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First-Year Seminar Program

Sueann Caulfield's First-Year Seminar "Feminisms in Latin America" Fall 2020

“Darcy made each conversation about “weird art” so engaging through her choice and variety of course content, as well as her wonderful balance between individual and group work and feedback. I also really felt I was able to connect with my classmates, even in a virtual setting, throughout the course of the class. It was a fantastic experience!”

Quinn Newman, class of 2024

First-Year Seminar “Weird Art, Fuller World” taught by Darcy Brandel, Fall 2020 


The RC’s First-Year Seminars are required writing courses that are an essential part of the Residential College curriculum. RC faculty design the courses expressly for teaching RC students. 

We believe a sense of community can reinforce learning.

The First-Year Seminar introduces first-year students to the Residential College—its faculty, its resources, and its culture. Some have described the course as being a kind of home room, a space to come together twice a week and freely ask questions and explore ideas. First-Year Seminars are intentionally small, and instructors work with students both in groups and individually to improve their writing. The seminars serve as a bridge to college life and to forming a learning community. Friendships and intellectual connections made in the FYS often last through college and beyond.

We believe writing is central to all disciplines and that being a better writer will help students excel in college and throughout their careers.

First-Year Seminars teach students how to write in different genres; critique the work of peers; construct rigorous, evidence-based arguments; and write in clear, organized, and engaging prose. Students also learn to examine texts closely and present their ideas in class. These skills provide a foundation for future work across all academic fields, including the physical and social sciences, the arts, engineering, law, and business. 


Michael Zhai's First-Year Seminar "Wandering Song: Toward a Transcultural Poetics" Fall 2021, guest musical artist Lily Talmers. Photo by Lila Turner

We believe writing is best learned and practiced in the context of a particular idea or goal. 

RC First-Year Seminars are taught by RC faculty on a range of topics, drawing on the intellectual expertise of instructors. As a result, students not only become more sophisticated writers, they emerge with a deeper understanding of a specific discipline; topics range from Islamic art to horror stories to experiences of confinement and liberation to the science of creativity. 

See the list of First-Year Seminar courses for the 2021-22 academic year: 

  • Representing Islam
  • Topics in the Science of Creativity and the Arts
  • What We Talk about When We Talk About Conversation
  • Downtown America: 20th Century US Urban History
  • Who Are You/Where Are You? New Ways of Writing about Place: Cities, Farms, Wilderness and the idea of Citizenship
  • RESIST! Theory for the Revolution
  • Narratives of Confinement, Narratives of Liberation
  • Revealing Meaning in the Music of Rock, Pop, and Hip-Hop
  • Truth Through Story: the Art and Craft of Narrative Journalism
  • Wandering Song: Toward a Transcultural Poetics
  • Language, Culture, and Identity
  • The American Civil War
  • Contemporary Sports Literature

We believe clear writing both requires and leads to clear thinking. 

Clear thinking can arise from reading widely, observing situations closely, and debating ideas. But taking that understanding and communicating it effectively through writing is a critical further step. In fact, the act of writing can be crucial to honing ideas. Our goal is to help students refine and integrate their processes of thinking and writing. The clarity this can bring to an essay or paper is a victory worth celebrating.

First-Year Seminar courses satisfy the university’s First-Year Writing Requirement.


“Susan’s class is in-depth and interesting, but she also makes it intuitive and manageable. While reading narrative journalistic pieces to get a better understanding of how the style works, you also write and edit your own pieces, working with peers and Susan to polish your writing!”

Ethan Magley, class of 2024

First-Year Seminar "Truth Through Story: the Art and Craft of Narrative Journalism" taught by Susan Rosegrant, Fall 2020