University Seminars

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First Seminar

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Writing Portfolio

Departmental Seminar


Students take two University Seminars by the end of their second year. Though the writing and discussion proceed at a more advanced level, University Seminars have a family resemblance to First Seminars. Enrollment is still limited to 17 students.

The courses remain writing intensive. During the semester, each student writes a research paper that shows a sustained engagement with an academic conversation – a 10 to 12 page essay summarizing and critiquing what others have said on the topic, while including the student’s own novel claims or arguments. This paper has a single controlling idea, demonstrates a student’s ability to synthesize academic research, and offers their own analysis or critical intervention. It integrates primary and secondary source material, and also includes a bibliography. The total amount of writing for each course is typically around 20-25 pages.

The leaders of University Seminars have designed courses to match their field of expertise and specific interests. Seminar leaders include faculty members from CWRU’s professional schools, as well as professors from the schools and colleges that grant undergraduate degrees. Seminar leaders are also drawn from the ranks of two SAGES-inspired programs: the Presidential Fellows and the SAGES Fellows. University Seminars enable SAGES students to interact with guest scholars from other universities, curators and educators from University Circle institutions, and distinguished professionals whose backgrounds in journalism, politics, and other fields equip them to bring fresh perspectives to SAGES and to the University generally.

This leads to an eclectic range of courses for students to choose from. There is a list of University 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. As with First Seminars, courses are divided into the three thematic areas: the Natural or Technological World (courses which start with the Subject USNA), the Social World (USSO), and the Symbolic World (USSY). You may see University Seminars referred to as USEMs. Once again, not every course is taught every semester.

There is a University Seminar Essay Prize. The best University 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 University Seminars are that students should be able to: (1)  pose relevant questions or problems and propose insightful answers/solutions, ones that go beyond what has been read or discussed. (2) think critically about information and arguments used as part of a multi-source research project, including his own assumptions, reasoning, and research practices. (3) independently assess the nature and scope of information needed to answer a question or solve a problem, access it, evaluate its reliability and utility, and apply it effectively and ethically as part of a multi-source research paper. (4) write a substantial academic paper that synthesizes and applies appropriate sources to persuasively articulate and support a relevant and insightful argument. (5) effectively communicate information and ideas through oral presentation that uses a mixture of modes.

After completing three courses (one First Seminar, and two University Seminars), each covering a different thematic area, students should be equipped to recognize, compare and contrast the different ways disciplines tackle academic inquiry, critical thinking, research, writing, and presentation.

Upon completion of their University Seminars, students fulfill a graduation requirement by submitting a Writing Portfolio.

On to Writing Portfolio

[This page updated Fall 2014]

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