First Year Experience

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, 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. 

To learn more, watch this short video created by our faculty for incoming first year students.

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.

Browse University Writing Seminar Topics

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. 

How to fulfill the university writing seminar requirements

Learning Goals

See the Critical Conversations Schedule

2021-22 Faculty Committee

Name Department
Matthew Headrick, Chair Physics
Elissa Jacobs University Writing Program
Lisa Rourke University Writing Program
Siri Suh Sociology
Dmitry Troyanovsky Theater Arts
Pu Wang German, Russian and Asian Languages and Literature