First Year Experience

In your first year at Champlain, you will focus on being a student: What is your role, both here on campus and in a historical sense? Where can you find support? How do you write a college-level paper, anyway?

Our Navigating classes equip all students with the agency and resources to succeed in the collegiate environment. First-year students will take the same course, and there is one in each semester.

The First Year Inquiry (FYI) classes focus on experiential learning and sparking your curiosity and academic passion—each semester, you'll identify the course sections that interest you the most.


COR 101 | Navigating Higher Education as a Global Citizen

Why go to college? What does it mean to be educated? In this course, you'll begin to answer these questions. We'll explore the academic expectations of higher education, college as a diverse community, and the significance of education around the world. By examining how these issues are negotiated and implemented at Champlain and elsewhere, you'll gain perspective on your own education and a deeper understanding of the ways that the college experience can be both liberating and transformative.

COR 102 | First Year Inquiry (FYI): Reading, Writing, and ____

Inquiry is about learning how to ask the right kinds of questions, and figuring out how to answer those questions through discussion and reflection. This course introduces you to the types of inquiry necessary to succeed at Champlain and beyond. You will explore the intersections of reading, writing, and thinking by focusing on a specific topic or theme. You will approach that focus through the interrogation of relevant texts and analysis that draws upon multiple analytical frameworks.

Please see the full list of available FYI topics below—you can click on the titles to learn more about each section.

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Chris Brooks

In the first part of the course (weather permitting) we will read selections from The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs and take walks around campus and down to Lake Champlain, where we will observe grass, plants, trees, the sky, and the lake. We will use an analytical framework and discuss the five patterns in nature and how nature continually changes.

Students will write while outdoors and read, write, and reflect while in the classroom. As the semester moves on and temperatures begin to fall, we will read and respond to a variety of texts using the knowledge we gained in the beginning of the semester. We will critically think and analyze how to be prepared and safe in nature, what it means to protect our natural environment, and make connections with stories from cultures that may differ from our own.

Link to this FAQ

Erik Esckilsen

Would you call an ordinary snow shovel leaning in an art gallery a work of art? Artist Marcel Duchamp made that claim in 1915 with Prelude to a Broken Arm. The seemingly silly display, however—and other "readymades" he produced—also leveled a critique of the art world and of the broader cultural forces responsible for World War I, which was underway at the time. Neither the world nor art would ever be the same.

Students in this section will encounter the work of Duchamp and other artists across a wide span of art history—from neoclassical painters to Japanese anime creators—to examine how art has shaped, and has been shaped by, its cultural contexts. Students will analyze art through multiple critical perspectives to gain a deep understanding of how art illuminates the challenges, joys, and wonders of the human experience.

Link to this FAQ

Joanne Farrell

This section explores how stories shape who we are and how we understand the world. Personal stories are what ground us—what give us a sense of purpose, identity, and continuity between the past and the present.

Kenzaburo Oë, a Nobel Laureate for literature, notes "the fundamental style of my writing has been to start from my personal matters, and then to link it up with society, the state, and the world." Following his lead, the place to begin this process is with you and your stories. But in addition to self-narratives, we will read, listen to, discuss, and analyze stories written and told by others, including historical anecdotes, short stories, plays, and films.

Rhetorical, literary, and postcolonial theories will help us learn and practice raising fruitful questions about what stories tell us, how they do it, and why. Using informal writing as a way of thinking will allow us to explore the diverse narrative structures and perspectives we encounter in the stories as well as our own changing perceptions.

Link to this FAQ

Isabella Jeso

How do you know what you know about your world? Why is it important to define ways of knowing that are best for you? How does creating your own repertoire or catalog of your strategic approaches to how you know what you know, help you to problem-solve in real time and to prepare for future needs? What is a way of knowing, anyway?

Your instructor will take you on this adventure, through selected great books and technology-delivered learning materials, helping you to design your own ways of knowing. Moreover, there will be exciting, respectful debates and conversations with other students in your Champlain College learning community. So, come and let's have fun together!

Link to this FAQ

David Kite

What do we want from life? Does happiness really exist—and if it does, what does this mean for the choices we make and how we live together in community? Our class will explore the most important question in life as grounded in Aristotle's monumental work, the Nicomachean Ethics, viewed through contemporary ideas in philosophy, psychology, and evolutionary biology.

This class will ask you to think holistically and critically about your life and goals. What do we mean by happiness, and how we live a good life? How do we manage pleasures and pains in life? What is justice, citizenship, and education? What is friendship and love? How does all of this come together in a complete and satisfying life?

Link to this FAQ

Kristin Novotny

The political resistance that's in the air is nothing new. Governments have always had detractors, citizens willing to oppose official policies and speak truth to power. This course is about political resistance, protest, and civil disobedience. More importantly, it's also a course about learning to read closely and express yourself in college-level writing.

The following questions will help guide our inquiry: What, if anything, do I owe the government, and on what basis? What can I do if I disagree with my government? Which actions have dissenters taken over time, and to what effect? What is civil disobedience, and how is it justified?

We'll dive into these themes from multiple perspectives in social science (political theory and sociology), history, literature, film, and art. We'll examine famous texts (MLK Jr., Thoreau, Plato), other classics that you may not have heard about (Stanton, Douglass, Baldwin) and think about how classic arguments relate to current resistance movements like Black Lives Matter, the Women's March, and Time's Up.

Link to this FAQ

Frank Robinson

The broad topic of the course is race—past and present—in the United States. When we talk about race, it is often through stories: "I experienced this..." or "I know some one who..." These stories are set in a context that is both individual and collective, personal and cultural. What are the stories of Whiteness and Blackness in the U.S.? How are they told? Centering on Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me, this course proposes several lenses for discovering and analyzing these stories: autobiography, psychology, history, sociology, and film.

Link to this FAQ

David Rous

Why are men allowed to get angry but not cry, while women are allowed to cry but not get angry? Why are little boys sometimes told to suck it up and deal, but little girls sometimes get hugged and comforted? Why are girls often given pink things, but boys blue things? Why do boys typically receive trucks and legos and toy guns at Christmas, while girls often get dolls and things with unicorns on them? Why are young men allowed to indulge their sexual appetite, but young women are encouraged to control theirs? And what are the rules for people who don't fit into the traditional molds at all?

In this section, we will explore why males and females are encouraged by society to do and be certain things, and why they are also encouraged not to do or be certain things. Through the lens of western popular culture, we will study how gender works and how it is changing in our times.

Link to this FAQ

Erik Shonstrom

Through close reading of challenging texts like Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf, this course develops college-level inquiry and writing skills by examining humans' relationship with nature and the outdoors through texts that combine natural history, biology, memoir, essayistic exploration, and philosophy.

How can we objectively examine our relationship with nature when that relationship is based through our subjective, sensory experience of the world around us? Writing essays, scientific observation, and memoir, students in this course will interrogate what it means to read, write, and experience nature from a critical perspective. In addition, this course has a strong experiential component; students should be prepared to spend time outdoors, using local natural landscapes as a tool for developing critical observation, research, and writing skills.

Link to this FAQ

Megan Spiezio-Davis

Dystopian literature is a genre that fascinates and entertains readers. While enjoying and exploring many types of dystopian literature, this course will use the inquiry method to explore how one's identity and the need for belonging fosters character development and creates avatars to which the reader can relate.

We will discuss basic psychological concepts, consider how science and technology can be used for power and oppression, and investigate from a humanistic approach why dystopian literature is captivating. The driving question of this course is "What does this representation of society mean for humanity?"

Link to this FAQ

Sandy Zale

What is justice? How should society be organized? Who should rule? How should the youth be educated? What roles should the arts play in our lives? Plato, imagining an ideal community in his Republic, famously addressed these and other important questions about human society. In this section, we will read, write, and think about his answers, and—while we are at it—we'll formulate some of our own.

Link to this FAQ

Erik Kaarla

This section will tap into the human passion of wanting to understand music, wanting to make music, and wanting to define music better. We all very much identify with particular genres of music, particular artists, and perhaps particular instruments. In this section, students will learn how to write about music and genres of music and also learn about the process of creative songwriting.

Some of the questions to be explored in this section: How do we talk about music and how do we talk about culture? How do we talk about these two different structures at the same time? In addition to pondering these questions, we will explore musicology and other helpful theoretical frameworks for learning about music and music makers.

Link to this FAQ

Bill Stratton

So much of what we consume in terms of art in contemporary American culture is speculative in nature. Movies about heroes and villains, television shows about dragons, books about other worlds or alternative histories... and yet it often feels like what we engage in our academic work does not proportionately reflect these larger interests. In reality, there is lots of material that can help us understand and interact with big or complex ideas, and no shortage of things to talk about in the various worlds this fiction presents us with.

In this class, we will be exploring writing through reading speculative fiction, especially (but not solely) science fiction, and the major themes and ideas presented therein. We will aim to take a holistic approach to this exploration, including research, philosophy, the foundations of thought and language, and several different concepts of composition. We'll engage a few different texts, a few different visual media, and—since the class is discussion-based—we'll engage in frequent conversation about all of the above.

Link to this FAQ


COR 103 | Navigating Your Information Landscape

What makes an argument good or bad? What counts as evidence in our post-truth world? How can you understand and assess the truth value of a claim when you're not an expert? In this course you'll learn rhetorical strategies about how to examine arguments and types of evidence in different disciplines and fields of study. To help learn these strategies, you will do close readings of texts from a variety of disciplines in the liberal arts and sciences, popular culture, and social media.

COR 104 | First Year Inquiry (FYI): Making, Doing, and ____

This course introduces you to interdisciplinary inquiry using applied, project-based, and/or experiential methods. Regardless of the specific course focus, you'll have opportunities for making and doing interdisciplinary knowledge creation through a variety of approaches and activities. You will collaborate with other students, iterate on ideas, and work to develop a project.

Course descriptions coming soon!