Freshman seminars provide invaluable education

An education is a long and strenuous process, made harder by the numerous prerequisites students must take in order to graduate.

At the University of Puget Sound, the first core class students must take is the freshman seminar.

Known as a “Seminar in Scholarly Inquiry” (SSI), this requirement entails two semester-long classes on a wide range of subjects.

Courses offered this semester include “Suburbia: Dream or Nightmare?,” “Communicating Forgiveness and Revenge” and the best title of them all, “Dogs.”

Over the course of the year, many seminars ask students to write a variety of essays as well as a research paper, which they then present to their peers after the paper is finished.

Some students consider these classes a nuisance, given that their subjects are not strictly confined to one department and only fulfill one requirement, instead of courses that can count as a core and part of a major.

Before getting too mad about having to take these classes—and about having to write a lengthy research paper when the weather is just getting nice—give them a little scholarly consideration.

According to the Puget Sound website, a SSI is intended “to develop the intellectual habits necessary to write and speak effectively and with integrity.”

Many freshmen have never encountered a college-level research paper or been asked to present their research to an audience. Skills like these are essential for any college student, as students will be asked to write  research papers in future classes, which will eventually culminate  in the senior thesis required in some disciplines.

These core-seminars are entirely discussion-based. The benefit of a small school is being able to participate in smaller classes, and seminars are usually capped at around 18 students.

In an environment where students are not only encouraged but expected to express themselves, these classes provide the opportunity for students to engage in discussions that produce more well-rounded people. All students should have at least one class where they can develop  their own ideas.

“I’m in the ‘Imaging Blackness’ seminar. I feel like it’s been a useful experience, having that discussion atmosphere opened up,” freshman Tyson West said.

“And the writing is a bonus because it challenges me.”

Finally, seminars are a part of Puget Sound’s multidisciplinary approach to education.

Seminar instructors come from varying departments, but these classes do not necessarily fit into one strict category, so professors have the opportunity to teach a unique subject they may not be able to work with in other contexts.

“[In my seminar] I did learn a lot about racial stereotypes and that kind of thing, which was interesting,” West said.

“It wasn’t a typical class.”

It is true that a few of the subjects may sound a little far-fetched, but no matter what you may learn, you will still be learning how to approach a topic from a variety of angles.

According to freshman Sophie Prendergast, who is in the Biology department’s seminar offering, “Dogs,” “the science of dogs is actually fascinating.”

Academic requirements might just be a means to graduate, but they can also teach some valuable lessons.