Resources for Faculty

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  • What is a First-Year Seminar (FYS)?

    With small classes, a variety of topics, and close contact with faculty, First-Year Seminars (FYS) offer a hands-on introduction to academic inquiry and the modes of expression that lie at the heart of a liberal arts education. These reading- and writing-intensive courses foster habits of mind fundamental to student’s intellectual and academic development, including critical reading and thinking, sharing ideas and research through discussion, and the ability to write and think clearly and effectively. Integrating explorations of specific questions and topics with the development of skills, First-Year Seminars aim to foster intellectual curiosity and students’ ability to act on it.

  • What are the goals of the FYS?

    All First-Year Seminars share five common goals:

    • To expand students’ understanding of the world;
    • To enhance students’ ability to read and think critically;
    • To enhance students’ ability to communicate effectively, in writing, speech, and other
      appropriate forms;
    • To develop the fundamentals of information literacy and library research;
    • To provide the opportunity for students to work closely with a faculty mentor.
  • Am I eligible to teach a First-Year Seminar (FYS)?

    All full-time faculty and staff with faculty status are eligible to teach in the First-Year Seminar (FYS) program.

  • I’ve never taught writing or communication before. Can I still teach a FYS?

    Yes. All faculty new to FYS will participate in a multi-phased orientation and training prior to teaching in the program for the first time to help in course preparation. This orientation and training introduces faculty to the program, best practices in inclusive syllabus design, and strategies for teaching writing to first-year students. New FYS faculty also consult with colleagues in the Faculty Hub for course-specific support.

  • How much reading/writing do FYS instructors typically assign?

    There is no strict rule where reading requirements are concerned. Rather, emphasis should be placed on improving students’ skills in evaluation, interpretation, and analysis of texts, including, but not limited to: films, structures, art, performances, essays, journal articles, and books. Readings should not come from disciplinary textbooks except in cases where students need to use this type of material for essential background information.

    All first-year seminars should include 5000 words (approximately 20 double-spaced pages) of academic writing over the course of the semester.

  • What constitutes "academic" writing?

    By “academic writing” we refer to writing that emphasizes the use of evidence-based arguments. Such assignments can take a number of different forms. A research paper is not required, but may be effective in teaching the research process, with component parts scaffolded throughout the semester. Instructors may assign literature reviews, bibliographic essays, annotated bibliographies and individual reports on fieldwork as just a few examples. Academic writing may also be used in multimedia assignments such as digital stories and videographic essays. We recognize academic writing can be used differently depending on the discipline, however we strongly discourage the assignment of a single, 15-20-page paper as a means of fulfilling the page length requirement for the course.

  • What kind of support is there for FYS instructors?

    Prior to an FYS course being taught for the first time, each instructor is required to complete a required Orientation and Training. This Orientation and Training is organized to support instructors as they design their syllabi and involves three phases:

    • 3-hour Orientation to the Program
    • One-on-one consultation with Faculty Hub staff
    • 3-hour Syllabus Workshop

    For participation in the above – and teaching FYS for the first time – each instructor will receive a stipend of $2000.

    FYS instructors seeking additional course support may opt to request Writing and/or Speech Consultants for their courses. Instructors should reach out to the Writing and Speech Centers, respectively, to place their requests.

    FYS instructors seeking additional support are encouraged to apply for funds through the Center for Civic Engagement (specifically course support grants) and the Provost’s office.  

  • What kinds of topics can I propose for an FYS?

    The FYS program is an opportunity to be creative and investigate a research interest or a topic only partly developed in a regular course. Faculty are given latitude in the topics they can teach for a first-year seminar as long as the course can meet 1) the goals of FYS, 2) the work required of students equivalent to 10-14 hours per week (justifying one unit), and 3) the qualification of a faculty member to teach subject matter in their own field or a related area.

  • What constitutes a related area?
  • Can I adapt my existing course into a FYS?

    Maybe. In general, broad surveys intended to introduce students to a field of study will not adapt well into an FYS, which requires focused inquiry into a (perhaps interdisciplinary) topic. That said, if after reading the proposal guidelines and this FAQ you can imagine an FYS that incorporates materials and approaches from an existing course, please feel free to propose it. Some proposals may require further refinement to bring them in line with the guidelines.

  • Can my FYS count toward a Field of Study General Education Requirement?

    No. Because FYS is already a General Education Requirement, FYS courses cannot count toward fields of study.

  • Can my FYS be offered for major/minor credit?

    Maybe. Determination of credit for majors, minors, and certificate programs is the province of the relevant department, program, or school. As noted above, an FYS should not be a broad survey course intended to introduce students to a field of study, nor should it emphasize expertise. It should not, therefore, be identical to either an introduction to a major or an upper-division requirement within a major.

  • Can I incorporate community-based learning (CBL) into my FYS?

    Yes. We encourage you to reach out to the Center for Civic Engagement to support CBL in your FYS.

  • Can I propose a team-taught FYS?

    Yes. Please include information on both instructors in your proposal, and check in with both departments to ensure that their scheduling needs can still be met. Approved team-taught courses "count" as a full unit of teaching for each faculty member.