First-year seminars are small courses designed to connect new students (freshmen and transfers) to faculty members and peers, and introduce them to the academic and student life expectations and opportunities available to them at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. UW-Madison provides a number of first-year seminar options to meet the needs and interests of our large, diverse, first-year class.
Peer Leadership and Mentorship with Transitioning Students (ELPA 350)
“Peer Leadership and Mentorship with Transitioning Students” (ELPA 350/CP 350) is a one-credit course designed for undergraduate students to explore the transition new students make to UW-Madison. Students closely examine the role peers play in leading new students through this transition.. Students think, write, and talk about their own transition to UW-Madison, learn the theoretical basis for understanding student transition, and develop their mentoring capacities. Students examine personal identity and values and their intersection with leadership and mentorship. Students complete reflective writings, complete experiential assignments, and participate in a weekly intensive discussion section. The course culminates with a final paper and project outlining what students have learned and how they will apply this knowledge to their next steps.
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The course is designed to engage students in active leadership and mentoring capacity-building through intensive discussion with classmates and individual dialogue with instructors. Critical thinking and communication skills are practiced and honed through discussion, writing assignments, in-class activities, experiential assignments, and the final paper. Additionally:
- You will be able to identify the developmental stages of students in transition and student development theories
- You will be able to articulate the definition of student mentorship and how peers can influence student transition to college
- You will begin to understand the purpose of the undergraduate educational experience
- You will examine and practice effective mentoring strategies
- You will be expected to identify University and community resources to support student development
- You will be able to report and explain the purpose of leadership and mentorship with transitioning students
First-year seminars are a way to achieve high impact practices here at UW-Madison.
What Are High Impact Practices?
High-impact practices are a set of purposeful learning experiences that have been shown to deepen student learning and engagement, raise levels of performance, retention and success for students, and that invoke intellectually engaging and effective educational practices.
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).
The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers over 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 (freshman 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. Courses that meet that requirement are listed here.
• 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).
• Center for Academic Excellence (CAE), PEOPLE, Posse, and UW Athletics students. Those students are required to enroll in a program-specific section of Counseling Psychology 115.
How to Turn Your Freshman Course Into a High-Impact Experience
UW–Madison courses that meet most of the following criteria can be designated as high-impact for new students:
- Courses designed specifically for first-year undergraduate students to support their transition to UW–Madison;
- Courses that enroll fewer than 25 students or portions of the course meets in groups of fewer than 25 students;
- Students are put in circumstances that require them to interact with faculty and peers about substantive matters;
- Students will experience diversity through contact with people who are different from themselves;
- Students obtain frequent feedback on their performance in a course that will be graded;
- Students have opportunities to integrate, synthesize and apply knowledge while exploring big questions and big ideas;
- Students experience an integration of in- and out-of-classroom learning;
- The learning objectives for the course are aligned with the UW–Madison’s Essential Learning Outcomes and the Center for the First-Year Experience First Year Goals.
Academic Opportunities for Incoming Freshmen
Research on our campus and nationwide has clearly shown that participating in certain types of courses and opportunities during your first year on campus makes a positive difference in your success and education.
These courses offer opportunities for you to learn more and do better in college by :
- Interacting significantly with instructors and peers
- Experiencing diversity
- Receiving frequent feedback on your performance
- Integrating, synthesizing and applying knowledge
- Exploring big questions and ideas in a challenging and supportive manner
- Experiencing integration of in and out of classroom learning
In most cases, these courses are classes and experiences that count for credit toward your degree. At UW–Madison we have many different unique course experiences, for example: First-Year Interest Groups, first year seminars, undergraduate research, and learning communities. These are all opportunities specifically designed for first-year students.
When possible we want all new students to participate in at least one of these unique experiences during their first year on campus. What will you choose? Talk with your advisor!
Here are some examples of High Impact Practices at UW–Madison:
- First-Year Interest Groups (FIGS):
- A Wisconsin Experience Seminar
- Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS)
- Engineering Seminar
- L& S Honors Seminar
- Learning Community Seminars
- Writing/Communication Intensive Courses (Comm A):
- Courses that meeting your Communications A Requirement meet in small groups and focus intensively on writing and communication skills.
- Residence Hall Reserved Sections
INTER-AG 155 Issues in Agriculture, Environment, and Life Sciences
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Freshman Seminar Requirement
In 2011, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences began requiring that all students take a freshman seminar. CFYE is pleased to partner with CALS to review course proposals and make determinations about courses that will count for the requirement.
Students, please contact your advisor if you have questions about the CALS Freshman Seminar Requirement.
To submit a course for consideration, please complete an online survey with the following information:
- Updated course syllabus
- Statement of how the course meets the criteria below
- Contact information for the course coordinator
Courses meeting the CALS freshman seminar requirement, meet most of the following criteria:
- The course is designed specifically for first-year undergraduate students, to support their academic and personal transition to UW-Madison. For example, the course may acquaint students with academic, campus and community resources to assist in their transition through presentations, discussion, projects, or papers. Because students took this course their transition to UW-Madison is more rapid and well supported.
- Course enrolls fewer than 25 students or a significant portion of the course meets in groups of fewer than 25 students. A larger lecture course will be considered if students interact regularly in sustained and substantive small groups with a faculty member or well prepared graduate student or peer. This interaction must go beyond review of material and question and answer and be an on-going relationship.
- Students receive frequent feedback from the instructor(s) on their academic performance and receive a grade in the course.
- Students are put in circumstances that essentially demand they interact with faculty and peers about substantive matters. As a result of taking this course students have gotten to know their instructor(s) and peers through meaningful course-related dialogue.
- Students will experience diversity through meaningful dialogue with people who are different from themselves and/or engage with diversity through course content which addresses inclusivity, diversity and identity.
- Students experience an integration of experiential and classroom learning. For example, students might be asked to attend a student organization meeting, meet with a faculty or staff member, or participate in research or service.
- Students have opportunities to integrate, synthesize and apply knowledge while exploring big questions and big ideas.
- The learning objectives for the course are aligned with the UW-Madison Essential Learning Outcomes (http://www.provost.wisc.edu/content/WI_Exp_ELOs.pdf).
List of approved courses:
- Afro-American 199: Section 7, Multicultural Learning Community Seminar
- Biology 100: Exploring Biology
- Biochemistry 100: Biochemistry Freshman Seminar
- Biology 375, lecture 004 (BioHouse Seminar)
- Biology 375, section 5: Exploring Service
- Biology 375, section 6: Secrets of Science
- Counseling Psychology 115: UW Athletics Life Skills Academy
- Counseling Psychology 115: PEOPLE First Year Experience Seminar
- Counseling Psychology 125: A Wisconsin Experience Seminar
- Dairy Science 272: First-Year Seminar in Dairy Science
- Environmental Studies 402 (GreenHouse Roots Seminar)
- First Year Interest Groups (All)
- Forest and Wildlife Ecology 101: Orientation to Wildlife Ecology
- Genetics 155: Genetics Freshman Seminar
- Inter-Ag 155: CALS Freshman Seminar
- Inter-Ag 165: International Issues in Agriculture, Environment and Life Science
- Inter-Ag 175: Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Seminar
- Inter-HE 201: Belonging, Purpose and the Ecology of Human Happiness: EcoYou
- ILS 138: Foundations of a Liberal Arts Education, Chadbourne Residential College Seminar