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Students in the First-Year Seminar practice the Learning Goals of the course by studying several topics with a variety of texts, then generating their own Topic Studies and accompanying Rationales.

Learning Goals

As a liberal arts institution, Columbia College Chicago is committed to educating students who will thrive in a complex, changing, and diverse world and who will shape that world for the better. The First-Year Seminar acclimates students to the four activities that are the essence of a liberal arts education, the things that literate, engaged people do in college and throughout their lives.

The First-Year Seminar asks students to
  • question, demonstrating curiosity and inquiry;
  • explore, analyzing texts in a variety of media, experimenting with different approaches to investigation, and synthesizing their findings;
  • communicate, exemplifying a commitment to an ongoing intellectual and creative dialogue by engaging meaningfully and thoughtfully with different media; and
  • evaluate, assessing the type, quality, and substance of texts, including their own work, in ways that are neither hasty, narrow, fuzzy, nor sprawling.

The members of the Columbia College Chicago community question. We are curious. We wonder. We speculate. We inquire. We want to be a part of the conversation.
The First-Year Seminar curriculum focuses on a group of topics that ask students to tackle some big questions that humankind has grappled with for millennia. More importantly, students will be asked to pose their own questions, questions that compel others to explore.

The members of the Columbia College Chicago community explore. We investigate. We research. We converse. We consider the evident—what things say, how they sound, what they look like—as well as the things that are less evident—underlying assumptions, motivations, and messages. We test our assumptions and those of others. We experiment with ideas, words, images, sound, motion.

The First-Year Seminar asks students to study objects that communicate in different ways. Classes use a few core texts in a variety of media as a starting point for investigation and exploration. For a given topic, we might consider philosophy, literature, film, history, and poetry. These texts are not meant to answer questions definitively. Instead, they serve as models of thoughtful communication that propel our exploration and research.

The members of the Columbia College Chicago community communicate. Our curiosity and inquiry, our research and experimentation, lead us to contribute to the conversation. We assemble, synthesize, draft, create. Whatever it is that we produce—a photograph, a history, a thoughtful conversation—we spark others’ curiosity and wonder. We may not necessarily answer the questions that inspired us, but we awaken questions in others.

Regardless of their intended field of study, students experiment with different ways of communicating. These might include writing essays, composing poems, leading discussions, or producing films. We insist on this variety because communicating in unfamiliar, unpracticed ways obliges us to pay new, focused attention to the act of communication itself, and to the power of what we do, make, and say to have an effect on others.

The members of the Columbia College Chicago community evaluate. Instead of relying on familiar ways of looking at the world, instead of depending on what we think we already know, we appraise questions, exploration, and communication—our own and those of others—in ways that seek new insights and new subtlety. We take to heart Columbia’s motto, Esse quam videri (“To be, rather than to seem”), and seek out what things are, not merely what they seem to be.

Evaluation permeates all of our work because it is the key to ensuring that our questions are worthwhile, our explorations fruitful and credible, and our communication clear and meaningful. In the First-Year Seminar students examine and appraise the type, quality, and substance of nearly everything—questions, research methods, texts, works of art, ideas, assertions—to ensure that it is neither
  • hasty—that is, without care and deliberation;
  • narrow—commonplace and habitual;
  • fuzzy—indiscriminate and without nuance; nor
  • sprawling—haphazard and unsystematic.