Butler’s First-Year Seminar (FYS) offers an engaging array of over 40 topics, spanning from fairy tales to professional wrestling to the pursuit of a meaningful life. Designed to stimulate clear, critical, and creative thinking, these courses provide an ideal platform for students to explore and express their ideas. With smaller class sizes, the FYS fosters an intimate and supportive environment, facilitating self-discovery among a cohort of fellow first-year students. Throughout the academic year, students benefit from working closely with a dedicated faculty member from various disciplines across the University.

Tom Paradis
Professor, Geography and Community Planning

What First-Year Seminar Course do you teach? 
I teach Unpacking the Hunger Games. This First-Year Seminar invites students to “unpack” the numerous layers of meaning embedded within author Suzanne Collins’ dystopian tale and her most recent prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. We first examine this allegory as a cultural and literary phenomenon before moving into connections with our own world. Throughout the course, we also dive into the human geography of Panem and the central Appalachian home of unlikely heroine, Katniss Everdeen. We study and discuss a variety of  academic perspectives including sociology, cultural studies, philosophy, feminism, political science, media studies, and psychology.

How do you build community within your First-Year Seminar?
My fundamental approach is to focus on small-group discussions and in-class teamwork and class projects. My students are always discussing something (the books or in-class research or related projects), and nobody is exempt. The good part about a seminar is that no student can successfully hide in the back and remain passive the whole time. Certainly, more extroverted students may talk or interact more often and confidently, though everyone is expected to participate and contribute at the team/discussion level if not in front of the full class each week. 

It is vital to provide a comfortable, safe space for students to express their thoughts and individual personalities without feeling judged. This type of space needs to be clear from the beginning so that students know that they are in a supportive environment, and that they are expected to support and assist their peers as well. 

What advice would you give families of prospective students who are considering sending their students to Butler? 
If they are still trying to decide on Butler, focus on the small-class environments, caring faculty and staff, amazing support offices, and the strong sense of collegial and encouraging community that Butler is known for. Not to mention the excellent preparation that employers and graduate programs take notice of from our graduates. The First-Year Seminar program embodies a lot of the aspects of what Butler is—helping students become the most successful version of themselves they can be.

Daphne Kirby 
Philosophy and Psychology double major
Terre Haute, Indiana 

How have you benefited from your First-Year Seminar course? 
Not only do we read the Hunger Games novels, but we do outside research and read books that were written about the original series. We’ve discussed American history, geography, and recently some philosophical ideas. We’re not just studying the series but building connections and knowledge to the world and reality. I feel that this class has really improved my reading comprehension and writing skills. The assignments that we do for each class require a close and careful reading of the text, and some of the larger projects that we have done have taught me what to expect in the coming years. I have learned new skills from doing research essays and teaching presentations, which I have already been able to make use of in other courses at Butler. 

What advice would you give to prospective Butler students? 
Butler offers a plethora of classes that you won’t find at any other school; take advantage of these classes. You have the opportunity to explore new interests and subjects outside of your major while also working toward your core requirements. Look through the list of FYS classes before you schedule courses for your first semester and find one that interests you. This is your chance to discover a new topic of interest or learn about something new without the risk of wasting time.. The vast variety of FYS courses that Butler has to offer means that there is a class for everyone.

Amelia Black
Organizational Communication and Leadership major
Goshen, Indiana

Why did you want to take Unpacking the Hunger Games and what have you enjoyed most?
The topic combined my personal and academic interests, and I was intrigued by the social commentary intertwined within the series and was excited to dig deeper into the story. I have enjoyed learning about such a wide variety of topics in the course. I have learned a significant amount about cultural and social experiences from a lens I would have never been able to find on my own. Dr. Paradis has been amazing at guiding our skills in reading and presenting, and I thoroughly enjoy our daily class discussions. 

How has your First-Year Seminar helped you feel more at home at Butler?
My FYS has given me a group of people I can always wave to on campus and talk to. This was especially important to me during those first couple months at Butler. I feel like being with the same group of people for the whole first year helped to make me feel more comfortable at Butler and more connected to my peers.