Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Seminars introduce freshmen to academia

From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to pharmacology, incoming DU students will spend their fall delving deeply into a variety of topics in First-Year Seminars.

The fall courses are the start of the First Year Inquiry and Writing sequence required of all entering students. 

“Every university needs some mechanism for assisting students to make a successful transition to college,” says Janette Benson, associate professor of psychology and chair of the first year seminar committee. “While other schools have orientation programs that focus on social transitions, this introduces students to the academic rigor that they will experience at DU.”

Faculty members have selected course topics about which they have particular expertise and enthusiasm. There are no prerequisites or background requirements, and students can enroll in any seminar that interests them, regardless of their major. Classes are capped at 15 students.

“The small class size allows us to do things we normally can’t do with a big group,” says political science Assistant Professor Tom Knecht, who will teach The Politics of Sports. “We’ll take field trips, have guest speakers, watch games and have pizza nights.”

Sarah Pessin, Judaic studies assistant professor, says the seminars give her the opportunity to be part of welcoming students to their college experience. Seminar instructors also serve as students’ academic advisers and faculty mentors.

“Universities are very complex organizations,” says Benson. “We can’t expect students to know how to navigate these systems without someone to help them. Having a faculty advocate is a tremendous resource for students.”

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