Welcome to life as a college student! Right from the first day, First Year Seminar helps you meet other students, connect with faculty members, and become part of the Elms community.

First Year Seminar (FYS) will empower you to make the most of your education here at Elms. With your instructor as a guide and mentor, you and your peers will explore important topics, frame critical questions and seek just solutions. Through special programming, in-class discussions, and campus-wide events, you will become an active member of the Elms College community.

The Aim of First Year Seminar is to develop

  • Critical and innovative thinking
  • Close reading of a text
  • Analysis and open discussion
  • Clear written and oral communication
  • Appreciation of diversity and different viewpoints
  • Intellectual and global curiosity

Introducing First Year Seminar’s
Common Read for 2022-23

Crossing the Line: A Fearless Team of Brothers and the Sport That Changed Their Lives Forever by Kareem Rosser is the Common Read for the First Year Seminar for the 2022-2023 academic year. The Common Read is an integral part of the First Year Seminar because it gives all new first-year students a shared academic experience centered around a theme from the Catholic Social Teachings (CST). The theme for this academic year is Solidarity.

“We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our neighbor’s keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.” According to the US Catholic Bishops, “Solidarity is action on behalf of the one human family, calling us to help overcome the divisions in our world.”

The common read Crossing the Line is related to the CST theme because it emphasizes seeking peace despite violence, hardships, and injustices. Also, that everyone has something to contribute to the community and the greater good.

Crossing the Line: A Fearless Team of Brothers and the Sport That Changed Their Lives Forever is a story about the bonds of brotherhood, family loyalty, and a better future that comes from overcoming impossible odds. A memoir about Kareem Rosser, captain of the first all-black squad to win the National Interscholastic Polo Championship, is a story about defying the odds.

Kareem was born and raised in an underserved community in West Philadelphia, ravaged by crime and violence. He thought he and his siblings would never escape the cycle of poverty. Through struggles and conflict, Kareem persists with determination and discipline and earns his place as a player on the first all-Black national interscholastic polo championship team.

All first-year students are required to complete the Common Read book and engage in related discussions and writing assignments during the First Year Seminar classes. In addition to the First Year Seminar, the selection is also used in upper-level courses to enrich discussion and encourage inquiry.

This book can be purchased here. Books may be purchased in the Elms College bookstore.

First Year Seminar Instructors

  • Jill Bigos, M.S.


    Jill Bigos received her B.A. in biology and chemistry and earned her M.S. in forensic science. Her research projects have included work on tadpole metamorphosis and histology. She currently teaches anatomy & physiology for undergraduate nursing majors as well as Forensic Science. She is also involved in various STEM outreach initiatives for local students in middle school through high school.

    Jill Bigos fys profile photo
  • Alan Bloomgarden, Ed.D.


    Alan H. Bloomgarden, Ed.D. is the inaugural Director of Experiential Learning at Elms College, where he has been working to coordinate, expand and enhance opportunities for community engagement since 2020. Previously, as Director of Community Engagement at Mount Holyoke College, he taught courses in social action and community leadership, and grew the Community-Based Learning (CBL) Program to involve over 400 students annually in more than 25 community-engaged courses, internships, and independent studies. Before Mount Holyoke, Alan served as Director of Faculty Grants and Government/Community Relations at Smith College in Northampton, MA. Alan has a doctorate in higher education leadership and policy from UMass Amherst, an MPhil in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford (UK), and a B.A. in International Relations from Bucknell University. Alan was a Governor’s appointee to the 2012 Massachusetts Special Commission on Civic Engagement and Learning, and co-founded Leadership Pioneer Valley, a regional community leadership program. He serves on WGBY’s Latino Advisory Board, and as an associate editor for the International Journal of Research on Community Engagement and Service Learning.

    Photo of Alan Bloomgarden, Ed.D.
  • Amanda Garcia, MSA, CPA, CFP


    Amanda Garcia is the Director of Graduate Business Programs and the MBA, she also serves as Co-Chair to the undergraduate business division and associate professor of accounting and finance at Elms College. Amanda earned her B.A. in accounting from Elms College and her master of science in accounting from Western New England University. She teaches in the disciplines of accounting, finance, economics and entrepreneurship. She has owned a tax and consulting business for over 15 years, specializing in small business, rental properties, and tax planning for individuals with investments. Amanda is the treasurer for the IACBE Board of Directors. She is a 2010 Business West 40 under 40 awardee and volunteers with Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, Young Professionals of Greater Springfield, and the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the MSCPA.

  • Breanna Marcyoniak


    Bre Marcyoniak serves as the Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities Programming and Management where she is an active representative of the Massachusetts Association for Recreational Sports. She received her bachelor’s degree from UMass Dartmouth in 2014 and earned her master’s degree in sports management and athletic administration from Southern New Hampshire University in 2017. In addition to her athletic department work, she serves as an academic coach with the Center for Student Success. Prior to Elms, she worked as a Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Technician and a softball coach to various levels of play.

    Photo of Bre Marcyoniak
  • Michael McGravey, Ph.D.


    Dr. McGravey earned his doctorate in systematic theology from Duquesne University (Pittsburgh, PA). He holds a master’s degree in theology and religious studies from Villanova University and a bachelor’s from Gannon University. Prior to his experience at Duquesne, he served as a member of the Religious Studies department at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia. His dissertation explored the connections between post-secularism, Continental Philosophy, and ecclesiology, relying on the philosophical writings of Jean-Luc Marion and Gianni Vattimo. Michael has published several book reviews in the field of religious studies and political theology.

    Photo of Michael McGravey, Ph.D.
  • Laura McNeil, Ph.D.


    Laura McNeil is the director of the Honors Scholar Program and an associate professor of history at Elms College. She received her B.A. from Hampshire College and her Ph.D. in history from Boston College. She offers survey courses in European and world history, and upper-level courses in her areas of specialization, modern Ireland and Britain. She enjoys travel and good food. As such, she has led study-abroad trips to Ireland and Italy, and enjoys offering unusual experiential-learning classes, most notably HIS250: “A Taste of Freedom,” a historical and culinary exploration of the American immigration experience.

    Laura McNeil Headshot
  • Michelle Proulx


    Michelle Proulx serves as the Associate Athletic Director and Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Elms College. As part of her responsibilities, she oversees Scheduling, Officials Assigning, serves as the Advisor for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, is the Chapter Director for Chi Alpha Sigma and is the liaison to Admissions. She earned her Master’s in Sport Leadership and Coaching from Western New England University and her Bachelor’s in English with a Writing concentration and minor in Coaching from Elms College. Prior to working in Athletics, she worked in Admissions at Elms College.

    Photo of Michelle Proulx
  • Rob Southall


    Rob Southall serves as the assistant athletic director and head men’s basketball coach at Elms College. He earned his master’s in physical education and bachelor’s in movement studies from Springfield College. He currently serves as the national chair representative for the New England NCAA basketball regional advisory committee. Prior to his employment at Elms, he served as a lecturer of physical education at Springfield College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

    Staff photo of Rob Southall, MPE
  • Michael Wysocki


    Mike Wysocki is the head coach of the men’s soccer team and teaches sports management at Elms College. He received his bachelor’s in business administration from Western New England University (WNEU) in 2013 and earned his juris doctor with a business law concentration from the WNEU School of Law. He holds a USSF D license and served as the assistant coach to the women’s soccer team at Elms prior to becoming the men’s soccer head coach in 2017. He also works with the Center for Student Success as an academic coach to help many students achieve their academic potential here at the college.

    Portrait of Michael Wysocki