Right from the first day, First Year Seminar (FYS) helps you meet other students, connect with the faculty, and become part of the Elms community.

In FYS, we help you start on the path to discovery about yourself, Elms College, and other important topics. Your instructor becomes your guide and mentor. Together, along with other first year students, you explore a topic, and search for questions and resolutions. Your instructor encourages you to become an active member of the Elms College community as you develop your academic program and path.

First Year Seminar courses are connected by a theme taken from Catholic Social Teaching. The 2019-2020 theme is Rights and Responsibilities, which focuses on the connections between human dignity, human rights, and our obligations to others. All first year students are required to read the Common Read book — Educated, by Tara Westover  — during the semester. You will discuss and write about the book in your First Year Seminar class, highlighting how the themes are interwoven with the theme of Rights and Responsibilities.


Educated: Exploring Rights and Responsibilities

The Common Read is a central part of First Year Seminar. It gives all new first-year students a common intellectual experience centered around a theme of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). All first-year students are required to complete the Common Read book, and engage in writing and discussion during the First Year Seminar class. Related events are held throughout the academic year, from panel discussions and community exploration to presentations from invited speakers.

The CST theme for the 2019-2020 academic year is Rights and Responsibilities, which encompasses the connections between human dignity, human rights, and our obligations to others. The Common Read selection is Educated, by Tara Westover.

Educated is Westover’s personal story. Born in Idaho to a father who opposed public education, she never attended school as a child. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife.

She was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom, but that first encounter with education sparked a desire for more. She taught herself math and grammar, then pursued formal learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an M.Phil. from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She received a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge in 2014.

For first-year college students, Educated offers lessons in resilience, perseverance, the value of both formal and informal education, and defining family. It speaks to the CST theme of “Rights and Responsibilities” by emphasizing fundamental, basic human rights to dignity, healthcare, education, and the best life possible. Westover pursued those rights, overcoming major hurdles. At the start of her college education, she threw herself into a world where she had no context for navigation; she had to find resources by herself, along with ways to discover what she didn’t know or understand, and ways move into knowledge and understanding.

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.