Campus News

The freshman 15

Jonathan Evans

First-year seminars, which meet 15 hours a semester, allow faculty to connect with new students

It’s all done for “the sheer pleasure of teaching,” according to Jonathan Evans, associate professor of English.

In first-years seminars, faculty members teach one class to a group of new students.

Instructors choose a topic of their own interest and receive credit for teaching the 15 hours that the class meets per semester.

Although compensation is limited, the program has blossomed in its 11 years on campus to include 83 fall seminars and 59 spring seminars spanning every area of teaching at UGA.

Instructors teach courses on vaudeville entertainment, humans and animals in society, and popular music, to give examples.

Teaching is voluntary, and classes can be graded on a pass-fail or standard A-F system.

“The idea was to bring together senior-level faculty and first-year students,” said Hugh Ruppersburg, professor of English and director of the program.

Many freshmen spend their inaugural year shuttered in the confines of large lecture halls fulfilling core requirements.

As a result, they get little face time with instructors and are not always able to enroll in the courses that drive their interests, according to Ruppersburg, who teaches a seminar on Bob Dylan.

The draw for students is clear, but what draws in faculty?

According to Evans, the rewards far exceed the time it takes to create and teach a course.

He currently teaches a seminar on The Hobbit, Beowulf and Saga of the Volsungs.

He approaches the class as he would any upper-level literature class. He gives reading assignments and grades essays. He expects his students to discuss their readings, and if a recent class was any indication, they do.

In a setting in which all their classmates are novices, the students thrived.

“Not everybody in this class is going to become an English major or even get a chance to discuss Old English and Old Norse literature on this level,” Evans said. “So it’s a challenge to see if I can find a way to make reading and learning of this sort understandable and enjoyable for people who may not be into medieval literature.”

More information about the ­program is available online (