What is a First-Year Seminar?

University seminar courses are small classes (usually with 30 students) designed to give students the opportunity to discuss and research topics of interest in a core subject area. Most university students are in their third or fourth year of study before they have the opportunity to take seminar courses. As a Carleton BA student, you are provided with this experience at the first-year level through enrolment in your First-Year Seminar (FYSM). First-Year Seminar instructors are committed to teaching and mentoring first-year students as they make the transition into university life. FYSM instructors incorporate their own research interests in to the course material, enriching the experience for both the instructor and the student.

Patricia Ballamingie has taught FYSMs for several years and sums the goals up very well: “The seminar is geared towards helping students feel comfortable, intellectually stimulated, and productive within the university environment. To this end, students will begin to develop skills in essay writing, critical thinking, problem solving and media literacy. They will also improve on verbal communication skills by presenting their ideas to a broader audience.” Many students report that the critical thinking and study skills they develop in their first-year seminars contribute to their academic successes in other courses.

The FYSM Difference

Besides giving first-year students a small classroom experience with no more than 30 students, First-Year Seminars (FYSMs) also function to help first-year students achieve specific goals. All FYSMs offer:

  • close analysis of texts, theories, etc., (not just rote memorization of texts written for first-year courses),
  • interactive learning (particularly with the instructor),
  • early assessment and evaluation,
  • a culminating project (providing a transition to upper-year work),
  • teamwork (small-group assignments and projects), and
  • consultation and advising by the instructor in terms of course issues as well as the first-year experience, more generally.