What is FYS?
The First Year Seminar is the core of the first-year experience at AUCA. It is a multidisciplinary program of two 12-credit courses taken in the fall and spring semester. The Seminar brings students and faculty together in exploration of some of the most important questions raised by a variety of texts, ranging from novels and poetry to significant works in philosophical and scientific reasoning. FYSem gives students a rare and valuable opportunity to experience the benefits of college-level learning through seminar-style investigation, and to ponder the mission, philosophy and fundamental values of a liberal arts education.
What is a seminar?
A seminar is a question-based class in which the instructor will expect students to participate actively in discussing assigned texts and raising additional questions about their meaning or implications. For that reason, the writings chosen for the seminar are designed to be challenging and thought-provoking. Instructors may pose questions directly to the students or invite students to pose their own questions to the members of the class.
The reading and critical analysis portion of FYSem focuses on "core texts" in the humanities, social sciences and scientific reasoning. These readings are usually organized around a theme--for example, "The Unexamined Life," "Ideas of Human Nature" or "Science and Society"-- in order to provide greater focus and coherence to the exploration of key ideas. Readings are chosen both for their academic significance as well as for their ability to generate discussion.
The First Year Seminar integrates critical reading and analysis of texts with a writing program. In each semester students produce not fewer than three academic essays designed to prepare them for specialized writing in their field of study (major). The writing program emphasizes skill in interpretation, argumentation, and analysis of complex models and ideas. It is supported by frequent in-class exercises in writing competency, ranging from the construction of a thesis statement to the organization of ideas into complete sentences and effective paragraphs.
To succeed in FYSem students must demonstrate proficiency in both the reading/analysis and the writing components of the program.
The History of First Year Seminar
The best-known American universities--ranging from Harvard, Columbia and Chicago to distinguished liberal arts colleges like Bard--have required a foundational seminar in the liberal arts for the last sixty years. The need for a core program was the response to the rapid increase in specialized study in American higher education, which raised questions about the loss of foundational courses that had been central to university education prior to World War II. The "Freshman Seminar" was seen as a way to offer all students a common foundation while preparing them for the more concentrated studies they would be doing in their subsequent university careers.
Bard College, AUCA's sister college, was a pioneer in the provision of the FYSem: Started in 1953, Bard's innovative program was designed to show how the question of human freedom can be approached through a liberal arts education based on seminal readings in the history of human civilization. Some 60 years later, that tradition is still thriving in Annandale-on-Hudson, at the American University of Central Asia, and Bard's network of colleges, institutes, and universities across the world.