Academics and Research

Intriguing classes geared to first-year students

From the time they first step foot on campus until the day they collect their diplomas, University of Denver students benefit from opportunities to collaborate with faculty in adventurous learning.

The collaboration begins with the first-year seminar, which every freshman takes his or her first quarter on campus. Capped at 15 students, these seminars are led by a faculty mentor who doubles as the student’s adviser throughout freshman year and who shows students how to negotiate the ins and outs of college-level work.

But that’s just the beginning. In these courses, professors share their research and creative interests with students, accompanying them on a path of inquiry they might not have explored otherwise.

“The emphasis in these seminars is on academic rigor, combined with building interpersonal attachments between instructors and students,” says Professor Paul Colomy, of the University’s sociology and criminology department. Colomy chairs a committee that reviews seminar proposals from faculty and selects the 80 or so courses offered each fall.

The seminars plunge students into high-level work, capitalizing on their excitement about college. “We expect them to work much harder than they did in high school,” Colomy says. “Most students respond enthusiastically to an academic challenge.”

Just as students relish the challenge, professors appreciate the opportunity to blend their enthusiasm for teaching with a special research interest. They’re teaching on topics they love. And that, Colomy says, makes the seminars a big hit with students.

This fall, first-year students chose from a vast menu of intriguing offerings. Here’s the rundown on five of the courses available.

In Activism and Documentary Filmmaking, each student writes, produces and edits a short documentary. Along the way, students learn about how filmmakers have used the medium to advocate for social change.

Students question humankind’s attitudes toward animals and nature in Animals, Ethics and the Environment. They pose and address such questions as: What are the key differences between humans and other animals? Is it ethical to eat, conduct tests on and keep animals as pets? What are the environmental consequences of such decisions?

It’s easy to take numbers for granted, but students in The Beauty and Magic of Numbers have the opportunity to delve into their mysteries and study their evolution through time. The course begins with the earliest discoveries and wends its way through the development of classic proofs.

In The Geography of Food: Eating to Live and Living to Eat, students examine everything from the botanical origins and geographic migration of common staples to the chemistry of food preparation. They also budget for, purchase, prepare and share traditional meals from three continents.

Storytelling takes center stage in Graphic Writing Across Cultures, which explores how artists and writers have combined words and images to give voice to different communities, to communicate across boundaries and to challenge entrenched attitudes. Students not only read graphic texts, they visit artists and writers at work and try their hand at the art form.

Read about more courses here.

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