Submitting FSEM Proposals

We are excited that you are interested in teaching a first-year seminar. The subject matter of your FSEM is entirely up to you. Teaching an FSEM offers you the chance to teach a subject or series of topics that you might have been long hoping to explore but never had the opportunity to pursue.

The purpose of the FSEM is to introduce first-year students to college life with its many opportunities and challenges. To this end, all FSEM instructors are asked to include in their syllabi activities and assignments designed to help our new students succeed in college, including conducting research, writing papers, giving oral presentations, and participating in classroom discussions. Other activities, such as becoming acquainted with UMW’s Speaking and Writing Center and learning how to use the library will help students navigate their future studies and learn to use the many resources that are often under-utilized.

Finally, this course is an opportune moment to teach skills that students need to succeed in a college environment, such as note taking, study skills, writing emails and engaging with professors, basic wellness and mindfulness techniques, interacting with peers, and keeping a calendar. Given the importance of introducing these skills, an FSEM will not include as much disciplinary content as other three-credit courses. Think of your chosen subject matter as the playing field upon which your students will practice their new skills.



Call for Proposals for First-Year Seminars

First-year seminars are distributed across the disciplines, yet they are structured around a set of common student learning outcomes whose purpose is to introduce first-year students to the pursuit of intellectual inquiry while developing some of the fundamental skills necessary for success in a rigorous academic setting: information literacy and strong written and oral communication skills. Specific topics are determined by the instructor’s background and interests. The objective of the first-year seminar is to cultivate the intellectual skills necessary for liberal learning and facilitate instruction on how to gather and analyze information for the purpose of formulating and defending an argument. Seminars will be deep in terms of the critical approaches employed, but will involve topics that are accessible to first-year students.

All first-year seminars involve meaningful research, writing, and speaking assignments in which students are given instruction and guidance on research, writing, and speaking at the college level.  Resources are provided by the Library and the Speaking and Writing Center, and instructors are expected to utilize these resources as they develop this portion of their course.  Contact the Director of the Speaking and Writing Center, Leah Schweitzer ( and Reference Librarian, Peter Catlin ( for assistance on how each of these resources can be incorporated into your course. The Director of the First Year Experience, April Wynn (, is also available to assist with course development.

Another critical component of the First-Year Seminar is student advising. Instructors serve as the academic advisor for their FSEM students until these students declare a major. The role of advisor is critical for students’ transition to college life and this relationship will encompass advising on a variety of topics including: mid-term unsatisfactory grades, preparation deficits, course registration, major declaration, and professional/personal struggles during this time of transition. Some of this advising will be accomplished through one-on-one meetings with students outside class and other times through utilizing class time to unpack current events affecting the students. Professional advisors in Academic Services are a resource as are Peer Mentors.

Every course should have the following basic components and address the FSEM student learning outcomes.

First-year seminars will be formatted to:

  • utilize active, discussion-based, participatory learning;
  • be exploratory in nature, rather than just presenting conclusions;
  • have students read primary sources, not simply textbooks;
  • have students develop critical reading skills;
  • have students synthesize material from multiple sources to develop their own views on the topic; and
  • be capped at 15 students.

Instruction will focus around the FSEM Student Learning Outcomes (must be included on your syllabus!)

Students will:

  • utilize a variety of research techniques to retrieve information efficiently, evaluate retrieved information, and synthesize information effectively to support their messages or arguments;
  • improve development and organization of written arguments;
  • demonstrate the ability to edit and revise in the writing process;
  • apply the basic theories and principles of oral communication; and
  • communicate effectively in a variety of settings, including public speaking and group discussion.


FSEM courses are seminars, not traditional lecture courses, which demonstrate the sort of intellectual inquiry that higher education can offer. Attached to this document is a proposal checklist and course calendar options that will provide more information of the FSEM Committee’s expectations of the proposal and syllabus.  The First Year Seminar website contains a number of resources to help faculty in designing an FSEM to incorporate the student learning outcomes while balancing the content and other skills that are at the heart of the FSEM. In particular, it has a list of existing FSEMs and model syllabi, examples of assignments that have previously been utilized in FSEM courses, and resources for faculty advisors.


There are two types of proposals:

  1. Creation of a new FSEM course or the substantial modification of an existing FSEM course.
  2. Addition of an instructor to an existing FSEM course.



Proposals are now to be submitted via University of Mary Washington’s CIM (Curriculum Inventory Management System), located here:

Please select “Add a Designation to a Course” and then click on “Propose New Designation.” You may then select First-Year Seminar under “Request Type” and then choose between proposing a new FSEM 100 or adding a new instructor to an existing FSEM course. You will then be directed to complete the appropriate form and upload a syllabus. Below are samples of the forms you will find on CIM. Please do not submit any FSEM proposal forms or syllabi via email. All submissions will now take place via CIM.


Please note that if you are adding a new instructor to an FSEM course, chair approval implies previous instructor permission.


Deadline to submit all proposals is 5:00 pm, Wednesday, November 1st, 2023.