First Seminar

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University Seminars

Writing Portfolio

Departmental Seminar


In the fall of their freshman year, all students enroll in a 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.

SAGES places an emphasis on writing. Most Case Western Reserve University students do not take a separate expository writing course, as writing instruction is integrated into the SAGES seminars. Students receive feedback on their writing from seminar leaders, classmates, and, on many courses, co-instructors who participate in all aspects of the seminar. There is a focus on summarizing and synthesizing complex scholarly arguments, responding to specific academic conversations, and improving personal writing techniques, including drafting, revising and editing. Students will complete assignments totaling at least 20 pages over the course of the semester.

Each First Seminar is led by a faculty member who also serves as their students’ first-year advisor. Under this system, every student receives mentoring from a professor who has observed their academic performance firsthand and with whom they interact frequently, both inside and outside the classroom.

The seminar leaders have designed the courses they teach to reflect their personal areas of expertise, experience and enthusiasm. In addition to three hours of class time each week, First Seminars include Fourth Hour activities at the scientific and cultural institutions of University Circle and the Cleveland area.

There is a list of First Seminars in the Student Information System (SIS), to which all faculty and students have access, and there is a summary of this semester’s courses here. First Seminar courses are listed with course numbers that begin with FS, and you may see First Seminars referred to as FSEMs. ). You will select which First Seminar experience is best for you through an online directed self-placement process. There are Foundations and ESL First Seminars (Course Subject FSCC), as well as courses focusing on more specific topics. To help navigate, these are divided into three thematic areas: the Natural or Technological World (courses which start with the Subject FSNA), the Social World (FSSO) and the Symbolic World (FSSY).

There is a First Seminar Essay Prize. The best First Seminar essays are printed as a collection, and contributors are awarded a cash prize. The Nomination Form is here (due by the Registrar’s date for filing semester grades)

The Learning Outcomes for the First Seminar are that by the end of the course, students should be able to: (1) Participate in an academic conversation by contributing insightful, relevant ideas. (2) Consider differences in values and assumptions to think critically and deliberate ethically. (3) Read, summarize, and apply scholarly concepts and information. (4) Write clearly and persuasively. (5) Effectively communicate information and ideas using a mixture of modes, including orally.

If you are an incoming freshman seeking advice about selecting a First Seminar, please look here.

Learn more about the Fourth Hour

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