First-Term Seminar

The First-Term Seminar (FTS) is a specially designed one-semester course for all first-year students other than those enrolling in Curriculum II. The First-Term Seminar introduces first-year students to a liberal arts education, which the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) defines as "a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and that cultivates social responsibility and a strong sense of ethics and values."

By providing this introduction to a liberal arts education, the First-Term Seminar plays a crucial role in Gustavus Adolphus College's mission "to help its students attain their full potential as persons, to develop in them a capacity and passion for lifelong learning, and to prepare them for fulfilling lives of leadership and service in society."

In a small, highly interactive class with a focus on values, students will work with a full-time faculty member to develop the skills essential to academic and civic life: critical thinking, oral communication, and writing. The faculty member teaching the First-Term Seminar will also serve as the students' advisor, helping students plan their liberal arts education and introducing them to campus resources.

Courses approved to be First Term Seminars reflect the following philosophy and desired outcomes:

FTS—an Education Centered on ValuesCassie Faust and Amanda Iverseon both '13 sand chairs in their FTS. (Photo by Kelly J. Nelson)

Put simply, values are what we use, either individually or more broadly as societies, to make decisions that matter. Our values are what we rely on to choose what we consider the proper course through life.

FTS promotes both an empathetic examination of the values of others and the development and articulation of one's own values as part of a liberal arts education that encourages responsible use of knowledge. Indeed, a focus on values permeates the FTS Program, shaping the Program's goals in writing, oral communication, critical thinking, and advising.


The FTS Writing component promotes writing as a creative and critical process in which writers engage with the ideas of others. In FTS, students write to express their own ideas and to inform and communicate with others. Good writers make both stylistic and content-based choices to accommodate different purposes, contexts, and audiences. These rhetorical choices help writers make their cases in the most effective ways possible.

Oral Communication

The FTS Oral Communication component promotes reasoned discourse, creative expression and development of one's own voice in critical interaction with others through both oral presentation and discussion. Effective communicators consider purpose, audience and context when constructing their messages and understanding the messages of others.

Critical ThinkingGreg Kaster leads a class discussion in his FTS class (Photo by Nick Theisen ’15).

The FTS Critical Thinking component promotes a commitment to the application of reason to one's own ideas and those of others, a willingness to consider the perspectives of others, and an awareness of the limits of any given epistemology. These habits of mind, central to the liberal arts, help the individual find a meaningful place in a larger society and form one of the cornerstones of lifelong learning.


FTS professors serve as first-semester advisors and until advisees declare a major or are admitted into a certification program (Athletic Training, Education, Nursing). In this capacity, they work alongside students to plan their liberal arts education and refer them to campus resources to think about possibilities during their four years and beyond. At its best, the advising relationship fosters a climate of campus-wide mentoring.