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 Fall 2021 FYI topics below—you can click on the titles to learn more about each section.

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J. Berger

From the Russian Revolution through contemporary movements like Amplifier, to digital work and social media, students will learn about historical and contemporary social movements that have incorporated paper art and/or posters into their movement strategies. We will see where artists have borrowed from conventional art practices, and also created their own, for a different audience and purpose. Through texts, videos, and hands-on practice, students will explore the interdisciplinary connections and 'write' their own manifesto, write a personal analysis towards the creation of their own activist posters, and create the poster.

Link to this FAQ

C. Brooks

Do you like being outside and exploring Vermont's beauty in late summer and fall? Would you like learning new concepts about the natural world while taking walks around campus, into town, and down to Lake Champlain? In this class we will read selections from The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs and observe grass, plants, lichens, trees, the sky, and the lake. We will examine wind, rain, clouds, and colors of the rainbow. We will discuss and observe patterns and continual changes. Students will read, write, and reflect while outdoors or inside in the comfort of their own space.

As 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 analyze how to be prepared and safe in nature, discuss what it means to protect our natural environment, and make connections with stories from cultures that may differ from our own. We will engage in critical thinking and analysis using a Literary, Scientific, and Psychological framework.

Link to this FAQ

E. 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, also leveled a critique of the art world and of the broader cultural forces responsible for World War I (underway at the time). Neither the world nor the art would ever be the same.

Students in FYI: Reading, Writing, & Revolutionary Art Movements 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

J. Haig

This will be a course exploring the ways in which artists translate the human condition into images, words, and video, and, in turn, how audiences understand those translations. We will also look at the mechanisms of popular culture, and how they serve to present a world in which virtual experiences are becoming preferable to actual experience. 

We will look at the implicit cultural messages and assumptions in advertising, popular music, movies, TV shows, comics, and writing to gain a deeper appreciation of how the same text can be read in multiple ways. Students will learn how to critically read texts from different perspectives, and, through practice, how best to explain their ideas to college-level readers.

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E. 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.

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D. 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?

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K. Novotny

What, if anything, do I owe my government, and what if I disagree with it? What is civil disobedience, and how is it justified? 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.

"FYI: Resistance" explores political protest and civil disobedience as a way to help you grasp college-level academic expectations and develop college-level academic skills in reading, writing, and thinking. Using interactive discussions and project-based learning, we'll examine past and current protest movements through the lenses of history, art, and political theory. You will also work on a project with 6th-graders at a Burlington middle school.

Link to this FAQ

F. 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 someone who.” These stories are 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? This course proposes several lenses for discovering and analyzing these stories: autobiography, history, and film.

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D. 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.

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E. Shonstrom

Misinformation feeds on apathy. In this course, we use the power of journalism—reporting, interviewing, writing, and speaking truth to power—to create a forum for truth and dialogue on Champlain's campus. Students will be contributing articles to The Burly Beaver, Champlain's weekly newsletter.

Using the framework provided by journalism, students will become better writers, stronger readers, and more organized thinkers. We'll explore the history of muckraking, and discover why it's important to replace gossip-driven fickle narratives with honest and clear reporting. We'll probably get in trouble, but all good journalists do.

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M. 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?"

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S. 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.

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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.

You can explore the Spring 2021 FYI topics below. Please note that current and previous topics are not guaranteed to be available in future semesters.

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Banfill, J.

Sound is an essential element of any place, including cities. The city is full of sounds both human and non-human, and through listening to them we can learn more about the world we inhabit. This course will ask you to listen to the city, in this case Burlington (or wherever you are located this term) to better understand the places we live in.

Conceptually, we will examine different ways of understanding cities through sound, drawing from musicology, sonic art, urban studies, and other creative media projects. We will practice methods for listening and recording the sounds we encounter, via place-based investigations of specific locations, creating a digital “archive” of city sounds. For the final project, we will make and exhibit a series of sonic essays—for instance, creating an audio portrait of a single street—which communicate a sense of the places we encounter in our everyday lives.

Link to this FAQ

Berger, J.

Through the lens of cultural investigation, ethnography, and food systems, students will develop a meal that is representative of their own ancestry or cultural background. We will investigate where students' ancestry is, what meals are representative of that background, the role of food in that ancestry, and the immediate family, as well as the importance and challenges of sourcing ingredients, as a window into food systems. Students will be able to compare and contrast cultures and practices through the age-old, and necessary ingredient in our life: food.

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Brooks, C.

Do you want to explore new places and meet new people? Do you want to taste some of the best food and beverage on the planet? Do you want to see firsthand the wonders of the world and connect with different cultures rather than viewing them through the window of a bus? This course will guide you in creating a plan to travel within the United States or abroad on your own.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will keep us aware of things like where to get safe drinking water, where to get food, and how to find a safe place to sleep. As we think further up the hierarchy of needs, we will, for example, discover where and how to make friends if desired and solve problems like where to get help in an emergency. We will tell stories about expected travels and make connections with the land, the history, the people, the food, and so much more. You will be able to analyze, speculate, and make your own decisions. This class will be an exploration of where you want to go, how you want to get there, and how long you want to stay. It might be forever, if you like.

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Erickson, C.

How does one cultivate a relationship with the natural world? What general principles should govern the way one lives with respect to nature? How does one put those principles into daily action in a particular place? What principles should govern the way one lives with respect to other people? What is the meaning of “community”? How does one contribute to the building of a good community?

This course will provide a guided framework for students to discover (or deepen) their sense of place, wherever they may be located, using social identity, place identity, and sense of belonging theories. Students will either participate in a place-based food systems service-learning project in Burlington, or develop a project in their home place.

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Esckilsen, E.

The central feature of any community is something shared—something in common. For a community to thrive, however, community members must negotiate differences. What are the mechanisms by which functional communities bring people together across divisions? What are the barriers to creating inclusive communities?

This course will examine a variety of communities, from students' home communities to virtual communities to the “global village," to illuminate how diverse interests, power differentials, and the design of community spaces influence the health of a community. Students will engage in rigorous interdisciplinary research and critical thinking to understand the multifaceted nature of communities and, in one major course project, envision and design a better community.

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Howe, A.

This course centers around the ideas and practices of preserving history. Through literature, art, media, and historical analysis, we will visit past and present archival sites in order to ask the questions: Whose history is preserved—and how? Whose histories are not—and why? For what reasons do we memorialize ordinary and heroic life? For what reasons do we seek to preserve narratives of social and cultural change?

The main project of this course will be the development of a 2020 time capsule that reflects your experience of this moment in time. Inspired by course readings and discussions, you will curate a selection of artifacts and design a secure physical or virtual container for a future audience—whether that’s you in a few years, a future generation, or a new life force on this shared planet.

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Jeso, I.

Do you love garment making? Do you love to explore justice issues relating to labor practices, such as livable wages and discriminatory practices based on gender, race, and culture? Do you love to explore alternatives for workers caught in the vortex created by such professional issues? If so, look no further! This course takes students on a learning journey, through relevant case studies from recent history in the garment industry, involving Latinx workers.

Launching the course from Josefina Lopez’s play, made into a film, about gender discrimination in the garment industry, you will explore relevant topics using multi-media formats: texts, videos, film, blogs, podcasts. Collaborative learning, through small group discussions, will be conducted in Zoom Breakout Rooms, Google JamBoards, and in Google Shared Docs. Students will also be treated to sewing their own chosen small but practical items such as these: scarf, jogging belt, body pillow case, fabric bookmarks, tech device cord keeper (

The course will culminate in a research project, asking students to create/design/write a business plan for introducing garment-making as a possible income-generating resource for local groups, especially for youth groups. So come have fun with your instructor, sewing usable things; reading, thinking, discussing, and writing, about matters of labor justice and equity.

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Novotny, K.

What happens when we harm someone? Ideally, we apologize. But what makes a “real” and meaningful apology as opposed to a PR stunt? What does it look like to make amends for political wrongdoing versus undermining the safety of the local community through individual crimes? What does it mean to make amends to groups of people for wrongs committed over a long period of time—even centuries?

This course will address the idea of making amends on individual, local, national, and cultural levels. We’ll also learn how theories and tools of restorative justice function every day at the Burlington Community Justice Center. Students will not only learn these tools but will practice using them (even in a fully virtual pandemic setting) to address real harms.

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Proietti, M.

What does it mean to create knowledge? Do you need to be an 'expert'? What if you were able to take what you know and make that into a learning experience for other people?

This class will respond to these kinds of questions by exploring the concept of curation (strategic assembling) through personal reflection, and through reflection about interactions with others in 'immediate' surroundings as well as in the global context. Students will curate two types of exhibits: a smaller photovoice exhibit and a larger collaborative exhibition on a digital platform. For these curatorial projects, we will frame our work in critical curation studies, as well Youth Participatory Action Research as students will engage in all aspects including planning, production, and promotion. Through virtual discussions, students will have the chance to meet with other curators to understand their experiences in the field, consider how the move to digital platforms have impacted the craft, and create an understanding of whose stories are told in which spaces and why.

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Shonstrom, E.

What is actually going on? Investigative journalism looks past corporate rhetoric, reads between the lines of institutional PR, and tries to report on the truth. Facts are paramount. Issues develop so quickly in the internet age that traditional print journalism can struggle to be nimble enough to keep up. Digital journalism is a tool to speak truth to power and engage in real-time dialog with current events.

In this class, students will research, report, and write articles; create videos and visual content; and leverage the web to address topics in our community. If we get in trouble with people in power, we'll know we're doing it right.

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Zale, S.

What are portraits? Why create them? What do they reveal about the subjects they portray, and about the artists who make them?

In this course, we will study the art, the history, and the philosophy of portraiture, and we will apply what we have learned in creating and critiquing our own works of visual art—each of us making, and presenting to the class, a portrait and a self-portrait. This is not an art class, and it requires neither previous training nor skill in the visual arts. It is an interdisciplinary and experiential investigation of portraiture, and all the course requires is a willingness to learn, and to try your hand at, something new.

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