Whitman College’s First Year Seminars are designed to immerse our students in deep thought and transformative conversations, while helping you gain the skills you’ll need to succeed in college. All first-year students enroll in this sequence of two seminar courses that build a foundation for learning and thinking that you will use for the rest of your life.

Exploring Complex Questions

In the fall, you’ll take “Exploring Complex Questions” (GENS 175), where you’ll be part of a learning community led by a team of faculty from different departments. You’ll join your fellow students in thinking about interesting topics and big questions in innovative ways.

In June, you’ll receive an email asking you to pick your top four learning communities from this year’s offerings. We’ll use your preferences to create your fall schedule. Explore this year’s learning communities.

Making Powerful Arguments

In the spring, you’ll move into a new seminar class, with a new group of classmates. “Making Powerful Arguments” (GENS 176) will teach you to write and speak persuasively, with the support of rigorous, research-based evidence. You get to choose a course that interests you, and participate in thought-provoking debates guided by our expert faculty. 

Students will register for their spring seminar after registering for the rest of their spring courses. See available course sections and topics for GENS 176.

Why Seminars?

Perhaps you have heard the word seminar used to describe a variety of college and high school-level courses. But what is a seminar?

The word “seminar” owes its conceptual foundation to medieval seed-plots. Just as with our First Year Seminars, the seed-plot offered a space for beings in a state of transition — often cuttings, though sometimes seeds — to grow and flourish, developing the strength to weather transplanting in the wider world and become tall, strong and productive. 

In the modern college and university system, the word “seminar” refers to the meeting of a select, small group of highly accomplished students. Whitman students are these students. Facilitated by professors eager to learn along with you, seminars encourage students to ask difficult questions, consider and argue the merits of differing answers, and then share their findings in engaging ways.