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. 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.

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.

This year, FirstBridge courses come in two different formats: an intensive Fall-semester course, leaving your Spring semester open to take two elective courses, or a year-long option that spreads your FirstBridge classes across both semesters, leaving room for one elective in each. Be sure to check not only the course descriptions but also the course format before making your final selection.

FirstBridge Courses (Spring 2023)


Since the nineteenth century, theories of race have frequently claimed legitimacy based on Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species, sometimes to violent and discriminatory ends. Literature has at times been complicit in such cooptation, and at times sought to correct for the damage it has wrought. What did Darwin really say, though? How could his ideas have been so useful to people intent on dividing communities?  The language of science has convinced generations that ‘race’ is a actual biological category, rather than the social construct that it is, justifying marginalization, slavery, and genocide. Writers have often engaged in the work of telling stories that were cut off through racist or genocidal practices. By looking at both the history of science and the reparative efforts of literature, we will consider such current issues as why it’s interesting to capitalize the terms Black and White when speaking of race, what contemporary science can and can’t say about the origins of our species, and whether the Darwin Awards are true to the ideas of their namesake. Reproducible science and effective literature will guide us through misconceptions about and misuses of evolution.

AH 1099 FB1: ART AND HUMAN ORIGINS with Professor 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 humans; 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. 


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.


Our understanding or (sometimes deliberate) misunderstanding of non-human animals has played an important role in constructions of self and other, subject and object, nature and culture. The ways we think about ourselves, our ‘natural’ and ‘built’ environments, and our experiences of love, sex, and stress have also informed and been informed by the search for the scientific bases of distinctions between the wild and the domestic. Our philosophical and psychological understanding of the normal and the pathological, of sex and gender, and of race and of class have also involved recourse to real or imagined non-human animals more than we may realize or in certain cases even admit. But beyond models and metaphors, non-human animals are deserving of recognition in their own right, and this First Bridge pairing will provide students with the tools to formulate their own moral arguments about what this means or could mean. 

CL 1099 FB2: ANIMAL RIGHTS AND WRONGS with Professor Tresilian

This course will examine aspects of the discourse on animals from antiquity to the present, picking out particular moments from western and non-western traditions and opening up a range of questions. How have different philosophical and other writers thought about animals and the non-human forms of life with which we share the planet? How has the philosophical tradition on animals informed contemporary movements promoting animal rights or a heightened awareness of animal well-being? Are responses to the present environmental and climatic crisis informed by this tradition? In addition to the readings, the course will include class visits and project work informed by issues raised in discussion.    

PY 1099 FB2: HUMAN-ANIMAL RELATIONSHIPS with Professor Levinson

Psychology, building on its heritage from philosophy and physiology/medicine, has played a particularly influential role in the study of non-human animals and of different sorts of human-animal relationships. It could seem paradoxical, then, that psychologists have only recently become active participants in cross-disciplinary ‘animal studies’ and ‘environmental studies’ where human-animal relationships are featured center-stage. Through readings, creative projects, and debates, this course contributes to a ‘genealogical’ perspective on representations, practices, and experiences of human-animal relationships. We focus on debates concerning the scientific study and clinical contributions of non-human animals, including their classification, naturalistic observations of their behavior, their selection as experimental subjects and more recently as ‘model organisms,’ as well as on their involvement in animal-mediated therapies and emotional support for humans.