UMass Amherst is committed to providing all entering first-year students with a seminar that affords an opportunity to make connections, discover ways to become engaged on campus, and increase their ability to become self-guided learners through a small class experience.
To assist seminar instructors in providing this common experience, Student Success has developed expanded explanations of common content requirements, resources with suggested activities as well as support materials for students.
First-Year Seminar Common Content Goals
This common content has been identified via research through the Provost’s Office of best practices. The content contributes to the objectives of engaging our first-year students and assisting them in their transition to the college environment.
Every First-Year Seminar (Faculty First-Year Seminars and seminars sponsored by the schools and colleges) will contain the elements of the common content which attend to the following themes/goals:
- Enhance students' engagement by informing them about opportunities and resources available to them.
- Foster students' connections with others on campus by helping students understand the transition from high school to college life and the core values and community standards defining what it means to be a member of the UMass Amherst community.
- Increase students' ability to become self-guided learners through instruction in time management, study skills, and planning ability needed for high academic achievement and through helping them identify appropriate academic pathways toward their lives and careers after graduation.
Expanded explanations of each theme, including background and rationale, information and resources, and one or two suggested activities, are available to assist faculty and instructors in developing a syllabus that reflects the inclusion of these concepts into seminars.
Materials for Students
The office of Student Success has developed an “Academic Planner for Student Success” that will be distributed to all first-year students during fall New Student Orientation. In addition to the PDF version, instructors may contact Student Success if they would like a copy of the planner for themselves. In addition to monthly and weekly calendar pages, the planner has a wealth of information that supports the common content goals. There are explanations of policies, plenty of suggestions for ways to achieve success, and a wealth of resources for academic, cocurricular, and personal support. Instructors may choose to suggest students read particular pages that correlate with seminar goals and/or respond to questions students are asking. The activities on certain pages could be utilized during or between classes.
In addition to the planner, the office of Student Success is producing a companion “First-Year Guide to Student Success” handout for students. It is available as a PDF (LINK to PDF) and hard copies are available for instructors and students. This handout is intended to help guide students to be intentional as they begin their college experience. The handout introduces the strategic use of the planner as the first step toward an intentional approach to their first year at UMass Amherst. The handout makes specific references to how students can use the information in the planner to enhance their engagement, success, and satisfaction.
Instructors who would like support in any stage of teaching a first-year seminar; developing a syllabus, planning activities, considering ways to utilize the planner and/or the handout, and/or responding to student issues during the semester are welcome to contact Kathy Weilerstein at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to meet.