Welcome to life as a college student! Right from the first day, First Year Seminar helps you meet other students, connect with faculty members, and become part of the Elms community.

First Year Seminar (FYS) will empower you to make the most of your education here at Elms. With your instructor as a guide and mentor, you and your peers will explore important topics, frame critical questions, and seek just solutions. Through special programming, in-class discussions, and campus-wide events, you will become an active member of the Elms College community.


Common Read

First Year Seminar courses are connected by a theme taken from Catholic Social Teaching. This year’s theme is Option for the Poor and Vulnerable, and through the power of sharing our stories, we will see the value we each bring to our community.

All first year students will read the Common Read book, Born A Crime, by Trevor Noah, during the fall semester. You will discuss and write about the book in your First Year Seminar class, highlighting how the themes are interwoven with the Catholic Social Teaching.

We hope you are excited to begin exploring how you can actively make a difference. Books may be purchased in the Elms College bookstore.

Cover image of 2020 First Year Seminar book Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime."

Born a Crime is Trevor Noah’s personal account of growing up in South Africa, well before achieving fame as the second host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. His mother was black, his father was white, and at the time, his birth was considered a crime according to apartheid law. Because of this, he spent much of his early childhood indoors, while being raised by his mother and grandmother. He rarely saw his father.

His mother, Patricia, made sure that Trevor attended school, even though he lived in a world of poverty, violence, oppression, and domestic violence. She gave Trevor the opportunities to succeed that she did not receive in her life. Her emphasis on learning gave him a pathway to overcome obstacles and self-doubt.

For first-year college students, Born a Crime offers lessons in sharing stories to connect, finding strength to overcome obstacles, and creating conditions for justice in our world out of God’s call to love our human family.  Set against the societal ravages of apartheid, Born a Crime is sometimes funny, shocking, and poignant. It aligns with the CST theme of ‘option for the poor,’ by demonstrating that the deprivation and powerlessness of people who are economically poor wounds the whole community. The resilience and support Trevor received from his mother and family amidst the utter hardship of apartheid is inspiring and gets to the heart of the CST theme, that every person should be able to be an active participant in society.

All first-year students are required to complete the Common Read book, and engage in writing and discussion during the First Year Seminar class; beyond First Year Seminar, the selection also is used in upper-level courses to enrich discussion and encourage inquiry. Throughout the academic year, the college will hold related events, from panel discussions and community exploration to presentations from invited speakers.

Books may be purchased in the Elms College bookstore.


First Year Seminar Instructors