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 and 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.

FirstBridge in Spring 2020


This FirstBridge looks at how the human species sees itself and how we envision categories. How do the processes of science, art and history contribute to our understanding of who we are? How does our societal context influence what we do and how we see both the world and each other? How do our depictions of humans in their myriad environments shape our understanding of ourselves and others? 

HI1091 (CCI) Science, Society and Human Origins

Prof. Linda Martz

Given that there is only one human species, Homo sapiens, why are some societies so obsessed with separating people into groups and referring to differences between groups as “racial”? Humans have always identified some people as “Us” and everybody else as “Other,” but the “scientific” discourse of race dates from the 19th century. After examining what science can say about the origins and evolution of our species, students will look at how racialized discourse came into use, how it came to justify slavery and imperialism, how it gave rise to eugenics, and how it can culminate in the ultimate denial of the kinship of humanity, genocide. 

AH1091 (CCI) Art and Human Origins

Prof. Iveta Slavkova

In 1898, the famous French painter Paul Gauguin finished a large canvas entitled Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?. Influenced by Polynesian culture, to the point that he settled in Tahiti and the Marquise Islands for the last decade of his life, Gauguin was preoccupied with finding a visual equivalent to some fundamental questions: what are the origins of humanity, what is the goal of our existence, what is our place in the universe, what happens to us after we die, what will remain behind us? In his attempt to answer these questions, the artist confronted diverse religious references, from Adam and Eve to pagan totems and Buddha, as well as diverse artistic traditions, from his native Western to Polynesian and Japanese. Gauguin’s work was not an exception; at the end of the 19th century, with the progressive recognition of prehistoric art and non-Western art and cultures, artists embraced essential ethic, scientific, philosophical interrogations revising their own beliefs and stereotypes.

This course will explore how important questions such as what makes us human and why we are here are reflected in or expressed through visual representation. We will go back to prehistoric art and what it tells us about our ancestors, the first men and women; we’ll look at representations of the creation of the world and of humans in different cultures (Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Christian medieval in Western Europe, Polynesian); we’ll see how artworks reveal social attitudes towards the “other,” people of different cultures and color, from the Renaissance to Gauguin; finally, we’ll look at how art was used by the Nazis to answer these big questions through simplified images of the purity of the race suggesting the possible rebirth of a pure race and eventually justifying genocide.