First-Year Seminars are small, discussion-oriented courses that provide entering students with the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member. Required of all first-year students and normally limited to an enrollment of 15; First-Year Seminars promote intellectual discussion and critical thinking, reading, and writing skills.
Offered by faculty members from departments throughout the College, the seminars vary in their subjects and aims. Some examine a topic from an interdisciplinary perspective; others focus on particular issues or questions within a discipline. What all of the First-Year Seminars share is an emphasis on thinking critically about the values and assumptions underlying various approaches to knowledge.
Because they are primarily concerned with developing critical thinking, reading, and writing, First-Year Seminars are writing-intensive. Evaluation will be based on students’ writing rather than on examinations. The seminars will teach participants how to formulate a thesis, how to collect, evaluate, and cite evidence that supports and qualifies this thesis, and a seminar will teach participants what an argument, analysis, or interpretation is and will give students practice in constructing and evaluating sound ones. Students will also learn how to revise their work, rethinking their ideas with the help of the instructor’s comments on preliminary drafts. In sum, First-Year Seminars introduce students to the life of the mind—to what it means to think deeply, to talk and write critically about ideas; seminars model and encourage students to participate in thoughtful, critical, and intellectual reflection and conversation.