Columbia College Chicago

LAS Core Curriculum

First-Year Seminar

The First-Year Seminar is the foundational course in the LAS Core Curriculum. In small, discussion-based classes with students from across the college, the course will push you toward increasingly sophisticated critical engagement with an eclectic selection of books, films, and other artistic and scholarly works. Through assignments requiring a rigorous and thoughtful process of questioning, exploration, communication and evaluation, you'll produce creative projects and develop the skills that are at the heart of a liberal arts education—the habits of mind that are necessary to living life as an engaged, creative person.

See what we’re talking about. Visit our blog, ImPrint, to explore work created by students in the First-Year Seminar and learn more about our program.

What You Will Learn: Course Goals

Everything you do in the First-Year Seminar, including in-class discussions and out-of-class assignments, will foster critical skills in questioningexplorationcommunication and evaluation. These skills are central to the way artists, scholars and professionals in all fields think, learn, make, manage and grow.

The First-Year Seminar asks you to:

  • Demonstrate curiosity and inquiry by posing questions
  • Engage in exploration and research by analyzing texts in a variety of media, experimenting with different approaches to investigation, and synthesizing your findings
  • Demonstrate a commitment to an ongoing intellectual and creative dialogue by communicating meaningfully and thoughtfully in different media
  • Evaluate the type, quality and substance of texts, including your own work, in ways that are neither hasty, narrow, fuzzy nor sprawling.
What You Will Explore: Topics & Texts

Each section of the First-Year Seminar is unique, but instructors draw from a common collection of texts and topics so that you and your fellow students across all sections of the course have a shared intellectual experience and take part in campuswide dialogue.

Topics: The topics considered in the First-Year Seminar include issues of self and identity, questions of ethics and community, and a consideration of the role that all of us play as creators and consumers of culture.

Texts: We use the term “text” very broadly to refer to any book, film, poem, artwork, essay or article up for examination. Our current core text list includes:

  • Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1959)
  • Elizabeth Barret, Stranger With a Camera (2000)
  • Niki Caro, Whale Rider (2003)
  • Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (1984)
  • Paul Haggis, Crash (2004)
  • LeAlan Jones, Lloyd Newman and David Isay, Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (1999)
  • Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (2004)
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
  • Sophocles, Antigone (ed. Grene, 1991)
  • Agnès Varda, The Gleaners and I (2000)
What You Will Create: Topic Studies & Rationale Statements

You can expect all kinds of assignments throughout the semester: short essays, forum posts, collaborative projects, creative exercises and engaging readings. There will be opportunities for leading discussion in the classroom and exploring the city beyond.

Your biggest projects for the course will be three topic studies. Each topic study involves conceiving and producing an original piece of creative work. You might, for example, produce a short film, create a sculpture, or write part of a novel—whatever best allows you to engage course concepts and learning goals. In addition, you’ll craft an essay that explains what you’ve made. By describing the process of questioning, exploring, communicating and evaluating that led to the production of the final piece, this rationale statement situates the work in a broader context and conversation, while articulating the work’s goals and reflecting on your own learning.

The Core Faculty

A group of lecturers and senior lecturers make up the core group of faculty members who teach First-Year Seminar. These dedicated instructors provide leadership in the Teaching Academy and support other First-Year Seminar faculty.

Kris Brailey

Lisa DiFranza

James Falzone

Michael Lawrence

Alexios Moore

Doug Reichert Powell

Fereshteh Toosi

The Teaching Academy

In addition to the core faculty members, the First-Year Seminar is taught by members of the Teaching Academy—a pool of exceptional artists, scholars and creative professionals from across Columbia College Chicago’s departments and programs. The Teaching Academy includes faculty members who are scholars and artists, musicians and poets, filmmakers and philosophers.

First-Year Seminar instructors are actively engaged with exploring new methods of teaching and new materials to bring into the seminar. The Teaching Academy is our forum to facilitate this innovation, supporting faculty from disparate fields as they develop and share effective methods of teaching, learning, and interdisciplinary practice.

Columbia faculty members interested in joining the Teaching Academy should see IRIS, or contact Dr. Doug Reichert Powell, director of the First-Year Seminar, at dpowell@colum.edu.

Here are the current members of the Teaching Academy: 

  • Arvis Averette (Humanities, History and Social Sciences)
  • Kathy Bergquist (English)
  • Kian Bergstrom (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Robert Biedrzycki (Creative Writing)
  • Suzanne Blum Malley (School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, English) (Founding Fellow)
  • Kris Brailey (First-Year Seminar)
  • Beatrix Budy (Science and Mathematics)
  • Peter von Buol (Journalism)
  • Alison Carey (Photography)
  • Jan Chindlund (Library)
  • Janina Ciezadlo (Humanities, History and Social Sciences)
  • Roz Cummings-Yeates (Journalism)
  • Heather Currie (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Hope Daniels (Radio)
  • Lisa DiFranza (First-Year Seminar)
  • Marla Donato (Journalism)
  • Emma Draves (Dance)
  • James Falzone (First-Year Seminar)
  • Jenna Feldman (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Joanne Gannett (Art + Design)
  • Kathy Giles (English)
  • Joan Giroux (Art and Design)
  • Stephanie Goldberg (Journalism)
  • Norma Green (Journalism)
  • Chris Greiner (International Programs)
  • Gina Grillo (Photography)
  • Ted Hardin (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Monica Hairston (Center for Black Music Research)
  • Kevin Henry (Art and Design)
  • Lott Hill (Center for Innovation in Teaching Excellence)
  • Dorothy Horton-Jackson (School of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
  • Whitney Huber (Art +Design)
  • Michael Humphreys (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Amanda Johnson (English)
  • Warren Johnson (Photography)
  • Ashley Kennedy (Center for Innovation in Teaching Excellence)
  • Michael Kilinski (Office of Transfer Evaluation)
  • Soo La Kim (Center for Innovation in Teaching Excellence)
  • Curtis Lawrence (Journalism)
  • Michael Lawrence (First-Year Seminar)
  • Elio Leturia (Journalism)
  • Sandi Lindsey (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Ernie Love (First-Year Seminar)
  • Amanda Marbais (English)
  • Susan Marcus (Academic Affairs)
  • Brian Marth (College Advising Center)
  • Suzanne McBride (Journalism)
  • Micah McCrary (English)
  • Pam McKuen (Journalism)
  • Candi Meriwether (Journalism)
  • Rachel Michaels (English)
  • Sage Xaxua Morgan-Hubbard (Dance)
  • Brian Mornar (English)
  • Robin Morrissey (English)
  • Julie Mynatt (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Jim Nagle (English)
  • Toni Nealie (Television)
  • Carol Olsen (Interactive Arts and Media)
  • Elizabeth Owens-Schiele (Journalism)
  • Neil Pagano (School of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
  • Paul Peditto (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Kathleen Perkins (Theater) (Founding Fellow)
  • J. Paul Preseault (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Dave Pritchett (Business and Entrepreneurship)
  • Pegeen Quinn (Academic Affairs)
  • Renee Ramsey-Passmore (Art + Design)
  • Doug Reichert Powell (English, First-Year Seminar)
  • Hilary Richardson (Journalism)
  • Brendan Riley (English)
  • Corinne Rose (Museum of Contemporary Photography)
  • Nic Ruley (Television)
  • Monica Ryan (Audio Arts & Acoustics)
  • Jonn Salovaara (English)
  • Francine Sanders (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Lisa Schlesinger (Theatre)
  • Elliot Scott (Audio Arts & Acoustics)
  • Lynn S. Shapiro (Creative Writing)
  • Jeffrey Smith (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Jeff Spitz (Cinema Art + Science)
  • Ryan Spooner (English)
  • Alan Strathmann (Audio Arts & Acoustics)
  • Len Strazewski (Journalism)
  • Lauren Targ (College Advising)
  • Fereshteh Toosi (First-Year Seminar)
  • Christine Tvedt (Student Financial Services)
  • Susan Tyma (Science and Mathematics)
  • Tatiana Uhoch
  • Jacob Victorine (Creative Writing)
  • Ron Walkosz (Science and Mathematics)
  • Alyson Paige Warren (Creative Writing)
  • Diane Wawrejko (Dance)
  • Stan West (Television)
  • Andrew Whatley (School of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
  • Robin Whatley (Science and Mathematics)
  • Lillian Williams (Journalism)
  • Fo Wilson (Art + Design)
  • Mark Withrow (English)
  • Etta Worthington (Cinema Art + Science)

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