Academic Programs



A sampling of long texts for fall term 2014:

  • One World, Many Cultures edited by Stuart and Terry Hirschberg
  • What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel
  • The Republic of Plato translated and edited by Allan Bloom
  • The Storytelling Animal—How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  • The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Lives on the Boundary by Mike Rose
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Grace of Silence, A Memoir by Michelle Norris
  • The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution by Denis Dutton
  • The Carpenter’s Pencil: A Novel of the Spanish Civil War by Manuel Rivas
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
  • The Odyssey translated and edited by Richard Lattimore
  • A Mind of Its Own by Cordelia Fine
  • Earth in Mind by David Orr
  • The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community by Ray Oldenburg
  • Cultural Critique via Vonnegut

A sampling of section topics for winter term 2015:

  • The Sixties: Turbulent Decade of Rebellion and Resistance
  • Animal Stories: The Wild and the Human
  • The Politics of Food
  • How Music Works
  • Science on Stage: Monsters and Heroes
  • Critiquing Contemporary U.S. Culture via Vonnegut
  • Latinos: One or Many Cultures?
  • In Schools We Trust
  • Science Fiction: Mythology, Allegory, Prophecy
  • Hot Topics in Higher Education
  • Walt Whitman and His American Vision
  • Embodied Resistance
  • The Posthuman: from Simian to Cyborg

More about the First-Year Seminar

First-Year Seminar Program

During fall and winter terms, first-year students take required courses titled First-Year Seminar (fall term) and First-Year Research Seminar (winter term). Building on the skills gained in August term, first-year seminar courses continue to introduce students to the kinds of rigorous intellectual work necessary at the college level.

Professors from all disciplines teach the courses, and the small class size encourages close student-professor interaction. Students are also introduced to the campus Writing Center, where they can get instruction and guidance to help them adjust to college-level writing.

Fall Term

During the fall term, students read a broad range of shorter essays and at least one longer, book-length text of the instructor’s choosing. They may also view films and documentaries, attend campus lectures and gallery shows, and participate in selected community events.

These experiences form the basis for seminar discussion and provide the materials from which students write three pieces of formal academic prose: an analytical summary, a text-based argument/response, and an argumentative essay based on class themes.

Winter Term

In the winter term, the topical seminars include extensive instruction in research methods appropriate at the college level. A series of related assignments—a topic analysis, an annotated bibliography, a strategic plan, and a class presentation—culminate with the production of a piece of original scholarship: a substantive, well-informed argumentative essay of approximately 15 pages.


The First-Year Seminar Program focuses on:

  • Developing clear and effective writing on substantial topical and enduring issues

  • Fostering critical and balanced reading of complex and challenging texts

  • Encouraging rigorous, critical, open-minded, and sustained discussion of issues flowing from students' reading and writing

  • Honing the research skills necessary to produce well-informed and original scholarship

Questions? Contact Martha Billips, professor of English and associate dean of the college for first-year academic programs and advising.

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