First Year Seminar on the 1970s

Ten Years of Content for the First Year of College

As freshman students find their individual niches and paths of study, they still come together for First Year Seminars (FYS). In their own way, each of the many sections of this required course serves as a foundation for their next four years of studies.

In particular, Professor Robyn Rosen’s class “Not That Seventies Show” challenges students while maintaining interest in its unique content. Many are familiar with the sitcom That 70s Show, but most have never taken an in-depth look past the characters' afros and bell-bottoms. For those that enroll, this class changes that.

“We tackle a really wide variety of history,” Professor Rosen says of her 1970s class. With such a dense curriculum, Rosen breaks it into three different topics. They begin by covering typical, textbook knowledge of the historical events, but quickly move on to more in-depth subject matter.

As the semester progresses, classes look at social movements such as Civil Rights, the women’s movement, and gay rights. Lastly, they explore seventies culture including fashion, fiction, television, film, and music. “Those are the types of things that high school students never deeply explore,” Rosen says.

In their studies, students watch documentaries and read articles on these topics. Rosen even has them read The Stepford Wives and watch the movie, as an example of seventies culture. From government to the film industry, the class covers topics that satisfy any type of student as they journey through the decade.

In the end, students get to apply their own unique interests to a research paper. “By the time they get to their research projects they can pick what they are most interested in,” Rosen says, “they have some freedom and can follow their curiosity.”

She goes on, explaining, “even though it’s a history class it prepares students for whatever major they are interested in.” With this freedom, fashion students can study vintage fashion, while political science students can study political affairs, and fans of the movie Rocky can even study that.

Just as each student tailors their paper around their own interests, each First Year Seminar is tailored around the expertise of its professor. In the case of “Not That Seventies Show,” Professor Rosen has extensive knowledge that enhances the course. She has been working at Marist for 22 years, normally teaching Modern American History and Women’s History. Her specific expertise is in the history of women and birth control, topics that defined and shaped the 1970s, and she has been published in the Journal of Women’s History.

Rosen's passion for the material may help to encourage student enthusiasm in class. “I was really interested in it because it’s the decade that abortion became legal and the civil rights movement started,” says Rosen, enthusiastically.

However, the dance party at the end of the semester is really what makes the class noteworthy for its students. “It’s a theme party based on basically what we have learned all semester,” Professor Rosen describes. For the party, each student picks a song and writes a rationale as to why it should be listed on the seventies themed playlist.

After all of the work, they meet one night for pizza, soda, and dancing, set to the tune of their personalized playlist. “It’s a way to tie in the fun part to the education,” says Rosen.

As a bonus, with activities like this, Rosen creates a strong community for the first year students that need it most. “Socially, a lot of the students in my classes have become friends,” she says.

No matter the section, all FYS classes provide first-year students with similar benefits for new students. “I think the First Year Seminars are so good for them,” Rosen says genuinely, “it helps first-year students make the transition to college really work.” Each of these classes teaches students basic college level skills and put them all in the same boat, though “Not That Seventies Show” seems to have that extra spark.

Robyn Rosen believes that this something special comes from the challenging nature of the course. “They like that I respect them enough to challenge them,” the professor hypothesizes, explaining, “they say, ‘this is my one class that feels the most like what I thought college would be like.’”

Whatever the student takes away from the course; educationally, socially or culturally, it is certainly a great start to their college career.

Written by Sarah Gabrielli '18

 

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