Undergraduate Core Curriculum

First-Year Seminar Courses 2024-2025

You'll take a FYS within your first two semesters at Xavier. FYS is a rigorous, academic, 3-credit course. In the catalog, FYS is called CORE 100. Search under "Core Curriculum" to find these courses.

Fall 2024

Origin Stories
Christian Mastilak

Who are we? How did we get here? Where are we going? Will anyone go with us? This seminar will help us ask these questions, begin to answer them, and find our place within Xavier. We'll look at how St. Ignatius and the Jesuit education story started, including Xavier's own beginnings. Students will explore their own origin stories, and will choose some other stories to examine including creation myths from around the world.

Confederate Monuments
Frank Rzeczkowski

This seminar examines the current controversies over monuments to the Confederacy through an examination of the broader historical, social, cultural, and political contexts surrounding the issue. We will also explore the ideas and purposes behind memorialization in a broader sense (including on Xavier’s campus), and seek to understand the decision-making process behind memorialization and the messages memorials seek to convey.

Pursuit of Happiness
Rita Rozzi

​The United States Declaration of Independence states that one of our “unalienable Rights” is the “pursuit of Happiness.”  If we are guaranteed such an absolute freedom to obtain it, why aren’t we all happy? What does it even mean to be happy? Although we will work to define happiness and explore the latest research on this topic through reading and discussion, we will also be putting into practice what we discover. The hope is that by doing so, we will learn how to cultivate happiness in ourselves and in others.


The Human Need for Narrative                         
Anne McCarty

Story? Who needs it? For a phenomenon that seems to serve little practical purpose for human survival, narrative plays a significant and ongoing role in our lives. In this class, we’ll explore various facets and functions of story and consider the following questions. How do we shape and how are we shaped by narrative? How do we employ narrative as we attempt to understand, cope with, and modify our past, present, and future both as individuals and as a society? How do the stories we currently produce and consume contribute to or detract from the greater good?


Difficult Women (for Honors students)
Niamh J. O’Leary

This seminar explores the concept of the "difficult woman," throughout history. Beginning with Medea and Eve, we consider these prototypes of difficult women--imperfect, vengeful, different visions of maternity, hypersexualized, and more. We will look at how stereotypes of the difficult woman operate differently for BIPOC women, and how they intersect with racism, classism, and more. We will trace these ideas about difficult women from literature, to film, to news media, to the criminal justice system. The course asks how a more nuanced notion of femininity, gender, and power can contribute to the greater good, and how humanity is ill-served by fixating on ideas of difficult women.
This course is for Honors students only.
This course addresses issues of diversity and inclusion throughout the semester.

The Lives of Black Women and Girls
ShaDawn Battle

Incredulous reactions to Meg Thee Stallion’s accusation that a Black man shot her are a part of an epistemic framework in which Black women and girls are perceived to be unworthy of protection, their bodies disposable, and their truths undermined or deemed inconsequential to a racist, patriarchal, misogynoiristic, homo / transphobic, and ableist U.S. regime. This course will employ a Black Feminist framework to make legible the interdependent forces that imperil the lives of Black women and girls, including Black trans women. To examine the material and ideological realities of Black women and girls in the U.S. such as, Sha’Carri Richardson, Breonna Taylor, Dajerria Becton, the enslaved Anarcha, and Laverne Cox, we will take up the following topics: Black Women and Girls in Sports; Black Women and Girls in the Medical Industrial Complex; and Black Women and Girls and the Policing Apparatus.
This course addresses issues of diversity and inclusion throughout the semester.


Great (and not so great) Expectations
Lara Dorger

We live in our own heads most of the time, but we often evaluate our wants mostly in terms of the outcomes rather than what makes the foundations of our wants. Often our sense of success is arbitrary and personal and may depend mostly on preconceived beliefs. Rather than focusing on solely an end result, a more-sound approach would involve understanding our expectations going forward. This seminar has you carefully reading 12 short stories to use as a springboard to foster the practice of asking questions about topics relevant to you at this time: school, career, and relationships, among other subjects. Some of the questions you will have the chance to discuss are "Can I be a good friend if I stop listening to my friend's problems?" "How much work am I willing to do to get an A?" or the age-old question "What is love?" While answers may not be forthcoming for all questions, you will have the chance to create the habit of examining your expectations prior to evaluating your success or failure, a key component to analysis, through the media of short stories and writing.


The Art of Expression
Madeleine Mitchell

Anyone can be an artist, but many people don't see themselves as one. This seminar explores how creative expression is an integral part of being human and how it contributes to personal and intellectual growth, meaningful life work, and stronger communities. In this course, we will examine various roles of artistic expression in society: healer, teller of hard truths, voice of solidarity, and catalyst for social change. Students will study and research examples of art movements, engage with local artists, and create individual works of art.
This course addresses issues of diversity and inclusion throughout the semester.

Colonial Shadows
José María Mantero

In this course, we will study works of literature, art, and film to better understand how colonial ideologies are still present today in the Americas and how these relate to our own individual faith and our Jesuit institutional identity. The readings (short stories, poems, essays, and a series of scholarly articles) and works of art (paintings, etchings, graphic art and graffiti, for example) will come from traditional and non-traditional sources as we examine the parallels between literary and artistic expressions within a discrete historical context. We will also study films and include other digital media such as podcasts and video recordings that document and construct the historical perspective. The overall objective of the course is to examine the manner in which specific texts, works, media, and artistic objectives dialogue with a particular historical context and both reflect and transcend broader shifts in ideology and faith.
This course addresses issues of diversity and inclusion throughout the semester.

Good Vibes Only
Matthew Zurcher

Hot yoga. Mindfulness meditation apps. Corporate retreats. Goop. “Good vibes only.” In America, the last 25 years have produced a sharp decrease in religious affiliation and, simultaneously, an explosive increase in the popularity of spirituality. This course will focus on two questions: (1) What cultural, political, and intellectual movements account for this shift? and (2) How do contemporary approaches to spirituality and religion help and hinder our pursuit of the common good? Students will explore the philosophical and theological roots of our 21st Century spiritual marketplace and use those tools to interpret the shapes and stakes of their own existential questions.


Dante, Pilgrim of the Mind
Michael Sweeney

Dante will be our guide to college as a journey—a pilgrimage of the mind. Medieval pilgrimage was a physical journey to the Holy Land or to some other holy site that was meant to change and rehearse the journey of a life. In the Divine Comedy, Dante is often called a "pilgrim," but the Divine Comedy is a different kind of journey, an intellectual journey that is meant to change and rehearse the journey of a life. This course will propose the question whether college is merely job training or whether it is also an intellectual pilgrimage. We will read closely Dante's Divine Comedy with the assistance of selections from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Thomas Aquinas' Summa theologiae.


God on Trial
Martin Madar

This seminar will examine the religious dimension of human existence in relation to a number of problems and challenges: the problem of knowledge; the relation of faith and reason; various historical, social and existential critiques of belief; the challenge of atheism and humanism.


Catholics and Slavery
Walker Gollar

Amidst the national debate over Confederate monuments, the killing of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the assault on the Capitol, arguments over how to teach African American history, etc., where does the Catholic Church stand? What role has the Catholic Church played in race matters? And what connection did the Catholic Church have with the institution of slavery as it existed in the United States before the Civil War? This course explores all three questions, with particular emphasis on the past, especially connections to slavery, all the while hoping that an honest look into the historical record will call students to foster the greater good and build a more just society.


Ethics and the Environment
Brent Blair

We all rely on the environment in both apparent and nuanced ways. However, our perceptions of nature and our choices in how we interact with it are shaped by various factors, such as the time period, culture, and one’s economic status. In this course, we delve into these concepts and examine how deteriorating environments can affect human well-being disparately based on individual characteristics (e.g., race, class, and gender) and geographical location. The curriculum encompasses an exploration of fundamental economic, ecological, and environmental science principles, alongside discussions on topics related to environmental ethics.


Art of Introspection
John Ray

This course involves detailed reading and discussion of Montaigne’s Essays. With the aid of Sara Bakewell’s How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, we—each one of us—will attempt to answer this same question by writing our own introspective journal in response to what we find most compelling in Montaigne. In class, emphasis will be on student discussion of the Essays.

Ireland, Culture, & Film
Timothy White 

This course explores Irish culture since the late nineteenth century focusing on the development of Irish identity and how this identity has been challenged by those not included in the historic conception of Irish national identity.


No Such Thing as a Stupid Question (in Business and Economics)
Jagan Jacob

In this seminar, we ask ourselves questions related to business organizations, economics, ethics, and (even) politics. We will read and discuss various case studies, participate in team debates, give group presentations, and write a term paper. Topics range from “should a tweet from a decade ago get you fired?” to “what are the misconceptions the US gets wrong about China and its economy?”


Sport at the Service of Humanity
Sr. Rose Ann Fleming

How can sport serve humanity? Selected readings show how sport brings humanity together across global boundaries to celebrate human talent, regardless of religion, race, culture, beliefs, gender and ability. Immersive experiences such as visits and interviews with members of professional teams and NCAA Division I teams, indicate how sport teaches men and women positive values of joy, respect, love, compassion, enlightenment and balance. Dialoguing with sport experts, and attendance at local sports games, enables the class participant to reflect, critique, and discuss, orally and in writing, the principles and values that sport offers humanity, as well as how to address the evils and scandals that can arise when the power of wealth and greed in sport corrupt the sport environment.
This course addresses issues of diversity and inclusion throughout the semester.


Games and Virtues                                                                       
Greg Braun

This course looks at games of all types, with a focus on board, card, and role playing games. What can games today and throughout history tell us about humanity? What virtues & skills are valued by games, and by society? What does the mathematical field of game theory tell us about how people make decisions, particularly important ethical decisions? How do probability and the mechanics of games affect what we take away from them? What is the nature of play itself? Students will design a game as a group project throughout the semester.