A student's first-year at college is critical in terms of becoming a successful and satisfied university citizen. Research indicates that getting students quickly connected with the university through the special attention and mentorship of an interested faculty member improves their success as college students. Common traits among first-year experience programs are small class sizes (20-25 students), excellent faculty with an interest in first-year students, and intriguing topics that quickly draw students into learning something interesting about a discipline. First-year seminars are used by a multitude of schools (e.g., University of North Carolina, University of Georgia, Penn State, Dartmouth) to foster success in first-year students.
For the past three years, the First-Year Experience program at Mississippi State University has been well received by students and faculty alike, and it continues to grow. This fall, over 600 students are enrolled in more than 20 seminars taught in over 20 different departments by nearly two dozen faculty from across the University. Students may take First-Year Experience courses that relate to their chosen majors, or they may use this opportunity to take seminars on interesting topics unrelated to their majors that they would otherwise never have the chance to explore. Either way, First-Year Experience courses provide first-year students with a special opportunity to become engaged in the excitement of specific discipline, inside or outside their chosen major, and the intellectual stimulation of the academic culture at Mississippi State University. First-Year Experience courses typically meet once a week and are taught by skilled faculty who focus on topics of special interest to research and teaching in their discipline. First-Year Seminars explore an eclectic array of topics and are offered each fall semester. Additionally, all faculty will be expected to publicize and discuss events associated with the common book reading program, Maroon Edition 2016, in which all incoming freshmen will have read a book in common as part of their introduction to the University. The Maroon Edition 2016 book will be announced in mid-February.
First-Year Experience courses must enroll at least 20 students in order for instructors to receive their full $1000 for the seminar. These funds can be used on the seminar itself (t-shirts, field trips, special teaching materials, etc.) or to assist the faculty member in ways not directly related to the seminar (travel, equipment, etc.). Students earn one hour of regular, graded course credit towards graduation on their transcript and are only allowed to enroll in one First-Year Experience course. A student must be in his or her first semester at MSU to participate. Most First-Year Experience students are freshmen, and the seminars should be taught at the 1000 level, but the seminars are also open to incoming transfer students who often opt to take a First-Year Experience course.
Faculty are encouraged to use their imaginations when developing First-Year Experience courses in order to showcase their fields in such a way as to capture students' interest while providing them a certain grounding in the basic approaches of their disciplines. Students may choose seminars related to their own majors, or they may range freely outside their majors and choose seminars on topics they might otherwise never have the chance to explore. Some examples of current First-Year Experience courses include:
- CSI MSU: Forensic Sciences Across Campus
- SEC Football: Beyond the Field
- Veterinary Medicine: Beyond Shots and De-Worming
- Recreational Drum Circles
- The Photogram: Art in the Dark
- Take Charge of Your Financial Future While Building Financial Intelligence
- Step Up to a Brighter Future--in Fashion or Anything Else
- The Real X-Files: A Critical Thinking Adventure
- Critical Thinking: Evidence and Arguments in the Media and the Law
- Viva Latino America: An Uncensored Sampling of hte World's Most Vibrant Culture
- Nano Exposed!
- Quidditch for Muggles
You may view the full 2015 First-Year Experience brochure by clicking here.
All First-Year Experience instructors agree to share with the CTL staff all course and program evaluations of their students' seminar experiences, as well as the official University instructor evaluations. We anticipate conducting the program evaluation survey online.
Getting a First-Year Seminar Approved
First-Year Experience courses are coordinated through the Center for Teaching and Learning. Faculty wishing to teach a First-Year Experience course must submit their proposed seminar electronically via a form on the Center for Teaching and Learning website. Proposals must be approved by the instructor's Department Head prior to submission to CTL. The form requires the following information:
- Seminar Title
- Department for Seminar
- Department Head
- Assurance of approval by the Department Head
- Seminar Description
- Detailed Course Outline
- Method(s) of Evaluation
- Learning Outcomes
- Instructor of Record
- Contact Person
- Business Manager of the Department (who will handle transfer and disbursement of funds for instructor)
- Business Manager Phone Number
- Brief Biographical Sketch of Instructor
The Center will review the submissions and approve a set of First-Year Experience courses that will provide a diverse and meaningful menu for the general group of incoming Mississippi State University students. Not all proposed seminars, even if meritorious, can be funded as part of this program. An amount of up to $1000 (deposited into departmental account) will be given to faculty members who develop and teach a First-Year Experience course. These funds can be applied to the seminar itself (field trips, t-shirts, special course materials, etc.) or to the professional development of the faculty member (travel, equipment, etc.). Seminars may be team taught, but no more than $1000 dollars total can be allocated to any one seminar. The money will be deposited into the instructor's departmental account at the conclusion of the semester unless special accommodations are made with the CTL director.
The course number 1001 has been reserved for First-Year Experience courses. The prefix for a given seminar will be determined by which department is teaching the seminar. For example, a course might be ABE 1001, ACC 1001, EN 1001, and so on. This will credit the appropriate department with the correct number of student-credit hours generated by the First-Year Experience instructor. There can be more than one FYE taught in a department, in which case the different FYEs will have different section numbers. (In unusual cases, the instructor's department may have an existing course numbered 1001, in which case an alternate number will be used for the First-Year Seminar.) The individual seminar title (see examples above) will show in the course offerings listed online and also in the program brochure. The University Committee on Courses and Curricula has already approved this system, and specific seminar proposals need to be approved only by their departments and by the Center for Teaching and Learning.
Before submitting proposals to the Center for Teaching and Learning, faculty need to follow the appropriate departmental procedures for approval and placement of a course in the fall offerings of that department, and FYEs proposed to the CTL must first be approved by the Head of the submitting faculty member's Department. Upon acceptance by the CTL, First-Year Experience courses will be placed into the fall course schedule by the faculty member's Department (not by the CTL). This placement must be ensured by the instructor at the time that the department submits its other course offerings to the Registrar's Office. Course meeting times can be requested by the instructor, but the Center for Teaching and Learning must coordinate these with the Registrar's Office, and requested times may have to be modified to accommodate the schedule of available classrooms campus-wide. Instructor requests for meeting times will be honored to the fullest extend possible, however.
NOTE: DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTING FIRST-YEAR SEMINAR PROPOSALS FOR FALL 2017 IS October 31, 2016.
First-Year Experience Proposal Form