Apr 22, 2019  
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog 
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

First-Year Seminar Program

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Director: Associate Professor Peter Vantine


The writing-intensive First-Year Seminar introduces students to writing as a process, writing as a mode of learning, and academic writing forms and skills. Entry-level writing proficiency is assessed through the First-Year Seminar courses, and each seminar also partially fulfills the Written Communication requirement in the Liberal Studies Curriculum. First-Year Seminars have a cap of 15 to allow the instructor time to respond to student writing each week and meet individually with students to discuss their writing.

Through reading, writing, and discussion, First-Year Seminar courses use a wide range of topics to explore broad, interdisciplinary questions in the liberal arts and sciences.   The small class size also encourages students to work cooperatively, creating a community of learners.  By emphasizing engaged participation, the seminars help students learn how to take responsibility for their own education.


  1. First-Year Seminars focus on various topics, but they are all similar in their emphasis on discussion and their extensive use of writing.
  2. Topics encourage examination of large questions, have an interdisciplinary dimension, and provoke reflection on diversity.
  3. Courses require frequent writing, at least twice a week. This includes:
    1. Various kinds of informal writing designed to encourage active reading and discussion (e.g., freewriting, journals, reading questions or summaries, commentaries, annotations, question-and-response).
    2. Preparatory stages of writing for formal papers (e.g., topic-generating exercises, reading notes, proposals, outlines, drafts).
    3. Formal papers: a minimum of 3, totaling 10-20 pages.  Formal papers must include at least one analytical/persuasive essay, but may also include other prose forms.
  4. Courses provide clear, written criteria for assessment and discussion of writing and must make use of texts and student models demonstrating those criteria.
  5. Courses include weekly opportunities for feedback on writing, from peers and the instructor (e.g., written comments, small-group discussions, workshops, individual conferences).
  6. Courses include revisions involving feedback.
  7. Courses introduce research skills and citation forms, in collaboration with Library staff.
  8. Courses address academic integrity, plagiarism, and the College’s polices in this regard.


First Year Seminar Learning Outcomes:

Students will demonstrate:

  • The ability to engage in active learning at the college level.
  • The ability to use writing as a tool for reflection, learning and the effective expression of one’s ideas. This includes:
    • An understanding of what makes effective writing for a general academic audience.
    • The ability to manage the writing process (prewriting, drafting, feedback, revision, editing, and proofreading) to produce finished products.
    • The ability to generate a thesis on their own and support it with convincing evidence and reasoning in a formal academic essay that has cohesion, coherence, and voice.
    • The ability to use feedback to revise, as well as to give others constructive feedback on their writing.
  • The ability to apply basic research skills, including the ability to integrate and cite sources.
  • An understanding of academic integrity

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