First Year Seminar Background Information

First Year Seminar Background Information

A. University Faculty Senate Legislation

On December 2, 1997, The University Faculty Senate adopted a new general education program to take effect in Summer, 1999.

A key element of the legislation required every first-year student (baccalaureate degree) to complete a First-Year Seminar with the following objectives:

  1. "Engage students in learning and orient them to the scholarly community from the outset of their undergraduate studies in a way that will bridge to later experiences in their chosen majors."
  2. "Facilitate student's adjustment to the high expectations, demanding workload, increased academic liberties and other aspects of the transition to college life."

While courses designed to achieve these objectives may have many forms, each First-Year Seminar has certain principles of implementation: They have academic content, are offered for academic credit, and are taught by regular faculty who has at least three years of teaching experience at Penn State.

In general, First-Year Seminars are expected to: 
  1. have academic content;
  2. introduce students to University study;
  3. introduce students to Penn State as an academic community, including fields of studies and areas of interest available to them;
  4. acquaint students with the learning tools and resources available at Penn State;
  5. provide opportunities for the students to develop relationships with full-time faculty and other students in academic areas of interest to them;
  6. introduce students to their responsibilities as members of the University community.

B. From the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education

The First-Year Seminar (FYS) is a component of Penn State's revised General Education Requirement. This revised requirement applies to all freshmen admitted to the University starting Summer 1999. The purpose of the First-Year Seminar is to introduce new students to an open and purposeful learning community, and to help them develop the habits and pleasures of good scholarship. Working with regular faculty members in a small class environment, they will learn that expectations of personal integrity, level of effort, and civility at Penn State are much higher than in high school, but that there are many people, vehicles, and support to help them meet those expectations. They can learn to take charge of their own education, to plan for internships, international experiences, research, and, in general, to become active learners. And they will find that a life-habit of learning is satisfying, useful, and necessary.

Commonly Asked Questions for Students:

  1. Which courses are First-Year Seminar Courses?
    First-year seminars (FYS) are either identified by the course abbreviation "PSU" or by the suffix "S," indicating that the course is a first-year seminar; "T," indicating that the course is an honors course and a first-year seminar; or "X," indicating that the course is both writing intensive and a first-year seminar.
  2. Are First-Year Seminar courses included in the Schedule of Courses?
    Yes. All First-Year Seminar courses are published in the Schedule of Courses. These courses are included along with all other courses.
  3. Must I enroll in a First-Year Seminar course?
    Yes. All freshmen admitted to the University starting Summer 1999 must enroll and successfully complete a First-Year Seminar course. This is a graduation requirement that will be recorded on your Degree Audit. In the rare case where you do not complete a FYS as a freshman, you will be required to provide evidence of suitable substitution work.
  4. When should I register for a First-Year Seminar?
    You should follow the specific advising provided by your college. Generally speaking all freshmen will register for a First-Year Seminar course during either their first or second semester.
  5. Which First-Year Seminar course should I register for?
    You should follow the specific advising provided by your college. Information will be provided to you during FTCAP and through your college's academic advising center.
  6. If I change colleges or change my major after I complete my First-Year Seminar course will I need to take another First-Year Seminar course?
    No. To fulfill the graduation requirement, you need to successfully complete only one First-Year Seminar course.
  7. How do I register for a First-Year Seminar course?
    In the same manner as you would register for any other course. Follow the published registration instructions for your campus. In some cases, the academic college may limit enrollment in the First-Year Seminar Courses they offer. In such cases, you will need to register for the course at the college or department office.
  8. If I am a provisional, non-degree, or transfer student from another institution, will I have to take a First-Year Seminar?
    No. The FYS Seminar is intended for entering freshman degree candidates.


C. Berks First Year Seminar Objectives

All first year seminars at Berks will address the following core elements. These objectives are intended to help balance transition-to-college topics with the approved curricular content of courses, as mandated by the Senate legislation. These student outcomes may be accomplished through in-class activities, out-of-class assignments, student attendance at out-of-class workshops and events, online learning, etc.

1. Academic Success.

Faculty will provide an opportunity for students to learn about the scholarly characteristics of a college setting.

Student Goals:
1a. Knowledge of personal and professional ethics and the academic integrity policy and process.
1b. Application of effective learning strategies; i.e. notetaking and time management
1c. Knowledge of academic policies and programs at Penn State
1d. Knowledge of resources at Penn State and the campus.
1e. Knowledge of support services on campus
1f. Increased self-awareness of his or her role in a university setting, academic interests, pursuit of a major, and career goals.

2. Communication.

Faculty should create a classroom environment that encourages a communication-across-the-curriculum approach to learning.

Student Goals:
2a. Understand one's responsibility to participate in discussions
2b. Understand importance of using formal English in written communication
2c. Demonstrate oral, written, and visual presentation skills

3. Research and Undergraduate Scholarship.

Faculty will engage students in activities that promote skills and positive attitudes toward scholarship and seeking knowledge.

Student Goals:
3a. Demonstrate skills to use source materials, the library, and electronic research
3b. Appreciate the nature of scholarship and research

4. Critical Thinking.

Faculty will create activities that encourage students? use of reasoned thinking and the analysis of information including rhetorical strategies.

Student Goals:
4a. Learn strategies for problem-solving, productive questioning, creative approaches, and evaluation of information.
4b. Appreciate and respect multiple perspectives.

5. Community Building and Diversity.

Faculty will encourage collaborative learning and support students? efforts to connect with the many varied components and diversity of a university setting.

Student Goals:
5a. Discuss the Penn State Principles.
5b. Learn skills to work constructively in teams
5c. Participate in at least one out-of-class cultural event
5d. Understand his or her role in relationship to faculty, other students and university staff.
5e. Demonstrate awareness of diversity.

6. Computer Literacy.

Faculty will require the use of computer technology in the completion of some assignments.

Student Goals
6a. Use email in context of the course.
6b. Use wordprocessing to complete assignments.
6a. Use electronic resources such as ANGEL.

7. Career Awareness

Faculty will require students to participate in activities that improve their awareness of careers and their individual career goals.

Student Goals
7a. Demonstrate awareness of the career services available at Penn State.
7b. Demonstrate understanding of core characteristics of relevant careers and match with own individual goals
7c. Demonstrate understanding of career decision making process.

OPTIONAL ELEMENTS. Faculty may consider including any of the following topics as time permits. The Resources section of this document lists staff that are available to teach these topics.

Health, Wellness and Personal Adjustment issues that affect academic success
Understanding of individual learning styles and interpersonal preferences
Additional technology skills: Powerpoint, create student websites Additional knowledge and practice in group skills
Additional study skills development
Learning styles, time management, test taking skills
Stress Management
Exploration of academic majors
Additional coverage of diversity
Conflict resolution