First-Year Seminar Program students in a classroom.


Every first-year student at NYU’s College of Arts and Science (CAS) participates in the First-Year Seminar Program. First-year seminars keep students engaged with thought-provoking questions and ideas in a small class setting. Offering an array of intriguing topics for students to choose from, the program brims with lively discussion and debate among students and instructors. Through these interactions students establish friendships with peers and mentorships with professors. What’s more, they discover the rich academic and cultural resources all around them. Students develop critical analysis, research, and communication skills that will help them excel in college and beyond.

Students sitting in a lecture hall.
Connections and Community

During her first semester, Amaya McDuffie was excited to attend her weekly first-year seminar. The seminar was Erotics of Representation taught by Associate Professor Zeb Tortorici. Beyond meeting on campus, the class visited the New York Academy of Medicine, New York Public Library, NYU Special Collections, and an art exhibit. “The seminar covered so much that I think each of us gained a new perspective in some way,” says Amaya. In fact, the first-year student now plans to double-major in Journalism and History. “The content and readings were so interesting, and our professor encouraged everyone to participate and talk with each other. He was passionate about the class, and it was clear that he actually wanted to know our opinions.”

In the Incarceration Nation seminar, taught by Professor Aisha Khan, course readings and discussions also excited first-year student Cameron Patel. After class, they regularly chatted with Khan, whom they plan to stay in touch with. “Professor Khan was always receptive to giving recommendations for other texts or talking more about the readings, even when we disagreed about something,” says Cameron. “Having her as my professor was very fulfilling.”

Additionally, the seminar featured guest lecturers, including two people from Escaping Time. It’s an organization that showcases art from current or formerly incarcerated individuals. “I enjoy art, so seeing how a policy-oriented topic, like incarceration, can be woven into other aspects of life was one of my favorite parts of the course,” says Cameron. In fact, they plan to major in Public Policy and minor in Studio Art.

Four students crowding around a laptop.
A Space to Grow

No matter the topic, first-year seminars offer students a safe setting to ask questions, explore ideas, and find their voice. “Your classmates are all new to NYU, which is really special. Also, it helps you feel more comfortable to be wrong or make mistakes,” Amaya says. “The seminar was valuable in a lot of ways for learning how to navigate college. At first, I wasn’t quite sure about things like how to prepare for class, navigate library databases, or structure a research paper. This class taught me all of that.”

Throughout the First-Year Seminar Program, students complete a range of projects and gain confidence in their abilities. In fact, sometimes students publish work from their seminars. For example, the Wiki Education blog featured Audrey Yang’s paper for the “We Are Not in a Post-Fact World”: Wikipedia and the Construction of Knowledge seminar. Now a sophomore pursuing a joint major in Computer and Data Science, Audrey says the seminar still influences her worldview. “The course pushed me outside of my comfort zone and helped prepare me for other courses at NYU,” she shares. “After taking the class, I can think more deeply and critically about what I see and hear.”

Students taking photos of a book pulled from the New York Public Library archives.
New This Spring: Metropolitan Seminars

This spring two new first-year seminars—New York Intellectuals, Past and Present and Photography and New York—invite students to engage with and closely examine New York City’s vibrant energy. In these seminars students will collaborate with either the New York Public Library or the New York Review Books to conduct original research. What’s more, the exploration will be conducted under the guidance and mentorship of instructors who are renowned professionals.