March 2014
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What’s an FYS and an SIS?

FYS and SIS are two of the most common acronyms you can expect to encounter on the Hill. For McDaniel students, these three-letter terms roll right off the tongue, but for people who aren’t yet a part of the McDaniel community, these terms are probably unfamiliar, at least in the contexts in which McDaniel students use them.

Let’s start by defining the FYS. An FYS is a First Year Seminar, but that term also needs to be defined. The First Year Seminar is the first course you’ll ever register for as a McDaniel student. All first year students have to take an FYS, but the good news is, it’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about in completing the McDaniel Plan. Soon after you’ve enrolled at McDaniel, you’ll be asked to rank your preferences from a list of cool and fun-sounding FYS classes so that McDaniel can work its magic and put you in one that will be interesting for you. These courses are designed to introduce first year college students to what life and academics at McDaniel College are like, all while exposing you to fascinating topics and all sorts of resources on the Hill.

My advice to students in ranking their FYS choices is to choose carefully but not stress out about it. Once you’re registered for your FYS, you cannot change it, so make sure your list includes classes that interest you, not your friends, not your parents, and not other incoming McDaniel students you meet on Facebook. You should also feel free to choose an FYS that’s completely outside of your discipline, particularly since almost none of the FYS classes count towards any particular major. For more advice on choosing an FYS, check out this guide that I wrote for last year’s incoming first year class.

Examples of FYS courses include From Grimm to Disney, Scientific Revolutions, and Alexander on the Road. My FYS was called Gender, Literature, and Culture. In that class, we read books and other works from the 20th and 21st centuries and discussed how these works portrayed gender and sexuality. At the end of the course, everyone got to write a paper on the topic of their choice, so I wrote a paper about the portrayal of women in Harry Potter.

I also had a lot of fun with my FYS outside of the classroom. My FYS professor, Becky Carpenter, arranged outings for my classmates and I to go to Baugher’s, a produce store and restaurant within walking distance from campus, to eat ice cream, and for us to carve pumpkins at her house. Some of my classmates had never carved pumpkins before so to see them delight in an experience I had taken for granted was truly wonderful.

My FYS had some serious pumpkin carving prowess!

My FYS had some serious pumpkin carving prowess!

So now that you know what an FYS is, let’s quickly discuss the SIS. In your sophomore year, you’ll take an SIS–a Sophomore Interdisciplinary Studies class. The goal of the SIS, which is also a component of the McDaniel Plan, is to expose students to a variety of academic disciplines by showing how they can be applied to a particular topic.

SIS classes also have a lot of cool names and topics. This year, there’s a professor offering an SIS on the Hunger Games, and McDaniel is well-known around the internet for having an SIS about South Park. Not all of the SIS classes have to do with pop culture though. Students can also pick from courses such as Southern Appalachia and the Arab World.

For my SIS, I took a class called the Hero’s Journey. This class was about the ideas of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell and had to do with archetypes, the collective unconscious, and (you guessed it) the hero’s journey. Throughout the semester, he had guest speakers come in to teach us about shamanic drumming, art therapy, and astrology. We read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and The Wizard of Oz and did projects on the Hero’s Journey in the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. My professor liked the research a classmate and I conducted on Harry Potter so much that he invited us to put together a more in depth presentation on Harry Potter and Jung to present at a Jungian meetup the next semester.


Here I am giving a presentation on the Jungian elements in Harry Potter at the Baltimore Jungian Working Group meetup in April 2013.

The FYS and the SIS are some of the coolest components of the McDaniel Plan, and with so many interesting topics to choose from, they’re part of what makes McDaniel unique!


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