First-Year Seminar Faculty Information

First Year Seminar students at Spencer Museum


First-Year Seminars are discussion-based courses taught each fall and spring that are limited to 24 students. These 3-credit hour seminars are organized around stimulating questions and topics that introduce students to the practice of critical thinking and inquiry within the faculty member’s discipline. Students develop their critical thinking and communication skills through sequenced assignments that culminate in an integrative assignment.

First-Year Seminar faculty get the opportunity to teach a small class that is focused on getting to know your students and building their critical-thinking skills. Seminars are taught as part of the faculty members' normal teaching responsibilities, and funding is available to departments to help offset some of the cost of covering faculty members' usual course offerings. First-Year Seminar faculty join a learning community on campus with other instructors who are interested in developing their teaching skills.

KU's First-Year Seminar Program is coordinated through the Office of Academic Programs & Experiential Learning, with support from the Center for Undergraduate Research. All questions about the First-Year Seminar Program can be directed to

The FYS Program has been revised so please note the changes below!

The application deadline for new First-Year Seminars for Fall 2023: January 20th, 11:59PM

Learning Outcomes:

While the content of each course varies, all First-Year Seminars fulfill the critical thinking learning outcome for the KU Core and meet the following learning outcomes:

  • Information literacy and critical thinking: Analyze and evaluate assumptions, claims, evidence, arguments, and forms of expression; select and apply appropriate interpretive tools (KU Core Goal 1.1.)
  • Student success and wellness: Identify available academic, student, and wellbeing resources that will ease your transition to college and help you reach your goals (e.g., time management, study skills, health and wellness services)
  • Community building: Interact and develop connections with peers, faculty, and staff with common interests and goals to support and encourage you and connect you to the KU experiences
  • Experiential Learning: Recognize how learning extends beyond the classroom and articulate the skills and knowledge you gained in this course
  • Content Specific from Instructor


Method of Instruction:

First-Year Seminars foster a sense of belonging for students new to the university.  Through an investigation of an interesting question in a discipline, students also develop academic skills that serve as a strong foundation for their studies at KU.  First-Year Seminars share the following characteristics:

  • They have no prerequisites.
  • They use a small set of materials to help students develop skills critical to college success—information literacy, using evidence and source materials, early research skills, etc.
  • Class time prioritizes discussion and active learning.
  • Course and assignment design supports early and frequent feedback.
  • Instructor uses inclusive teaching practices to facilitate the success of all students in the course.
  • Seminars include active learning and introduce students to experiential learning. To support faculty, the First-Year Seminar Program brings together FYS faculty with representatives from campus units that offer experiential learning opportunities in order to explore possibilities for class involvement. 


Required First-Year Seminar Course Features:

  • Participation in a campus event. 
  • A library visit.
  • A required office visit.
  • An integrative assignment.
  • Participating in First-Year Seminar Celebration.


Faculty who are approved to teach a First-Year Seminar will be inducted into the First-Year Seminar Fellowship, a fellowship based on excellence in teaching and mentorship of first-year students. FYS Fellowship instructors receive a certificate approved by KU offices including Career and Experiential Learning, the Center for Undergraduate Research, and KU Libraries.

Fellowship Expectations:

All First-Year Seminar fellows are expected to:

  • Incorporate the required elements of First-Year Seminars into their courses (see above section).
  • Assist First-Year Seminar Program staff in assessing student learning for the program (as needed).
  • Instructors selected to join the FYS Fellowship will participate in an all-day active learning FYS Workshop on Stop Day in the spring semester. The workshop covers pedagogy, inclusive classrooms, experiential learning, research, information literacy, scaffolding, and creating syllabi.
  • Participate in a FYS learning community in which faculty exchange ideas and support each other. This requires at least two informal meetings during the semester where small groups check in with each other. Faculty are free to arrange their own meeting times and places.

All KU faculty who are tenured or tenure-track, teaching professors, and full-time lecturers are eligible to apply to teach a First-Year Seminar.  All seminars are taught on the Lawrence campus.

If you have questions about your eligibility, email

Department Funding

Instructional Replacement Funds

The First-Year Seminar Program provides support to help offset the cost of covering faculty members' usual course offerings so that faculty can teach these seminars as part of their normal teaching load. The home department/school of each approved seminar is eligible to receive $3,000. 

Department chairs can request Instructional Replacement Funds when they fill out the Chair Endorsement Form


Faculty Funding

New Seminar Development Funds

New faculty receive a $500 overload payment for attending the workshop and developing their course.


One-time Course Expenses

First-Year Seminar faculty can apply for one-time funds to support such activities as field trips, supplies for class projects, and museum fees. Interested First-Year Seminar faculty can fill out an application form in summer prior to the semester when the Seminar is taught, until funds are depleted. Typical award amounts range from $300-$1,000. More information about these funds will be shared with First-Year Seminar instructors the during the Stop Day workshop prior to them teaching their courses.

Application Instructions

Faculty interested in teaching a new First-Year Seminar during the Fall 2023 semester should complete the following steps:

  1. Review the requirements for First-Year Seminars and the questions asked for on the First-Year Seminar Application.
  2. Talk with your department chair to see if your participation in the First-Year Seminar Program will be feasible.  If so, ask your chair to complete the Chair Endorsement Form.
  3. Complete the 2023 FYS Seminar Application before the January 20, 2023 deadline.

Note: Faculty who have previously taught a First-Year Seminar must fill out the full application form. There is no “Returning Instructor Form” at this time.

Info Sessions

The First-Year Seminar Program will be hosting two virtual Info Sessions about First-Year Seminars to help faculty learn more about the program and prepare a strong application:

First-Year Seminar Info Session 1

Time: Nov 21, 2022 03:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for the info session: Info Session 1 Registration Link

First-Year Seminar Info Session 2

Time: Nov 29, 2022 03:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this info session: Info Session 2 Registration Link


Evaluation Criteria for New Seminar Proposals

Applications for new First-Year Seminars will be evaluated on the following:

Topic: Course is organized around a stimulating and innovative content area, more narrowly focused than a survey course. Topic is important and will be engaging to first year students.

Critical Thinking: Course ideas communicate how students will learn to evaluate assumptions, claims, evidence, arguments, and forms of expression.

Seminar and assignment design: Course activities will enable students to practice skills and apply their knowledge in a variety of settings. Application describes an integrative assignment that will capture student achievement of the major course learning outcomes.

Transferrable skills: Course will provide students with opportunities to develop skills that have value in a variety of contexts at KU.

Experiential/Hands-on Learning: Course clearly provides opportunities for experiential or hands-on learning (e.g., field trips, service projects, lab experiences, artistic performances or exhibits. Opportunities for experiential/hands-on learning are articulated in the application.

Fostering Inclusion: Course design will foster an inclusive experience for all students.

Other Considerations: Additional considerations for approving this course: (a) multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary, or makes clear connections with other courses, or (b) involves collaborations with other units or organizations on or off campus (e.g., Spencer Museum of Art, Writing Center), or (c) from a discipline or area not represented by current list of FYS.