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College of Arts and Architecture's First-Year Engagement Plan


The First-Year Seminar legislation passed by the University Faculty Senate on April 29, 2008, requires that each University Park college and DUS submit a First-Year Engagement plan. The complete Senate legislation is available online at

First-Year Seminar Characteristics

University Park colleges are required to provide at least one credit of first-year seminar.

• All first year seminars are taught in sections not to exceed 25 students by full time faculty.

• Seminars are taught in the student’s college of enrollment.

• Seminars are academic in content, exemplifying the full weightiness and expectations of University-level coursework (ideally satisfying General Education or other College or Major requirements).


• Goal 1: to engage students in learning and orient them to the scholarly community from the outset of their undergraduate studies in a way that will bridge to later experiences in their chosen majors;

• Goal 2: to facilitate students’ adjustment to the high expectations, demanding workload, increased liberties, and other aspects of the transition to college life.


• Objective 1: to introduce students to University study;

• Objective 2: to introduce students to Penn State as an academic community, including fields of study and areas of interest available to students;

• Objective 3: to acquaint students with the learning tools and resources available at Penn State;

• Objective 4: to provide an opportunity for students to develop relationships with full-time faculty and other students in an academic area of interest to them;

• Objective 5: to introduce students to their responsibilities as part of the University community.

Credit Requirements

The College of Arts and Architecture has direct admission into majors in six of its seven academic departments/schools. Further, the College supports 15 degree options for which there are 11 different first year seminars varying in credits from one to four.

• Two academic units (Architecture- 4cr and Music Performance- 3cr) offer the first studio course also as their FYS.

• Landscape Architecture’s seminar is a 1 credit course taken concurrently with the first studio course in the major.

• Music offers different seminars (1cr or 2cr) depending on the intended major (MusEd, Performance, Composition, other).

• Theatre offers a 1 credit seminar taken concurrently with the first course in the major.

• Integrative Arts requires a 1 credit seminar for those who are admitted to Graphic Design; other INART majors often come into the program as change of majors, either from other programs within A&A or from other colleges, where they have taken a first year seminar.

• Art History offers a 3 credit first year seminar, open to all majors within the College and to DUS students interested in a major in the Arts.

• School of Visual Art's offers a 1 credit first year seminar, open to all majors and to DUS students.

Supplemental Programming

The First Year Engagement Plan for the College has three principal components:

1.) The continuation of existing first year seminars in each of the seven academic units.

The current seminars in the College have existed for many years and will continue to be the key component of the introduction to the major and will continue to be a core of the first year curriculum/experience for our beginning students. Many of these seminars are pre-requisite to or are concurrent with the first course in the major in most of the academic units.

2.) The offering of a first year studio course in six of the seven academic units (art history does not use the studio method).

The ‘studio’ is the universal teaching method used in most of the fine and performing arts, as well as the design arts. The introductory studio course is always (by accreditation standards) offered with a small student to faculty ratio. These studios offer one on one critique sessions between a student and a faculty member and serve to introduce each student to the peer teaching/learning method of the studio environment. The studio serves to create a ‘community’ among the students by providing for regular and programmed teamwork and collaboration, as well as excellent socialization opportunities.

3.) The continuation and perhaps expansion of a variety of activities and programs offered within the college designed to extend the classroom and present co-curricular as well as socialization opportunities for our students.

The third component of our first year plan is to continue to make available the variety of orientation programs, co-curricular activities, gallery talks and lectures series, ‘career days’, student and faculty performances, special living options, field trips, competitions,  vertical studios, and numerous other regularly scheduled events and functions which serve to broaden and enrich the lives of our students. 

Accommodating DUS Students

The first year seminars offered by the Department of Art History (Art History 001s) and the School of Visual Arts (Art 011s) are the designated seminars for DUS students. All other seminars are available only to majors within the disciplines. It is our intent to meet the demand of all students, including DUS students, who wish to schedule either of these courses.

Assessment Plan

Assessment of the objectives of the first year experience plan of the College will be evaluated in two ways.

1.) First, the tests, exams, quizzes, papers and projects and discussions/participation in the seminars will continue to evaluate each student with respect to the course objectives as well as the prescribed first year objectives.

2.) Second, the unique learning opportunities of the studio environment, in combination with the diverse variety of educational, co-curricular and social activities and programs currently offered within the College, will be evaluated using a survey instrument. The survey will be developed and administered by the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, with input from a faculty team working with experts from the Schreyer Institute. The survey will be used to determine how the studios as well as the various programs and activities are contributing to each of the prescribed first year objectives. Faculty will then make the necessary adjustments and implement changes to strengthen the various learning outcomes of the seminars, the studios and/or the activities and programs which are available to first year students. The survey instrument will be available for use in the Fall of 2009. This instrument will also permit a longitudinal study to compare results after the first year and at the time of graduation.