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Freshman Year Initiative

The Freshman Year Initiative

As you plan for your first semester at Queens College, you'll register for two classes that are linked through the Freshman Year Initiative:

  1. A topic-based writing course (ENG 110)
  2. A course on a related topic that also satisfies a general education requirement.

For example:
Let's say that you plan to major in something scientific, and you're also an avid musician. You might like to join the Community called "Beauty and Jazz." Your English professor will teach you how, through writing, you can apply what you're learning about Dizzy Gilespie and Charlie Parker in your Music 8 class to a consideration of our basic assumptions about beauty.

Whatever Community you choose, you'll attend both of those classes in a group of about twenty other first-year students, so you'll get to know your classmates. Together, you'll use what you learn in one class to help you in the other, and you'll write scholarly essays at a college level.

FYI Learning Communities for 2012

  • Who Are We?

    Anthropologists and writers share a common interest in how we become who we are. Students in this community will investigate and engage in scholarly debates about how cultural forces shape our beliefs and habits, and will learn the tools anthropologists use to study how people in different cultures make sense of themselves and their worlds. We will look at practices such as cannibalism in a remote part of Brazil and drug dealing in Harlem to ask why what seems strange or morally wrong to one group of people might be acceptable to another.


  • Images and Ideas, Past and Present

    Even if we don't know much about art, most of us are skilled visual observers of a modern world in which films and advertisements employ advanced and expensive technologies to show us images unlike any that we have seen before. In this Community, you'll reflect upon your visual skills while putting them to a new use: exploring the major developments in the Renaissance world of Michaelangelo and da Vinci that helped to form the ideas about art and culture that we recognize today.


  • Thinking and Computers

    How do computers think, and how does that compare to the way people think? In this Community, you'll look under the visible surfaces of these machines that have become so essential to us-for work and play, for socializing and being alone. You'll learn how computer scientists go about their work, and you'll learn how to join them at the entry level of their field. You'll also practice writing about the ways that computer scientists change the ways that the rest of us live in our world.


  • Creating Dance

    "The body says what words cannot," the choreographer Martha Graham observed, comparing her life in dance to the life of a writer. Students in this Community will consider the ways that creative expression happens through dance and writing, and you'll test the ways that it happens for you. You'll enter into academic debates about the ways that innovative thinkers come up with new ideas, and you'll use what you learn about dance to test the theories that you develop. You don't have to be a good dancer to join this Community-you just have to be willing to try.


  • Theater in Real Life

    How do actors become the people that they portray? They don't, of course, but they convince us that they do temporarily by turning the words of a script into the thoughts and feelings that they make visible to us. Students in this Community will consider how that transformation happens, and you'll transform, too, as you practice the art of acting. You'll enter into scholarly debates about theater production, and you'll practice the methods that professional actors use to prepare for the roles that they play.


  • Politics of Education

    In school, you've learned when to sit down and when to stand up, but you've also learned to respect people-from George Washington to Rosa Parks-who changed the course of history by refusing to do as they were told. Students in this Community write about the politics of educational systems in the US and around the world, asking how a student becomes a citizen and vice versa. You'll write about the ways that your high school taught you the place that you inhabit in your nation and your world, and you'll study the politics that shaped the lessons that you learned.


  • Our Changing World

    We all know basic facts about the environment-that pollution is bad, for example, and recycling is good-but scientists tell us that we need to learn much more, and we need to learn it quickly for the sake of the planet. Students in this Community will look beyond the easy answers about environmental science as you reach your own conclusions about the evidence that you discover. You will practice the scientific method as you analyze the arguments that prove most convincing to the leading scientists of our time.


  • The Culture and Science of Food

    What happens inside you when you eat a hamburger, a carrot, a cookie, or a dumpling? What happens among us when we share those foods across cultures and in families? In this Community, you'll learn the science of nutrition as you also take a critical look at the ways that we build social worlds around food. You'll test your knowledge about the relationship between food and health, and you'll learn how to challenge the conventional wisdom that you read.


  • The United States, History and Myth

    What unites the United States? How did Americans heal the divisions that made us take up arms against each other during the Civil War, and what are the greatest threats to that unity in the twentieth century? In this Community, you'll learn how contemporary historians answer these questions and others as you also study the reflection of those realities in the American dream. As you study the history of the United States from the end of slavery to the present, you'll learn how to construct reliable arguments about the reality and dreams that we share.


  • What Words Mean

    Where did you learn the definition for the word "obnoxious"? Whether you learned it from a book or from your brother or a friend, you probably used the sophisticated reasoning processes that you'll study in this Community. You'll learn how our minds make meaning out of language as you analyze the ways that you learned to read, speak, and write. You'll investigate the processes that enable the English language to change over time, and you'll write about the ways that human beings share their thoughts with words.


  • Reading Film

    How can you "read" a film? Students in this Community will learn a variety of ways to answer that question as you enter into scholarly debates about film history. You'll ask what American film noir reveals about the political culture of its time, and you'll debate how Italian neo-realism illuminates the place of Italy in the world. You'll also practice writing about visual media as you consider the ways that history looks at the movies.


  • How Scientists See Us

    How have "great ideas" in science changed the way we understand the world and our place in it? How do scientists interpret the world through a scientific lens? And how does the way we write about scientific concepts affect the way we understand them? In this Community you'll work with faculty in biology and physics as well as English to explore the ongoing journey of discovery that provides an historical perspective into the realm of scientific understanding.


  • Beauty and Jazz

    When Thelonious Monk composed a jazz song in waltz time, he gave it a title that is also a paradox: "Ugly Beauty". He put order and disorder together, and he raised questions that you'll ask in this Community, too: What is beauty, and how does it work? How do we know it when we see it, smell it, and hear it? Students in this Community will refine your definitions of beauty and its opposites as you enter into philosophical conversations about the meanings of those words. You'll study the history and aesthetics of jazz-a peculiarly American musical idiom that has a particularly rich history in Queens-and consider the degrees of beauty that you find there.


  • Religion and Philosophy

    When Rene Descartes set out to prove the existence of God, he also proved the existence of himself: "I think," he asserted, "therefore, I am." Contemporary philosophers approach religion very differently than Descartes did in the seventeenth century, and students in this Community will learn why. As you engage with some of the most important thinkers in the philosophical tradition, you'll learn how they construct their arguments, and you'll argue with them, too. You'll develop your own theory about the ways that religion works in contemporary American culture and you'll position yourself as a scholar in the field.


  • The Economics and Politics of Change

    Is the American economy in a recession or a depression, and are the indicators that have pointed downward beginning to look up? Students in this Community will learn how writers describe economic change, and you'll test the ways that those descriptions apply to political change as well. You'll study real historical events that make the shape of the world seem completely different-the Holocaust, for example, and September 11, 2011-and engage with scholarly arguments about their political and economic effects.


  • Memory and the Mind

    How do our memories of childhood shape our lives as grown-ups, and what can scholars tell us about the ways that those memories are created, stored, and recalled? In this Community, you will enter into conversation with psychologists about the latest research on the human mind, and you'll write about the ways that our memories work and fail. You'll consider the ways that we remember things individually and also in communities, using the knowledge you gain about human psychology to reflect also on the ways that we remember events of historical importance.


  • Writing Social Change

    Sociology has always had an overriding concern with social transformation through collective action, civil unrest, and revolutionary movements. Changing political alignments affect the style, voice, argumentation and format of debates in Sociology. As the field has evolved, research methods have evolved as well, and sociologists have found themselves adjusting their writing techniques. By reading key texts from past and present social movements, as well scholarly anaylses of these movements, students will assess and critique the rhetorical means that writers use to persuade, provoke, educate, explain and prescribe social change, with particular attention to the evolution of social movement studies since the 60s.


  • The Truth About Getting Rich

    Americans have historically put great faith in "the American Dream," which tells us that even the unlikeliest among us can come to the city and find a fortune. And while few of us expect to actually become the next Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, or Oprah Winfrey, we plan our lives and careers in the long shadow of these examples. This Community will give you an opportunity to learn the facts behind prevailing myths about wealth and poverty in American cities. You'll learn how scholars study the forces that shape the ways that we travel up and down the socio-economic ladder. Entering into conversation with that scholarly tradition, you'll analyze economic mobility in the context of race, immigration, criminal justice, health, employment, the environment and corporate interests.


  • The New American City

    Diverse groups come to cities like New York from all over the world to fulfill their American (Asian, Latin American and Caribbean) dreams of freedom, fairness, opportunity and material well-being. What do they do when they arrive with their hopes, ambitions and willingness to work? What kinds of communities do they establish? How many generations does it take for different groups to become Americanized and for their dreams to change? We will examine how scholars have answered these questions and discuss how scholars analyze aspects of a few of the varied racial, ethnic, gender, sexual preference and social struggle sub-cultures that exist in U.S. cities. We will also look at how scholars think about the political, economic and social sources of these sub-cultures as well as how these sub-cultures are affected by American society and how they contribute to changing it.


  • Global New York

    Those of us who live in New York City know that people come here from all over the world, and each of us has our own impressions of the ways that cultures clash and grow in our city. But where does that diversity come from, and how does it really work? Which populations are growing and shrinking around us, and how effectively do we share our space? Students in this Community will learn how New York City looks to scholars of urban studies, and you'll write about the ways that it looks to you.




 Office Information

Freshman Year Initiative
Honors Hall Room 5
Queens College
65-30 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, New York 11367

Phone: (718) 997-5567 
Fax: (718) 997-5674

Dr. Martin Braun
Director of Freshman Year Initiative Program

Dr. Ann Davison
Associate Director of Freshman Year Initiative Program

Ms. Susan Braver
Administrative Assistant

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