First Term Seminar

In May, 1992, the Faculty approved the establishment of a First-Term Seminar program whereby all first-year students in Curriculum I are to be enrolled in specially designed one-semester courses, each of which is called a "First-Term Seminar" or FTS.

The First-Term Seminar introduces entering students to the challenges of the academic conversation they will share with their peers, faculty, texts and traditions for the next four years. They will encounter enduring questions of values and--as they learn to respond with critical thinking, writing, and speaking--learn to recognize and evaluate their own values. As stated in the mission statement of the college, Gustavus seeks "to provide an education which combines rigor and innovation, integrates the development of values with intellectual growth, and makes apparent the connectedness of academic disciplines." In a small, highly interactive class at the beginning of their college experience, students will develop both the skills and the attitudes they need to engage fully in the liberal arts-based curriculum mandated by the mission statement of Gustavus Adolphus College.

Five components contribute to the larger goal of inculcating in first-year students the skills of the liberal arts for acquiring, interpreting, communicating, and evaluating knowledge. The first three allow students to develop the skills necessary to academic and civil life: improved critical thinking, writing, and speaking. They attempt to encourage students to be active in their own education. The final two offer students help in finding coherence among potentially chaotic sets of curricular choices: an emphasis on values and improved first-year advising.

Courses approved to be First-Term Seminars must meet the following criteria:

  1. Critical thinking: Participation in the First-Term Seminar will develop in students the habits of critical thinking that are central to the liberal arts: the ability to identify and question underlying assumptions, to consider a number of contexts in which statements are made, to analyze implications, to propose alternative perspectives.

  2. Writing: First Term Seminars offer students intensive practice in the primary medium for intellectual discourse, writing. Students engage in brief formal writing exercises (usually from three to five separate assignments), which develop useful writing processes for such tasks as summary, analysis, reasoning, persuasion, and library research. First Term Seminars also qualify as WRITI (Writing Intensive) courses.

  3. Speaking: First-Term Seminars offer all students a small, discussion-oriented class and acquaint them with college as a place for active participation in discussion. Students will also make brief formal presentations.

  4. Values: First-Term Seminars encourage students to reflect on the values inherent in a particular body of knowledge, to recognize the social, moral and ethical implications of that knowledge, and to move toward intellectual, emotional and relational commitments.

  5. First-year advising: First-Term Seminars serve as first-year advising groups. Faculty will help students plan coherent general education programs, advise them in exploring possible majors, and direct them to advisors in their proposed majors as necessary. First-Term Seminars could also appropriately encourage students to see that the College has concern for more than required courses and grades by engaging the class in discussion of campus events and issues.

Contact Sujay Rao for more information.