(updated 7/7/2011)

Rensselaer attracts world-class students to its outstanding programs in science and engineering. Yet in today’s global economy leadership, innovation, and satisfying careers requires our students to possess a broad foundation for understanding the social, economic, and political contexts in which they work. Our students must also have the power to think critically and creatively about themselves and the diversity of worldviews and possibilities. The First Year Studies Program, as administered out of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, is committed to developing skills and talents, including those of effective communication and intellectual engagement, necessary for the successful technical professional of the 21st Century.

At the heart of the program is a transdisciplinary approach that allows students to examine social phenomena such as world religions, economic globalization, human identity, and the culture of technology from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Students are given the opportunity to interact closely with their instructors in seminar-style discussion sections limited to twenty-five students, and to participate in forums for dialogue and debate such as the FYE/FYS Undergraduate Lecture Series that we have organized in the past. Central to our curriculum is a teaching philosophy that utilizes engaged learning strategies to add depth to a student’s awareness about themselves and the world. Our primary areas of pedagogic focus include the following:

• Critical Thinking and Critical Wisdom
• Writing and Communications
• Personal Instructional Attention
• Teamwork and Group Work
• Community Building and Awareness
• A Focus on Diversity
• Effective Use of Instructional Technology

All First Year Studies courses foster a student’s ability to examine fundamental issues in a clear, comprehensive, and critical fashion, and to relate their knowledge to their everyday experience and to subsequent academic experiences at Rensselaer.

Courses offerings for Fall 2011 are as follows: (click here for details)

IHSS-1963 Explorations in Media
IHSS-1964 Minds and Machines
IHSS-1966 Environment and Politics
IHSS-1970 Nature/Society
IHSS-1976 Life Writing
IHSS-1977 Living in Cyberspace
IHSS-1978 Culture of Scientific Revolutions
IHSS-1979 Politics of the Global Environment

The innovative pedagogic mission of the First Year Studies program is implemented and enhanced through activities designed to stimulate and foster curricular renewal. Examples of such activities include:


• A summer pedagogy workshop for all affiliated instructors
• Special curriculum resourcse for instroctors, especially with an emphasis on developing the interdisciplinary and transdiciplinary dimensions of their courses.
• Brownbag pedagogy sessions during the fall semester, open to all HASS instructors and teaching assistants in addition to FYS faculty, for the purpose of creating a genuine teaching community focused on student learning, academic transition, and achievement.
• A Faculty Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from all of the academic departments in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
• Coordination with the Office of the First-Year Experience and other campus units to ensure that our academic programs are part of an integrated vision for a student's adjustments to Rensselaer

In addition, our program is actively involved in constructing accurate performance measurements and metrics so that we can continually improve the quality of instructional programs offered to our first year students.

Student participation in First Year Studies is voluntary. However, every year a significant portion of the entering student body choose to participate in our program, demonstrating student interest in the program. Rensselaer is committed to sustaining and building on this innovative program. We hope you decide to join us and benefit from it!

For further information:

Atsushi Akera, Director
Elizabeth Large, Director of Student Services & Core Curriculum Advisor

First Year Studies Program
School of Humanities and Social Science
Sage 5304
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 8th St.
Troy, NY 12180
518.276.2576 //


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