What is SAGES?
The Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship provides a foundation for Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) undergraduates in critical thinking, written and oral communication, the use of information, quantitative reasoning, engagement with ethical issues and diversity, and exposure to experimental and theoretical approaches to understanding human culture and behavior, scientific knowledge, and methods of research.
The SAGES program consists of:
One First Seminar, taken in the first semester of a student’s first year. Students can choose from around eighty courses. All First Seminars are designed to introduce students to CWRU and to provide writing instruction. This Seminar also includes the Fourth Hour, an opportunity to explore some of Cleveland’s scientific and cultural institutions.
Two University Seminars, which have to be completed by the end of a student’s second year. Like the First Seminars, these are small classes with an intensive writing requirement. There are well over a hundred and fifty courses offered over the academic year, all designed and taught by experts on the subjects, which can range from fuel cells to fly fishing, Gothic literature to the business aspects of professional sports. Not every course is available every year.
When those three seminars are completed, students must submit a Writing Portfolio of work from those classes. This is a requirement for graduation.
In a student’s third year, they take one Departmental Seminar, in which they take the writing and critical thinking skills they have learned and bring them to bear on a topic that is related to their major.
In a student’s senior year, the culmination of the SAGES program is the Capstone, a semester-long project ending in a public presentation.
What is Directed Self-Placement (DSP)?
DSP empowers first-year students to select a seminar that best suits their needs as new college writers and thinkers. New students are provided with materials to help them make this decision, including descriptions of the courses available to them, a questionnaire about their writing and reading experience, and a writing sample that they self-assess with criteria provided to them. Currently, transfer students and international students are placed through different processes and do not participate in DSP.
In order to facilitate DSP in the SAGES Program, we have implemented a new on-line placement process in which students read, write a response to the reading, assess that response according to specific criteria typical of First Seminar writing, and complete a questionnaire about their own reading and writing experiences before coming to college. Incoming first-year students complete this process as part of the New Student Checklist in May or June. The process encourages students to reflect on their needs as new college writers and to select from among
Foundations First Seminars for students who need or want support while developing strong writing habits and acclimating to college-level writing;
Topical First Seminars for students who need or want to apply their writing to explore scholarly areas of interest.
The three kinds of First Seminars have the same learning objectives and meet the same requirements, but they each foster academic writing in a different environment.
What is First Seminar?
The seminar’s defining feature is its small size: with enrollment limited to 17 or fewer students, every First Seminar promotes active engagement and discussion, allows students to learn from one another, and offers a vigorous introduction to academic inquiry. First Seminars have a topic of study, consistent with the Program’s general education mission, and they also involve instruction in academic writing. In addition to the topical First Seminars, SAGES also offers Foundations First Seminars and ESL First Seminars, which are designed to provide more direct writing support to students who need more experience and/or confidence in writing at the college level.
What is a Topical First Seminar?
Topical First Seminars have a topic of study, consistent with the Program’s general education mission, but they also involve instruction in academic writing. These First Seminars have a variety of topics and are taught by professors from throughout the university. The majority of first-year students take a Topical Seminar, rather than an ESL or Foundations First Seminar.
Here are some examples of recent Topical First Seminars.
FSNA 155 The Engineering of Things
Robots, smart cities, wind energy, modern prosthetics, 3-D printing, and smart phones are but a few examples of the pervasiveness of modern engineering. This seminar will examine what engineers do, the skills needed to be successful in engineering and many other professions, how some things work, and how to actually design and build something. We will examine the engineering design process, how things are designed and built, and how things work and/or fail. Successful engineers also need to be good at communications, teamwork, time management and organization, and understand professional responsibility and ethics.
FSSO 151: Border Crossings: Travel, Culture, Identity
This seminar will explore the transformative nature of travel, especially in regard to individual and cultural identity. Through seminar discussions, extensive writing and revision, and formal oral presentations, our class will explore how individuals, including ourselves, define themselves in personal, local, and national contexts and how we redefine ourselves and our world as we cross geographical borders. Course texts will include works of fiction, non-fiction travel narratives, films, and scholarly essays that will compel us to question our everyday world and consider matters of cultural exchange and social belonging.
What is Foundations First Seminar?
In addition to the topical First Seminars, SAGES also offers Foundations First Seminars, which are designed to provide more direct writing support to students who need or want more experience with the writing process. These FSEM experiences will provide students with opportunities to develop their own writing processes and their confidence about their ability to perform college level writing.
FSCC 110: Foundations of College Writing Course Description
Writing is both a personal and a social project. Foundations of College Writing First Seminar provides attention to the personal aspects of writing including processes, habits, and skills as well as to the social aspects of writing including types of writing, persuasion/argument, and conventions. The course structure allows for us to spend more time and attention on your individual needs and goals as writers. You will learn academic writing conventions, rhetorical techniques, and various processes and methods that you might adopt and employ as you move into other writing situations.
We will explore writing from multiple positions: as a writer, as a reader, and as a critic.
We will explore various types of writing: alphabetic text, visuals, and multimedia.
And finally we will work to achieve the course objectives through freewriting, drafting, revising, reflecting, blogging, emailing, debating, and discussing.
What is ESL First Seminar?
SAGES also provides ESL First Seminars for students whose first language is not English and who need or want direct support in reading and writing in academic English. ESL First Seminars provide classroom support for students who are not comfortable reading and/or writing in English. They have the same course outcomes as other First Seminars, but extra time is devoted to grammatical and rhetorical concerns. These classes are composed of students whose first language is not English (including students who have attended high school in English-speaking countries) and a teacher who has special training in teaching English as a second language.
FSCC 100 ESL First Seminar
This four credit-hour course provides an introduction to various dimensions of academic life. It will be characterized by intense yet open-ended intellectual inquiry, guided by reading from primary as well as secondary sources, and will include practice in written and oral communication in small groups. Each seminar is led both by a faculty member and a writing co-instructor. The goals are to enhance basic intellectual skills of academic inquiry, such as critical reading, thoughtful analysis, and written and oral communication; to introduce basic information literacy skills; to provide a foundation for ethical decision-making; to encourage a global and multidisciplinary perspective on the learning process; to facilitate faculty-student interactions; and, in the most general sense, to provide a supportive common intellectual experience for first-year students at Case.
How do Topical First Seminars, Foundations First Seminars, and ESL First Seminars compare?
|Topical First Seminars||Foundations First Seminars||ESL First Seminars|
|Use writing to explore a topic of study||Study the topic of writing as a process||Use a topic of study to explore academic writing in English|
|Assume independence and confidence in personal writing processes||Foster strong personal writing habits & processes||Foster strong personal writing & language acquisition habits|
|Devote class time mostly to exploration of a topic||Devote class time mostly to experimentation with writing strategies||Devote class time to reading, writing, & evaluating academic English|
|Offer writing support as part of the curriculum||Offer intensive writing support as part of the curriculum||Offer writing & language support as part of the curriculum|
|Have 17 students per class||Have 12 students per class||Have 12 students per class|
All three First Seminar experiences award academic credit and meet the SAGES learning outcomes; students’ transcripts will reflect that they have taken a First Seminar, regardless of which seminar experience they choose. None of these courses is remedial nor a prerequisite for a Topical First Seminar.
Who can I talk to if I have more questions about my First Seminar selection?
If you have questions about the directed self-placement process or Foundations First Seminars, you can contact Martha Schaffer, Associate Director of Composition, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216.368.1890.
If you have questions about writing services for students whose first language is not English or ESL First Seminars, you can contact Gusztav Demter, Coordinator of ESL Writing, at email@example.com or 216.368.2452.