College Seminars

I think every incoming student should consider taking a first-year seminar during their first semester. It’s a terrific way to hone your skills in persuasive writing, effective speaking, and critical analysis within an interdisciplinary framework. You’ll explore important issues through content that spans genres and receive a great introduction to the intellectual community on the hilltop.
– Max Bryant C’25

College Seminars introduce first-year students to a number of College disciplines, outside of the typical “intro” mode, and come in a variety of designs, some comprising multiple courses or modules. These seminars tend to focus on problems, both as issues to investigate and as ways into those disciplines’ distinctive methods of understanding and engaging the world. Whether that problem is truth, culture, knowing, speech, race, or class, the seminar environment and integration of subjects invites deep engagement, connection-making, and disruptive discovery. Such experiences are terrific introductions to the academic culture of the College, and can be clarifying moments in the long and personal search for one’s choice of major.

Tommaso Astarita, Department of History
Patrick O’Malley, Department of English

Requirements Fulfilled:
HIST-141 will fulfill the History Focus (HIST-099) portion of the core requirement in History. Students who place out of the History Focus requirement with advanced placement or other types of pre-college credit may still take this course and count it for the College core.

ENGL 132 fulfills the HALC: Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture core requirement. It also counts as an elective course in the English major or minor, and it fulfills the pre-1800 literatures requirement of the English major.

Who May Apply?
All first-year students in the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences.

Course/Credit Equivalencies
Two courses and six credits

Course IDs and Meeting Times:
HIST 141 will meet TRF from 2:00pm—2:50pm;
ENGL 132 will follow on TRF from 3:00pm—3:50pm

Europe in the eighteenth century saw astonishing progress, conflict, and change that shaped our modern world in countless ways. Many Europeans thought of their era as “modern,” and confronted in new ways differences shaped by nation, class, race, religion, and gender. By late in the century, slavery came under attack, calls for women’s equality were heard, religious tolerance spread, and new literary, artistic, and musical forms appealed to a broad middle-class public.

In these team-taught interdisciplinary seminar courses, we will explore these changes and challenges and how they affected the lives of Europeans of all classes, as well as Europe’s colonial subjects across the globe. Reason and sentiment were among the guiding principles of the age, and shaped both the Enlightenment as an intellectual movement and the century’s cultural developments. Through both literary and historical analysis, we will consider how political, scientific, economic, social, and religious developments interacted with cultural, intellectual, and artistic movements and expressions. The first best-selling novels appeared in this period, the first public museums and concert halls opened, the first regular periodicals appeared, science made great strides, and by the end of the century people could experience flight and get vaccinated against smallpox.

This seminar will also help introduce you to college-level academic reading and writing, analysis and discussion. Our main focus will be on careful reading of texts, active class discussion, and close attention to writing. We will read novels, plays, poems, essays on many topics, letters, and commentaries on art, music, dance, and theater, plus a few modern scholarly essays. We also hope to visit George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon together, attend a relevant stage performance, and visit the National Gallery of Art.

About Tommaso Astarita

Professor Astarita

I grew up in Naples, Italy. My mother was a teacher and art historian and my father taught engineering at the University: from them I learned that teaching was both fun and challenging, and to love art and the history of culture. Already in my teens I believed that what I wanted to do was to study and teach history, and although back then I did not know what this really meant, I have been fortunate that I ended up doing just that. I came to the United States for graduate school and then began teaching. I continue to enjoy interacting with smart young people, helping them develop their skills and interests, and learning from and with them. My own main interest is the culture and history of western Europe between the Renaissance and the eighteenth century.

About Patrick O’Malley

Professor O’Malley

I was born in New York City and grew up in both the American Southwest and Northeast. My mother studied art education in college and my father taught applied mathematics at universities across the United States and Europe. With that background, I found it difficult to choose between the humanities and the sciences; as an undergraduate, I initially declared comparative religion as my major, then switched to organic chemistry, and I later entered a graduate program in English literature. I’m enthusiastic about working with students who are continuing to develop their passions and goals. I taught at Fordham University in New York before coming to Georgetown, where my research and teaching primarily focus on British and Irish literature and culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Sherry Linkon, Department of English and Faculty Director of Writing Curriculum Initiatives

Requirements Fulfilled:
HALC: Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture
Engaging Diversity: Domestic
Half, or all, of the core requirement in Social Science, depending on your course selection. (The core requirement in Social Science is fulfilled by taking two courses from the same Social Science department. For example, two courses from the Department of Sociology).

Who May Apply?
All first-year students in the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences.

Cities are crucibles of social and cultural complexity. Urban life brings diverse populations together in the workplace and on the streets, while patterns of economic and racial segregation and battles over resources generate division and conflict. While struggles for racial and economic justice are not unique to urban areas, race and class differences shape and are reinforced through urban issues like housing and development, employment and poverty, policing and crime, public health, and education. At the same time, cities have also sparked important movements for social change, and they have inspired creative work in literature, music, and art. To understand how race and class shape the city – and vice versa, we must look across disciplines, weaving together history, politics, and sociology with artistic and media representations in varied forms.

Washington, DC provides a complex case study of race, class, and place. This city isn’t just home to national political institutions and organizations that address social justice, economic development, and human relations. It is also a city where thousands live and work. It has a distinct history but also faces some common urban challenges. The Race and Class in DC Cluster provides students with multiple opportunities to explore how this city works and, in the process, gain insight into urban life, interdisciplinary analysis, and learning that connects their lives with the city beyond the Hilltop.

The Race and Class in DC Cluster begins with a first-year seminar and a one-credit lab that explores the geography and culture of the city through neighborhood tours, site visits, and other off-campus experiences. Students may complement this course with others in African-American Studies, English, History, Sociology, and other fields. They may opt to continue their explorations in spring semester, in a course focused on community-based research and public writing.  Those who wish may take addition courses and develop an independent project, in consultation with a faculty mentor, during their sophomore year.

During the first year, students will fulfill Core requirements in HALC, Writing, and part of the Engaging Diversity requirement. Those who take additional courses may also complete College requirements in History and Social Sciences, depending on the Cluster courses they choose.

The First Year Curriculum

Fall 2022:

  • AMST 101: Race and Class in DC (HALC & Engaging Diversity: Domestic), 3 credits
    Meeting Times: MW 3:30pm – 4:45pm
  • AMST 051: Exploring DC, 1 credit
    Meeting Times: W 5:00pm – 5:50pm
  • Option to take one Cluster course, 3 credits

Spring 2023:

  • WRIT 015: Writing and Culture Seminar (WRIT), 3 credits
  • Option to take one Cluster course, 3 credits

The Second Year Curriculum

Sophomores are invited to take additional Cluster courses, continue work on their individual projects, and help to mentor first-year students in the Cluster. Those who continue in the Cluster will register for a 1-credit lab, AMST 202: DC Inquiries.

Cluster Courses

Fall 2022:
ENGL273: Race, Rap, Power
HIST288: Black Lives Matter
JUPS203: Community Organizing
SOCI3140: Social Inequality
SOCI4119: Urban Inequality

Spring 2023 (tentative):
ANTH280: Urban Anthropology (SOC SCI)
HIST099: US Working Lives (HIST)
HIST392: History of American Gentrification (HIST)
SOCI3109: The City/Urban Studies (SOC SCI)

Rachel Barr, Department of Psychology
Phyllis Magrab, School of Medicine

Requirements Fulfilled:
Social Science (one of two in psychology)
Engaging Diversity: Domestic
One psychology major or minor elective

Who May Apply?
All first-year students in the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences.

Course ID: PSYC-267-01

Course Meeting Times: R 9:30am – 12:00pm

How can we use science to move the needle on challenges to child development? We focus on the intersection of children’s rights and needs to examine the effect of health, education, and social policies on children and families; we will cover the impact of COVID-19, immigration and separation, and incarceration.

This experimental, interdisciplinary seminar proceeds in the hope that society can be built more equitably by focusing on its most precious resource, its most basic building block, and its most vulnerable member: the child. Students of all backgrounds and interests are welcome, though those with interests in government, psychology, public policy, and public health are especially encouraged to apply. We will encounter a series of issues at the intersection of children’s rights and needs, addressing some of the central challenges of our times. Led by three faculty representing the fields of psychology, medicine, and law, students will engage these challenges in and beyond the classroom.

Together we will examine the origin and effect of health, education, and social policies on children and families for issues such as pregnancy and reproductive health, the impact of the opioid crisis, immigration and child separation, and the effects of incarceration. How can we use science to move the needle on these significant challenges to child development? How do systems of care and control (e.g. justice and welfare systems) intersect, and how do inequities multiply to impact child development? What are the short and long term effects of separating children from their parents at the border? How do we intervene in the opioid crisis to protect young children? How do low resourced families both domestically and globally cope with a pandemic?

Answers to these questions and others like them lie at the intersection of legal policy, both international and domestic, and developmental psychology. This course introduces students to these complex and interacting influences on children’s growth and development, their biopsychosocial origins, and their inequitable outcomes. The course will move from research to practice to policy, with a culminating project focused on children’s rights, needs, and child development.

About Rachel Barr

I was trained as a developmental and clinical psychologist in New Zealand. My work focuses on how children pick up information, particularly from media, and how they apply that information in the real world. I’ve co-developed an intervention program for incarcerated teen fathers utilizing media, worked with parenting organizations, and investigated the effects of monolingual and bilingual homes on learning in other domains.

About Phyllis Magrab

I am the director of the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development (GUCCHD), which brings together policy, research, and clinical practice for the betterment of children, youth and their families, especially those with special needs. Currently, I also co-lead the university-wide Initiative on Health Disparities to bring together the capacities of the broader university to address the compelling equity issues of our time. In my roles as UNESCO Commissioner, UNESCO Chairperson, and Vice-Chair of the US-Afghan Women’s Council, I advocate for services and policies for children, especially children with special needs.

Louise Hipwell, Department of Italian

Requirements Fulfilled:
This is the first course toward completion of the core requirement in foreign language in Italian. To complete the requirement, students will need to take Intensive Intermediate Italian in a subsequent semester.

One foundational course in the Italian major or minor

Who May Apply?
All first-year students in the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences.

Course ID: ITAL-011-03

Course Meeting Times: MTWR 10:00am – 11:00am

This seminar is addressed to students with no prior knowledge of Italian and will provide a solid foundation in speaking, understanding, reading, and writing, as well as the opportunity to explore Italy’s vast cultural heritage. As students take this first step towards gaining proficiency in the language and culture, they will also engage in experiential learning activities such as a private tour of the Italian Embassy, visits to Italian cultural institutions in D.C., and a cooking class by a local Italian chef.

During the course, students will learn how to use the Italian language for basic interactions of everyday life such as informal conversations, transactions in shops or tourist facilities, and in writing, through the composition of simple texts such as letters, messages, and brief essays on cultural topics. Beyond acquiring this practical knowledge of the language, students will engage with the country’s culture on a deeper level by exploring the many facets that constitute the idea of italianness. Italian culture is far from monolithic and considering its relatively small geographic area, the country is unique in its wealth of traditions, dialects, products, and culinary traditions. Our explorations will take us on a journey through Italy’s regions and their rich heritage focusing on topics ranging from geography to demography and from history to gastronomy. This will be accomplished through a series of specifically tailored intercultural activities, readings and films in English, as well as conversations with experts in these areas from both Italy and the US.

About Louise Hipwell

My true language-learning journey began with an Erasmus scholarship to the University of Bologna as an undergrad majoring in Foreign Languages. This life-changing study-abroad experience led to a Ph.D. in Italian Studies at Rutgers University and eventually my work here at Georgetown as Coordinator of the Italian language program.  The Italian department offers an engaging curriculum that builds on the intensive language track with most students beginning their first semester with no prior exposure to the language. For me, the greatest satisfaction comes from seeing our students return from a semester abroad in Italy, proud of the fact that they have been able to directly matriculate at an Italian University after just two years of study of the language.

The author James Baldwin smiles while addressing the crowd from the speaker’s platform, after participating in the march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights, Alabama, March 1965. (Photo by Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

LaMonda Horton-Stallings, Department of African American Studies
Zandria Robinson, Department of African American Studies

Requirements Fulfilled:
HALC: Humanities: Arts, Literature, and Culture
Engaging Diversity: Global
One 100-level requirement for the African American Studies Major’s Global, Race, and Ethnicity and Race, Space, and Public Policy concentrations

Who May Apply?
All first-year students in the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences.

Course ID: AFAM-115

Course Meeting Times: W 12:30pm – 3:00pm

Historically the southern states in the U.S. have been at the epicenter of many evolutions and controversies of U.S. democracy and empire.  Current economic, migratory, racial, and gender politics indicate new concerns about how important the region of the South will be to the future of the U.S., as well as global communities. Consequently, a course in Critical Southern Studies might be relevant and of interest to Georgetown students. 

From W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells, to James Baldwin and Trudier Harris, to Eddie Glaude Jr and Reverend William Barber, intellectual stalwarts in African American Studies along with black public figures have consistently noted the importance of the southern United States to American governance, culture, and industry innovation. Increasingly, Black Studies and Southern Studies scholars have also demonstrated how the racial and capital logics of the U.S. South inform and influence those of marginalized geographies and peoples globally. This course will use the radical interdisciplinarity of Black Studies to engage New Southern Studies and the place of the South nationally and Diasporically in global futures.

Politics and Government Seminars

Joseph Hartman, Department of Government
Nadia Brown, Department of Government
Daniel Nexon, Department of Government
Marilyn McMorrow, Department of Government

Who may apply?
The First-Year Government Seminars do not require an application. Interested students may register for one of these courses during Fall 2022 registration. More information and instructions about Fall 2022 registration will be provided via email on Monday, June 27.

Course/credit equivalencies:
One course and three credits.

Requirements Fulfilled:
Social Science (one of two in government)
One foundational course in the Government major or minor

These seminars are designed to welcome students to the field of Politics, Government, or Political Science writ large, while focusing also on one of the four subfields the Government Department offers: Political Theory, Comparative Politics, US Politics, or International Relations.  

In these seminars, students read important texts deeply, while learning how to think critically and how to write skillfully within the discipline.  

Course ID: GOVT-1210-01

Course Meeting Times: TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm

Free speech has occupied increasing space at the center of our public life, and with the rapid proliferation of social media and the unique dimensions of online communication the question of speech becomes ever more pressing.  But what do we mean when we refer to “free” speech? Does it include hate speech? If it does, should it? What about offensive symbols? Commercial advertisements? Verbal threats? What constitutes a verbal threat in the first place? And even if we can begin to answer those questions, we might further ask: under what conditions can we even consider speech “free” in the first place? These urgent problems occupy the heart of the U.S. Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence, which determines the extent to which the law requires protection of, inter alia, fighting words, obscenity, incitement, symbolic speech, commercial speech and hate speech. 

This course provides students with a solid grounding in that jurisprudence and acquaints them with the theoretical dimensions of, and controversies associated with, the principles underlying the caselaw. In so doing we will assess and examine the evolving tests, standards and approaches found in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court as well as the philosophical and theoretical foundations upon which these legal doctrines rest and upon which they are challenged. We thus consider not only the caselaw, but the theoretical literature that has emerged at the intersection of jurisprudence and political theory, as scholars wrestle with the relationship between liberal democracy, equality and speech and consider whether and to what extent current legal rules may impact or disfavor under-represented and under-resourced communities and traditionally marginalized populations.

About Joseph Hartman

A decade ago I initiated a fairly significant career transition, leaving a full-time civil litigation practice to pursue an academic career. I did so out of sheer academic curiosity coupled with the conviction that teaching in a university setting might enable me to offer a valuable contribution to the larger community. I arrived on the Hilltop as a first year Ph.D. student in 2009–and I never left! My teaching focuses on the history of political thought and on the First and Fourteenth Amendments. My interests run deeply in both directions—although I see them as complementary; constitutional law is simply political theory put into legal terminology! That said, I begin each semester with the recognition that many students will find the study of law unfamiliar, challenging, and even intimidating. This fact shapes the course material, how I present it, and the educational climate I seek to foster—one of collaboration, trust, and active, engaged exploration.

Course ID: GOVT-1210-02

Course Meeting Times: TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm

This course will explore the political expressions of Black women in the United States from slavery to the present. Through a combination of books, primary sources, and film we will formulate answers to the question of how Black women in the United States articulated themselves as political actors in spite of the fact that for most of their time in this nation they have been defined outside of the body politic. We will take a chronological approach to studying the multifaceted political expressions of Black women in America. The primary question directed our inquiry will be how do Black women, who were (are) not recognized at full citizens because of both their race/sex as well as other complicating intersectional identities, continue to develop a political voice and push forward an agenda to advance their goals? We will focus on Black women’s struggles for personal autonomy, reproductive justice, social rights, sexual rights, civil rights and political rights which will deeper the understanding of American politics.

About Nadia Brown

I am teaching the kind of class that I wish I could have taken as an undergraduate student. When I was a nascent Black feminist, I yearned for resources to help me make sense of how Black woman navigated a political world in the face of racism, sexism, capitalism, misogynoir, homophobia and White hetero-patriarchy. To me, understanding how those that are placed at the intersections of marginalized identities both experience and influence American politics provides a more accurate depiction of our nation. It is my goal as a professor to provide students with the necessary critical thinking skills and tools necessary to understand how individual behaviors and outcomes are intrinsically shaped by political structures and institutions. But just as important, I want my students to find the agency, joy and fortitude of Black women political actors.

Course ID: GOVT-1610-01

Course Meeting Times: TR 3:30 – 4:45 

Contemporary international relations — in terms of both theory and practice — rests on an extensive conceptual infrastructure. That infrastructure includes terms that most people who follow international affairs have at least heard of — including “sovereignty,” “alliances,” “great power,” and “nuclear deterrence” — and ones that are more obscure — including “hegemony,” “tripwires,” and “anarchy.”

Major debates, both past and present, pivot on the meaning of different parts of this conceptual infrastructure. Specific political disputes, some now forgotten, produced concepts that we now take for granted. New understandings of international politics often depend on rejecting or rethinking fundamental concepts in international relations.

In this class we carefully analyze and discuss a variety of works of international thought. Students will directly engage with the logic, ideas, and values articulated by specific authors.

We read books that most international-relations scholars would agree are “classics” in the history of international thought. We read books that don’t meet that standard, but which represent or encapsulate important theoretical traditions.

This means that some of the readings are centuries old, while others were written within the last few decades. But most are products of periods marked by transformation, instability, and uncertainty: the European wars of religion; the aftermath of World War II, which brought with it the Cold War, the nuclear arms race, and decolonization; and the end of the Cold War.

While the syllabus won’t be finalized until close to the end of the summer, planned topics include: the development of principles of state sovereignty and international relations (such as Hugo Grotius, De iure belli ac pacis libri tres); efforts to grapple with the implications of nuclear weapons (such as Bernard Brodie, ed. The Absolute Weapon: Atomic Power and World Order); feminist international thought (such as Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches, and Bases); race, racism, and international order (such as W.E.B. Dubois, “Worlds of Color” and Robbie Shilliam, The Black Pacific); and approaches that offer themselves as explicit alternatives to “western” international thought (such as Yaqing Qin, A Relational Theory of World Politics).

About Daniel Nexon

This fall will mark my twentieth year in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Over those two decades I have written two books and edited two more; been an in-residence research fellow at the Ohio State University; spent a year working on Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia policy at the Department of Defense; experienced the rise and fall of academic blogging; served as the editor-in-chief of the flagship journal of the International Studies Association; and founded an unbearably niche podcast. When I was a graduate student at Columbia University, I had the privilege of teaching in the “Contemporary Civilization” program, which significant evidence suggests was the first “Plato to NATO” course in the United States. This class combines two of my favorite things: i) orchestrating seminars that (like that class) focus on close reading, analysis, and discussion of dense texts and ii) international-relations theory.

Course ID: GOVT-1810-03

Course Meeting Times: TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm

This College First-Year Seminar is problem-driven. The problem? Democracy—or more precisely The Liberal Democratic Regime Type—is under threat around the globe. Some observers, including authoritarian leaders with their own agenda—claim the democratic experiment either is failing or has already failed—and deservingly so—because the flaws in democratic institutions combined with deep divisions, inequality, and polarization among their populations render democratic polities incapable of marshalling the will and resources to respond to crisis—no matter how threatening or catastrophic. The readings for this course probe the literature on “democratic backsliding,” including how and why “democracies die.” 

Although we consider this phenomenon globally, since we are studying in Washington DC, we focus on the problem close up: within the US Liberal Democracy. We begin by striving to understand, at a deeper level and through our class visit to the African-American Museum of History and Culture, that contradictory and self- defeating as it seems, the American Liberal Republic is grounded both in individual freedom and individual human enslavement. (A house divided in its foundation cannot stand.) The educational goal—or hope—of our seminar is that if we value the liberal democratic regime, we must better comprehend what we need to know and do to form “a more perfect union.” In the words of John Lewis: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

About Marilyn McMorrow, RSCJ

Like so many students who enroll at Georgetown, I strive to do my part in contributing to a world within which it becomes for every single person to flourish and, within which, the goal and the test of any political institution or policy, local, national, or global is its effectiveness in respecting the equal moral worth, dignity, and freedom of the person. That passion led me to study, research, and teach at the intersection of normative Political Theory and International Relations. Thus most of my courses focus on pressing moral and ethical problems on our planet (for example, advancement of human rights, eradication of destitution, concern for forced migrants, response to the climate crisis, and controls on the use of force).

Recently, however, I have become deeply troubled by world-wide and national assaults on liberal democracy. I realized I used to assume liberal democracy—despite flaws and failures— was sturdy and would prevail. Thus I am trying to go deeper, to learn all I can about the threats to liberal democracy and how to counter them—why that is crucially important for anyone committed to basic and universal human rights, and what it will demand of citizens and policy-makers. That is why I want to teach a First-Year seminar “on forming a more perfect union.”