First Year Matters (FYM) Seminars


The First Year Matters program will offer four faculty seminars during New Student Orientation that will explore this year’s theme of water from the discipline of the faculty presenter.  One seminar features a discussion between two professors, a humanist and a scientist, who will talk about issues connected to water contamination, ground water depletion and rising sea levels in the context of sustaining human and animal life on earth.  Another seminar will focus on the critical nature of fresh water in the western part of the United States, and explore possible responses to long-term problems there that range from the prolonged drought in the southwest to the mega forest fires in California.  The third seminar will explore the historical role that water has played in human development, focusing on the challenges that large bodies of water presented to early humans and how those barriers were eventually exploited for growth and economic expansion.  The fourth seminar will explore water’s role in modern development from a legal and economic perspective, and discuss the consequences of property and ownership rights for the natural environment. 

You get to choose one of these great seminars to attend on the afternoon of Thursday, September 3.  The seminars, along with the summer readings, will inform the discussions that take place later that evening. 

You can see the full descriptions for all four seminars on the FYM website ( and on the Blackboard course page.  There will be a bibliography of supplemental readings also posted on the Blackboard course page, if you choose to explore further.   The readings can be found through the Blackboard course page which you can access from the FYM website.  Make sure to read the common readings before you arrive on campus!

Feet to the Fire: H2O–Seeking Solutions

waterdropThis year’s Feet to the Fire program explores the challenges we face as a result of global climate change with a focus on the increasing scarcity of water and its impact on cultures and ecosystems around the world.   The program begins with a set of readings that explore the issue of water scarcity from a variety of disciplinary perspectives that students must complete over the summer.  These readings will serve as a shared frame of reference during the Feet to the Fire seminars and discussions that will take place during your first week on campus.   The readings can be accessed by logging in to the Weleyan Blackboard system and include:

  • R.F. Service, “Delta Blues, California Style,” Science 317, (July 27, 2007), 442-445.
  • A. Bach, “Is Water the Next Carbon?,” Urban Land (October 2007), 78-85.
  • R.L. France, ed., Thoreau on Water, Reflecting Heaven (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001).
  • J. Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (New York: Viking, 1939).
  • “Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis,” United Nations Human Development Report (2006), 9-37.

Four seminars will be offered during orientation to discuss different aspects of the readings and these will be followed by smaller group discussions in the the residential halls. The entire class will come together for a “Common Moment” of drumming and performance that will cap off the week. More information about the seminars and Common Moment will follow throughout the summer.