First-Year Seminars are classes at Gettysburg College that offer open discussions and provide new insights on unique topics. These courses are only offered to first-year students and provide an opportunity to work closely with a professor and a small group of your classmates, all of whom are extremely interested in the topic you are studying together. The First-Year seminar program allows students to improve and build upon their writing, critical thinking, and quantitative reasoning skills, and develop close connections with their classmates and professors during their first year on our campus.
What can you study in a First-Year Seminar?
Gettysburg College offers about 38 First-Year seminars to choose from, with topics ranging from the social sciences to humanities to history and everything in between. This allows students to choose from a wide variety of topics, and there is virtually a First-Year seminar for everyone!
I am now a Mathematical Economics major, but in my first year, I wanted to step outside the comfort zone of my typical classes that related to my intended major, so I chose a First-Year seminar in the humanities. I love movies and discussing them, so I chose Plato, Personhood and Popcorn: Big Ideas on the Big Screen. This class was exactly what I wanted in a First-Year seminar, and my analytical mind loved it! Together, our class dove into movies and the deep philosophical ideas embedded in them: we watched movies like Groundhog Day and The Matrix, and had the opportunity to have deep philosophical debates with each other. It was an experience that shaped my Gettysburg career—a feeling that holds true for a lot of students here.
Logan Grubb ’21, took a completely different First-Year Seminar, but experienced the same sentiments about his seminar that I felt about mine. Logan shared, “I took From Earth to the Moon, with Provost Chris Zappe. This was an interdisciplinary seminar that examined the experiences of the women and men who collectively achieved President John F. Kennedy's dramatic and ambitious goal of sending Americans safely to and from the moon before the end of the 1960s. I’m able to learn just as much—if not more—in this setting, where the learning is facilitated through conversation and discussion.”
What can you expect in your First-Year Seminar?
First-Year Seminars may include field trips, films, guest speakers, workshops, and community service projects. Many of these opportunities are designed for a specific seminar or group of related seminars. Each seminar is unique in how it is conducted, so depending on what kind of interactive experience you want, you can choose a course that fits your interests. Logan Grubb ’21 stated that his First-Year seminar was unique, as they “frequently had guest lecturers in class, namely former Professor of Physics, Sharon Stephenson, and Eisenhower Institute Chairman Emerita, Susan Eisenhower, who each offered unique expertise into our conversations for class that day.” For me, my professor allowed us to all sit and watch a movie together in a theater located in Breidenbaugh Hall. I specifically remember watching Vertigo, a movie by Alfred Hitchcock—the film has become one of my favorites, specifically because of this course and my fond memories of the experience.
Making Your First-Year Seminar Experience Your Own
When you finally get to choose your own First-Year Seminar, don’t allow the long list of options to overwhelm you. As Gabi Eglington ’21 commented, “There are so many ways that you can approach… ranking [your FYS options]. Do you want to explore a subject that you are unfamiliar with? Or dive deeper into a pre-established passion? My recommendation is this: regardless of what you choose, be sure it's something you are excited about. First year seminars are academically driven, of course, but there is a social component, too! The people sitting next to you are equally passionate about the subject material.”
No matter which First-Year seminar you choose, I can guarantee that it will not be like any other class you have taken or will ever take. This experience is so unique to Gettysburg, and this chance at an interactive and collaborative environment will teach you lessons that you will carry far beyond your college years.
By Maddie Miller ‘21
Photos by Shawna Sherrell