From the University’s Academic Catalog
“First Year Seminars will provide students with opportunities to work closely with a member of the faculty as they explore important intellectual questions and become immersed in the life of the mind through an exploration of a variety of academic topics. In the course of the seminar, students will become familiar with the University’s Ignatian identity and mission and address important transition-to-college issues. Students will choose from seminars that address a wide variety of different topics, and which can function as a major course, a general education course or an elective. Each seminar will enroll no more than 18 students so as to maximize interaction with the professor and among students.”
Brief History of the FYS at Scranton
Before 2012 the First Year Seminar at the University was a 1 credit course, graded pass/fail, that was mainly concerned with orienting students to University facilities and to their major. The change to a 3 credit academic arose as faculty and administrators deliberated about the need not only to orient students to University life, but also to give them a fuller sense of the Ignatian identity and commitments of the University, and start them off on an enriching path of intellectual inquiry, a path they could pursue well only as they developed and honed skills and capacities such as reading texts closely and critically, effectively articulating points orally, and writing clearly and thoughtfully.
It was thought that these educational goals would best be pursued in a small seminar environment (maximum 18 students), where students could come to know their peers and instructor well, and where, because of lower student numbers, full-time instructors could devote more time to mentoring students, attending to their individual progress. These full-time instructors would be themselves engaged scholars each with expertise in specific disciplines. Each FYS would have its own fulsome content, determined by the professor working in conjunction with his or her department. This content could follow the specifications of courses already existing in the catalog, including some courses already required in the GE curriculum. In such a case, the FYS could satisfy not only the FYS requirement, but also the other GE requirement. Some FYSs, however, would stand on their own, thereby encouraging faculty and students to pursue interesting topics not otherwise covered in the GE curriculum.
The 3 credit FYS was piloted in 2011, then made a requirement for all incoming students in fall, 2012. Since then, many different faculty and departments have added new twists to the topical orientation of their FYSs. New offerings are being encouraged each year. As well, all FYSs have come to share certain standard features, such as discussion of the first-year read and the annual Ignatian Values in Action Lecture that relates to it.
Understanding the FYS in Scranton’s Curriculum
The General Education Curriculum has the goal of affording students the opportunity to “become liberally educated in the Ignatian tradition.” Included among the component parts of this goal is that students become integrated as individuals within their various communities. The FYS is especially orients to the “personal” aspects of this integration; each student needs to know him or herself as especially equipped to contribute in unique ways to our shared human life, lived as it is within particular communities such as family, town, country or specific communities of learning or worshiping (such as university and church). The intimate setting of the FYS, with its accent on discussion and reflection, should facilitate this personal integration.
It is also within the FYS that students begin activities associated with the Passport and TAPESTRY programs. (Which of these programs a particular student falls within is determined by her or his college.) The Passport and TAPESTRY programs also fit within the “personal” section of the GE curriculum associated with the “Integration of Individual and Community.” Activities for these programs are introduced in the FYS but extend beyond it. (See [link to other button on these programs]).
Some (not all) sections of the FYS also satisfy requirements under the “Subject Matter Mastery” portion of the GE requirement. Students enrolled in these sections fulfill two elements of the GE program at once. (For instance, the first course in Theology/Religious Studies (T/RS 121), which all students must take as part of their GE requirements, is also offered as a FYS, entitled T/RS 121x FYS: Sacred Story and Meaning.)