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First-Year Seminar (FY Seminar) classes introduce students to the intellectual life of the University. Students will make personal connections with distinguished faculty members who are active scholars and accomplished teachers. Students learn how scholars pose problems, discover truths, resolve controversies, and evaluate knowledge, while exploring specific questions or issues in depth. All incoming first-year students must complete either a FY Seminar or First-Year Launch (FY Launch) in the first year of their undergraduate career as part of the IDEAs in Action curriculum.
Many academic units in the College of Arts and Sciences have a minimum number of faculty that must teach FY Seminars each academic year. This is set through an agreement between the College of Arts and Sciences and each department. Every fall, the Senior Associate Deans in the College review the FY Seminar Minimums and follow up with each department to confirm Minimums for the next academic year.
Criteria & Requirements
Student Learning Outcomes
- Connect with a faculty member early in the educational process.
- Learn intensively among a small cohort of students.
- Analyze and communicate issues associated with a specific, advanced topic, covering a wide range of knowledge.
- Produce knowledge through self-directed inquiry and active learning.
- Introductory-level courses structured for first-year students. Only first-year students (and transfer students who transferred in fewer than 24 transfer credits) may enroll in FY Seminar.
- Taught by full-time faculty members.
- Incorporate student-centered active learning strategies and include some or all of the following: small group projects, more intensive interaction between the instructor and the students, feedback from the instructors on students’ work inside and outside the classroom, and low stakes formative assessments (e.g., weekly quizzes, journaling, homework assignments, reading summary, in-class problem solving).
- Should fulfill at least one Focus Capacity and/or Reflection and Integration General Education Requirement in the IDEAs in Action Curriculum.
- Scheduled with an enrollment cap of 24 and in a standard time slot meeting at least twice a week (i.e., Tue/Thu). Instructors seeking an exception to this policy should send a request and explanation to the Associate Dean (email@example.com). Approvals will not roll over to successive terms.
FY Seminar content is expected to focus on advanced, emergent, and stimulating topics; the format is designed to allow students to work together with their instructor and their classmates to attain a shared intellectual adventure. FY Seminar goals include not only imparting knowledge, but also helping students to refine their ability to speak clearly and to write persuasively. FY Seminars offer an opportunity to participate in a genuine intellectual, scientific, or creative experience in the context of a small group of highly motivated peers. Students in an FY Seminar are new to college, they have not taken any pre-requisites, and they are unlikely to have the reading, writing, and research skills that we expect from our more advanced students. Thus, it is important for instructors to consider how or if they should incorporate scholar-oriented journal articles into their reading assignments. It is also important for instructors to consider the amount of required readings to ensure the workload is appropriate for students who have just finished high school.
Like all undergraduate courses, the final exam period must be utilized for instructional hours. FY Seminar can use either a traditional final examination or an alternative activity or assessment. Instructor might identify some alternative form of final project as more appropriate for evaluation of student performance in lieu of a traditional final exam.
Propose New FY Seminar
First-Year Seminars must be offered for the first time under the FY Seminar Special Topics 89 number (e.g., ANTH 89, PHYS 89). The First-Year Curriculum Program must review and approve your new course proposal before it can be offered.
- Discuss the idea for the new FY Seminar with your department chair or Director of Undergraduate Studies and read through “Criteria & Requirements” section above.
- Submit a FY Seminar Prospectus Form to propose a new Special Topics 89.
- The form is due by March 1 for the following fall semester and October 1 for the following spring semester. We do not offer new FY Seminar in summer terms.
- Attach a syllabus to your submission and consider IDEAs in Action Gen Ed requirements that the course may fulfill.
- To list the FY Seminar as Honors, indicate that the FY Seminar will be an Honors offering on the Prospectus Form. Instructors must also apply separately to the Honors Carolina Program and receive the Program’s permission to offer an Honors FY Seminar.
- Ask your department’s course scheduling officer (i.e., SSM) to schedule the FY Seminar using the FY Seminar Special Topics course number (e.g., BIOL 89). Ben Haven schedules Royster IDST 89 sections. See “Scheduling” section for more information.
- The First-Year Curriculum Program will review proposals and provide feedback and approvals to instructors soon after the deadline. Upon approval, the Program will add the approved Gen Ed attributes to your class in Connect Carolina, advertise your FY Seminar in the online FY Seminar Brochure on the IDEAs in Action website (see “FY Seminar/FY Launch Brochure” section), and add class notes to your scheduled section in ConnectCarolina.
Offer FY Seminar for the Second and Third Time
Special Topics 89 may be offered up to two times before the course must be submitted in the Curriculum Inventory Management System (CIM) for a permanent number.
- Second time offering FY Seminar: You may offer it again under the Special Topics course number (XXXX 89). You do not need to submit a new Prospectus Form. You also have the option to submit a request for a permanent course number using in CIM.
- Third time offering FY Seminar: Submit a request for a permanent course number in CIM before the course is offered for the third time.
FY Seminar are scheduled in ConnectCarolina by the course scheduling officer (SSM) of the academic unit that houses the course during the Course Scheduling Maintenance period set by the Registrar’s Office. IDST 89 Royster sections are scheduled by Ben Haven.
- FY Seminar Number
- Scheduled within the catalog number range 50-89 and the section number range 001-299.
- Meeting Pattern
- Scheduled using a standard time slot and meet at least twice a week (i.e., Tue/Thu). Some instructors prefer to hold one long seminar per week and/or to meet at a non-standard time, but this makes it difficult for students to schedule other classes. FY Seminar instructors who seek an exception to this policy should send a request and explanation to the Associate Dean (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Enrollment Cap
- 24 students. Instructors who teach in a format that works best with fewer than 24 students should send a request and explanation to the Associate Dean (email@example.com).
- No Waitlist
- Please be sure to remove waitlists if they have rolled over from prior terms.
- No Department or Instructor Consent
- An instructor may opt to put the instructor consent requirement on the first day of classes.
- Honors Version of FY Seminar
- Numbers end in H (e.g., ASIA 56H). Approval is required through the Curriculum Inventory Management System before an Honors version can be offered.
- ConnectCarolina Class Notes
- the First-Year Curriculum Program and Honors Carolina Program will add information for students about the FY Seminar and registration procedures in Class Notes.
- Special Topics 89 FY Seminar Course
- Include the title of the course within the Free Format Topic section of the Meetings tab in all caps. If the instructor has not provided this information to you, remove the Free Format Topic if it rolled over from a previous year.
Cancelling or Changing Scheduled FY Seminar
If a FY Seminar is cancelled or other significant aspect of a FY Seminar (e.g., meeting pattern/time, enrollment cap, or instructor) is changed after March 1 for a fall FY Seminar or after October 1 for a spring FY Seminar, please inform Ben Haven.
We strongly discourage departments from cancelling an FY Seminar that has student enrollment unless it is due to an unavoidable conflict. In that case, please notify the First Year Curriculum Program and the enrolled students prior to cancellation. The Office of Undergraduate Curriculum can provide the department with a list of FY Seminars and FY Launches with available seats to include in the cancellation message to help students find an alternative class section.
First-year students in their first year at UNC (i.e., first 30 in-residence credit hours) are eligible to register in FY Seminars. This group includes
- incoming and continuing first-year students
- transfer students (including Carolina Global Launch students) who transfer in fewer than 24 post-high school college course credit hours
- Connect Carolina restricts registration in FY Seminars to the eligible student groups. This prevents non-first-year students from registering for FY Seminars. Note: Connect Carolina class rosters classify students by credit hours, so a first-year student with by-exam (BE) credit and/or articulating transfer credit may appear as a sophomore or junior on a roster.
- Students may only register for one FY Seminar.
- Students may only register for one FY Seminar or one FY Launch. They may take one or the other, but not both.
Instructors Controlling Registration
On the first day of classes, instructors can request that scheduling officers add “instructor consent” to their class section in ConnectCarolina to prevent students from self-registering. Instructors do not have access to register students directly into FY Launch; they must contact their course scheduling officers to do so. Scheduling officers should confirm that the student is a qualifying first-year before registering them (contact Ben Haven with questions). Some scheduling officers have found it helpful to communicate with their FY Seminar instructors before classes begin to ensure instructors are aware of this option.
- Incoming fall first-year students: Most seats in FY Seminar sections are reserved for incoming fall first-year students. These students fill out the Pre-Registration Survey. They have the option to select their top 10 FY Launches and FY Seminars. Based on survey results, students may be pre-registered for a fall FY Seminar. Remaining seats are released by the Office of the Registrar evenly across New Student Orientation (NSO) registration sessions in July to ensure equal access to seats. Please do not register students in a FY Seminar during this period. During open enrollment in early August, all FY students are free to register into any remaining FY Seminar seats.
- Continuing first-year students (i.e., spring first-year admits) will register for fall FY Seminar during their designated registration sessions in Waves 1 and 2. If they have issues registering for a FY Seminar, have them contact Ben Haven.
- Incoming spring first-year students can register for spring FY Seminar sections as soon as they matriculate and are term activated.
- Continuing first-year students can register for spring FY Seminar sections during their assigned registration sessions in Waves 1 and 2.
- If first-year students have issues registering for a FY Seminar with available seats, have them contact Ben Haven.
Summer Session 2 Registration
- Incoming fall first-year students may register in a Summer Session 2 FY Seminar after they matriculate and are term activated for the summer, before their arrival in fall.
- Continuing first-year students will register for a Summer Session 2 FY Seminar during their designated registration sessions.
- If first-year students have issues registering for a FY Seminar with available seats, have them contact Ben Haven.
FY Seminar/FY Launch Brochure
Each term, the First-Year Curriculum Program creates an online FY Seminar/FY Launch Brochure on the IDEAs in Action website listing all FY Seminar and FY Launch in the term. We use this list to advertise to first-year students.
Prior to registration each term, the First-Year Curriculum Program follows up with instructors and student services managers to update faculty bios, expanded course descriptions, and other elements of the FY Seminar to make sure our advertisements are accurate. This occurs in October for subsequent spring terms and March for subsequent fall terms.
Communication to Instructors
Each semester, the FY Seminar Program generates a listserv to communicate with FY Seminar instructors. Messages are sent with timely information that is relevant for the success of the First-Year Curricula Program, FY Seminar classes, and our first-year students.
- The Center for Faculty Excellence for support in incorporating student-centered active learning strategies. They offer consultations, workshops, and grant programs.
- The Center for Faculty Excellence’s Course Design Institute is a structured sequence of workshops, activities, and working sessions held over a 3-day period (12 contact-hours overall) where a small cohort of instructors—generally between six and fourteen colleagues—use the “backward design” approach to develop their upcoming courses.
- The Writing and Learning Centers are excellent resources for students and faculty. Offerings for students include writing coaching, academic coaching, and peer tutoring appointments along with ADHD/LD, STEM, and English language support. You can find a list of recommended ways to connect your students with the Writing and Learning Center here . This list includes a guide for adding informational tabs to your Sakai site, blurbs that you can add into your syllabi, links for scheduling a brief class visit if you would like a staff member to connect with your class, and an introductory video describing Writing and Learning Center services.
Student Evaluations of Teaching (SET)
End of semester student evaluations of teaching (SET) for all FY Seminars are conducted using an FY Seminar-specific evaluation form administered through the Explorance Blue Course Evaluation System. To encourage maximum participation, please schedule a 15 minute block of time at the beginning of one of your class meetings and ask your students to bring a laptop on the designated day.
The Associate Dean receives a summary of the course evaluations for each FY Launch, and if the student evaluations for a FY Launch are outside of the expected range, communicates with the instructor to discuss strategies for making optimal use of student feedback.
Please see the Office of Undergraduate Curricula’s SET page for more details.