Note: This document is intended as a starting place only, and will be revised and refined over the coming years. It should be understood to reflect the capabilities we agree on, but does not preclude other capabilities each of us might focus on developing in our students. It does not include capabilities/outcomes each seminar might have for its discipline-based subject matter, even as we recognize that the subject matter and the writing cannot be separated.
The First-Year Seminar models the academic life, in particular by its seminar nature, a hallmark of which is strong faculty-student interaction. The First -Year Seminar engages students in the integrated activities of reading, research, discussion, and composition around a designated subject. At its core, this course is designed to provide first-year students with opportunities for both sustained, rigorous investigation of a topic and close faculty-student interaction. Students will gain a deeper appreciation of the role of writing in scholarly investigation, as they refine, adapt, and expand their abilities to absorb, synthesize and construct arguments in close-knit community.
Accordingly, the FYS is both a writing (composing) course and a course that works with a particular content; the writing engages the content and enables deep learning of that content, and vice versa. "Writing" in this course is thus understood within the context of advanced learning--as a process that requires students to balance their acquisition of new knowledge and contextualized understanding (gained through reading, research, and discussion) against the challenges of synthesizing and re-presenting that understanding in ways that suit their current context.
In order to achieve that balance, the seminar helps students recognize analogies between the work of absorbing complex content--for example, through reading and research inquiry-- and that of constructing it. In a seminar on medical imaging, for example, students could analyze how the most effective presentation of MRI data is similar to and differs from the most effective presentation of data in a scientific academic paper. Likewise, students in a history or sociology seminar can draw from their classroom analysis of historical evidence to find new methods for evaluating their own evidence in a class essay, project, or presentation. This integration of advanced learning, inquiry, and writing is the foundation of the course.
While this document separates out the capabilities students should develop in the course in order to help identify them, we acknowledge that they are all interrelated in the everyday reality of the course.