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First Year Seminar Program

First Year Seminar Program

Your intro to college learning

During fall and winter terms, first-year students take courses titled First-Year Seminar (fall term) and First-Year Research Seminar (winter term). Building on the skills gained in August term, first-year seminar courses continue to introduce you to the kinds of rigorous intellectual work you'll use at the college level.

Professors from all disciplines teach the courses, and the small class size encourages close interaction between you and your professor. You'll also be introduced to the campus Writing Center, where you can get guidance to help adjust to college-level writing.

Fall Term

During the fall term, students read a broad range of shorter essays and at least one longer, book-length text. They may also view films and documentaries, attend campus lectures and gallery shows and participate in community events.

These experiences form the basis for seminar discussion and provide the materials from which students write three pieces of formal academic prose: an analytical summary, a text-based argument/response and an argumentative essay based on class themes.

Winter Term

In the winter term, the topical seminars include extensive instruction in research methods appropriate at the college level. A series of related assignments—a topic analysis, an annotated bibliography, a strategic plan and a class presentation—culminate with a substantive, well-informed argumentative essay of approximately 15 pages.


The First-Year Seminar Program focuses on:

  • Developing clear and effective writing on substantial topical and enduring issues

  • Fostering critical and balanced reading of complex and challenging texts

  • Encouraging rigorous, critical, open-minded and sustained discussion of issues flowing from students' reading and writing

  • Honing the research skills necessary to produce well-informed and original scholarship

Sample of 2016 texts

"The Storytelling Animal—How Stories Make Us Human" by Jonathan Gottschall 

"The Yiddish Policeman’s Union" by Michael Chabon

"The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility" by Jeffrey M. Berry and Sarah Sobieraj

"Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America" by Linda Tirado

"Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers

"A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives" by Cordelia Fine

"The Art of Choosing" by Sheena Iyengar

"Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance" by Julia Angwin

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