The First-Term Seminar Program

at Gustavus Adolphus College

As part of their first semester course schedule, Liberal Arts Perspective students entering Gustavus Adolphus College as first-year students enroll in one course designated FTS- 100: First-Term Seminar (FTS). The FTS is a small, discussion-based course, centered on recognizing and exploring questions of values, that introduces students to skills and habits of mind central to the liberal arts: writing, oral communication, and critical thinking. In addition, the FTS professor serves as the academic advisor until a major is declared. Each FTS carries a WRITI designation; FTS courses do not carry a general education core area designation. A full list and description of FTS offerings is published for entering students before registration.

Courses approved to be First Term Seminars address the following criteria and student learning outcomes:

First Term Seminars promote 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.

Programmatic Student Learning Outcome: Having examined the conflicting value choices of the ethically complex world in which we live, and reflected on how these values shape their ethical decisions, students will be able to articulate their own values and communicate those values to others.

1. Writing Goal: 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. In FTS courses, students will use writing as a means of creative expression and intellectual growth; learn to make effective choices as writers, considering purpose, audience, context, and style whenever they write; cultivate an awareness of the values that inform choices made by writers, themselves and others; and develop flexible strategies for generating ideas, drafting, revising, and polishing their writing.

Writing Criteria: FTS courses will

  1. Provide frequent opportunities to write informally as a way to master unfamiliar concepts, explore ideas, and to practice techniques for communicating effectively.
  2. Engage students in a process-based (iterative) approach to writing by having multiple opportunities for planning, drafting, and revising their work with instructor and peer feedback.
  3. Revised March 2015
  4. Guide students through at least two (and preferably more) formal assignment(s), grounded in the writing process, and focused on building skills in critical inquiry, argumentation, and communication to a public audience.

Student Learning Outcome: (SLO #1) Students will be able to identify different purposes, contexts, and audiences for their writing; they will demonstrate the ability to adapt the style and content of their writing in order to communicate effectively in a variety of situations.

2. Oral Communication Goal: The FTS Oral Communication component promotes reasoned discourse, creative expression, and development of one’s own values and 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.

Oral Communication Criteria: FTS courses will

  1. Provide frequent opportunities to participate in classroom discussions as a way to learn to articulate ideas, actively listen to others, consider alternative positions, and to practice techniques for communicating effectively in different contexts.
  2. Guide students through at least one (and preferably more) formal assignment(s), in which students will learn to develop a topic in order to inform or persuade their audience.
  3. Teach students how to use language that is appropriate to the topic, audience, purpose, and context.

Student Learning Outcome: (SLO #2) Students will be able to identify different purposes, contexts, and audiences for their oral communication; they will demonstrate the ability to adapt the style and content of their oral communication in order to communicate effectively in a variety of situations including discussions and formal presentations.

3. Critical Thinking Goal: 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 and values 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.

Critical Thinking Criteria: FTS courses will

  1. Provide frequent opportunities to identify the purpose of a text, identify concepts that shape an argument, and assess the evidence used to support an argument.
  2. Provide frequent opportunities to identify how contexts and unstated assumptions influence arguments, identify the implications and consequences of arguments, and to identify and evaluate alternative perspectives.
  3. Allow students to articulate their own perspective, identify the influences that shape it, present relevant evidence to support their own arguments, and develop original and creative solutions to complex problems.

Student Learning Outcome: (SLO #3) Students will be able to thoughtfully analyze questions from multiple perspectives; will identify how contexts and unstated assumptions influence arguments; will identify the implications and consequences of arguments; will develop original and creative solutions to complex problems; and will identify and evaluate alternative perspectives.

4. Advising Goal: The FTS advising component promotes a holistic approach to advising, emphasizing both academic advising and developmental advising designed to introduce students to College resources and to foster a mentoring community on campus. FTS professors serve as first-year advisors 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, refer them to campus resources, and help them to think about possibilities for their college career and beyond.

Student Learning Outcome: (SLO #4) Students will demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts curriculum at Gustavus; will demonstrate familiarity with campus resources related to advising, including using WebAdvisor; and will demonstrate an understanding of how the College functions as a community of learners.

Advising Criteria: FTS Courses will

  1. Introduce students to the process of academic planning, searching for classes, using WebAdvisor, and reading degree audits.
  2. Introduce students to College policies, procedures, and deadlines.
  3. Encourage students to advocate for themselves, take ownership for their learning, become responsible and accountable as independent learners, and ultimately become their own best advisors.
  4. Introduce students to campus resources and out-of-classroom learning opportunities with the goal of experiencing Gustavus as a community of learners. Student Learning Outcome: (SLO #4) Students will demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts curriculum at Gustavus; will demonstrate familiarity with campus resources related to advising, including using WebAdvisor; and will demonstrate an understanding of how the College functions as a community of learners.