The EMS First-Year Seminar is a three credit course designed to encourage students to begin the important process of "thinking for a living." It aims to:

  • Promote critical reading and thinking, and help students develop effective written and oral arguments.
  • Encourage individual and group learning, and provide students the experience of being part of a cohort of scholars with similar interests and a common focus.
  • Expose students to EMS interests and activities through early involvement in the College, and provide at least one friend on the faculty in EMS to whom they can go for advice outside of the normal academic advising channels.
  • Foster some of the practical skills necessary for academic life.
  • Challenge students to think about some of the major issues facing the world today, and the role that science and technology play in defining and addressing these issues.

All sections emphasize reading and discussion, with a strong focus on writing and communication skills. Group discussion and group projects are a fundamental aspect of the course--there is little faculty lecturing. In some sections, each student maintains a common theme throughout the semester in which each writing assignment builds on the previous one to produce a comprehensive body of work on a single topic. Other sections allow topics to vary with each assignment. All of the sections require students to make several class presentations based on their written assignments. Students may enroll in any available section, with places allocated on a first-come first-served basis.

First Year Seminar and Communications (GWS) Requirement

A student must take 9 credits of GWS. If they take EM SC 100 (EMS First Year Seminar), that satisfies three of them. All EMS students have to take English 15 or 30--that's another three. They then have to take three more credits. Unless the Department specifies the course that they have to take, then it doesn't matter which GWS course they choose. At present the only options are CAS 100 or ENGL 202. If a student doesn't take EM SC 100, then they need to get all nine credits of GWS from outside the College. Again at present, that means taking all of ENGL 15/30, CAS 100 and ENGL 202. EMS doesn't usually allow substitutions for any of these courses unless it is transfer credit from another institution.

All students have to take a first year seminar. If students start as freshmen in EMS, they have to take EM SC 100. If they start elsewhere at Penn State, we accept any first year seminar.

If students entered Penn State as a freshmen, and did not take a first year seminar, they are required to:
(1)  The student must submit a degree audit petition to the associate dean for education with a two-page double-spaced letter attached, signed by the academic adviser, that summarizes how course work to date has prepared the student to think critically, write effectively, and make oral presentations.
(2) The student must attach a sample of writing from any University "W" course, passed with a C or better, to the petition.

Students for whom this process applies must submit the above stipulated documents before approval for graduation may be granted.