the world works. Together, we will read and watch texts that allow us to analyze how words shape our reality. Ultimately, students will apply our course discussions to their own majors and interests. Course topics will include culture, communication, comedy, politics, social media, music, film, and others.

Instructor: Mrs. Mary Ellis Rice

Our Dystopian Future

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, along with its main aesthetic foundations, is 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. Jenn Krause

Reel to Real: The Portrayal of Stereotypes in TV and Film

This course will examine the portrayal of stereotypes in society, specifically 1)race, ethnicity, and culture, 2)sexual orientation and gender identity, 3)physical ability and mental illness within TV shows, movies, and documentaries in the 21st century.

Instructor: Mrs. Samantha Lopez

Sport, Physical Culture, Physical Literacy, and Identity

For many youth in the United States, enculturation into sport begins at an early age. The sport culture is ingrained in both public schools and communities. How does sport and other diverse activities involving physical movement impact learning? This course will examine sport, physical culture, physical literacy, and identity to oneself and others. 

Instructor: Dr. Rebecca Buchanan

A Starbucks Society

What began as a single coffee house in downtown Seattle has grown into a global phenomenon that has changed the way the world views and consumes coffee. This course will bring an in-depth analysis to what’s behind the now everyday phrase: “Meet me at Starbucks.” We will approach the topic from a variety of perspectives, such as the history of coffee; the powerful business strategies used to build a global empire; the socioeconomic and environmental impact of the company and its products; health factors, and other issues related to coffeehouse fare; and the use of space and visual stimulation to produce an atmosphere for relaxing, socializing, and retailing.

Instructor: Dr. Tracy Lauder

Useful Stories and Useful Questions for Useful Lives

This course is a shared conversation and a thoughtful journey through some of our time and place’s most pressing questions and ideas. These same questions have the potential to shape the persons we become, how we think of ourselves, and the work we take up for the common good.

Instructor: Dr. Talmage Stanley

What is College? Interrogating an Institution

Going beyond the basics of “What are we doing here?” and ‘Why college?’, this course will then examine the idea of college in three specific ways: Personally: through self-reflection and personal narrative, what do we bring to and gain from college as an experience and an institution? Culturally: through film and media, what do we learn about the ‘college experience’? Practically: examining history, economics, and job markets, why is a college degree considered to be valuable?

Instructor: Ms. Ruth Castillo