Freshman Seminars at UC Irvine are an exciting small class experience for students and are considered a high impact practice by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. UCI offers a range of freshman seminars that should be of interest to first-year students.

You may submit an application online at here. Below is information based on faculty’s frequently asked questions.

1. What are freshman seminars?

Freshman seminars are one-unit small group seminars of 15 students designed to introduce students to the culture of the research university by encouraging them to become active participants in intellectual interactions with their peers and professors. Stimulating discussions and critical thinking are among the primary goals. Offered as University Studies 3, the course will normally be taken for a letter grade, though students may elect the pass/not pass option. Most seminars will be open to all interested students, with no pre-requisites and with enrollment preference given to freshmen.

2. Who will teach freshman seminars?

Ladder and other senate faculty, including active members of the UCI Academic Senate, are invited to teach a freshman seminar and to sign up directly via the application form. The invitation is extended to senate faculty in the professional schools as well.

3. Who will take freshman seminars?

Freshman students will be given enrollment priority for the seminars. Sophomores will be admitted at a later date on a space available basis.

4. How will the freshman seminars affect my regular teaching assignments?

The freshman seminars do not affect your regular teaching assignments. They are taught as course overload. They cannot be used to substitute for regularly assigned teaching unless your department approves.

5. When and where will the seminars be scheduled?

When: Freshman seminars will be scheduled for one hour a week for a quarter. The goal is to assure sustained and repeated contact with faculty throughout the quarter. Every attempt will be made to accommodate an instructor’s scheduling preferences.

Where: General assignment classrooms will be reserved, but many schools and departments have especially suitable space in conference and seminar rooms outside the Registrar’s purview. Instructors are strongly encouraged to recommend these sites on their freshman seminar request form. Some faculty may prefer to teach an afternoon or evening seminar in one of the freshman dorms or in an academic theme house. Again, please indicate this on the request form and provide us with your scheduler’s contact information so we can confirm your room with them.

6. How might I design a traditional freshman seminar?

Freshman seminars give faculty and students a chance to explore academic topics and new lines of inquiry in an interactive and congenial setting, so they support a range of intellectual interests. Consider introducing UCI students to a major problem in your research field, to a book or idea in your area that changed your mind, or to a contemporary social or political dilemma linked to your expertise. Consider including a cultural or field experience outside the classroom. The seminar stipend may be used to defray part or all of the cost of such events. Because teaching a freshman seminar is over and above your regular teaching assignment, consider topics that take advantage of your current activities, such as a research project in process, a book you are writing, or a periodical you read regularly.

The seminars should engage students, foster discussion, and promote critical thinking. Normally students are expected to spend approximately two hours a week outside of class for every hour in the classroom, so the workload of a freshman seminar should be planned accordingly. You might consider assigning grades based on attendance, informal writing assignments, group work, class presentations, and the like.

7. What happens after I submit my request?

The Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Education will select an array of freshman seminars to assure diversity of topics and a range of scheduling options for students. Once the deadline to apply each quarter has passed, you will receive confirmation about whether your seminar has been accepted for the subsequent quarter. You will also be contacted about scheduling and about next steps. The Division of Undergraduate Education handles publicity, enrollment, and the mechanics.

8. What reward do I get for teaching my freshman seminar?

Good news! Faculty who teach freshman seminars do so as an overload and are given a $1500 research stipend to thank them for their efforts. In addition, these seminars are wonderful to teach and very well received by students. For many of us, that’s even more of a reward than the research stipend.

9. How will students learn about the freshman seminars?

New freshmen will learn about them in the regular mailings sent to new students this spring and summer, in the Student-Parent Orientation Programs held throughout the summer, and in advising sessions with academic counselors. Continuing students will be invited to enroll after freshmen have had every opportunity to participate. Consequently, we expect only limited participation by continuing students in fall quarter.

10. How can I obtain answers to other questions I have or help with designing a freshman seminar?

Please contact Associate Dean Jonathan Alexander with questions or to assist you in developing the best possible seminar experience for you and our UCI students. He can be reached at jfalexan@uci.edu or (949) 824-1955. We look forward to hearing from you.