First Year at Wellesley
The unique first-year experience at Wellesley:
a transition to new courses and new experiences
Your very first day as a student at Wellesley College will mark a milestone in your life. It's the start of a transition and adjustment process that will unfold over the course of the entire first year.
At Wellesley we are committed to helping each first-year student make—and mark—this transition from high school to college. This first year will be more than just a chance to "get used to" college life. It is a particular moment in your cognitive and personal development that, at its best, affords you both opportunities and pleasures that are unique to the first year. We hope that each first-year student will find time to pursue the following:
- Participate in and build an intellectual community
- Engage (joyfully) in the life of the mind
- Take time for thoughtful self-discovery and reflection
- Nurture your growing independence
- Explore the curriculum and take classes in new subjects
- Focus on right now and enjoying today for itself
- Take risks and challenge yourself!
Wellesley's first-year experience supports students in these key moments in three major ways:
|1. Academic Options in your First Year||Focuses on exploration and skill development|
|2. Academic Advising and Mentoring||Is geared to the needs of first-year students|
|3. Shadow-Grading Policy||Provides an opportunity for greater intellectual
engagement, curricular exploration, and self-reflection
Many courses in the first year focus on exploration and skill development. First-Year Seminars offers provide you with an introduction to less familiar courses and a wide range of disciplines and topics. The following is just a sampling—probably a bit more expansive than your typical high school curriculum!
|A sampling of first-year seminars 2013-14|
|Intro to Cinema and Media Studies||Reading Poetry in a Culture that Doesn't Know How to Read Poetry|
|Product Creation for All||Physics of Music and Musical Acoustics|
|News and Politics: Reading Between the Lines||So, You Want to Be a Doctor?|
|Think like a Scientist, Act like an Artist: How to Appreciate and Communicate Science||Archaeology and Artifacts: Exploring Classical Cultures through Objects|
|Routes of Exile: Jews and Muslims||The Cities of Italy: An Introduction to Italian Culture|
|Mortality and Immortality||Mexico—Revolution, Democracy and Drugs|
|Color (neuroscience)||Reading/Writing Short Fiction|
|See the complete list of fall 2013/spring 2014 First-Year Seminar offerings.|
|Check out which professors are teaching First-Year Seminars this year. Note their diverse and fascinating areas of expertise.|
|Goals for the first-year seminar program|
|1.||Shape student expectations of the values, rigor, aspirations and rewards of the intellectual enterprise practiced in a vibrant and supportive academic community.|
|2.||Foster skills and habits of mind essential for intellectual inquiry.|
|3.||Build a sense of intellectual and social community among students from diverse backgrounds in a cooperative and collaborative learning environment.|
|4.||Create opportunities early in a student’s college career for close interaction with faculty and for the individualized instruction typical of a liberal arts education.|
|5.||Demonstrate how knowledge is constructed in a particular field.|
|Glimpses into the first-year seminar program|
|Tom Burke, director of the First-Year Seminar Program; Professor of Political Science; Co-Director of the Washington Internship Program, Faculty Coordinator for the Washington Wintersession Program. Research focuses on the role of courts, rights, and litigation in public policy and politics.|
|Heather Mattila, Knafel Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences; Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences. Also see Professor Mattila in the video: "Office Hours: Six professors walk into a tiny video..." Studies the organization of animal societies, insect communication, and the evolution of cooperation, using the honey bee as a model.|
|The Nuclear Challenge
|Nancy Kolodny, Nellie Zuckerman Cohen and Anne Cohen Heller Professor of Health Sciences; Professor of Chemistry. Authority on nuclear magnetic resonance and its application to problems in medicine and biology.|
- The First-Year Writing (FYW) Course requirement and a fascinating list of courses.
- The Quantitative Reasoning requirement and courses.
Wellesley is committed to providing the support that each students needs to succeed. Academic advising is geared to the needs of first-year students. The Office of Advising and Academic Support Services coordinate many of the College's efforts to help students realize their academic potential.
|Mission of the office of advising and academic support services|
|Provide all students with individually focused advising and targeted academic support appropriate to their needs, along with programs that support the successful exploration of the College's curricular and co-curricular offerings.|
|Establish habits that lead to a lifelong pursuit of learning.|
|Understand and appreciate the relationship between learning within and outside the classroom.|
|Explore personal experiences, values and beliefs, leading to the articulation of a sense of purpose|
|Sharing in this work are the following offices:|
|advising and academic support services include the following offices|
|Class Deans||Providing strong individualized advising to students|
|Dean of First-Year Students||Serving the academic and personal needs of all first-year students throughout the entire first year. Lori Tenser is Dean of the First-Year Class.|
|Office of Disability Services||Working with the entire campus community; services professionals are available to provide individualized assistance and information to students. Jim Wice is Director of Disability Services.|
|Pforzheimer Learning and Teaching Center||Helping students maximize their educational opportunities and realize their academic potential. (Also helps faculty explore different methods of teaching and implement pedagogical innovations)|
In addition, a peer-to-peer system of advising and mentoring pairs students with supportive student role models.
|Peer-to-peer advising and mentoring|
|First-Year Mentors||Each first-year student is part of a first-year mentor group led by an upperclass student trained to assist students in making an effective transition to Wellesley College. Mentors are invaluable as guides to student life at Wellesley, because they are students themselves.|
|Academic Peer Tutors||Each residence hall has one or more academic peer tutors, who are trained to work with students on study skills and help specifically with the academic aspects of the transition to Wellesley.|
Wellesley is proud to introduce a new policy that will further enable first-year students to make a strong start in their intellectual journey at the College.
|what is shadow grading?|
|Shadow grading means that, as a first-semester student, letter grades you receive will not be recorded on your transcript and will not ever be released outside the College. Your work will, in fact, be graded, and these grades will be shared with you and your advisors. These shadow grades will provide first-year students with the opportunity to learn about the standards for academic achievement at the College and to assess the quality of their work in relation to those standards. We hope this will encourage you to use the first semester to explore new subjects and to learn more about how you can grow as a learner in college.|
Shadow grading was adopted by the Wellesley faculty in a process of deliberation that identified the following benefits:
|benefits of shadow grading|
|Shadow grading reflects Wellesley’s commitment to the core elements of a liberal arts education.|
The strength of a liberal arts education is in the development of intellectual skills and habits that allow students to engage a wide-ranging curriculum while they are here and a complicated and rapidly changing world when they leave. At Wellesley, our first-year curriculum is focused on building skills, introducing new areas of study, and encouraging exploration of new and unfamiliar academic subjects, through first-year seminars, a required first-year writing course, and a program in quantitative reasoning. Shadow grading allows students and their teachers to focus on progress toward those goals and not just on how many of them are met by semester's end.
|We refocus attention from grades to intellectual engagement and inspiration.|
The process of preparing for and applying to college sends the message to high school students that grades are all that matter, and that only “A” grades are good grades. The transition to college marks a time when students can broaden their definition of academic success to include intellectual engagement, inspiration, and risk-taking; experience the joy of discovery and challenging oneself; and forge meaningful intellectual relationships with faculty. Wellesley is committed to providing the framework for students to make such a transition, and shadow grades provide a clear statement that college is different from high school.
|We help all students learn to manage their time and balance their academic and extracurricular interests and commitments.|
The overall transition from the highly structured and supervised environment of high school to the more independent and self-managed work environment at college is challenging for most new students. They are confronted with many smaller transitions, sets of choices, and time management decisions. Shadow grading first semester will better enable first-year students to focus on adjusting to their new environment, making thoughtful decisions, and creating a complementary balance within their academic commitments and social activities.
Shadow grading is consistent with Wellesley’s current practices of teaching and grading differently in the first year. Courses with a credit/non grading structure are already a significant part of the first-year curriculum, and the popularity of this option among faculty has grown, reflecting a uniformly positive experience with it. It allows instructors to meet students where they are and develop individual learning objectives and to refocus the conversation about student performance away from "How do I get an A?" toward "How do I improve my skills and knowledge?"