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First-Year Seminars

One of Smith’s strengths is its open curriculum, where students are agents of their curricular experience. Because writing is so central to intellectual growth and accomplishment, the college does require the completion of a Writing Intensive (WI) course during either your first or second semester. For more information on the purpose of this requirement, and on what to expect from your WI course, see the Writing Intensive Requirement.

Writing Intensive (WI) courses embrace the responsibility to prepare students for the writing tasks they will encounter as their intellectual careers at Smith unfold. Accordingly, first-year students in WI courses learn how to ask questions; to observe closely; to interrogate assumptions; to gather, analyze and present evidence; and to make careful, evidence-based arguments through writing. They hone these skills by engaging in a process of drafting and revising facilitated by timely, discriminating feedback from peers and instructors.

Ways to Fulfill the Writing Intensive Requirement

  • Take a First-Year Seminar. From exploring religious diversity in the United States to engaging the lives of “Rebellious Women,” these courses cover a wide range of inventive topics. In each seminar, a faculty member introduces students to college-level learning through seminar-style investigation, typically by exploring an issue or topic in the instructor’s discipline. First-year seminars incorporate all the capacities of a successful liberal arts education, and help students develop their skills in writing, speaking, research, and critical thinking. Most first-years complete the WI requirement via a First-Year Seminar, which are designed for small groups of 16 to 20 first-year students. Fall semester offerings can be found in the Smith College Course Catalog. A small number of seminars will be offered in the spring term. For a list of those, contact Maryjane Wraga, director of the First-Year Seminar program (
  • Take a section of Writing and Public Discourse (WRT) 118. The sections of WRT 118 share the same goals as the first-year seminars and offer students a similarly rich intellectual experience by exploring a variety of pressing issues and themes. The key difference is that WRT 118 is taught by instructors who specialize in the teaching of writing itself; WRT 118 is thus a great choice for students who wish to focus on improving their writing. Several of the sections of WRT 118 each semester are specially designed for students who are bilingual or who speak a language other than English as their first language. Here are the sections of WRT 118 offered. For more information on WI offerings, contact Julio Alves, director of the Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching and Learning (

    Note: Courses numbered 200 and above are generally not recommended for a student’s first WI course. 
  • Explore a few other courses that are also designated as WI. If you are interested in taking one of them to meet the Writing Intensive requirement, discuss the matter with your adviser to ensure that the course is a good fit for you. The full range of fall term WI options can be found by selecting the “Writing Intensive” box on the “Course Search” page.

    The required WI course is the beginning, not the culmination of a student’s writing life at the college. Just as one’s thinking and learning is never finished, working on the writing that enables that thinking and learning will continue across each student’s years at Smith, whether within the major or in the curriculum at large.
    From The Writing Intensive Requirement

    Learn More About Writing & Public Discourse at Smith

Academic Support Services

Jacobson Center

The Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching and Learning offers writing, speaking, learning and tutoring services.

Two people working together in the Jacobson Center

Spinelli Center

The Spinelli Center for Quantitative Learning offers tutoring, workshops and study sessions on quantitative work across the curriculum.

Multicultural Affairs

The Office of Multicultural Affairs serves as a source of guidance and advocacy for students of color as they navigate their Smith experience.

Disability Services

Contact First-Year Seminars

College Hall 101
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Director of First-Year Seminars:
Maryjane Wraga
Professor of Psychology