About Sweet Briar College’s y:1 program

SWEET BRIAR COLLEGE’S y:1 PROGRAM is an exciting  program that offers participating students a head start on their college careers. The program is specifically designed to promote first-year students’ intellectual and academic engagement by offering them the opportunity to participate in a series of coordinated activities.

Students selected to participate in the program complete a summer reading-and-response assignment; participate in an orientation program of discussions, collaboration, and presentations; enroll in small, coordinated first-year seminars; and participate in year-long assessment activities – all tied to the college’s annual Common Reading book, which for 2012-2013 is Jack Weatherford’s The History of Money. (Jack Weatherford will be speaking with y:1 students this fall.)

The y:1 program is also designed to develop students’ technological skills and digital sophistication. Thus, every student selected to participate in the program receives a free iPad loaded with applications and with a digital version of the Common Reading book.

The faculty who participate in the program are selected on the basis of their demonstrated excellence in teaching and on their interest in working collaboratively with their colleagues to create a challenging and exciting program that guides students in developing the reading, research, and analytical skills that they will employ throughout their college education.




The y:1 seminars for FALL 2012 are: 


American Economies in the 19th Century: assigning value to people and goods

Prof. Lynn Rainville

How do we assign “value” to ideas and commodities? How did politicians justify killing Native Americans in order to achieve American “manifest destiny” in the west? Why was higher education for women and African Americans devalued? What value did slave holders put on enslaved individuals? This class will analyze the anthropological foundation of Weatherford’s thesis and then investigate how 19th-century Americans calculated the value of the people and products that they exchanged. Our research will include a study of the enslaved community that lived on the Sweet Briar Plantation.


 Boom, Panic, Crash, Bust: A History of Financial Crises from the Tulipmania to the Euro Meltdown

Prof. Steve Bragaw

In this course we will examine the history of money, financial innovation, and folly, focusing on the history of financial crises, concluding with the crash of the U.S. stock market in 2008. Major themes will include the complex interrelationship of governments, debt, and financial markets; the interrelationship of financial and artistic innovation; and the mixed record of governments in both creating as well as preventing financial crises.


 Economic Botany

Prof. Janet Steven

Plants are fundamental to human economies.  The domestication of plants for agriculture and the allure of chocolate, drugs and spices have shaped our currency and our culture. The course will examine the biological aspects of plants that give them properties useful to humans and the complex intersection of plants and money.  We will also explore the use of iPad and photographic technology in studying and documenting the plant communities that grow on campus.



Must the Artist Crusade? The role of the artist and the value of art in American culture

Prof. David Griffith

In this course we will try to square the commonly held notion that art is a valuable cultural asset with the often troubling, countercultural image and lifestyle of the artist.  We will study the changing image and role of the artist in culture over the course of the last 200 years, from the first bohemians Paris, to the Beat Generation in San Francisco, up to the hipsters of the present, as seen on the popular television show Portlandia.  In particular, we will consider the ways in which economic and technological developments have played a role in these changes.


The webpage for the 2012 y:1 seminar program is here.





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