The FYE program is an immersion in creative,
critical thinking and cross-disciplinary learning.
Kingdoms are on the verge of toppling and ambitious parents are plotting advantageous
marriages for their single offspring in one Randolph-Macon College First-Year Experience
(FYE) course. The FYE program is an immersion in
creative, critical thinking and cross-disciplinary learning.
Professors Maria Scott (English) and Anne Throckmorton
(history) have divided their cohorts into rival
families who have staked out their strongholds at Washington and Franklin Hall and
Haley Hall on the Randolph-Macon campus. Their goal is to outplay each other and
gain control of the royal court, which is based in
The course, Harry’s Henchman: How Henry VIII Got Rid of his First Two Wives, is
based on the award-winning historical fiction of Hilary Mantel, which explores the
volatile family politics and complicated English Reformation of Henry VIII.
Scott says that “the intersection of history and fiction is a fascinating subject
and one which has a lot of relevance in our culture. We want the students to be
able to discriminate between the two, but also to appreciate the ‘art’ that goes
into representing history.”
In this vein, the students’ first game assignment was to compose individual and
family portraits of themselves as courtiers in a Tudor-esque kingdom for the “Game
of Thrones”-like exercise they are conducting for the whole year. On October 25,
2013, Throckmorton and Scott’s students dressed in character and created portraits
that reflected their “familial” status and their power relationship in the game.
For Maggie Dodson ’17, the “Game of Thrones” theme woven throughout
the course is challenging and fun.
“The game we are playing is helping us learn about history—and it can also be used
as a social experiment,” says Dodson, an arts
management major and art history
minor. “The outcome of the game is dependent on every action, no matter how small,
that each person plays. This FYE course is amazing.”
“At first all of the students were plotting how they could destroy each other,”
says Throckmorton. “Now we are throwing game changers at the students, such as a
coordinated Hampden-Sydney/Longwood invasion, to force them to negotiate with each
other and forge alliances through marriage and promotion into the aristocracy. We
hope will help them understand the intertwined nature of family and religious politics
in an age when political power emanated from one person, the king.”
Brandon Delpi ’17, who is currently playing the role of the King
of Randolph-Macon, understands the precariousness of his position.
“The king did not have unlimited power (as parliament had the power to levy taxes)
and people had to work together to achieve things,” says Delpi. “As king, I am attempting
to balance a fragile nature of affairs. I have learned that the king could not do
whatever he wished; he had to go through the proper channels. For example, I had
to borrow money from some of the merchants in order to raise an army to defeat an
invading force, and without their money I would have been helpless.”
The FYE Program
The First-Year Experience (FYE) program immerses
freshmen in a cross-disciplinary study that is challenging, thought-provoking—and
Small cohorts join professors from two different disciplines for a year-long exploration
of a topic in a challenging set of classes. Outside the classroom, students participate
in co-curricular events designed to deepen their understanding of the topic. The
students’ work culminates in an interdisciplinary analysis that might take the form
of a written report, a video production or a work of art.