Every Brandeis education is fueled by exploration, imagination, inquiry, creativity and participation in our diverse community.
The first-year experience fosters all these ways of learning. In your first-year experience, you will engage with new disciplinary perspectives and diverse ideas through writing and argumentation — building skills to nurture all that you do here, and beyond.
University Writing Seminar, Critical Conversations, Small Group Discussions and Experiential Learning
The University Writing Seminar (UWS) is where you hone your academic writing skills through studying rhetoric, text and readings. It’s where, right away, you encounter fascinating ideas and perspectives.
Ever wondered what attracts people to each other? There’s a seminar for that: “Darwinian Dating: The Evolution of Human Attraction.” Or maybe you’re fascinated by “Environmental Justice,” “Neurodiversity and Culture,” or “The Mythology of the American West,” to name just a few topics. The required University Writing Seminar is an opportunity for first-years to explore new ideas collaboratively.
As part of the University Seminar, you will attend at least one Critical Conversation, a moderated faculty discussion about a specific theme. Consider it an introduction to scholarly discourse. How do faculty engage the world (and each other)? Your University Seminar will follow the Critical Conversation with further discussion and writing.
In addition, each seminar will assign an experiential learning activity to expand the boundaries of the conventional classroom. Sometimes that experiential learning activity will be a Small Group Discussion. These small, informal faculty-led meetings are specifically designed to introduce first-year undergraduates to faculty members and other first-year students. Topics can range from learning more about academic departments and majors, to adjusting to academic expectations for first-year students, to faculty’s educational and professional backgrounds and pathways, and more. While some students enrolled in a University Seminar will be required to attend a Small Group Discussion for their assigned experiential learning activity, all undergraduates in their first year at Brandeis are invited and highly encouraged to participate. First-year students can register for up to two discussions per semester.
- Use writing and discussion to work through and interpret complex ideas from readings and other texts (visual, musical, verbal).
- Critically analyze your own and others’ choices regarding language and form.
- Engage in multiple modes of inquiry using texts (field research, library, web).
- Incorporate significant research into writing that engages a question for a research-based essay.
- Use writing to support textual interpretations; understand that there are multiple textual interpretations.