Quinnipiac University
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University Curriculum

First-Year Seminar

First-Year Seminar courses challenge you to tackle complex problems, questions and new ideas found in modern job settings and society as a whole from several unique disciplinary perspectives.

Your interdisciplinary education begins here

Quinnipiac’s First-Year Seminar (FYS) marks the beginning of the University Curriculum (UC) and your interdisciplinary education. Dynamic and highly collaborative, FYS courses explore society’s most relevant issues through several multidisciplinary lenses.

There are many FYS courses to choose from, each one connecting issues in science, politics, race, business and economics, mass media and beyond. Depending on your interests, you may explore the many polling methods used to collect and interpret public opinion data; train your eyes and ears to spot questionable news sources; or learn the real science behind the spread of COVID-19 and the social inequities unearthed by the pandemic. Other courses focus on the scientific, social and economic links to climate change, or the challenge of reimagining policing in America.

More than just a class, the First-Year Seminar is a community of students from a range of majors beginning the same journey toward critical thinking and problem-solving required to become 21st-century professionals and globally minded individuals.

View our full list of 2020-21 FYS courses

Professional scholars and mentors

The First-Year Seminar (FYS) is taught by faculty with expertise and experience in diverse fields and programs. In Fall 2021, FYS faculty include individuals who teach in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Communications, the School of Business, and the School of Law. Other FYS faculty base their courses in the experience they have developed from professional positions, such as school administrators, lawyers and mental health counselors. 

All FYS faculty have crafted a course, based in their expertise and experience, that is specifically designed to introduce a recent high-school student to the excitement and challenges of undergraduate education. Whether you study sustainability, sport, science-fiction, success in business, or the problems of homelessness, your FYS instructor will examine with you the complexity and importance of the problem, question or idea that your FYS course explores.

In Their Words: FYS Faculty

Sean P Duffy

Sean Duffy

Professor of Political Science and Executive Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute

“What I enjoy so much about teaching the First-Year Seminar is the opportunity to address complex, systemic issues that cut across academic and knowledge areas. We start with questions, and then look for perspectives that help us to find answers to — or leads on — those questions. It’s always surprising, and rewarding, when every student in the class finds their own set of questions to pursue! This is a wonderful, authentic way to introduce the academic enterprise.”

Suzanne  Hudd

Suzanne Hudd

Professor of Sociology

“I have been at Quinnipiac for over 20 years, and it is truly a delight to welcome the newest members of our community, and to watch them grow. Some of my former FYS students have stayed on as “informal advisees” through their four years because of the bonds we form as they navigate the transition to college. It’s truly a privilege to be part of that process.”

Jaime M. Ullinger

Jaime Ullinger

Associate Professor of Anthropology

“Teaching Plagues and Pandemics for FYS allows me to highlight the inherently interdisciplinary nature of anthropology by discussing the ways in which both biology and culture play a critical role in the persistence and distribution of diseases in human groups. Students of any major and interest can connect to these themes, both professionally and personally. It is a pleasure to introduce new students to Quinnipiac, and to the intellectual practice of synthesizing diverse kinds of information to learn more about yourself and the world around you.“

Quinnipiac Q logo

Jonathan Yukich

Part-Time Faculty

“What’s great about the FYS courses is that they allow students to discover new interests and ideas, and to further expand on those which they already have. My course has to do with reviewing the arts. While students entering the course already have some exposure to the arts, the course gives them the context, freedom and tools to engage in areas of the art world that they are particularly passionate and enthusiastic about.”

Peer Catalysts

Working directly in First-Year Seminar courses, peer catalysts (PCs) play a major role in establishing a classroom community. They lead a range of initiatives, including group discussions and projects, and also collaborate with professors to suggest, design and execute in-class activities.

As your academic mentors and partners, PCs get to know your individual needs, help you examine issues through multiple perspectives and develop the tools to be an independent, multifaceted thinker. Outside of class, peer catalysts provide academic assistance and mentoring, connect you with various campus resources, and help you acclimate to college life.

Student Spotlight

Occupational therapy student Jessica Winstanley poses outdoors
Mentor and friendly guide to first-year students

Jessica Winstanley ’21, MOT ’23, Peer Catalyst

Occupational therapy student Jessica Winstanley ’21, MOT ’23, became a peer catalyst to make every incoming Quinnipiac student’s First-Year Seminar experience as positive and eye-opening as hers was.

Winstanley enjoyed exploring ethical and logical problems inherent in current events with her classmates. She also recalls her peer catalyst motivating fellow students from many other majors to share their unique perspectives.

“The purpose of FYS aligned so well with my own personal and academic values that I felt compelled to continue on that path,” said Winstanley, who is enrolled in Quinnipiac’s Dual-Degree BS/MOT (4+1.5) program.

Winstanley has worked as a peer catalyst and peer catalyst mentor in First-Year Seminars and other classes since her sophomore year. In that role — a paid position — she fosters an interactive and collaborative learning environment, provides academic support when needed, and helps students transition smoothly to college life.

“Our work in and out of the classroom, be it in-person or remote, is remarkably beneficial to the flow and dynamics of a class,” she said.

Winstanley recalled helping a struggling student connect meaningfully with course material, develop her thoughts and ideas more coherently, manage her workload more efficiently and improve her standing with her professor — in just a few weeks.

“I not only saw her produce higher quality work each week, but she displayed more confidence in the classroom and began participating more in discussions,” Winstanley said.

Success stories like this have given Winstanley a deep understanding of what her role truly entails.

“We are as much bridges for students to connect with peers and professors as we are for them to connect with course material,” she said. “I hope that all incoming students utilize their PCs as a support and a resource to make the most out of their experience.”

In Their Words: Peer Catalysts

Headshot of Rachel Reyes

Rachel Reyes

’21 Biology, ’22 Health Care Management MBA

“I had a great experiential learning opportunity to spearhead a peer catalyst program for first-year biology classes. Typically, peer catalysts only assist in First-Year Seminars, but in working with my supervisors from the Learning Commons, I was able to launch the first ever, peer catalyst program for biology. Transitioning to college can be tough on some students, and college level sciences are much more challenging than high school biology classes. I feel really proud that I was able to successfully launch this program and there has been really good feedback from the first-year students having a peer in the class to answer questions and give guidance.”

Headshot of Madeline Ruffinott

Madeline Ruffinott

’21 Health Science Studies, ’23 MS in Occupational Therapy

“Collaborating with faculty and working with students to help them succeed in the course is for me personally the most fulfilling aspect of the PC program. I am so appreciative to work with professors who are receptive to my ideas and work collaboratively with me to make sure that every student has a positive first-year experience and is engaged in class.”

Headshot of Ben Labadia

Ben Labadia

’22 Media Studies, ’23 BFA in Film, Television and Media Arts

“My main goal was to help students get out of their comfort zone. So many students come from high school feeling the need to fit in with the crowd. I wanted to encourage the students to take initiative and jump on opportunities to speak up, contribute to the conversation and have a point of view.”

Headshot of Ryan Miller

Ryan Miller

’20 Film, Television and Media Arts, ’21 MS Interactive Media and Communications

“I wanted to become a peer catalyst after experiencing what my peer catalyst brought to classroom discussions when I was in the First-Year Seminar. I love working with students one-on-one with their personal inquiry and then helping the class feed off each other in an open discussion. I would say the most memorable part of my experience has been staying in contact with the first professor I worked with and students from each year’s classes and watching them grow and continue building toward reaching their goals.”