Members of the faculty and instructional staff at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are welcome to propose a First-Year Interest Group.
A First-Year Interest Group is a cluster of (usually) three UW classes, linked together to explore a common theme, and offered to incoming freshmen who attend these classes together as a cohort. The FIG instructor teaches a main FIG seminar.
Students flourish in FIGs in part because of the social connections they make by participating in a small-scale learning community. They attend both your main seminar and the linked classes together.
When the linked classes are large enough to have discussion sections, FIGs staff will arrange a single dedicated section for the students in your FIG.
Many FIG instructors develop co-curricular activities to support student engagement and learning. These could be field trips close to campus or far afield, themed dinners, opportunities for service learning or volunteering, or an optional study-abroad component. If you would like to incorporate co-curricular activities in your FIG or seek funding to support your ideas, please get in touch with us for more information.
Benefits for you
Rediscover the joy of small-scale classroom teaching! FIG students are, on average, highly engaged, committed, and enthusiastic. Because they attend classes together, they are frequently more comfortable participating in discussions, forming study groups for assignments and projects, and they feel more accountable to attend every class.
FIG faculty often develop new collaborative relationships with the instructors of the linked classes. They describe the opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary teaching as “unmatchable” and “the most memorable part of the experience.” In addition, many FIG instructors report that teaching a FIG positively affects the way they teach their non-FIG classes, and some report that their FIG experience has helped to transform their research agenda.
Leading a FIG is an excellent way to:
- provide service to your department and the campus
- contribute directly toward student diversity and retention efforts
- teach a small class section
- develop a new class, or find a new approach to teaching an established class
- collaborate with colleagues in other disciplines.
FIG instructors receive a S&E stipend and we encourage them to use at least some of these funds to support their FIG. Supplemental funds for additional out-of-classroom activities may be available.
Creating a FIG
The majority of FIGs are offered only in the fall, when new students most need the kind of peer and faculty support created by a FIG. A few FIGs are offered in the spring semester.
Proposals for new FIGs, or changes to existing FIGs, are usually completed by mid-October, for classes offered in the following fall semester. Spring FIGs are proposed during the preceding summer. Fall FIGs usually include three classes, spring FIGs usually include only two classes. If you are interested in teaching a FIG, please contact the Program Director at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Built around a theme
Start by establishing the theme or topic of the FIG. This theme will be reflected in the content of the main seminar class, which you will teach, and the linked classes taught by others.
Keep in mind that FIGs are available only to first-year students.
- What topics might appeal to freshmen starting their education at UW–Madison?
- What topics are broad enough to benefit from an interdisciplinary approach?
- What might be the “hook” to encourage students to join your FIG?
If you have limited experience working with first-year students, think about how you might reframe an existing class to make it appropriate for new students. Reach out to the FIGs Program staff to discuss your ideas (see contact info at the bottom of this page).
Your main class will be a small-enrollment seminar—no more than 20 students—that actively integrates and synthesizes the material from the linked classes. It can be a course that already exists in the University Guide, or it can be a special topics class created by you.
When considering possible linked classes, look for subjects that complement or support the main class. Ideally, classes in the FIG will fulfill some degree requirements, or help the student prepare for entry to a major or certificate program.
If you have ideas about some linked classes that might be a good fit, please include these in your proposal. We can also help you discover classes that might complement your topic.
Once the FIG is created, communicate with the instructors of the linked classes to share syllabi and to explore ways to integrate that material into your main class.
We are always available to discuss your ideas, help identify linked classes, and double-check requirements.