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My object of study is the First-Year Seminar (FYS).  There are two types of typical first-year course offerings in colleges and universities: the first-year experience (FYE) course that is focused on social acclimatization of students that may or may not be required and the first-year seminar, a content-rich course that is required as part of the academic curriculum and is taken either in conjunction with or in lieu of an alternate freshman writing sequence. Both types of programs stress ways to improve the transition from high school and first-year experience for students through developing the holistic person, academically, socially, and through a combination of initiatives. These efforts encourage early bonding between students and professors in small group settings using common readings or themes of courses, often included under efforts to improve first-year retention with a larger first-year experience (FYE) setting. The National Resource Center for First-Year Experience and Students in Transition is one of the main research/resource sites. They point in their history to an over 35 year trajectory of work stemming from their initial University 101 concept to first-year seminars now required as part of a college or university’s curriculum across the United States.

This object of study is important to English studies, specifically writing studies because it is increasingly being offered as an alternative to a composition or writing sequence for freshmen, taught by faculty from across the curriculum in many cases, but who are expected to teach a  range of foundational skills, historically aligned with a FYW curriculum.  How FYS are being planned, taught and supported across an academic institution has the potential to impact curriculum, especially within Writing Studies.  Within my own institution, we have had a FYS program for five years and the combined expectations on faculty across the disciplines for teaching critical thinking, reading, writing, and research skills remains  challenging to support and maintain.

It is instructive to think of the multi-faceted ways that FY Seminars could be viewed and studied as a network. As integral courses within the curriculum, they have the potential to connect faculty from across campus, as well as a range of campus partners and support units that may/may not include teaching faculty (such as the writing, academic skills or speech centers, civic engagement, libraries, or technology).  As a cross-disciplinary, university-wide program the classes can impact all facets of student learning, through teaching for and encouraging transfer of skills/knowledge, relationship building, and introduction to the academic enterprise. FYS can offer support to students by including faculty as mentors, building awareness of campus resources or bonding between students in small and intensive discussion-based classes centered on a learning community approach. When successful, FYS can provide a multi-faceted, integral and inclusive initiative to foster community within a campus.  But, if not fully integrated into a university’s culture, curriculum and fabric, they offer the potential to alienate faculty, underserve students and become a burden to administer and retain.

For my dissertation research, I want to focus on faculty in the disciplines who teach writing within a first-year seminar, but for the purposes of this class, as you talked through Writing Centers with Kim during class, I saw benefit by starting with a broader approach, that of the first-year content seminar and how it does/could operate as a network on a campus through the above mentioned ways. My question is to what extent should I specifically bring in the teaching of writing or is it ok to start with the broader FYS concept, gain a deeper understanding and knowledge-base within FYS scholarship, then develop the faculty writing WAC and WID as applied to FYS through my continuing research outside this class?

Representative image of my object of study.

People in Circles -- Network Representative Image

Object of Study – FYS – Representation Image

Working Bibliography

Brent, Doug. “Using an Academic-Content Seminar to Engage Students with the Culture of Research.” Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition 18 (2006): 29-60.

Chapman, David W. “WAC and the First-Year Writing Course: Selling Ourselves Short.” Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, 1997.

Connors, Robert J. “The Abolition Debate in Composition: A Short History.” Composition in the Twenty-First Century: Crisis and Change. Eds. Lynn Z. Bloom, Donald A. Daiker, and Edward M. White. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois UP, 1996. 47-63.

Daniell, Beth. “FY-Comp, FY-Seminars, and WAC: A Response.” Language and Learning Across the Disciplines 2 (1998): 69-74.

Fernandez, Nancy Page, Sally Murphy, Jennifer Keup, and Ken O’Donnell. Intellectual Oomph in the First-Year Experience.

Keup, Jennifer. National Research and Trends on High Impact Practices in the First-Year Seminar.

Skipper, Tracy. First-Year Seminars and Senior Capstones: Bookending Writing Instruction and the Undergraduate Curriculum. 

. Writing in the First-Year Seminar: A National Snapshot.

Teymuroglu, Zeynep. “Service-Learning Project in a First-Year Seminar: A Social Network Analysis. Primus : Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies, 23.10 (2014): 893-905.

Young, Dallin George,  and Jessica M. Hopp. 2012-2013 National Survey of First-Year Seminars: Exploring High-Impact Practices in the First College Year.