In the fall of the freshman year, each SAGES student enrolls in a First Seminar. The seminar's defining feature is its small size: With enrollment limited to 17 students, every First Seminar promotes active engagement and discussion, allows students to learn from one another, and offers a vigorous introduction to academic inquiry.
For their First Seminar, students can choose "The Life of the Mind" or one of several topical seminars, each of which belongs to one of three thematic categories. In Fall 2010, the topical seminars included:
Thinking About the Natural or Technological World
Automobile: Origins, Development, and Impact on American Society
Challenges of Sustainability
Cities (Under Construction)
Energy and Society: Impact of Materials on Societal Development
Science: Good, Bad, and Dangerous
Thinking About the Social World
Art, Music, and the Museum
Making Sense of Place
Modernity to Modernism
Philanthropy in America
- Science and Race
- Space Travel in Film and Literature
Thinking About the Symbolic World
- Death and Representation
- Digital World
- Language of Sport
- Love and Friendship
Music in Our Lives
Several aspects of First Seminar are especially valuable to students as they begin their undergraduate careers.
- Intensive Advising and Mentoring. Each First Seminar is led by a CWRU faculty member who also serves as the students' first-year advisor. Under this system, students receive guidance from professors who have observed their academic performance firsthand and with whom they interact frequently, both inside and outside the classroom.
- An Emphasis on Writing. In SAGES, writing instruction is integrated into the seminar experience. Most students do not take a separate expository writing course. Instead, they develop their writing skills throughout the SAGES sequence. All of the seminars—First, University, and Departmental—are designated as writing-intensive courses. Students receive feedback on their writing both from seminar leaders and from co-instructors (usually graduate students in English) who participate in all aspects of the seminar.
- Opportunities to Explore Other University Circle Institutions. In addition to three hours of class time each week, First Seminar includes “fourth-hour activities” at the scientific and cultural institutions of University Circle. These include the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the Western Reserve Historical Society.
After completing a First Seminar, students take two University Seminars by the end of their second year. Though the writing and discussion proceed at a more advanced level, University Seminars have a family resemblance to First Seminars. Enrollment is still limited to 17 students, and the thematic “worlds” introduced early in the sequence—social, symbolic, and natural/technological—are retained as organizing principles of the curriculum. To find out what seminars are being offered in a given term, or to see course descriptions, access the University Registrar's Schedule of Classes. Enter the year and term (Fall/Spring) and course subject (USSO, USSY, or USNA), and then click the search button.
As noted above, all SAGES seminars are writing-intensive. Upon completion of their University Seminars, students fulfill a graduation requirement by submitting a selection of their seminar papers along with a reflective essay.
The leaders of University Seminars include faculty members from CWRU's professional schools, as well as professors from the schools and colleges that grant undergraduate degrees. Seminar leaders are also drawn from the ranks of two SAGES-inspired programs: the Presidential Fellows and the SAGES Fellows. These programs enable SAGES students to interact with guest scholars from other universities, curators and educators from University Circle institutions, and distinguished professionals whose backgrounds in journalism, politics, and other fields equip them to bring fresh perspectives to SAGES and to the University generally.
By their third year, students are prepared to take a discipline-specific seminar, usually in their major field. This is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the SAGES model. At CWRU, the seminar approach isn't confined to a separate,
first-year program; it is also finding a place in traditional academic departments. We believe that the type of learning characteristic of SAGES —interactive, inquiry-based, individualized— will, over time, permeate the entire University community.
All students will take additional discipline-specific courses, typically outside their majors, to ensure broad exposure to liberal learning. These courses may be taken throughout a student's undergraduate career.
As seniors, CWRU students participate in a one- or two-semester capstone project, culminating in a final public presentation of their work in a university-wide celebration of scholarship and service. Some capstones will emerge from existing or new departmental courses; others will be developed by individual students or by small groups, in consultation with faculty members. Capstones demonstrate the knowledge, initiative, problem-solving skills, and powers of communication that students have acquired as CWRU undergraduates, especially through their participation in seminars. A significant number of students—including all nursing majors and many engineering majors— will engage in some form of service as part of their capstones. The Senior Capstone Website provides further details about the program.