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Release: Immediate

UI announces pilot series of First-Year Seminars

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa has selected the first 15 topics for a series of "First-Year Seminars" -- small, discussion-based courses for freshmen that will be taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty members. The seminars will be offered during the Spring 1998 semester.

Offered through the College of Liberal Arts, the First-Year Seminars have been designed to give entering students an opportunity to work closely with faculty members and to provide new students with an introduction to the intellectual life of the university.

College of Liberal Arts Dean Linda Maxson said the seminars will enhance the college's already-strong curricular offerings for freshmen. "Although many of the courses freshmen take in the College of Liberal Arts are taught by tenured and tenure-track faculty, they are not often taught in such informal and low-enrollment settings," she said.

"These new Freshman seminars will allow interested students to become engaged at a depth not otherwise possible until they reach their junior and senior years. We hope that the students who have had these new learning opportunities will apply the same active approaches to learning throughout their education."

John Solow, associate professor of economics and chair of the committee that designed the seminar program, said the seminars will teach students right away that college education requires active participation on their part -- something they might not have encountered in high school. "We want them to see that being a student is not just sitting in class, writing down what the instructor says, and remembering it for a test," he said. "Learning is an active process and the way to learn is to read, think, ask questions, and talk about the material, not just memorize facts from a book or lecture."

To achieve this goal, First-Year Seminars will focus on class discussions, presentations, and group projects, rather than on tests and quizzes. In fact, the seminars are entirely test-free.

Each First-Year Seminar will have a maximum enrollment of 15 students and will be taught by one or more UI faculty members. Each seminar will meet once a week and may also include assigned activities outside of the classroom, such as attending a lecture, film, performance, or reading or visiting a research facility. Seminars will be offered for one or two hours of credit, which will count toward graduation as elective hours, but will not satisfy General Education Program requirements, major requirements, or minor requirements.

In fact, Solow said the committee members hoped students would sign up for seminars on subjects greatly different from their planned majors so they have the opportunity to explore a new topic with a faculty member they might not otherwise encounter during their years at the UI.

The first-year seminar is a model for engaging students from the moment they enter college that has been used successfully at Harvard University as well as the Universities of Michigan, Virginia, and California at Berkeley.

The 15 seminars taught during the upcoming Spring semester are the pilot program. The college plans to offer 25-30 First-Year Seminars in the Fall 1998 semester.

A list of the 15 seminars and instructors for the Spring 1998 Semester follows:

* Physician Assisted Suicide, Sheldon Kurtz, professor of law

* Life in the Universe, John D. Fix, professor of physics and astronomy, and Jeffrey C. Murray, professor of pediatrics and biological sciences

* Visualizing the Infinitesimal, Louis Messerle, associate professor of chemistry

* How to Think about Improving Society, Scott Page, associate professor of economics

* The Ethics of Friendship, Eduardo Cadava, associate professor of English

* The Age of the Book, Max Thomas, assistant professor of English

* Reading and Writing about the College Scene, Mary Trachsel, Associate professor of rhetoric

* Science, Ethics, and Religion, Judith Aikin, professor of German

* Stories of Sport and the Moral Order, Judy Polumbaum, associate professor of journalism

* Dimensions of Visualization in Arts and Science, Dennis Roseman, professor of mathematics

* Problem Solving, Thomas Branson, professor of mathematics

* Work, Leisure, and Your Liberal Education, Richard MacNeil and Benjamin Hunnicutt, professors of sport, health, leisure, and physical studies

* The Politics of Facing Evils, John Nelson, professor of political science

* The Science of Jurassic Park, Scott R. Robinson, associate professor of psychology

* Writing, Thinking, Choosing, and Acting, Alan Nagel, professor of literature, science, and the arts

A full description of all of the seminars is available on the UI College of Liberal Arts World-Wide Web page at

To register for one of the seminars, students may obtain special permission codes from their academic advisers at the Academic Advising Center or from the Liberal Arts Office of Academic Programs, 120 Schaeffer Hall. The first day of registration for students with fewer than 72 earned credit hours is Dec. 3.