FASS First Courses

FASSFirst courses are specially designed to help new FASS students make a successful transition to university and connect closely with their professors and peers during their first term

  • Each offering is limited to 25 students
  • Courses are led by the best teachers and mentors in FASS
  • Courses available only in the Fall term, to help you lay the groundwork for future academic success and foster your academic skills
  • All FASSFirst courses earn W designations, as well as B-Soc and B-Hum designations (with final grades of C- or higher), and count as academic credit towards your BA degree graduation requirements.

What will be taught?

  • Anything from science fiction to pop music, from drug policy to sustainability, but with a special focus on the academic needs of first-year students
  • FASSFirst courses are different every time, and are not part of the regular curriculum: these topics are taught only in these seminars
  • FASSFirst seminars will surprise you and will introduce you to the full scope of the humanities and social sciences
  • FASSFirst seminars will call into question your own ideas about traditional subject matters, and they will lead your interests in surprising and unknown directions 

What will I learn?

  • Writing: Your marks will be based largely, if not entirely, on written work. You will be expected to write frequently, and sometimes in low-stakes contexts.
  • Peer Engagement: You will be expected to engage productively with your peers, both in and out of the classroom. The aim is to help you to learn how to rely on others in academic contexts.
  • Research: You will be expected to learn the basic methods of academic research, including how to navigate and make use of the research resources SFU makes available to you (including the library and the instructor).
  • Time Management: To learn better time management, some assignments will be constructed in such a way that you are required to plan your work in multiple stages.

How do I enrol?

Enrollment for Fall 2018 courses will open in July 2018. You will be able to find the FASSFirst courses on the Student Information System (SIS) under FASS 101. Each section (D001, D002, etc.) has a different topic - just select the section in which you wish to enrol.


Fall 2018 Courses

Where available, we've linked to sample videos for each instructor, to provide a taste of each instructor's personality and teaching style.

Cancer Cultures: The Social Lives of a Disease

Instructor: Dr. Coleman Nye, Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30–4:20 pm / FASS 101 D007

Cancer is everywhere. Whether we’re reading about Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy in a celebrity gossip magazine or learning about chemotherapy’s origins as a weapon of war in a TED Talk, stories about cancer crop up in all kinds of unexpected places.

While 1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, many of us learn much about the disease in our daily lives through non-medical sources. We walk and run for the cure, buy pink ribbon products for the cause, cry in films like The Fault in Our Stars, laugh through comics like Cancer Vixen, anxiously await 23andMe DNA test results, or grimace at the warning labels on cigarette packs.

This course will explore the diverse meanings of cancer in local and global contexts through films, comics, and memoirs, as well as in social and historical studies of medicine, science, and technology. In all of these examples, we will ask not only what cancer can tell us about our culture, but also what culture can tell us about medical approaches to cancer research and treatment.

Classical Chinese Ethics

Instructor: Dr. Jennifer Wang, Philosophy
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 am–12:20 pm / FASS 101 D002

In this seminar, we will explore ethical thought in classical Chinese philosophy.

We will ask: What virtues should we cultivate? What duties do we have toward family and society? What are our moral dispositions? What is the proper role of the state in moral education?

We will study thinkers such as Confucius, Mozi, Mencius, and Xunzi, while drawing connections to contemporary discussions of ethics and moral psychology in western intellectual thought.

Goals include learning how to approach historical texts, recognize philosophical arguments, and assess these arguments.

Disneyfication: Disney Adaptations and Cultural Ideology

Instructor: Dr. Nicky Didicher, English
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 am–12:20 pm / FASS 101 D004

Did you grow up seeing Disney films? How did that affect the ways you see the world? Did you grow up never or rarely watching Disney films? Does that make you different from people who did?

The Walt Disney Company is in the business of making money by re-making cultural materials such as fairy tales and historical narratives (among other activities), but it also promotes particular worldviews and social values, e.g. gender roles, capitalism.

This course explores five Disney “Princess” films from 1950 to 2009: Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and The Princess and the Frog. We will compare them to their source texts and discuss them in relation to their cultural contexts, looking at what they tell us about Western culture and how it has changed (or not).

Students will develop skills in using research databases, collecting evidence from film and print sources, and creating academic essays that take a stand. There will be built-in peer review processes and opportunities to revise work both before and after it is marked the first time.

Dystopia: The Dark Side of Progress

Instructor: Dr. Aaron Windel, History
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30–4:20 pm / FASS 101 D006

Dystopias (Greek for “bad place”) are among the most popular settings for films, television, video games and literature today.

These imagined worlds sometimes seem post-apocalyptic. Or they often are social nightmares where science, technologies, and political institutions are turned against people to make their lives miserable and hopeless (think of The Hunger Games).

Such stories are compelling because they dwell on the contradictions of modern life. They reveal a dark meaning in a message that dominated culture in many places for most of the modern era that said that “Man” was on a steady path toward progress. 

In this course we will explore dystopian imaginaries and reflect on the historical contexts that inspired them and on the historical significance of their rise as a critical cultural form. We also will examine our own experiences of “modernity” today through the dystopian lens.

Radical Acceptance: How to Navigate a Complex World in Complicated Times

Instructor: Dr. Elise Chenier, History
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30–4:20 pm / FASS 101 D005

At the end of every episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, host RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself honey, how you gonna love somebody else?”

Self-love begins with self-acceptance, something that, as a queer black man, RuPaul knows does not come easy.

This course explores what radical acceptance means, examines how others are applying it in their daily lives, and provides us with an opportunity to test it out in our own life.

In addition to course readings, we will undertake see radical acceptance in action: 1. in grade schools, 2. with former military personnel dealing with PTSD, and 3. in the world of business and advertising.

* Radical Acceptance One Page Description.docx
Radical Acceptance course outline and reading list

Something Wild: Gender, Frontiers and Wilderness

Instructor: Dr. Cindy Patton, Sociology and Anthropology
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 am–12:20 pm / FASS 101 D001

This class offers an opportunity to join students’ interest in the outdoors with academic inquiry into the gendered and racialized construction of frontiers and the wilderness, including investigation of novels, films, and landscape/nature art and writing.

A section of the course will be devoted to the cultural history of mapping practices, including consideration of the subjective experience of space that is constituted through making and using maps.

The course will build skills in: formal and historical analysis of films and novels; creation of artistic expression of “wilderness experience”; creation and use of maps. In addition, to assigned readings and films, students will complete three analytical assignments (formal analysis; comparative analysis; historical analysis) and two exploratory assignments (create a map; engage in wilderness contemplation through any art form).

You Say You Want a Revolution

Instructor: Dr. Stephen Collis, English
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 am–12:20 pm / FASS 101 D003

Whether it is the latest technological wonder, surprise and often bewildering election results, or the climate, part of the contemporary condition is the feeling that the world is constantly changing at an ever quickening pace.

At the same time, we often feel powerless to effect any significant social changes ourselves. Change — the desire for it and fear of it — is at the core of our political and personal lives.

In this course we will consider poetry, fiction, film and music that helps us think large-scale change as a possibility, and ourselves as possible agents of such change.  

Below: Dr. Steve Collis's acceptance speech when he and Dr. Lynne Quarmby received SFU's Sterling Prize in Suport of Controversy.