At Middlebury, we embrace the following learning goals as central to the design of each first-year seminar:
- To learn what is expected intellectually and ethically for college-level work in the liberal arts;
- To engage seriously with the topic to which one’s seminar is devoted;
- To develop skills in widely accessible yet scholarly presentation (written and oral), involving observation, analysis, argumentation, research, and the use of sources;
- To become (with the help of advising) active in exploring academic and professional interests, and to find rewarding ways to participate in intellectual life in the liberal arts.
Different seminars may approach these goals in different ways, and individual seminar instructors may, at their discretion, add further learning goals for their particular course. These goals make clear that first-year seminars prioritize both academic advising and instruction to promote a successful beginning for all students at Middlebury.
Focusing on the Liberal Arts
First-year seminars introduce new students to liberal arts learning by encouraging broad, sustained intellectual inquiry and providing practice in key skill areas that are relevant to all academic disciplines. The particular content area of each seminar promises to engage students while serving the larger liberal arts purpose of this introductory course. Students can expect their assigned seminar to emphasize academic and intellectual curiosity, generosity, integrity, honesty, and effort. Coursework will focus on orienting students to communicate effectively with each other and with others, especially in written and oral form. Seminars may also stress the importance of diversity, personal responsibility, and community to intellectual achievement.
First-year seminar faculty also serve as academic advisors for students through at least the first year or until their FYS students select their majors (by the middle of the second year at Middlebury). We have found that no one is better equipped to fulfill the role of academic advisor to a new student than a professor who works closely with that student early on. New students will learn of the seminar to which they have been assigned shortly before on-campus orientation begins, when they are contacted by their FYS instructor/Pre-major Advisor. Advisors will provide helpful guidance for thinking about students’ academic choices during seminar meeting times as well as one-on-one during orientation week and during office hours in semester.