First Year Seminar Director
Associate Professor of Biology
Launched in 1973, Pitzer’s first-year seminar (FYS) program is designed to help students become more literate people who think, read, write, and speak both critically and competently. Each seminar topic and selected readings reflect the professor’s area of expertise and passion. All focus on close textual analysis, broadly conceived, and effective writing strategies for diverse audiences and purposes.
Required of all first-year students, FYSs are writing-intensive courses that fulfill the college’s Written Expression educational objective. During the course of the semester, students are expected to write upwards of 25 pages, including formal assignments and polished essays, in-class writing, and informal writing exercises outside of class. Drafting, peer review, and revising are central to the process-oriented view of writing that the seminars seek to foster. In response to feedback from the professor and/or their peers in the class, students will have the opportunity to revise at least 10 pages of their written work. Students are also encouraged to visit the Writing Center for additional feedback.
First-year seminars challenge students to achieve the following aspirations:
- Engage in an ongoing process of intellectual inquiry and “conversation” through writing:
- 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.
- Regard learning to write well as a life-long pursuit, not the accomplishment of a single semester or even an entire undergraduate career.
- Appreciate and experience the creativity, independent thinking, and intellectual risk-taking involved in effective academic writing.
- Craft thoughtful and insightful questions worthy of investigation; raise significant problems.
- Recognize and contend with alternative viewpoints/counter-arguments.
- Identify research/information needs.
- Locate appropriate scholarly and popular sources.
- Engage with, evaluate, and draw inferences from sources.
- Craft a clear, arguable, and compelling thesis.
- Experience writing as a complex social interaction between writer and reader:
- Participate in an intellectual community of peers where writing and ideas are exchanged and critiqued.
- 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.
- Gain awareness of audience and of voice.
- Practice writing as a form of critical thinking, rather than merely the achievement of sentence-level correctness.