First Year Experience and Gateway Colloquia

During their first semester, all first year students will become part of a small, discussion-oriented, "Gateway" class or a year-long "First-Year Experience," centered on a particular issue or theme. These courses will not only help establish a framework for the scholarly work you'll be undertaking during your college career, but will also serve to build connections between you and your fellow classmates. 

2022-2023 First Year Experiences

First Year Experiences (FYEs) are year-long academic courses that replace a student's Gateway requirement, and build off a topic they're passionate about. While Gateway courses primarily focus on improving students' writing, critical thinking, and group discussions, FYEs elaborate on these goals and also challenge students to explore ideas beyond the classroom, become active in the community, build relationships, and challenge their preconceived ideas. 

Although there are four unique FYE courses scheduled for this 2022-23 school year (see descriptions below), they all share similar components such as off-campus visits to conferences, lectures, museums and historical sites. Through these hallmarks they  emphasize "breakthrough" learning through an experiential and hands-on approach.

Enrollment into an FYE course is an optional opportunity and replaces the standard, semester-long Gateway courses that all first-year IWU students take.

There is no additional cost to take part in a First-Year Experience.   

2022-2023 FYE Courses

Analytical TitansAnalytical Titans

Do you have an analytical mind? If you are curious about how math can be used to tackle challenging problems and are interested in fields that make use of mathematical models such as economics, finance, or any of the STEM fields, you are encouraged to enroll in this FYE. In this class, you’ll work as part of an interdisciplinary team in the consulting firm, Titan Analytics, housed in the math department. Titan Analytics works with local community partners on solving problems using mathematical models.

Gender Equity in STEM

Global Titans

"Globally aware • Intellectually dare • Compassionately share"

Do you have a passion for global languages and cultures? Are you interested in examining world problems that affect politics, economics, or culture on a larger scale? Would you like to discuss global issues with your peers as part of a dedicated learning community? Do you want to become an informed citizen, and prepare to make a difference in the world? If so, enroll in this FYE to be an IWU Global Titan. Break the "bubble" and experience the world, from the first moment you arrive on campus!

Justice Scholars: Wrongful ConvictionsJustice Scholars

Do you like watching crime TV shows and listening to crime podcasts? If you have an interest in the law or are passionate about justice in general, you should enroll in this FYE to be a Justice Scholar. We’ll talk about why people are wrongfully convicted – over 2,000 people have been exonerated from prison for crimes they didn’t commit – and we'll explore cases in the Bloomington area in which the men in prison are now being represented by innocence projects. We will read courtroom transcripts, talk to the attorneys involved, and even video chat with the prisoners themselves. In the spring, we’ll tour the local jail and juvenile detention center, as well as meet some crime podcast hosts. Listen to Dr. Amanda Vicary explain this program more!

Welcome Home

Young people are on the move. Whether you go far away for college, relocate for work, or buy your dream house overlooking the ocean, there will be many crossroads in your life where you transition to a new community. In this class we will explore how you establish a “sense of place” in a new geographic area. How do you create a new “home” no matter where you decide to call home? We will read stories about people on the move, analyze theories about place attachment, interview Bloomington residents, and explore the campus and the local community. In the spring semester, students who continue with this FYE will complete a community engagement project related to the idea of "home" in partnership with the West Bloomington Revitalization Project. 

2022-2023 Gateway Colloquia

Gateway Colloquia are small, discussion-oriented classes designed to develop students' proficiency in writing academic and public discourse. Although each colloquium investigates its own issue or question, all focus on writing as a major component of intellectual inquiry. Students are expected to participate in discussion and to analyze, integrate and evaluate competing ideas so as to formulate their own arguments about an issue. Students must complete a Gateway Colloquium by the end of their first year.

Hanging Out and Hooking Up Is dating dead? Do young people only “hook up” now, instead of forming lasting relationships? How different are young adults’ relationships compared to previous generations? This course will explore the social and historical significance of how people form relationships and the ways they find meaning within them. In the process, we will also consider the category “young adult,” its cultural place within society and position within the life course. During the class you will work on building critical thinking and communication skills as we explore themes such as the “invention” of the teenager, the impact of technology on dating, and much more.
Tell Me a Story This course examines the power of storytelling and importance of narrative in all facets of our lives. From great works of literature to ad campaigns, stories have the power to persuade, unify, and sell, to the extent that even Steve Jobs says that “the most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.” In this course we will read, write and engage with various kinds of storytelling from the printed word to the digital marketplace. We will examine how stories are told, what kinds of stories “stick” with us, and how they are circulated to reach an audience.
American Inequality Capitalism produces a lot of wealth, and a lot of poverty. Depending on how it’s practiced, it also produces concentrated wealth. In the U.S., the top 20% of the population owns nearly 90% of all private wealth. Is this inequality mainly attributable to personal effort or systemic design? This Gateway explores this. This offers a window on our nation’s soul, and potentially on yours.
Take It Like a Man: Masculinity in US Popular Culture Gender shapes behaviors, politics, attitudes and cultural expression. This course will look at masculinity in the US and explore what defines someone as a man, what it means to be masculine, how manhood is defined in popular culture, and the role of race and ethnicity in defining American manhood.
Major Supreme Court Cases This course will analyze many of the major decisions of the United States Supreme Court from the early 1800s through today. In doing so, it will cover congressional power, the right to bear arms, equal protection, privacy right and many others. Written assignments will follow a critical thinking model and will address several current social issues.
Take Chances, Get Edgy Readers respond to writers who take risks. Consider an advice columnist who confesses to a heroin addiction in her past, or a W.W. II veteran who writes a dark comedy about the Nazis. Both authors mine dark material in their own lives to open our eyes to pain and injustice. While anyone can write in her diary about problems, the edge and bite in excellent literature comes from the skillful manipulation of language. Some writers are masters of sarcasm; others excel at pacing or creating visual images. In this course, students will not only analyze the styles of authors, but they will also create their own original works—from personal essays to advice columns to sketch comedies.
Confronting Race and the Apartheid Past in Higher Education in South Africa This course asks students to investigate how the legacy of apartheid continues to plague institutions of higher education in South Africa. It will investigate how racism, bias, and many years of racial segregation continue to impact the university experiences of many black students, as well as the universities’ efforts to transform. We will also examine the challenges posed to both black and white students as they now share a common intellectual space, and how a newly diverse group of scholars and administrators have contributed to transformation. Additionally, we will look at some of the parallel experiences between academic institutions in South Africa and the USA.
Film and Fiction of the Cold War This course will explore a variety of films and literary works from and about the Cold War period, from both sides of the divide, and running the gamut from dystopian to absurdist, realist, and spy fiction. We will examine the impact of this period on culture, society, and the individual, and how it continues to reverberate in societies across the globe to this day.
Sherlock Holmes: Then and Now This course begins with the original Holmes texts to identify why they resonated so much with readers, and then examines a select number of Holmes adaptations to trace the ways in which artists and creators from other times and cultures have picked up, adapted, and commented upon these themes.
How We Think: Critical Thinking for Your Learning and Your Life
After 12 years of memorization training in primary and secondary education, unrealistically, professors expect students to transition immediately into critical thinking. While university success is based almost exclusively on achieving and refining the ability to think critically, not surprisingly students struggle with this transition. This seminar approaches critical thinking from the perspectives of the broader humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and fine arts. We will consider multiple ways of knowing and understanding by challenging language, analogy, logic, context, and even one’s own heart-felt personal assumptions. Most important, we will learn that academic study and success each require much more than retention of facts. Rather than simply distilling down facts into memorized single-use algorithms, we will learn to connect and conceptualize facts to create a new and richer understanding of a given knowledge base, and subsequently, apply that understanding to the challenges of career and life pursuits. To paraphrase Mortimer Adler, “Thinking is hard; in fact, it’s downright painful.” In this seminar, we will seek to ease that pain, make critical thinking a routine part of college academic life, and make a 4.0 GPA a much more readily achievable goal."
The Social History of a Candy Bar
The Social History of a Candy Bar We all love a good candy bar. But we seldom stop to consider where chocolate bars come from. That is the aim of this course. When you consider that 66% of all cocoa is grown in West Africa, 75% of the world’s vanilla is produced on the island of Madagascar, and the United States imports sugar from 26 countries (from Swaziland to Switzerland), it is clear that any modern chocolate bar is a global product. Eating it links us implicitly to a wide range of places, people and power relations. Indeed, a candy bar is loaded not only with many calories but with many different stories – of taste and travel, of culture and economy, of empire and industry. In this course, we shall explore some of these stories, piecing together the global history of a chocolate bar through several related themes: the history of cocoa; the history of sugar; the emergence of agrofood commodity chains associated with the needs of industrial production; the rise of multinational food and candy corporations. In short, we will use the chocolate bar to illuminate the history and dynamics of the modern global food economy. And in the process we will eat some excellent candies.
Banned & Burned: Censorship & Silencing Each generation is faced with questions about which ideas, information, images, or language is too objectionable to be permitted. What are the motivations for censorship? What are the consequences for society when the silencing of expression occurs? In this class, we will explore censorship and First Amendment rights in the U.S., including the debates over controlling social media and more subtle acts of silencing that occur, and consider how other societies navigate these challenges. The course will take a wide-ranging view of the ways in which the printed word, music, art, theatre, film, and media are affected by censorship. The class provides the opportunity for students to analyze and evaluate competing experiences and ideas. Students will engage in and develop the ability to think critically about information sources, and as a result, formulate both oral and written arguments about censorship and silencing issues across time, society, and cultures.
Did You Freely Choose This Class? Are your choices determined before you make them, perhaps by some combination of your genes and your social environment or perhaps by neural activity that you can’t consciously control? If your choices were determined before you made them, would that mean that you aren’t responsible for them and, thus, aren’t responsible for what you do? Would it mean that your future choices have, in some sense, already been made? Would it mean that they aren’t really yours? Or aren’t really choices? The so-called “problem of free will” is one of the most vexing, enduring, and fascinating set of puzzles about the human condition. In this course, we will study some important philosophical writings about free will as well as a variety of experiments from neuroscience and social psychology that have been said to pose serious challenges to the claim that we have free will.
Language, Mind, and Cognition  In this seminar, we explore how human language reflects our cognition. Examples of topics students will explore are: how children acquire their first language, how mental health and or aging affect language/cognition in general, how the first language interferes with the second language, and how culture can shape how we think. For instance, concepts of color and time are typical examples of how cultural interpretation forms a certain color description. Our beloved Titan green might be described as Titan “blue” in some languages. Students will be engaged in interdisciplinary readings regarding human language and cognition while discussing and responding to the readings. Students will learn the basics of academic writing and presentations that will happen for the remainder of their time at IWU.
Experimenting with Form: Lu Xun
In this course, we will explore different forms of writing alongside one of twentieth-century China’s most iconic thinkers: Lu Xun. In the early twentieth century, Lu Xun experimented with possibilities for writing in different forms to confront major social and political dilemmas of his time. We will read along with Lu Xun to ask: how can we engage with form to deepen our own thinking and writing about critical issues today? Our class will closely read Lu Xun’s work as well as examine the debates he took up. Readings include: essays on topics ranging from politics and gender to history and science; short fiction; prose poetry; memoir; and even visual art. Students will hone their reading skills to develop persuasive writing grounded in original analysis. The semester will also offer opportunities for students' own creative writing experiments.
Native American Spirituality
In this course, we will examine the distinctive religious traditions and spiritual paths developed by Native North American communities, with specific emphasis on the Lenapé (Delaware), Lakota (Sioux) and Navajo nations. Our challenge will be balancing the “outsider” perspectives of the academic study of religions with the “insider” understanding of religions within their own social, historical, and personal contexts. Like other Gateways, this is primarily a writing course, so we will spend a good deal of time, both inside and outside of class, thinking and talking about good writing practices and approaches to information. The issues of Native American religious life from the past and the present will serve as the topics for readings, research, discussion, and writing.
Vampires, Ghosts, and Others: Theories on Monstrosity
What makes a monster? All cultures have personified their taboo practices into categories of the monstrous – creating narratives around “things” that can, and will, harm you if given the chance – witches, vampires, ghosts, scientific “freaks”, zombies, etc. This class will analyze the correlation between cultural worldview and social fear and desire. We will compare monsters across eras and cultures, including our own; examine the need to create an “other” or excluded group in order to define our own humanity; and evaluate how this urge to “monsterize” is found in our contemporary world.
Rhyming and Stealing: Copyright vs. Freedom of Expression
Just how free is poetic license? When we create art, whether it be in words or sounds or colors and shapes, what is the line between creative borrowing and outright theft? If the old adage “Talent borrows, genius steals” is true, then is what often passes for creativity simply the act of stealing very well? How do we balance the competing demands of strong copyright protections, which guard one’s intellectual property against encroachment, with freedom of expression, which allows for the unfettered ability to create and develop? We will trace these questions back to the origin of modern copyright with the Statute of Queen Anne in 1709 and follow them up to the present day with the case of a certain well-known little rodent whose copyright is soon due to expire: Mickey Mouse. Along the way we will look at some of the great music copyright infringement cases of the past 50 years and see where we stand today. In doing so we will hopefully gain a better understanding of our own current aesthetic, a clearer sense of what counts for us as productive borrowing versus simple theft, or what the difference is between deftly rhyming and merely stealing.
Ever-Changing Climates
Let’s take a brief moment and step outside...of the indoor room we are in, our comfort zone, our time period, and the box. Our political, social, economic, and environmental climate is changing, has changed, and will continue to change. How do these changes relate to us? What do Romanticists (individuals who focus on their feelings, nature, and straying off the common path) have to say about this? How have these changes affected and related to BIPOC, lgbtqia+, and marginalized folks in the past? We will be focusing on the “power of place” and how we as individuals fit into the world based on our positionality and experiences. This course will explore the climates of, the political, economic, social, institutional, and ever-changing world around us, in us, and the one we are within.
What do we want? To be heard! When do we want it? Now!
This course encourages students to investigate civility by studying advocacy and activism. We’ll consider the question “what do we want?” In addressing possibilities, students will develop their positions. In reading and creating writing as it intersects with relevant themes, students will gain additional listening skills and develop college-level writing.
Know the Why: Exploring Identities to Achieve Success in Discourse Communities Who am I and why am I doing what I’m doing? As a Ukrainian, I’ve often asked myself this question in the recent months. In this course, we will focus on exploration of our complex and multidimensional identities. In the process, we will create a multimodal literacy narrative, where you will reflect on the questions: What do you like reading or writing most and why? What field is the most attractive to you and why? What are you going to do about it? How can you better understand who you are as a human? What is the nature of your creativity? Our background reading will be the memoir “From Borsch to Burgers” written by a Ukrainian author, Dr. Ruslana Westerlund, who embarks on a cross-cultural journey, ‘the journey of the self through new terrains’. This absorbing life narrative will help us explore the power of place in our lives: What place is meaningful for me and why? How does my location shape my identity? Next, we will lay a bridge from your identities to your discourse communities (aka fields) and learn about the genres and skills you need to master in order to achieve success in your prospective careers. Our final project will involve doing a research in your chosen discourse community and writing a paper/multimodal product based on it.
Are We Alone in the Universe? In this course, we will apply the philosophical method of critical inquiry to arrive at the most rational conclusions regarding the prospect of encountering “extra-terrestrial” life.  More specifically, the kind of extra-terrestrial life that we’d be interested in encountering - the kind that we might be able to communicate with in a meaningful way, for better or for worse.  We will investigate the leading scientific theories and arguments regarding the origins of life on Earth and related theories and arguments about the likelihood of encountering extra-terrestrial beings in our lifetime.  We will also consider the cultural impact that such an actual encounter might have for us humans here on Earth by exploring some of the ways that such possible beings have been portrayed in modern popular culture.  We will also investigate documented accounts of “sightings” or “encounters” with U.F.O.’s and try to determine which, if any, are credible.  In this course, you will develop your critical thinking and argumentative writing skills, as we will approach this topic like Philosophers:  with an open but skeptical mind.  We will seek to follow only the most credible evidence to the most rational conclusions to try to answer the question of whether we humans are alone here on Earth.