Purpose of the First-Year Seminar

First-Year Seminar, the first tier of the Writing Program, is designed to help students make the transition to college-level academic culture.  The First-Year Seminar teaches students the habits of mind that will enable them to enter the community of inquiry.  All seminars emphasize the critical analysis, writing, and information literacy skills that are essential to liberal learning.   

Student Learning Outcomes

Students will learn to:

  • critically analyze information and ideas
  • examine issues from multiple perspectives
  • discuss, debate and defend ideas, including their own views, with clarity and reason
  • develop discernment, facility and ethical responsibility in using information
  • create clear academic writing

Choosing a First-Year Seminar

First-Year Seminars are taught by college faculty from across the curriculum who design their seminars around compelling and provocative issues in their fields.  While the student learning outcomes are the same for all, individual topics may derive from the humanities, arts, sciences, or social sciences.   With no more than sixteen students per class, the small group format allows for frequent discussion among students, and between students and the professor.  Most First-Year Seminars involve college librarians who assist students with the research process, and Writing Associates (classroom-based peer writing tutors) who help students navigate the writing process.  In addition, many seminars offer field trips, guest speakers, and service-learning opportunities.  

When choosing a First-Year Seminar, students get to select five from over forty seminars, and they are guaranteed one of their five choices.  In the spirit of liberal learning, students are encouraged not just to pick seminars that reflect their current areas of academic interest but also to consider ones with topics that are novel and intriguing.  Since First-Year Seminars are not linked to majors, students are welcome to use the First-Year Seminar to explore new subjects that they find intriguing.  

First-Year Seminar topics vary each year based on the interests and expertise of faculty elected to teach them.  Click here to view the full list of titles and descriptions for fall 2015.  

A Special Kind of First-Year Seminar: The Learning Community

Some First-Year Seminars are integrated into the residential campus experience through Learning Communities. These seminars, which are linked academically, are housed together in the same residential hall.  The faculty, assisted by an upper-level student who serves as Learning Community Coordinator, plan ways to take the learning beyond the classroom.