First-Year Seminar (FYS) is the first course in the general education curriculum of Ramapo College of New Jersey and it serves as the introduction to general education and liberal learning. The goal of FYS is to develop students’ critical thinking skills using open discussion, reading, writing, and experiential learning. FYS courses are open only to first-semester, first-year students and they are designed expressly to acclimate new Ramapo College students to the higher academic expectations they will be asked to meet throughout their years of college study.
First-Year Seminar is the home of the Ramapo College Summer Reading Program. All incoming first-year students will be required to read a common book selected by students, faculty, and staff members, which will be used as a discussion topic in the FYS course. Students are expected to read the book during the summer months prior to joining the Ramapo community and they will be asked to discuss issues raised in the reading and to write thoughtful responses to questions that develop in the course of engaging discussions.
First-Year Seminar Courses
Individual First-Year Seminars are based on themes and topics that are as diverse as the instructors who teach them. Students in all FYS courses will hone their critical reading and writing skills in the context of the course topic.
First-Year Seminar courses are categorized according to their relevance to Ramapo’s academic pillars and mission statement. Students may select courses from among the following groupings:
- Experiential Learning
- Intercultural Understanding
- Interdisciplinary Studies
- International Education
Some courses are specific to only one category, however, most span more than one.
Students can choose a seminar based on their general interests, or their choice can be based on their intended choice of major. Some seminars are designed to appeal to a diverse group of students with different academic and personal interests. These courses will appeal to those students who may wish to explore a variety of majors. Others are more narrowly focused and serve as preparation for those students who already know which major they wish to pursue.
Seminars have limited class sizes (20 – 25) that allow students and instructors to get to know one another in a comfortable setting. A limited class size allows students to feel welcome and to encourage participation in academic discussions that are the hallmark of seminar courses.
Most of the seminars are interdisciplinary: that is, they introduce ideas and ways of thinking from more than one discipline (history and geography, for example, or chemistry and art). Students are encouraged to choose their seminar with topics they find appealing, and to be flexible in their choices.
While First-Year Seminars differ from one another in topic and in the kind of assignments students will complete, they are similar in the following important ways. Each seminar:
- Creates a sense of intellectual community for the students and faculty member involved;
- Uses discussion as the primary basis for classroom learning;
- Emphasizes critical thinking and critical reading;
- Encourages academic growth and development of individual students;
- Uses a variety of writing, research or problem-solving assignments designed to give students the skills and modes of analysis that will serve them well in their other courses at Ramapo.
First-Year Seminars encourage students to take part in a variety of special events and to participate in hands-on learning activities. Some seminar groups go on field trips; others attend concerts, films or campus programs together, as a regular part of the course. Visiting scholars and performing arts events are arranged specifically for First-Year Seminars. Students often prepare for the visit of an author by reading his or her work ahead of time.
Dr. Yvette Kisor
Director of First-Year Seminar