Academic Programs



A sampling of long texts for fall term 2013:

  • "The Carpenter's Pencil" by Manuel Rivas
  • "Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect" by David W. Orr
  • "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • "The Omnivore’s Dilemma" by Michael Pollan
  • "Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell
  • "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver
  • "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse
  • "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe
  • "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman
  • "Yiddish Policeman's Union" by Michael Chabon

A sampling of section topics for winter term 2013:

  • Racism in the US: Then and Now
  • Skepticism and the Supernatural
  • How Music Works
  • Fashion: The Avatars of Style in Society
  • Sports and National Identity: East Asia Takes on the World
  • Early Childhood Health and Education in Kentucky
  • "Performing" Life: Seeing the Self and Others as Role-Players in Reality
  • Angels, Demons, Heroes, Villains—American Leaders and Leadership
  • Cultural Critique via Vonnegut
  • Star Struck: Movie Stars, Celebrities, and Meaning
  • Peace, Love, and Groovy Times: Utopian Communities and the Need to Belong
  • "The Hidden Side of Everything": Rationality and Decision Making

More about the First-Year Seminar

First-Year Seminar Program

During fall and winter terms, first-year students take required 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 students to the kinds of rigorous intellectual work necessary at the college level.

Professors from all disciplines teach the courses, and the small class size encourages close student-professor interaction. Students are also introduced to the campus Writing Center, where they can get instruction and guidance to help them 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 of the instructor’s choosing. They may also view films and documentaries, attend campus lectures and gallery shows, and participate in selected 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 the production of a piece of original scholarship: 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

Questions? Contact Martha Billips, professor of English and associate dean of the college for first-year academic programs and advising.

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