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Freshman Seminars are designed to give new Humanities and Social Science students an intellectually exciting, first-year introduction to the research and teaching interests of the faculty. They are also intended to support first-year students through their transition from high school to college instruction. To these ends they are defined as intimate (15-20 students) learning communities, led by a faculty instructor who is expert in the course topic and invested in helping students gain the skills and confidence they need in order to be successful students in Humanities and Social Sciences.
Examples of freshman seminar courses include the following course titles: From 10% to couples per county: The Statistics of the Gay & Lesbian Population; The Effect of War (HSP freshmen only); Sex, Money, and Property; Innovative African-American Poetry; "Slavery" and "Freedom" in African History?; Consciousness; Introduction to Russian Culture; How Children Learn Mathematics; What is Scientific Thinking and How Can it be Taught?; Human Rights and Global Politics.
Tips for Choosing Freshman Seminars
How do I choose my top three H&SS freshman seminars? Several possible models suggest themselves as guides to you in choosing your preferred seminars. Most focus on selection by topic and focus. But which topics and foci to choose? Is there a "right" way and "wrong" way to do this?
The most common strategies considered are probably the first two - namely, choose based on perceived relevance to your intended or tentative major, or just the opposite - i.e., choose something in an area about which you know little, and "explore." In our experience faculty and advisors seem to prefer the latter, in that an important opportunity and function of your general education experience in your first two years is to explore new and unfamiliar areas of study, break out of your academic "comfort zones" and let yourself be challenged, and allow for the possibility of surprise and positive discovery of areas of study that are new and exciting to you. And yet, choosing based on apparent links to an area of major interest can also lead to surprise and discovery, perhaps in the form of seeing new approaches to disciplines that you thought you knew but which are engaged differently here. The third option has its own appeal, in that it frees you from being controlled one way or the other by tentative major interest, and allows you to trust your intuition based on the intrinsic interest suggested by the course description. And, if all else fails, there's option 4!
In the end, you decide, though feel free to discuss this with others, including your parents, or your academic advisor here at Carnegie Mellon. Read the seminar descriptions carefully. They were written with great care, and reflect course designs that will give you a unique experience in a subject area that you may or may not have seen before, but which you've probably not seen quite like this. Whatever your choices, the uniform quality and seminar style of these courses insures that you'll have a very positive and memorable freshman seminar experience.
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