Research-Focused First Year Seminars

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In collaboration with the University College and interested faculty members/departments, OUR is happy to offer students Research-Focused First Year Seminars (FYS).  As an R1 research institution, the University of Iowa understands the enormous benefit that students gain from involvement in research and creative work.  OUR believes that all students graduating from the UI should know what research looks like in their field of study.  That is why we are asking faculty to consider incorporating a very basic level of research knowledge and instruction into their FYS proposals.  

Research-focused FYS's are intended to provide students with an opportunity to learn first hand about the nature and process of university research and creative scholarship at the University of Iowa. They also allow faculty to engage students in asking and answering research and creative questions. Many FYS's already have the structure of a research-focused FYS, where faculty share their excitement for and knowledge of research with students.  This can be achieved by modifying normal FYS proposals to include things like:

  • Defining research in the context of your own work.
  • Describing the research methodology you use in your research or creative practice 
  • Developing research question
  • Visiting a relevant research site, either on or off campus
  • Allowing students to design and present a research question and methodology for addressing the question. 
  • Teaching students about the mentor/mentee dynamic. 

Submit your proposal or find out more about FYS.


We will explore how and why art is stolen from communities and museums as well as the cultural impact of such thefts. After working with a U.S. Special Agent to understand what happens when looted art reappears on the global art market, you will put your newly-acquired knowledge to the test by sleuthing for potentially stolen artworks in a recent auction-house catalog. Throughout the course, we will be discussing the dangers looted art pose to cultural heritage as well as how stolen art factors into the relationship between colonialism, geopolitical power, and artwork displayed in museums. Course requirements included participation, written reading responses, and an oral presentation.


As a vibrant college town, Iowa City is home to an active and diverse live music community. For many students, participation in the local music scene is fundamental to the college experience. This class takes the students’ own social engagement with live music as a departure point for investigating the diversity and significance of live music communities throughout Iowa City. Support for live music in Iowa City is evident not only from the plethora of venues—from civic theaters to bars and coffee shops—but also from collaborative projects between public institutions and local musicians.

You will explore, investigate, and critically examine Iowa City's local music culture through collaborative ethnographic research, reflexively engaging in local music events as a participant-observer, and leading face-to-face discussions with significant contributors to Iowa City's musical culture. Drawing upon brief readings within the tradition of musical ethnography, you will formulate a critical framework for considering the nature of live music as a social experience and its significance for community development and sustainability. Finally, you will become a contributing participating to local musical culture as a performer/presenter of a final project.


As a society, we are increasingly aware that we are facing complex sustainability challenges that require innovative solutions. How can we grow 50% more food by 2050 without losing our last wild spaces on earth? How will we provide clean water to 10 billion people? Why is climate change such an important problem? What is 2.5PM and why are scientists so worried about it? Can artificial intelligence help, is it a good thing to try? UI Researchers are asking these questions and many more that are vitally important to the future of humanity. It is more important than ever for humans to understand where these problems, and arguments, derive from, what research is doing to answer the questions, and in some cases, what it's doing to cause them. If you are curious about how you can get involved in research as an undergrad, join us this semester for an exploration of the Sustainability Grand Challenges of the 21st century and how we are working to solve them at the University of Iowa.


A little over half the world's population lives in urban areas currently; by 2050 almost 70% of the global population is expected to be living in cities and towns. Urban areas produce over 70% of global greenhouse gases and consume over 75% of global energy resources. The shape, size, and form of urban areas, and how people live in them, have significant impacts on the environment. But urban areas also produce about 85% of economic output, and accommodate an overwhelming majority of the social, cultural and educational assets of communities. Can urban areas continue delivering all the benefits that they do yet reduce their negative effects on the environment and become more equitable? That is the focus of this course.

This course explores theories and practices about sustainable urbanism. It examines global and local environmental issues, and well as significant socioeconomic problems, arising from current patterns of urban development that are, on the whole, not sustainable. It introduces students to many innovative approaches for making cities more sustainable. Thus, the course informs students both to the challenges to sustainable living from increasing urbanization as well as to solutions for overcoming those challenges. Throughout the course, students will be required to contemplate on the core of the quest for urban sustainable urbanism -- the relationship between humans and nature.


This course takes you on a tour of some of the most important recent memorials, museums and monuments to the Holocaust in Europe, the abolition of slavery in Europe (with a virtual eye to the US) and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in the New York. This course introduces you to current debates on why nations remember atrocities they committed, why national remembrance is important for remembrance of acts of terrorism and how it allows societal healing. We will discuss different architectural and design approaches to recent memorials and museums and analyze how these approaches challenge our traditional understanding of monuments. We will also examine recent US debates on the necessity of removing Confederate monuments and memorials. At each stop, we will learn basic information about the history of the memorial site, the historical events that are being remembered, the design approach, the memorial's intended message to the public and the interventions the memorial and/or museum is making in public space. We will start in Berlin and discuss the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe as well as the Jewish Museum Berlin. We will then visit the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and discuss its relationship to the Memorial of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Then we will travel to Nantes, France and virtually visit the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery. In the course of discussing the memorial in Nantes, we will also examine the UN Permanent Memorial to honor the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade at the United Nations in NY. We will continue with a tour of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York and discuss how Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial inspired elements of this architectural design. Before discussing the current issue of Confederate Monuments in the United States, we will pose the question of whether monuments have protective rights and under which conditions the rights of monuments can be relinquished.