The First-Year Seminar (FYS) Program

FYS Director
Sumangala Bhattacharya
email: [email protected]

Launched in 1973, Pitzer’s First Year Seminar (FYS) program offers a rotating interdisciplinary range of courses open only to Pitzer students in the fall semester of their first year. Each seminar topic and selected readings reflect the professor’s area of expertise and passion, and each seminar offers a different intellectual experience. All focus on close textual analysis, broadly conceived, and effective writing strategies for diverse audiences and purposes. Typically, the instructor for the First Year Seminar will also be the student’s academic advisor until the student declares a major.

FYS classes challenge students to engage in an on-going process of intellectual inquiry, grapple with ambiguity and complexity, regard learning as a life-long pursuit, and experience writing as a complex social interaction between writer and reader. They are not necessarily “introductions” to a field group or major, and are intended to be accessible to all students, regardless of background.

Required of all first-year students, FYSs are writing-intensive courses that fulfill the college’s Written Expression educational objective. They teach students to appreciate and experience the creativity, independent thinking, and intellectual risk-taking involved in effective academic writing. During the course of the semester, students are expected to write at least 25 pages (which could be a mix of formal and informal writing). Students receive substantive written or oral feedback on 2300-2500 words (not including “Works Cited”), approximately 10 pages, double-spaced, of academic, scholarly writing with the opportunity to revise based on feedback. This writing could be a single assignment or consist of multiple assignments. Additionally, students will be introduced to library research, how to properly cite sources, and the consideration of reasons and evidence for arguments.

The FYS program also offers entering first-year students an opportunity to engage in college-level critical thinking, discussions, and analysis with other entering first-year students. All FYS courses meet at the same time: Tuesdays and Thursdays 11-12:15. Students are assigned to an FYS based on their top five choices from the list of First Year Seminars for that year.

First-year seminars challenge students to achieve the following aspirations:

  1. Engage in an ongoing process of intellectual inquiry and “conversation” through writing:
  2. Grapple with the ambiguity and complexity found within texts, which range from the written word to film, art, performance, and beyond; respond to texts critically and thoughtfully.
  3. Regard learning to write well as a life-long pursuit, not the accomplishment of a single semester or even an entire undergraduate career.
    1. Appreciate and experience the creativity, independent thinking, and intellectual risk-taking involved in effective academic writing.
    2. Craft thoughtful and insightful questions worthy of investigation; raise significant problems.
    3. Recognize and contend with alternative viewpoints/counter-arguments.
    4. Identify research/information needs.
    5. Locate appropriate scholarly and popular sources.
    6. Engage with, evaluate, and draw inferences from sources.
    7. Craft a clear, arguable, and compelling thesis.
  4. Experience writing as a complex social interaction between writer and reader:
    1. Participate in an intellectual community of peers where writing and ideas are exchanged and critiqued.
    2. Rethink and deepen ideas through a recursive process of discussing, drafting, receiving and giving feedback, and revising at any and every point along the way.
    3. Gain awareness of audience and of voice.
  5. Practice writing as a form of critical thinking, rather than merely the achievement of sentence-level correctness.