Academics and Research

First-year seminars introduce new students to college learning

A first-year seminar on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" teaches incoming students about the representation of women in media.

A first-year seminar on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” teaches incoming students about the representation of women in media.

“Honestly, there’s no cooler way to be introduced to DU than writing about ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’” says second-year English major Jocelyn Rockhold.

In fall 2014, during her first week at the University of Denver, Rockhold took Gender, Feminism, Power & Pop Culture: Decoding “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a first-year seminar that taught incoming students about the representation of women in media, from “Buffy” to advertisements and social media. Since 2006, the first-year seminar (FSEM) program has provided first-year students their first taste of college life, while allowing DU faculty to teach mini-courses on subjects about which they are passionate.

“I love teaching [first-year seminars] because they demonstrate to students how almost anything, including a television series like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ can be the subject of rigorous, yet exciting, academic study,” says Jodie Kreider, who has taught the Buffy FSEM for eight years.

First-year seminars meet for four hours each week during the fall quarter. In 2015, students are studying and discussing topics ranging from Colorado history and Buddhist meditation to American atheism and the failings of the criminal justice system. “The small class size allowed everyone a chance to speak up in class. It really made the class feel like a community rather than a group of strangers,” Rockhold says of her FSEM experience.

Lindsey Feitz, an assistant professor in the gender and women’s studies program, is teaching this fall’s Teen Grrls and Popular Culture seminar. She says that FSEMs allow faculty members to introduce ideas and topics that were too sensitive to talk about in high school, while getting students to be curious, intellectual thinkers. “We try to push the boundaries of what it means to be an engaged scholar, while having some intellectual adventure,” she says.

The seminars also allow instructors to develop strong relationships with their students.

“We serve as the students’ advisor for their first year, but the role is much more meaningful and broader than what it says on paper,” Feitz says. “It’s really exciting to be their first point of contact on campus and then see where they end up and what they do.”


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