Our First Year Seminars (FYS) usually include no more than twenty-four students, are taught by the University’s most distinguished researchers and most skillful teachers, and focus on an advanced, emergent, and stimulating topic. The FYS format is designed to allow students to work together with their instructor and their classmates to attain a shared intellectual adventure. FYS are designed to help students learn in creative ways. For example, students might conduct field research, write a play, build a robot, animate a story, analyze an environmental problem, or create a documentary film about a current issue. Most important, students enjoy participating in the excitement of intellectual discovery and creative accomplishment.
Faculty share the FYS excitement. An FYS allows an instructor to focus on the cutting edge material that is directly tied to his or her own research, scholarship, or creative interests. Also, FYS have fewer students than most other undergraduate courses, which allows faculty to use interactive, creative, in-class activities and to go outside the classroom on field trips and class projects. Finally, FYS instructors enjoy the freshness and naïveté that emanates from first-year students.
Students find many reasons to love their FYS. After years of basic education, the opportunity to participate in a genuine intellectual, scientific, or creative experience is an invigorating breath of fresh air. The small class size and the creative in-class and out-of-class activities provide ample time to become acquainted with the instructor, and for many students, their FYS instructor is the UNC faculty member who they know the best, with a personal relationship that lasts long beyond the semester. Finally, the FYS group activities and shared experiences are conducive to establishing relationships with peers, often leading to enduring friendships and camaraderie.
Listen to some students describe their FYS experience:
“This was an excellent course. I thoroughly enjoyed my teacher; she stimulated thinking about issues that I would have been otherwise unconcerned with. Her knowledge, compassion, and desire to help us gain understanding made each class a privilege to attend. I feel I have gained a wealth of knowledge as well as nine new friends and a mentor. I will take what I have learned in this class with me in the real world.”
“This class was awesome. It took us out of the classroom and into the field where we could learn things first hand instead of studying them in a textbook. Because of this, I actually wanted to learn about Geology. It wasn’t the same old lecture and test class. The teacher’s enthusiasm and style made learning easy and fun. This is an awesome class; it should always be offered!”
“This was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken and is by far my favorite at Carolina. The professor’s pure love for the class accentuates the pure enjoyment that she brings into the classroom every day. The first year seminar program is a wonderful aspect of freshman year at Carolina and I hope that more students take advantage of it in the future.”
“Entering college can be an intimidating experience, socially and intellectually. That wasn’t my experience during my first semester at UNC. A large part of my success I attribute to my First Year Seminar. The class allowed me to dive into the intellectual life of the university, through personal attention and small class size. Creative group exercises, speakers, student presentations, and online discussions replaced the typical classroom lecture. And I left the class with new friendships, both with the students and the professor, as well as a new passion for education. I hope every freshman takes a seminar.”
Students and faculty agree: An FYS is a great way to begin your college career and to share in the excitement of Carolina’s vibrant intellectual life.
J. Steven Reznick
Associate Dean for First Year Seminars and Academic Experiences