First-Year Seminar (FYS)
Catawba College's First-Year Seminar Program is designed to help you make a smooth transition from high school to college. It will introduce you to the academic values of the Catawba College community, and introduce you to many of our renowned faculty that will become your advisors and mentors.
Catawba students may choose among Seminar sections that feature as many as 16 different topics; however, every section emphasizes the development of critical reading and writing skills. The Seminar instructor serves as the academic adviser for the students in her/his section.
All new students, including transfer students with less than 18 credit hours, are required to participate in one of our First-Year Seminars during your first semester at Catawba.
Resilience: Using Psychology to Manage Stress, Achieve Academic Success, & Thrive
Dr. Diana Riser
Resilience – also known as bouncing back from adversity. Why do some people seem to make it look so easy while others struggle? In this class, you’ll learn how psychology can help you maintain balance, build good self-care, and how to bounce back and grow from setbacks. As we grow and learn through life, we face daily life stress, adversities, and many demands on our time and resources. We’ll practice and learn psychology principles and self-care techniques that improve academic success, life-work balance, and reduce stress.
Dr. Diana Riser is an associate professor of psychology and joined Catawba in 2022. She completed her B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy at University of Alabama in Huntsville. Dr. Rise worked in a variety of applied fields promoting resilience and healthy development before completing her Ph.D. in Developmental & Biological Psychology at Virginia Tech. Her research focuses on human development, promoting resilience in survivors of trauma, and promoting healthy development and parent-child relationships. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family (two children, two pets, and partner), playing video games, dabbling in music and crafts, and exercising.
It’s a bird? It’s a plane? It’s… a drone! Drones increasing (and inevitable?) role in modern life
Dr. Andrew Jacobson
Drone butlers? Flying cars? Loitering munitions? Pollinator swarms? Light shows? In this class students will separate fact from fiction in the rapidly developing field of unmanned vehicles. Unmanned vehicles, commonly known as drones, are increasingly moving into modern life. Whether in the sky, on the ground or in the water, the vehicles have rapidly expanding commercial, industrial and military uses. Far from just toys or consumer products, drones are fast becoming integral in many fields, from construction and transportation to warfare and conservation.
In this class students will get hands-on experience flying a variety of drones and hear from drone experts about the technology. We will see local demonstrations. We will read and discuss drones, their history, evolution and potential future trajectory. Who knows, maybe for your 10-year reunion (in 2037), you’ll be delivered back to campus by an autonomous aerial vehicle.
Dr. Andrew Jacobson is an Assistant Professor of GIS and Conservation in the Department of Environment and Sustainability. Dr. Jacobson manages the college’s drone program and the Geographic Information Systems & Technology Minor. He is originally from Minnesota but moved to North Carolina in 2008 for grad school at Duke University (Go Blue Devils!). Dr. Jacobson received his PhD in Conservation Biology from the University College London. Afterwards, Dr. Jacobson took a post-doctoral position with the National Geographic Society to map global human impacts. In 2018 he joined the Catawba faculty. He also manages Catawba’s partnership with the US Forest Service providing internships in NC. He enjoys playing with his two children, and spending time outdoors.
The Way to the Finish Line
Dr. Regina Simmons
There are nearly 500,000 student-athletes competing in NCAA competition across the United States. And, as the commercials say, almost all of them are going pro in something other than their sport. This section of the First Year Seminar, will focus on the identity and development of college student-athletes. Students will examine research on athletic and academic achievement among different divisions and sports within the NCAA. Students will also research and investigate different challenges and opportunities provided to student-athletes.
Dr. Regina Simmons is the Director of Retention and Persistence at Catawba. Regina is originally from Charleston, SC and calls both Carolinas home. She earned her EdD from UNC Charlotte in Educational Leadership, where her research interest focused on the intersection of athletics and the small, private college. Regina also holds a Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts in Communication, both from Campbell University. Constantly in competition with her older brother, Regina harnessed her competitive energy into a love for athletic competition. In her free time, she enjoys kayaking on area lakes and spoiling her niece and nephews.
From Clueless to Class Act
Dr. Phillip Burgess
Important life skills, manners, etiquette, customs and societal norms continue to evolve to reflect our ever-changing social world. This course will provide a historical overview and social critique on contemporary practices and expectations associated with various cultures. Students will examine how manners and etiquette practices have changed over time, and how contemporary notions of gender roles and sexuality have shaped and affected those practices in society. In this course students will learn basic manners, etiquette practices, social skills and proper verbal and written communications skills. Once mastered and practiced, these "old school rules and tools" may give students a distinct advantage in dealing with various social and business situations. Students taking this class will experience a "stepping back in time" in order to learn how to get ahead.
Dr. Phillip E. Burgess is Dean of the Shuford School of Performing Arts and Associate Professor in the Music Department at Catawba College. At Catawba, he oversees the choral and vocal programs. He has taught in both the First Year Seminar and Honors Programs. Dr. Burgess is the product of a "Southern Home" and learned from an early age the importance of "Please" and "Thank You" and that a true gentlemen always opens the door for a lady. Dr. Burgess was the recipient of the 2020 Swink Prize for Excellence in Classroom Teaching.
Being First in the City of Dreams
Drs. Julie Chamberlain and Maria Vandergriff – Avery
*Course restricted to “First Gen” College students*
Frequently referred to as The City of Dreams, New York is often considered one of the greatest cities in the world. A place full of opportunity, inspiration, hard knocks, and hope. It is also a place of many firsts. New York City was the first capital of the United States, the place where the first U.S. president was sworn into office, the first place many new U.S. immigrants arrived, the place where the first Oreo cookie was made, and the first place hip-hop music was played. While exploring the history, film, literature, music, and art of New York City, this First Year Seminar will examine what it also means to be the “first” and apply what we learn to the experience of being a first-generation college student. Students who complete this section of first-year seminar will enhance their understanding of course content through a January 2024 trip to New York City. Travel expenses will be covered by Catawba.
Please Note: First Generation college students are those who are the first in their immediate family (parents/siblings) to attend a four-year college.
Dr. Maria Vandergriff-Avery, or “Dr. V-A” as her students call her, has been teaching at Catawba College since 2001 and is a Professor of Sociology and the Director of the Catawba Honors Program. She earned both her Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Science degree from the University of Tennessee and her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. Dr. V-A is most interested in exploring the sociology of families, the various ways in which social inequality manifests itself in our society, and social movements. She and her siblings were the first members of their family to attend and graduate from college, therefore, she knows from personal experience what it is like to be a first-generation student. She is passionate about teaching and was awarded the Swink Prize for Outstanding Classroom Teaching in 2012-2013. When she isn’t on campus, Dr. V-A enjoys running, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Dr. Julie Chamberlain is a Professor of Music and serves as the Director of the Worship Music and Production program at Catawba College. A first-generation college student, she earned her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from Wingate University, Master of Music and Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and additional studies through the Hartt School of Music, Hartford, Connecticut. A faculty member at Catawba since 1989, Dr. Chamberlain's teaching interests have evolved to include film music and world music. She also enjoys teaching interdisciplinary courses in both the College Honors Program and the First Year Experience Program which have allowed her opportunities to travel with students to many locations including Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Ireland. During the 2010-2011 academic year, she had the privilege of serving as the Swink Professor for Excellence in Teaching, the highest honor for classroom teaching at Catawba. Students also recognized her as the Professor of the Year for both the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years. In her free time, she enjoys spending time in the NC mountains, thrift store shopping and watching college football!
The Marketing of Dogs
Dr. Jennifer Yurchisin
In this class, we will explore why and how people spend so much money on their canine companions. We will start by examining the human-canine relationship, learning how wolves evolved into dogs to become our best friends. We will discuss what we know about dogs’ brains and why dogs are uniquely qualified to form emotional bonds with humans. We will then talk about the products and services that exist to help humans care for their dogs. We will look at the variety of products and services available on the market, how these products and services are promoted to buyers, and where and how these products and services can be consumed. We will also explore some negative aspects of the business of dogs, including puppy mills, dog fighting rings, and dog hoarding behavior. Along the way, we will meet different dog-related business owners and some therapy dogs. You don’t have to have a dog, just be a “dog person,” to take this class.
Dr. Jennifer Yurchisin is an Assistant Professor in the Ketner School of Business at Catawba College. She earned her Ph.D. from Iowa State University. Prior to teaching at Catawba, she taught at the University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina Greensboro, and Texas State University. On the weekends, she volunteers at the Paws4ever Resale Store in Hillsborough. She has two dogs (Bella and Daisy) and two cats (Arj and Mr. Kitty).
Code Blue: Is Your Impression Shocking?
Drs. Alison Atwater and Valerie Rakes
In a world of social media and smartphones used as a primary way of social interaction, we will explore how to refine professional skills to function outside of technology. Using multimedia to review and analyze various situations of healthcare professionals, students will focus on:
- Communication Skills
- Active Listening
This course will be reflective in nature to allow individual students to assess their impressions to others, and apply a more positive behavior. Using simulated experiences, students will explore how they can leave their individual professional impression on others. Important skills will be developed during the course that will lead to successful interactions throughout college and into their own careers.
Dr. Valerie Rakes, Chair and Associate Professor of Nursing, started at Catawba College in 2018. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Cabarrus College of Health Sciences, a Master of Science in Nursing, Nursing Leadership in Healthcare Organizational Systems, from East Carolina University, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice from Gardner-Webb University. Additionally, Dr. Rakes holds a certification in nursing education (CNE). She has 34 years of experience as a nurse. Her hospital experience entails experience as a unit staff member, clinical unit educator, and nursing leader in the Neonatal and Pediatric Intensive Care Units. Dr. Rakes has spent the past 15 years as a nurse educator and most recently the Program Chair at Catawba College since ‘18. Dr. Rakes’ work passion includes remediation and retention of students and fostering professional skills for the workplace and life in general. She spends her free time with her four grandchildren and traveling with her husband. She is an avid Duke men’s and women’s basketball and Las Vegas Raiders fan.
Dr. Alison Atwater joined the Catawba College faculty in 2018 as an Assistant Professor in Nursing. Dr. Atwater has a 20+ year nursing career; her bedside nursing career changed to education in 2010 as a Clinical Nurse Educator for an area hospital. She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Nursing, a Graduate Certificate in Nursing and Healthcare Education, a Doctorate in Nursing Practice with a concentration in Leadership and Management, and maintains a certification in nursing education (CNE) from the National League of Nurses (NLN). Over the past several years, Dr. Atwater has performed various research projects on clinical reasoning, specifically improving this skill among nursing students. While not working, Dr. Atwater is caring for her family of four, including her two children. She enjoys running and working out, but most of all, she enjoys watching “Big Brother” during summer break!
Blueprint for Success: Achieving your GOALS
Dr. Melissa Tapp
How do we succeed and make progress toward all we want to achieve in life? In this course, students will investigate and apply tools necessary to achieve and progress toward their goals. Students will explore advice from Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool in PEAK, Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, and will apply evidence-based practices to reach success in this new journey (i.e., college life). Students will develop deliberate, sustainable practices to support improved performance across all domains of college life (e.g., academics, social, self-care, sports). Involvement in this course will allow students to apply principles of great performance and make progress toward goals that will ultimately enhance their future.
Dr. Melissa Tapp is an assistant professor of special education in the teacher education department and joined Catawba in 2022. She is originally from Buffalo, New York and moved to North Carolina in 2005 after completing her undergraduate degree in elementary and special education at St. Bonaventure University. Dr. Tapp completed her Ph.D. (2022) and M.Ed. (2010) in special education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Previously, she has worked in North Carolina public schools in a variety of roles and continues to love teaching at all levels. Dr. Tapp has led and collaborated on several research studies. Her research interests include increasing engagement of students with extensive support needs within school settings with a focus on communication and behavioral interventions and teacher education.
Dr. Amanda Rushing
You may be surprised to learn that your body is an ecosystem! It is home to millions of microscopic organisms, including bacteria and viruses. If this is concerning to you, you are not alone! Most of us spend a lot of time trying rid ourselves of these microbes in an effort to prevent illnesses. However, we are coming to understand that the vast majority of microbes are not only harmless, but are critically important for our health! In this course, we will meet our microbial companions and explore our complex relationships with them.
Dr. Amanda Rushing has served as a professor in the Biology Department since 2019. She earned her B.S. in Biology at Catawba College and her Ph.D. in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at East Carolina University. Dr. Rushing teaches a variety of Biology courses, including Microbiology, Virology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry. She works with student researchers on a variety of projects, including those focused on discovering new sources of antibiotics from nature. In her free time, she enjoys baking, crafting, reading, and spending time with her family.
Digging Behind the Headlines: Data Overload
Dr. Sharon Sullivan
Think about your cell phone- now think about one app. How much data is stored in the app? Now imagine the world- how much data is out there? As a society and an individual, we are constantly bombarded with data but how much do we actually question it or understand it? If we see on social media that 89% of Americans believe in aliens, do we even think about the validity of that statement since it was posted on our favorite social media platform? Do we repeat data we see without knowing the facts behind the numbers? In this course, we are going to investigate the data behind headlines becoming in essence data detectives. We will see how we can use data to understand the world around us.
Dr. Sharon Sullivan is a professor of mathematics and associate provost who has called Catawba home for over 20 years. She received her BS from Trinity College (CT), MS from the University of Vermont, and PhD from the University of Kentucky. While Dr. Sullivan has taught many different courses over her time at Catawba, one of her favorites to teach is statistics because it has such relevance to everything around us. Outside of Catawba, you will find her either hiking or lounging at the beach reading a good book.
Climate Change and Society
Dr. Timothy Clark
Natural scientists have long studied the causes and effects of climate change. It is well known, for instance, how and why carbon dioxide emissions trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere. We also know that the burning of fossil fuels cannot continue at anywhere near current rates if we are to arrest climate change and ensure a habitable planet for future generations.
However, despite the fact that known alternative sources of energy exist, our society continues to rely upon fossil fuel to sustain itself. Why? How did our society become so dependent upon the burning of fossil fuels, to the point where some argue we live in a ‘fossil economy?’ We also know more about the risks of climate change—both from science and our daily lives—than ever before. Yet, this increased knowledge seems to have little effect on our daily lives or the policy choices of political leaders. Why?
This class will provide you with a basic overview of climate change—what it is, what kinds of activity cause it, and why we should be concerned. However, the majority of this class will rely upon history and social science to explore the politics and economics of climate change. We will explore how people deny climate change—not just in the outright sense of not believing in it, but how people come to believe in it but then remain complacent or apathetic. We will ask critical questions about the capacity of modern society to ‘solve’ this crisis without radical change or revolution. In doing so, we will also learn about various social movements and organizations involved in the fight against climate change.
In sum, we will come to understand climate change as a social problem. After taking this class, you will have a more complete understanding of the climate crisis, its causes, and the struggle to solve it.
Dr. Tim Clark is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Catawba College. He started working at Catawba in August of 2022. Before arriving, Dr. Clark was a postdoctoral researcher at the Ocean Nexus Center at the University of British Columbia. There, Dr. Clark’s research examined the sociological and historical drivers of social and environmental sustainability in marine systems. Dr. Clark’s scholarly expertise pertains to the political economy of environmental change, meaning he is most interested in how power dynamics across classes, nations, and social statuses shape our relationship to nature and drive environmental degradation. Before his postdoctoral position, Dr. Clark earned his PhD in Sociology from North Carolina State University. He teaches numerous classes at Catawba, including environmental sociology. His work has been published in multiple refereed publications, and he has presented his scholarship to the United Nations, the American Sociological Association, and the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences.
Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga in Daily Life
Dr. Jennifer Klebaur
Life can be stressful. And while there are many ways to reduce stress, recent research has examined the ability of mindfulness, meditation, and yoga to reduce stress and the impact these techniques have on the brain. Join us as we learn strategies to enhance mind-body awareness, develop or refine our practice of these techniques, and explore the science behind each of them in relation to stress reduction and their beneficial effects on our own physical and mental health. As part of our exploration, we’ll read The mindful twenty-something by Dr. Holly Rogers, participate in various class discussions, and of course, practice mindfulness, meditation, and yoga both in and out of the classroom.
Dr. Jennifer Klebaur is an assistant professor of psychology and has been at Catawba since 2016. She completed her BA in Psychology and Spanish at Auburn University and her PhD in Psychopharmacology at the University of Kentucky. Following this, she moved to Michigan where she completed post-doctoral studies at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include examining the biological and environmental influences that underlie behaviors associated with substance use disorders. Dr. Klebaur has a college-aged daughter and a cat. She enjoys reading, yoga, cooking, and walks on the greenway but would much prefer to walk along the beach.
Use our Student Scheduler to select your First-Year Seminar