FirstBridge is discovery

FirstBridge is the hallmark of your first year at AUP. This dynamic, innovative learning experience provides a solid foundation for the rigor of future academic work at AUP and allows you to gain new knowledge and skills that you will use outside the university and beyond in your professional life. By taking two paired courses in two different disciplines, you will explore a range of interdisciplinary issues and questions, and complete individual and team projects while improving vital skills in writing, public speaking and information literacy. It will connect you with the people and resources at AUP that will help you chart a critical pathway to academic and personal success. It is both an introduction to university life at AUP but lso an introduction to the cosmopolitan city of Paris.

FirstBridge from a Freshman Perspective

FirstBridge and Paris—a combination essential to your learning

Paris is a city known for its beauty, its exquisite museums and monuments, its avant-gardism – and more recently for its new urban developments, global communications and edgy demographic and linguistic shifts. AUP is proud to be at the center of the City of Light and the FirstBridge program embraces this richness. We link the adventurous learning experiences of entering AUP students first to the cutting-edge events of the city, then to the challenges of a global context. Eventually, we bring all explorations back into our multicultural classroom for analysis and project building.

Choosing a FirstBridge

You may be arriving at AUP with a strong sense of your intellectual interests and desired educational and career path, or you may not. FirstBridge is designed to help you confirm interests and explore new ones, to go outside of your comfort zone and take risks. If you have decided on a major or minor, we encourage you to choose a FirstBridge that is outside of this field. The following descriptions will help you to decide which FirstBridge is right for you. Follow the link that accompanies each FirstBridge, read the course descriptions carefully and let them spark your curiosity.

FirstBridge learning communities are paired courses taught by two different professors. The two courses each meet twice a week and are carefully designed for you to make connections between two disciplines. A reflective seminar will help you to discover how one course informs the other. FirstBridge will make up half of your course load during your first semester, for a total of eight credits.

A Selection of FirstBridge Courses

FirstBridge 1: Leadership and Aggression in Ancient Rome and the Contemporary World

What is the role of aggression and dominance in successful leadership and our ideas of leadership? Looking for answers to this question, we will combine methodologies of international business administration with historical, literary, and philosophical analysis. Comparing the way individuals thought they could exert power over others in Ancient Rome and management practices in the contemporary world, students will acquire basic concepts of leadership, emotional intelligence, and human interaction.

PL1091 (GE100): Power, Rage, and Dominance in Imperial Rome

Prof. Jula Wildberger

What role did aggression play in the success or failure of leaders in ancient Rome? Taking as examples famous conquerors and emperors, such as Julius Caesar or Nero, we will read contemporary accounts and discussions of leaders and their leadership style from various genres: philosophy (Seneca, Lucretius), history (Tacitus), memoir (Caesar), biography (Suetonius, Plutarch, Tacitus), but also literary depictions of fictitious leaders, such as Atreus in Seneca’s drama Thyestes or Trimalchio in Petronius’ novel Satyrica. The course takes into account different levels of EN placement and English language ability, but students must be willing to devote considerable time to reading a substantial amount of pages in this reading-intensive course.

BA2020 (GE110): Management and Organizational Behavior

Prof. Kate Zhang

The course introduces students to basic Management/Organizational Behavior concepts and enables them to understand the attitude and behaviors of individuals and groups in an organizational setting, which covers a wide range of types, such as companies, not-for-profit organizations, and governments, among others. Students will be enabled to use Organizational Behavior tools and theories to identify and give solutions to complex problems from a global perspective. Students will be engaged in lectures, case studies, simulation games, discussion, and various class activities that provide a diverse and robust understanding of human interaction in organization.

FirstBridge 2: Mothers and Others: Human Sex, Sexuality, and Mating Systems from Evolutionary and Feminist Perspectives

As human beings, why do we have sex? Why are there males and females? How does gender get culturally, historically, and socially created? How do bodies get pregnant? How does the institution of motherhood get created across cultures? Debunking the idea of maternal instinct because what it means to be a mother depends on what animal you are and where you are.

IDISC1091 (GE100): Human Evolution and Motherhood

Prof. Elena Berg

In this course, you will learn how motherhood is shaped by human mating and social systems in which we live. We will learn about the biology of sex, sexuality, and mating systems, and our notions about motherhood and the role of women in society. What does biology have to say about the roles of men and women, challenging assumptions about how men and women are different? This class will explore the notion of cooperative breeding in human mating systems and how we evolved in the context of hunter-gatherers and other primates.

CL/GS1091 (GE115): Motherhood: Promise and Peril

Prof. Elizabeth Kinne

When women are still encouraged to embrace “having it all,” maternity remains central to social constructions of femininity. This class will explore the connections between reproduction, motherhood, and sexuality through a feminist lens, refuting the fallacy of “maternal instinct” and considering the global political, economic, and racial inequality in normative heterosexual reproduction. In order to better understand the cultural, social, and economic implications of contemporary motherhoods, we will talk about contraception, abortion, reproductive technologies, adoption, surrogacy, the global outsourcing of childcare and affective labor, the mommy wars, queer maternities. This cross-listed course will explore contemporary maternities through literature and provide an introduction to feminist theory with readings, including The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, selections in feminist science fiction, and non-fiction or theoretical texts.

FirstBridge 3: Human Thinking/Machine Thinking

This course explores the ever more porous boundaries between computers and people. In an age where technology shows growingly human characteristics, and human behavior and thought are increasingly manipulated using machines, this FirstBridge course provides students with practical and critical skills to navigate the latest developments in the man-machine matrix. Tomer Libal’s classes will provide an introduction to key concepts in computational thought as well as establish students’ basic coding skills. Russell Williams’ classes will consider how forms of writing, including essays, poems, novels, Tweets and Facebook posts strive to articulate what is uniquely human. In the reflective seminar, students and professors will collaborate on a digital project, which seeks to practically interrogate the relationship between computing and literature and consider different attempts to digitalize different aspects of human thinking. Students will discuss, too, how contemporary thinkers and popular culture (including the TV series Black Mirror) articulate some of the pressing issues raised by the course. This FirstBridge course will, from computational and literary standpoints, stage a series of encounters between key concepts, such as ‘stories’, ‘structures’, ‘logic’, ‘thinking’, ‘creativity’, ‘knowledge’, ‘influence’, and ‘experimentation’.

CS1091 (GE110): The Symbolic Mind

Prof. Tomer Libal

Can machines think? This course investigates the core characteristics of the digital mind and will analyze it from different human perspectives, including thinking, intelligence, imagination, and ethics. The course will touch upon key concepts in the ways machines work, such as programming, logic, and artificial intelligence, in order to better understand the benefits and risks found in machines, technology, and bots, which are an inseparable part of our modern lives.

CL1091 (GE100): Deep and Shallow, Fast and Slow

Prof. Russell Williams

The starting point of this class will be the written word. Using examples drawn from a wide range of literary texts, as well as essays, films, TV series, and social media snippets, students will be encouraged to think deeply about reading and writing and, in particular, reflect on how they read and write. What does it mean to write when we spend so much of our lives in front of a keyboard? What does it mean to read when our attention is so frequently under pressure from a range of sources?  What does it mean to be human in a technological age?


We hear and read about struggles in many regions in the world, but how much do we know about the origins and causes of these struggles and about the cultural richness of the societies in these regions? This FirstBridge will examine this question through the perspectives of history, politics, and linguistics. The history and politics course will examine the Middle East and its contemporary politics. The region’s rich array of languages and their relation to historical change and contemporary sociological developments in the Middle East and beyond will be the focus of the linguistics course. A study trip to Beirut and excursions that investigate relations between Europe and the Middle East through the French and Parisian environment will also be a part of the course, as well as external speakers, film screenings, and individual and group research projects based on relevant questions identified together during the semester.

LI1091 (GE110): Language and Society

Prof. Rebekah Rast

We often have preconceptions about the languages, dialects and accents spoken in our home countries or elsewhere. An accent, for example, may carry a particular status. One language might be used in schools, while another is spoken at home. A certain dialect might be used by news presenters, while another is not. Where do these ideas and customs come from? How do they affect speech communities and their relationships with other communities? What happens when different languages and dialects come into contact with each other? This course will begin to address these questions through an exploration of languages spoken in the Middle East and how these languages and dialects evolved. We will then follow the movement of people into Europe and the Americas, where a myriad of languages are spoken. The course will consider language interaction within multilingual communities and individuals, switching between languages, and the development of Pidgins and Creoles. Case studies, fieldwork, and reports of your own linguistic experience will be an integral part of the course.

ME1091 (GE100): Struggles, Cultures, Identities, and Revolutions in the Modern Middle East

Prof. Ziad Majed

Following the decline of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, five founding moments have marked the history of the Middle East. The first is the one of European promises, betrayals, and establishment of maps and borders (1915-1920). The second moment is that of the creation of Israel in 1947, followed by the First Arab Israeli war (1948-49), and the displacement of a million Palestinians. The third moment, 1973, is the one of the last Arab-Israeli war, the oil boom, and the rise of political Islam. The fourth moment is that of the Iranian revolution in 1979, followed by the devastating Iraq-Iran war. It happened at the same moment when the Afghan jihad started against the Soviet army. The fifth is the one that was inaugurated in 2011, when revolutions against dictatorships erupted in many Arab countries. Conflicts, counter-revolutions and foreign military interventions followed and led to the series of crises that the Middle East (and the world) continues to witness today.

Organized around a central lecture, the course will allow students to achieve a nuanced understanding of politics in the modern Middle East, giving them the tools they need to take part in a variety of contemporary debates. Film screenings and visits to institutes and media outlets in Paris will be organized. Students will also be encouraged to do case studies and make class presentations.

FirstBridge 5: SELF AND OTHER: The Construction of Identity and Boundaries

What makes us distinctly human? How are we to understand the process by which we see ourselves as human and learn to live in the world? At the center of our understanding of our sense of being human lies the dichotomy of “Self” and “Other.” It is the very idea of similarity and difference that is central to the way in which we achieve a sense of identity and social belonging. What sets us apart from the natural world, what differentiates us from each other (gender, race, ethnicity), and how are these boundaries constructed and maintained?

CL1091 (GE100): Thou Art the Cause I to Myself Am Strange

Prof. Brenton Hobart

The object of this course is to examine the concept of the self and the other through works of history, literature, philosophy, as well as self-exploration: how do we describe ourselves? How can we be sure that the individuals we think we are really represent our true selves?

AN1002 (GE110): Socio-cultural Anthropology: Finding the human in all of us

Prof. Tanya Elder

Social Anthropology is the comparative study of human societies and cultures. It emphasizes first-hand observation, pays attention to the details of everyday life, examines social relations, and asks not only how things work, but also what they mean to the people concerned. It uses ethnography, comparison and a holistic approach to make sense of the strange and unfamiliar amongst other peoples, and to question what seems normal and natural to ourselves. In this course, students will be acquainted with a range of theoretical approaches and anthropologists that have contributed to the discipline. They will be introduced to how in different societies identity is constructed both socially and culturally, and finally through their own experience in the field, they will gain an understanding of what it entails to conduct ethnographic research.


This First Bridge pairing has been successfully offered in different forms in previous years, and it has been revised and updated for Fall 2018. It draws upon the accumulated pedagogical and scholarly expertise of its instructors and makes ample use of the Paris and French environment, notably planning visits to sites, such as the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Islamic Art Department of the Louvre, the Paris Mosque, the Institut des Cultures d’Islam and the Musée de l’Immigration in Paris. Visits illustrate issues discussed in class, among them the historical identity of Islamic civilization, the contours of the Arab world, and contemporary debates about immigration, identity, and citizenship in the Arab world, Europe and beyond.

Class visits outside Paris are also planned, one to Marseille, an important crossing point of European, Mediterranean and Arab identities, and Cairo, Egypt, again building upon experience and contacts gained over previous years.

HI2010 (GE100): Early Islamic History

Prof. Justin McGuinness

This course deals with the context of Islam’s emergence and how its history was written in the religion’s first centuries. The course gives students an understanding of how the last of the major monotheistic traditions emerged from an obscure part of the Arabian Peninsula and how and why it spread so successfully. Students gain an understanding of how past events were collected, written up, and understood by early Muslim scholars. The course provides students with an ideal introduction to this major world religion and ideas about historiography.

CL1091 (GE100): Modern to Contemporary in the Arab World

Prof. David Tresilian 

This course introduces students to the literature of the modern Arab world, using this as a way into understanding this still sometimes poorly understood region. Providing sound foundations in twentieth-century literature from a range of Arab countries, the course brings students right up to date to the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring Revolutions and contemporary debates about the identity and direction of the Arab world. By studying this literature and reflecting on the societies from which it comes, students will be able to reinforce their critical thinking, writing, reading, and other skills through careful analysis of literary and other materials and various critical lines of thought.

FirstBridge 7: MEMORY-MAKING

What makes up our memories? What human capacities, techniques and tools provide historical and lived continuity? How do media, social institutions and designed spaces, such as museums, memorials, and monuments contribute to our lived sense of history and time? From Paleolithic cave paintings to contemporary museums and digital photography, from the earliest vocalizations and songs to Auto-tune and mp3s, from archaic scratches of signs and ancient libraries to modern archives and servers, from co-narratives in childhood to national memories, we will study the co-evolution of media and the possibilities of knowing, understanding, remembering. How are speech, inscription, writing, narrative, and storytelling fundamental to the manifold ways of understanding self, world and time?

CM2004 (GE100): Comparative Communications History: Media, Memory & Visual Culture

Prof. Charles Talcott 

From communications and cultural studies perspectives, students will undertake an exploration of ‘institutions of memory.’ We will trace the historical, cultural and technological evolutions of intensely creative ‘mediated places’ from Paleolithic caves in the South of France to digital archives in the heart of Paris with special focus on museums, monuments and memorials.

PY1091 (GE110): Introduction to Memory Studies

Prof. Brian Schiff 

Beginning from historical, psychoanalytic, and cognitive perspectives on memory and moving onto sociological and cultural perspectives, students will explore the powerful theoretical and applied implications of an approach to memory that breaks down the borders between persons and social groups. Through the close reading of cutting-edge social science texts, we inquire into the fundamental notions of collective memory, narrative, identity, time, and performance and their applicability to how personal and social meanings of the past are fashioned: What is memory? Where is memory? Is social memory subject to the same processes as individual memory? What is the relationship between truth and memory and between memory and history? What memories are concealed and why? Does commemoration serve its intended purpose to increase awareness and understanding? What are the cultural, social, political, and aesthetic reasons for how and why historical events are manufactured and represented? How do museums, monuments, and sites construct and tell a version of the past?


This FirstBridge examines the self through the mediums of writing and art. Students study authors who have used autobiographical narrative to examine the essential question of identity——“Who am I?” —from Saint Augustine to the present. Concurrently, they examine a wide range of writings by artists (letters, journals, theoretical texts, interviews) to question the relationship between words and artworks. These forms of inquiry are complemented by activities and exercises at some of Paris’s most celebrated museums.

CL1091 (GE100): Autobiographical Writing

Prof. Daniel Medin

In this class, we will study authors who have used autobiographical narrative, essays, diaries, letters, fiction, and other forms to examine essential questions of identity from the antiquity to the present. Our exploration of these modes of inquiry will be complemented by the study of historical masters of self-portraiture, such as Van Gogh. By learning how others have documented their experience in language and in line, students become better readers of themselves and the world, and develop the technical skill to articulate this understanding with greater clarity.

AH1020 (GE100): Writing About One’s Art, Looking at Artists’ Writing

Prof. Hervé Vanel

“It’s always hopeless to talk about painting,” once said the British painter Francis Bacon, “one never does anything but talk around it.” This class of the class will study the relationship between an artist’s writings (in the broad sense: letters, journal, statement, interview, manifesto) and the process of creation. What is the value of such texts in interpreting works, a mode of communication that is primarily visual? Examples will focus on 19th- and 20th-century artists.


How do power structures within society inform and restrict our roles as citizens? How do the images we create in popular culture reinforce and challenge these structures? This FirstBridge will investigate power relations as they are circulated through sex and gender in issues of social justice and cinematic representation. 

FM1091 (GE100): Sex, Gender, and Cinema

Prof. Marie Regan 

How does cinema shape the cultural power dynamics regarding gender and alter our sense of who we might become? In this class, we learn how cinema works as an art form, then investigate how those cinematic elements and codes work with respect to gender: who has the power to look, who is looked at, how does form challenge content, and who controls what is made? Watching a wide range of films including those from Alice Guy, Alfred Hitchcock, Chantel Ackerman, Todd Haynes, Billy Wilder, Claire Denis, Barry Jenkins and others, we will explore theories of aesthetics, spectator positioning and cultural reception as well as analyze how films and ideas are changing in the contemporary cinematic moment.

GS1091 (GE110): Sex, Gender, and Social Justice

Prof. Lissa Lincoln

How do sex and gender influence our understanding and experience of society? How do they inform questions of social justice? This FirstBridge class will examine multiple forms of social oppression and inequality based on sex and gender. From this perspective, students will be introduced to the interdisciplinary analysis of systemic aspects of exploitation, violence and persecution and the ways in which these systems of oppression are reflected on individual, cultural, institutional and/or global levels. We will also consider and compare culturally specific strategies of resistance to systemic sexual and gender-based oppression.


Can power relations be put into a formula? Politics and mathematics pervade our lives. Both govern when they aim to provide order through laws. What we see on our bank accounts and laptop screens gets shaped by governments’ taxes and regulations, but also by the algorithms employed by banks and search engines. In this FirstBridge, we study the analysis of political power and the power of mathematical analysis.

MA1091 (GE120): Mathematics Underlying the Political World

Prof. Nahid Walji

We will investigate some of the mathematics behind politics, including financial mathematics, encryption, and statistical analysis. This includes the study of modular arithmetic, the accumulation of capital, and how special interests can process statistical data to obfuscate reality.

PO1011: Foundations of Modern Politics

Prof. Peter Hägel

What is politics – the quest for the common good (Plato, 360 BCE), or the calculations and machinations of who gets what, when, and how (Lasswell, 1936)? This course introduces you to the study of politics through foundational texts of political science and theory, discussed in relation to current affairs.

FirstBridge 12: Paying our Dues: Debt and Justice

In this First Bridge, we explore the economic and political mechanisms that hold society together. Given how selfish we think humans are, isn’t it astonishing how individuals manage to cooperate on such a gigantic scale every day? Hundreds of millions of people are ferried rapidly across distances unimaginable a few centuries ago just to get to work in the morning, doing jobs that allow you to turn on the light, drink a coffee and text your bestie! At the same time, we accept, as if it were fate, vertiginous inequalities and structural injustice for certain people as part of that cooperation. Can humans do better in organizing society?

PO 1091: Plato and Aristotle: How To Make a Political Body

Prof. Oliver Feltham

This course is an introduction to political philosophy via the exploration of two classic texts, Aristotle’s Politics and Plato’s Republic, and a number of modern and contemporary responses to those texts in the democratic and republican traditions. Our exploration will be guided by two major questions: what is the genesis of a political body? And which factors facilitate or threaten the cohesion and stability of the political body? These questions will lead us through an examination of topics as diverse as the nature of justice, political friendship, the construction of the supreme good, the distinction between a good and a bad education, the nature of citizenship, the subversive role of poetry and the arts in politics, the relation between ideas and reality, the prevention or provocation of revolution, and the question of the good life – whether it is that of the wealthy, the politician or the philosopher. By the end of the course you should be able to defeat all adversaries in arguments about these important topics, and you will also possess two of the most solid definitions of happiness that can be found in Mediterranean philosophy.

EC 1091: How Money, Debt & Tax Made the Modern Economy

Prof. Maria Bach

This course is an introduction to key economic concepts and instruments that make up our modern economy. The course will focus on money, debt and tax in an attempt to understand when these things were invented and why. Our exploration will help us understand how our economy works and doesn’t work. We will explore how money, debt and tax came about through an historical analysis of old and new texts, some well-known, others hardly at all. The kinds of questions you will be able to answer by the end of the course include: why does money, of all things, have the ability to exchange all goods? When was money first invented and how does it help our economy function? How can you just invent a new kind of money like a cryptocurrency? What is debt and what role does it play in society? Is debt good, bad or something else? When and why were taxes invented? Do taxes keep society together and if so how?