Wisconsin Experience Seminar Instructors

Course Overview

The Wisconsin Experience Seminar (Coun Psy 125) is a one-credit (75 min/wk., 15 wk.) first-year seminar open to all new students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. This course is taught by a university faculty or staff member and an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow in an active, discussion-driven, and community-oriented learning environment. Class size is capped at 20 students.

This small, interactive course is designed to help new students transition successfully to academic and student life at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Students will explore campus resources and opportunities; their skills, identity, interests, and goals; and the history and purpose of UW–Madison to help them make the most of their Wisconsin experience.

Instructor Role and Expectations

Training, resources, and support are provided throughout the year to ensure that Wisconsin Experience Seminar instructors have a successful experience teaching the course and find this to be a valuable professional development opportunity that can positively impact their work on-campus.

Instructors are expected to participate in the following professional development opportunities:

  • Spring Training:
    • Wednesday, April 13th from 3-5pm in the Education Building, Room 159 and Thursday, April 14th from 5-7pm in Union South (check TITU for room)
  • Fall Training:
    • Thursday, September 1 from 8:30am-4pm in the Pyle Center, Room 325 and 326
    • We’ll offer make-up training for those who can’t attend due to working SOAR: Friday, September 1 from 10am-Noon in the Middleton Building, Room 120
  • Weekly meetings during the fall semester with their Undergraduate Teaching Fellow
  • Bi-weekly meetings with other instructors during the fall semester

Wisconsin Experience Seminar instructors should expect to spend 5-7 hours a week preparing for and facilitating the course during the fall semester. This will include:

  • Reviewing lesson plans and facilitating class weekly
  • Grading and providing feedback on student work in a timely manner
  • Mentoring an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow
  • Actively supporting first-year student success within and outside of the classroom (may include in-person and electronic communication with students)
  • Attending meetings with the Undergraduate Teaching Fellow and other instructors

Benefits and Compensation

This unique professional development opportunity has many potential benefits, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Enhancing group facilitation skills and teaching skills.
  • Engaging with, and mentoring, new, undergraduate students.
  • Developing positive relationships with new students over the course of the semester and beyond.
  • Mentoring an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow
  • Being part of a team of instructors from across campus.
  • Building relationships with and learning from campus colleagues.
  • Facilitating classroom conversations about important topics relevant to first-year students.
  • Bringing a richer understanding of first-year students and an awareness of classroom dynamics back to your department/unit.


  • Wisconsin Experience Seminar instructors will receive a $1,000 stipend upon completion of teaching the course.
  • Instructors may receive the stipend via a lump-sum payment or by transferring funds to the Instructor’s office/department for use as professional development funds.
  • Instructors are eligible for compensation each semester they teach the course.
    A previous rule that allowed Instructors to only be compensated once every three years no longer applies.
  • Instructors also have access to up to $5/student for class supplies or shared experiences for the class.

Instructor Requirements and Application Process

Academic staff, University staff, and faculty interested in teaching and supporting first-year students are encouraged to apply to be a Wisconsin Experience Seminar Instructor.

The minimum requirements to teach a Wisconsin Experience Seminar are:

  • Employment at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Masters’ degree or higher from an accredited institution
  • Approval from the applicant’s supervisor

Finalists will be invited for a brief interview with the Coordinator of Academic Engagement, and final hiring approval will be given by the Counseling Psychology Department in the School of Education. The application process is competitive, and OSTFE may not able to hire all qualified applicants. If you are interested in applying, please fill out this form. If you taught previously, please fill out the Returning Instructor application.

Applications will be accepted after the deadline, but sections will be assigned to priority applicants first.

Please refer questions to the Academic Engagement team, at academics@studentlife.wisc.edu.

First-Year Seminars

The course introduced me to encouraging faculty and supportive peers and helped me begin to make my college experience exactly what I want it to be.

 Makenzie S.

First-year seminars are small, discussion-based courses designed to support new students in their transition to academic and student life at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The Office for Student Transition and Family Engagement (OSTFE) recommends all new students participate in at least one first-year seminar during their first year at UW–Madison. To meet the needs and interests of our large, diverse, first-year class, UW–Madison provides different types of first-year seminars based on student population.

OSTFE administers CP125: The Wisconsin Experience Seminar for first-semester freshmen and transfer students.

First-Year Seminar Options

All new students (freshmen and transfers) are encouraged to enroll in at least one first-year seminar during their first year at UW–Madison to help them acclimate to academic and student life, connect with faculty and peers, and learn about the resources and opportunities available to them to make the most of their Wisconsin Experience.

Students who enroll in first-year seminars consistently earn higher first-year GPAs, persist and graduate at higher rates, and utilize University resources at a higher rate than students who do not enroll.

UW provides a number of different first-year seminar options for new students, including:

First-Year Interest Groups – Clusters of (usually) three UW courses linked together to explore a common theme with a small cohort.

Residential Learning Community Seminars (scroll down at link)- Courses for students living in residential learning communities to further explore their learning community theme.

School/College/Major/Program Seminars – Courses designed to orient students to their School or College, major, or program.
Students should speak with their academic advisor to determine which course(s) might be most helpful and relevant for them. Requirements for specific first-year seminars for Schools and Colleges, majors, and programs are outlined in Guide.

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Recommended Spring Seminars

In the spring semester, a number of seminars for freshmen and transfer students are available for students to explore topics of interest to them.

If you are interested in…

  • Engaging in conversations about race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability and other aspects of identity, checkout Students Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (COUN PSY 325).
  • Exploring human happiness and well-being, checkout Belonging, Purpose and the Ecology of Human Happiness: EcoYou (INTER-HE 201).
  • FIGs (First-Year Interest Groups), checkout spring FIGs.
  • improving your study skills and grades, checkout the Academic Enhancement Seminars.
  • knowledge and skills for making career and life decisions, take a career course through SuccessWorks.
  • Science and public service, checkout Exploring Service in Science (INTEGSCI 140).
  • Using technology for academic success, checkout Tech – A Tool for Academic Success (COUN PSY 115)

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More Information about First-Year Seminars

The University of Wisconsin–Madison offers a number of first-year seminars to help new students transition successfully to academic and student life at a large, public, research university. These courses are small (20 students or less) so students can get to know their instructor and classmates and engage in meaningful discussions. First-year seminars are considered a high impact educational practice because they have been proven to help students succeed by orientating them to the academic expectations of the university and connecting them to the resources, opportunities, and people that can help them make the most of their college experience and achieve their personal and career goals. Students who participate in first-year seminars have consistently been found to be more academically successful (higher GPAs), more likely to return to college each year, and more likely to graduate than students who do not participate in first-year seminars (Hunter & Linder, 2005; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005).img_6289-crop-web

The University of Wisconsin–Madison offers nearly 30 different first-year seminars to meet the needs and interests of our diverse student population. The Center for the First-Year Experience recommends new students (freshmen and transfers) engage in at least one of these seminars. Based on their choice, some students may be interested in taking more than one.

There are four primary types of first-year seminars at UW–Madison (and some are hybrids):

  • College/Department Seminars are for students interested in particular majors or colleges. These courses help students better understand the discipline and the program’s expectations
  • First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs) are clusters of (usually) three courses that are linked together to explore a common theme. Students attend all three classes together as a cohort.
  • Residential Learning Community Seminars are for students living in a residential learning community. The courses vary on topic depending on the community.
  • University Transition Seminars help students acclimate to academic and student life at the University by connecting them to peers, resources, opportunities, and strategies for success.

Some students are required to participate in a first-year seminar. Including:

  • College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) students. Please visit Guide for a list of the approved CALS First-Year Seminar courses.
  • Direct admits to the College of Engineering. Those students are required to take Inter-Engineering 110: Introduction to Engineering.
  • Direct admits to the Wisconsin School of Business. Those students are required to enroll in General Business 365: Principles in Leadership, Ethics, Authenticity, and Development (LEAD).
  • PEOPLE, Posse, and UW Athletics students. Those students are required to enroll in a program-specific section of Counseling Psychology 115.

Have questions about instructing or attending a first-year seminar?

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