First-Year Seminar courses showcase MC’s Fit. Green. Happy. initiative

First-Year Seminar courses showcase MC’s Fit. Green. Happy. initiative 

Nov. 16, 2017 

Maryville College believes in the evidence linking fitness, sustainability, happiness and high academic performance – so much so that the College trademarked the term “Fit. Green. Happy.” to describe the new initiative that provides strong connections between the Mountain Challenge outdoor adventure and team-building corporation, academic departments, courses and the College’s location.

This semester, several first-year seminar courses (FYS 110) focus on topics related to the Fit. Green. Happy. initiative. A core requirement for freshmen starting their college experience, FYS 110 courses are offered each fall semester, and the courses reflect professors’ interests and expertise. Serving as a multi-faceted introduction to the liberal arts, FYS courses enhance academic and communication skills, encourage critical thinking and facilitate personal and professional exploration.

“Interest seems to be increasing among both faculty and students in courses that integrate significant outdoor experiences into the course requirements,” said Dr. Crystal Colter, associate professor of psychology and assistant dean for retention and the first year. “In fact, of 19 First-Year Seminar topics, nearly one quarter of first-year students who responded to a preference survey chose one of the two outdoors-focused options as their first choice, and 40 percent ranked one of these two courses as their first or second choice.” 

Get Out and Play!

with Dr. Jennifer Oody, Assistant Professor of Exercise Science

Nature-based play is an essential component of child health. Yet, the time American children spend outdoors is rapidly declining. Why has this decline occurred? Why do children need nature-based play for physical and emotional health? What is the role of nature-based play and nature-based education in the development of our future environmental stewards? This class explores the emerging field of nature-based play in youth as it relates to health, well-being and the environment through discussions and physical activity.

C’Mon Get Happy

with Dr. Jeremy Steeves Assistant Professor of Exercise Science and Bruce Guillaume, Director of Mountain Challenge

What does it mean to be happy? What makes people happy? Money? A lot of money? Good grades? Are you happy? Is the U.S. a happy country?  Is there a happiness-health connection? Do happier people live longer? Will happiness decrease the risk for diseases such as hypertension or diabetes? This course explores the emerging field of happiness, as it relates to wellness, leadership and vocation, through a series of film, discussion and physical/outdoor activities.

For example, the class participates in several “activity days” throughout the semester. During one activity, students explore the Maryville College Woods to emphasize the points outlined in one of the class’s required readings, Your Brain on Nature, by Eva M. Selhub and Alan C. Logan.

“One of the chapters, ‘Green Exercise is Like Exercised Squared,’ discusses how the numerous benefits of exercise can be amplified when done outside,” Steeves explained. “Data from one study found that forest exercise enhances self-reported mood and vigor; lowers fatigue, tension and anger; and reduces blood pressure and cortisol greater than exercising on a treadmill.

Other studies have shown that the quality of exercise improves when you head into nature due to the changing conditions (wind resistance and uneven terrain create extra effort, both physically and mentally).”

Energize! Finding How Science, Wellness and Nature Can Recharge Your Life

with Dr. Mark O’Gorman, Professor of Political Science & Coordinator of Environmental Studies Program

Whether made inside the human body, captured and converted by solar panels, or produced by trees in the forest, energy is all around us and impacts our daily lives in many ways. This class looks at energy; how it works, how it helps us, and how other-than-traditional ways to find new energy can restore our lives at MC, and after. For example, how can yoga and massage recharge us? How can a walk in the woods heal us, and why is this simple act one of the most written-about themes in Literature? Why have US Presidents affirmed the power of the midday nap? And how can looking for ‘critters’ in a stream be as powerful as lunch? Students are encouraged to unplug and learn simple ways to reenergize their lives! 

Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

with Andrew Gunnoe, Assistant Professor of Sociology

This course provides students with a social and ecological introduction to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).  Founded in 1934, the GSMNP is the most visited national park in the nation, attracting over 11 million visitors to the region annually. Maryville College is ideally situated just miles from the park’s entrance and students attending the college are afforded a unique opportunity to explore the park’s rich social, cultural and ecological history. This course examines how the interplay of social and ecological processes have shaped the park’s history and development. Topics covered include ecology, history, public policy, economics and tourism. This course also emphasizes recreation and students are required to visit the park several times throughout the semester. The primary goal is to foster a broad liberal arts interpretation of the GSMNP and to encourage students to develop their own capacity for exploration into the park, and beyond. Check out photos from students’ visits to the GSMNP by searching #mcgsmnp on Instagram!


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,146.