The First Year Seminar (FYS) is designed for and required of new students at the beginning of their college studies. It offers students the opportunity to learn in small classes through reading and regular discussion, writing and critical engagement with controversial ideas. Sections are taught by faculty representing every part of the college’s liberal arts curriculum.

Each section focuses on a topic from current events or history or within one of the traditional areas of academic study which has generated controversy among the scholars, policy makers and others who have grappled with it. The role of controversy in shaping human understanding and motivating social and political action is the common theme which unites all sections. As students develop their own positions in the topics of their seminars, they learn how knowledge and understanding depend on the clash and synthesis of multiple points of view. They can also expect to develop a range of academic skills, including critical reading and thinking, writing and oral presentation, library research and the use of electronic technology for their learning.

Section topics vary from year to year and are available within Course Catalog on Banner. Recent sections have covered topics in the arts, ecology, international relations, social and public policy, personal development, the sciences and history. Students typically are placed in a FYS section by late June before registering for other first-semester courses. The instructor of their FYS section is normally their faculty advisor for the first year.

Recent FYS topics have included How Sweet It Is? (the science and politics of sugar); Theatre and Social Change; The Rituals of Dinner; and The Selfie and More, Much More.

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