“Do you wish you could apparate, play quidditch, or ride a hippogriff?”
I couldn’t help but think “YES!” as I read the course description for my first-year seminar, “The Ethics of Harry Potter.” As an avid reader of the series, I was overjoyed when I learned that I would be discussing the intersection of ethics, philosophy, and fiction with other Harry Potter lovers during my first semester of college.
When I first showed up for class, I didn’t really know what to expect. Although many of us were strangers to one another when we arrived to the first class, we instantly started to bond over the book series. The friendships that we’ve made over the course of the semester are a key component of first-year seminars. Our exceptional professor, Dr. Rick Arras, whom we like to compare to Dumbledore, rearranged the desks in a more circular formation to foster collaborative and inclusive class discussions.
Over the course of the semester, we have discussed different moral and ethical subjects. We reflected on the idea of destiny and pondered philosophical questions like: Did Harry have a freewill growing up? Were all of his ideas and actions driven by destiny? We also spent time reflecting on unconditional love, and discussing whether Snape’s love for Lily, Harry’s mother, was unconditional or just plain selfish. To help facilitate our discussions, we use a golden snitch to throw around the room to generate class participation.
Outside of class discussions, we host movie nights every other week. As we feast on soda and pizza, we watch our favorite characters go on adventures and overcome hardships. Our professor brings the class mascot, a Dobby doll, to watch the movies with us.
The course, while fun, serves a much larger purpose. First-year seminars help students transition to college. Our professor and peer mentor (an upperclassman) assist us with important information and resources. In our FYS, I have learned how to register for courses, travel into Philadelphia, and print at the library. Every first-year seminar is different, however. Some classes go on field trips and excursions, depending on their focus. Whether you are interested in Harry Potter or not, there is a seminar for everyone including Monsters in Our Midst, Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold, A Study in Character: Sherlock Holmes, The Hero’s Journey, Ancient Myth to Modern Day, and so many more!