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First-Year Seminar 101

students and professor in class

Zoe Kiefreider ’20

by Alexander Bossakov '20 

First-year seminars at Dickinson have become a core element of a curriculum that embodies the values espoused by the liberal arts and sciences. These seminars are required for all first-year students and are an introduction to college-level writing, critical thinking and inquiry. Each seminar teaches these skills around a distinct topic taught by faculty from all departments. In many ways, these seminars define students’ first year at Dickinson and provide an invaluable intellectual support structure that follows them through senior year and beyond. Read on for student and faculty impressions, numbers, facts and a sampling of last fall’s seminars.

“I enjoy our seminar a lot because we talk, or try to, with great precision about a cluster of morally significant issues, which are commonly very hard to discuss. There is the promise of wisdom, which sometimes is fulfilled.”

—Associate Professor of Philosophy Chauncey Maher, The Persistence of Racism

sampling of 2017 Seminars

  • Civil Disobedience in History
  • Community Studios: Creating Affordable Art for Everyone
  • Music of the Holocaust and Under Soviet Oppression
  • Muslim Lives in the First Person
  • At the Crossroads: Critical Issues for the United States
  • Bioethics and Bioissues
  • Learning Injustice: The School-to-Prison Pipeline
  • Into the Wild: Exploring the American Wilderness
  • Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for All? Marginalizing
  • Politics and Acts of Resistance
  • Arguing About Politics, Society and Culture in China and Japan
  • The Creative Process
  • The Not So Beautiful Game? Thinking About Football (Soccer) Culture in Britain
Student in class

1981:First-Year Seminar program established at Dickinson “to introduce students to Dickinson as a ‘community of inquiry’ by developing habits of mind essential to liberal thinking.”

Student taking a first year seminars

46:number of seminars offered fall 2017

“As W.E.B. Du Bois suggests, education allows people to become individuals with identity and power. My FYS taught me that education is important … for the sake of critical thinking, bettering one’s life, and living intentionally.”

—Marie Laverdiere ’21, English

“I need to be sure I’m setting them up for success for the rest of their college career. This is the basis for every class they will take; they’re going to rely on the critical thinking they’ve learned, the writing abilities that they’ve learned.”

—Assistant Professor of French Linda Brindeau, (Re)presenting Haiti Through Noir Short-Stories

16:maximum number of students in a FYS

Student in class

“Ideas That Shape the World helped me build an intellectual foundation that thoroughly influenced my thinking. I had the stimulating experience of seeking, of appreciation and of realization that comes with a liberal-arts education.”

—Alexander Bossakov ’20, international studies

Student writer Alexander Bossakov ’20 researched and compiled this information, and in the process he was inspired to write a first-person perspective on how his First-Year Seminar influenced him

Read more from the winter 2018 issue of Dickinson Magazine.

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Published February 4, 2018