GPS Courses

In GPS you will take 9-credits of courses over your first year, all of which fulfill your general education requirements. So every course counts towards your degree! These were the course offerings from the fall 2017 term.

First Year Seminars

If selected for GPS you will get to choose one of these 8 options for a First Year Seminar class. This course will fulfill your First Year Seminar General Education requirement.

From Disney’s Pocahontas to the NFL: Stereotypes and the Realities of First Nations People (FNS 198) – Instructor: J P Leary

This course will focus on historical and contemporary issues related to representation and self-representation of First Nations people and communities. We will explore questions of cultural exchange and cultural appropriation, stereotyping and its effects, advocacy and resiliency, and cultural and visual sovereignty in the context of schooling, sports, mass media, and popular culture. The course design, which emphasizes oral tradition and intergenerational teaching and learning, provides opportunities to develop skills related to critical thinking, group processes, memory, and public speaking.

Art & Science (Hum Bio/Art 198) – Instructor: Dan Meinhardt

What does art have to do with science? What's science have to do with art? Many people think these two fields couldn't be more different, but the reality is much more interesting. This course explores art and science as ways of knowing by addressing what they are, their goals, how they work, and how they compare as creative, human, and social activities. Topics include the philosophies of art and science and the ways in which the fields relate to, and serve, each other. We’ll read Steve Martin's funny play about a fictitious meeting between Picasso and Einstein in a Paris bar, a classic work on scientific revolutions, and watch a compelling documentary about a photographer making art in a Brazilian landfill.

Education in Film and Literature (Hum Stud 198) – Instructor: Jennifer Ham

This seminar explores cultural representations of the exciting human project of self-formation from Socrates to the present. From our discussions of some of the most interesting key texts and films from this humanistic tradition along with reflections on your own schooling experiences, you will not only learn about some of the salient ideas and narratives that have influenced our notions of self-discovery, but you will also gain much broader and deeper insight into classroom spaces and the significance of your own college education. Who were the apprentices, monks, mentors, hogwart sorcerers, disciples, disciplinarians and academics of history? What is the value and purpose of education? What can we learn from other cultures’ assumptions and practices? In addition to feature films, we will explore works by writers such as Plato, Kant, Schiller, Rousseau, Novalis, C. BrontĂ«, Kafka, Nietzsche, Freud, Emerson, Foucault, Percy and Friere.

Exploring the Jazz Loft (Music 198) – Instructor: Adam Gaines

This course is designed to study the photographs and tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 1957 to 1965 in New York City. Smith's huge archive of materials from this transitional time in U.S. history is used as a keystone in discussions of such diverse topics as jazz history, Civil Rights, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and of the nature of artists and their reactions to their surroundings.

Calvin and Hobbes Explore the Philosophical World (Philos 198) – Instructor: Christopher Martin

What can Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes teach us about Philosophy?  Surprisingly, quite a bit.  In this course we will use Bill Watterson’s comic strip to help us discuss philosophical questions about education, the nature of truth and identity, morality and its teachability, free will, nature, friendship, and, of course, the reality of a certain stuffed tiger named ‘Hobbes’.  We will ask, for instance, whether Calvin can control his throwing slushballs at Susie, and if not, whether Santa is justified in punishing him with less loot at Christmas.  We will explore why Miss Wormwood might be so cantankerous about Calvin’s poor performance in school, and whether learning requires a non-physical mind (presumably negating Hobbes’ ability to learn).  Along the way we will sharpen considerably our abilities to read and comprehend difficult material, to think and converse through difficult ideas, to dig deeper into our own ideas about them, and to ultimately articulate our ideas in well-written arguments.  My ultimate aim is for us to use Bill Watterson’s wonderful comic to aid our self-awareness, understanding, and empowerment.

“We Don’t Need No Education!” …or Do We? The Problem of the American Education System Past and Present (DJS 198) – Instructor: Jon Shelton

This course asks first-year college students, as they transition from one part of the US system to another, to critically assess American education—from the origins of public schools in the 1800s to our current time of No Child Left Behind K-12 education and the modern university. Run as a seminar, this course will not be a comprehensive survey of American education. Rather, we will think about big contemporary problems and their historical origins, such as the purpose of compulsory public education for children, the unionization of educators, standardized testing, and the steep price of student debt. By the end of the course, students should be able to formulate their own highly informed perspective on many of these controversial issues.

We Need to Talk: Public Deliberation for Civic Renewal (DJS 198) – Instructor: Alison Staudinger

We Need to Talk explores the theory and practice of deliberation and reflection in the time of partisan conflict. Students will develop skills for facilitating conversations between deeply divided people, but also read deeply about contentious topics like race, religion, science, and politics. Students will compare various ideas about how discussion and civic renewal might relate, including theories of the public sphere, practical approaches such participatory budgeting and deliberative juries, and critiques of the possibility of a discussion free from influence of hierarchy and power.

Comedy Central Civics (PEA 198) – Instructor: Aaron Weinschenk

Young people regularly express low levels of interest in public affairs and politics, do not feel a strong sense of civic obligation, and are not well informed about important issues and events. Interestingly, surveys of young people indicate that comedy news shows like The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver are popular outlets for information about current issues and events, government, elections, and policy. In this seminar, we will use comedy news shows to learn about and better understand contemporary events and issues. Throughout the course, we will also think about new ways of getting young people excited about, interested in, and involved in civic life.

The Vikings (Hum Stud 198) – Instructor: Heidi Sherman
A course on the myth of the Vikings in the medieval and modern era. Why do we think of the Vikings as bloodthirsty marauders? Medieval monks maligned them in their chronicles. Soviet propagandists pictured Hitler wearing a horned helmet in newsreels. You name it; the Vikings have been used to further political and cultural agendas. Popular culture also loves the Vikings: comic books, Hollywood films, Norwegian black metal, professional sports teams. This course will explore the myths and the realities of these fascinating people.
 The Future (Hum Stud 198) – Instructor: Vince Lowery
What can novels about a science fiction future, written in the past, tell us about our own future as a society? Using texts like Huxley’s Brave New World, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 54, and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this course will explore the key issues leading to the dystopian future presented in these novels. And we will examine what they may tell us about our own political, economic, environmental, and personal futures.

GPS Stakeholder Courses

In GPS you will take two linked courses, one in fall and one in spring, that will help you to learn how to become a true stakeholder in your education and your community. These two courses, together, will fulfill a Social Science general education requirement. Both courses will be taught by the same Faculty Mentor as your First Year Seminar and supported by the same Peer Mentor. So you will develop close mentoring relationships with both over the year.

Fall Course - 21st Century Citizen: Becoming a Stakeholder in Your Education and Community (Comm Sci 145) (2 credits)

In this course students will develop their capacities to become true stakeholders in their education and in their communities. We will explore the diverse contexts impacting learning and engaged citizenship, examine relevant social problems from an interdisciplinary perspective, and identify a problem to address via a large-scale service project in our spring GPS class. Along the way, students will build leadership and communication skills, self- awareness, and the habits of mind required to get the most from your college experience.

Spring Course – GPS Capstone Seminar (Comm Sci 146) (1 credit)

This course will serve as a capstone to the GPS program first year experience, and will challenge students to apply the knowledge and skills they’ve gained thus far in GPS to address a real-world problem. Students will develop and implement a service learning project with their class over the course of the semester, and will continue the work to build knowledge and skills critical to personal and career success.

GPS Intro Courses

In the fall semester, you will get to choose from two or our most popular Intro-level General Education courses. These courses are also some of the most challenging you’re likely to take in your first year. So GPS provides students with free weekly study sessions for the courses, led by upper-level undergraduates who excel in the major. During the sessions students work on activities that allow you to review vocabulary, get practice applying concepts, and learn skills for how to read and effectively study the course content. And they work! Over 80% of the students who attend at least 8 of these weekly sessions earn A’s or B’s in the class, compared to only 40% of students who don’t attend the sessions.

You will choose either…

Intro to Human Biology (Human Bio 102):

This course examines the basic concepts, principles, and processes in human biology. We explore the origin of life, evolution, cells, biochemical processes, physiological systems, genetics and metabolism. This course fulfills the Biological Sciences general education requirement.


American Government & Politics (Pol Sci 101):

This course examines the institutions and political processes of American National government and the nature of political analysis. We explore the Constitution, the ideological and cultural bases of American politics and the role of political parties, elections and interest groups in our government. We also examine how policy is made in Congress, the presidency and the courts. This course fulfills a Social Science general education requirement.