Mission Statement
University Seminar enables students to develop their analytical, communication, quantitative, and informational skills; introduces them to the expectations of university study; and engages them as active learners on a path toward social responsibility

University Seminar
USem 101, 102, 103

General Syllabus

Note to Students: This document shows course goals, policies, and procedures that are common to all University Seminar courses. All sections are designed around the Foundational strands, goals, and proficiencies of SOU's University Studies: A. Communication; B. Thinking; and C. Information Literacy. Some writing assignments and final exams will test all students on selected learning goals.

Your instructor will distribute a detailed syllabus with assignments and activities that reflect the course content and the expected learning outcomes of the seminar that you have chosen.

Course Description
The purpose of SOU's University Seminar is to instruct, challenge, and care for first-year students in developing essential academic skills while introducing them to the expectations and options of the University. In addition to welcoming and orienting students, University Seminar seeks to improve their skills, confidence, and long-term success by focusing on critical thinking, writing, and speaking; on building community; and on engaging with SOU's institutional, intellectual, and social culture. This three-term general education sequence focuses on the following program goals:


  1. Students will be able to identify resources at the university that will promote students' personal and academic growth.
  2. Students will be able to identify the main features of writing.
  3. Students will develop awareness of areas of conflict in various topics and issues and possible approaches for addressing these areas of conflict.


  1. Students will be able to write effectively for a variety of audiences using Standard English conventions, vocabulary, organization and sentence structure.
  2. Students will be able to apply logical thought to theoretical and practical issues to texts by analyzing and assessing the quality of an argument's logic and supporting evidence, which may include summarizing relevant components and identifying an author's purpose, claim, assumptions, and arguments.
  3. Students will be able to make a claim and construct a logical supportive argument for that claim.
  4. Students will be able to communicate in ways appropriate to purpose and audience by adapting messages to facilitate mutual understanding.
  5. Students will collaborate effectively with others by being accountable for both individual and group goals, engaging in active listening, and using a variety of conflict management skills.
  6. Students will be able to access and use information resources effectively, efficiently and ethically.


  1. Students will be willing to analyze personal academic strengths and areas of growth through self assessment.
  2. Students will develop positive attitudes towards learning.

Texts and Materials
Each seminar has required texts for its topic. Check your class syllabus or with the SOU Bookstore for details. All students will use a custom University Seminar Style Guide, ISBN 978-1-59871-703-7. This text is available at the SOU bookstore.

USem students also need to have a dictionary (any recently published, collegiate-level book or CD).

All USem sections require students to use computers in order to access their class-related Blackboard accounts.

Additional assistance on University Seminar assignments, beyond what students receive from their instructors and classmates, is available through the Writing Center in the Hannon Library where peer tutors are prepared to give one-on-one assistance with specific assignments, as well as general advice on improving academic skills. University Seminar students may drop in when help is needed or set an appointment.

Grading Policy
University Seminar uses a portfolio for final assessment, which produces evidence for both student achievement and program analysis. The advantages to students and faculty are many:

  • A visual representation of student learning from beginning to end
  • A concrete way to track and document student progress over a period of time
  • A hard copy record of tasks and output for the student to retain for future reference and use
  • A systematic progression of tasks that can be linked to course goals and objectives and interpreted in the context of whether each was accomplished
  • An opportunity for students to reflect on their own progress as they review their portfolio

SOU University Seminar grades are based on individual proficiency in communication skills according to general standards set by University Seminar faculty. Major components of the term grade are the following:

  • A presentation essay, with all drafts, comments, and revisions
  • Advising plans and schedules for the coming term
  • Additional student- and instructor-selected work to demonstrate achievement in writing, speaking, and critical thinking
  • Self-reflection and self-assessment on meeting learning goals

These components form a student's portfolio, which is graded at the end of each term. In addition to these components, the following requirements must be met:

  • Completion with serious effort of all assignments and homework, including all stages of writing and speech preparation
  • Evidence that assigned work was completed on time per instructor's requirement
  • Submission of all required elements
  • Evidence of revision of written work
  • Evidence of attentive and serious participation in all class activities, including discussion, peer responses to other students' work, group activities, and writing

University Seminar requires a C- or above to successfully complete USEM 101, 102, and 103. Remember that all students must have a C- or above to successfully complete each term of University Seminar and advance to the next sequence.

Formatting of Written Material

  • All papers (drafts and final versions) must be printed from a computer (12-point, double spaced) and formatted in accordance with MLA or APA guidelines presented in the currently required Style Guide or as directed by the instructor.
  • All sources must be referenced in the text and in a list of works cited, following the Style Guide's examples.
  • Do not discard any of your work for University Seminar. Keep all preliminary assignments, notes, drafts, and peer critiques. Place each revision on TOP of the previous work. Every time you turn in work to your instructor include all previous drafts and notes. Ultimately, this work will be part of the presentation versions that constitute your Presentation Portfolio.

Scholastic Responsibility
Academic dishonesty, such as plagiarism or cheating, is a serious infraction of academic rules. Consult the Style Guide for a description of plagiarism. For sanctions, see the Academic Standards.

Faculty Expectations of Students
University Seminar requires at least eight hours per week of study time for most students (approximately two hours outside of class for every hour in class). In addition, the following behaviors, attitudes and efforts toward the class are valued by University Seminar faculty. Your success in University Seminar and in college depends upon these behaviors.

  • Attend All Classes. Much of our work in this course will be done in class, in small groups where other students depend on your participation. Attendance is absolutely required, every time. More than four hours of absence will lower your grade and may result in the instructor asking you to withdraw from the course. Groups may be asked to meet outside of class as necessary to complete or critique assignments. Attending scheduled group meetings is required course work, as is attending campus events scheduled for class work or discussion.
  • Be Prepared. Read all assigned materials on time; be responsible for all assigned reading listed on the schedule of assignments, even if not specifically discussed in class. Complete all written assignments on time. Think about what you read and what you're writing before you come to class.
  • Share Your Ideas. Come to class prepared to share ideas and contribute to class discussion. Make comments, ask questions, share your knowledge, experience, and expertise. Use discussion and group interaction to advance your own learning and to support others' learning.
  • Do Your Best. Mobilize and direct energy toward the assignments. Ask "Have I done my best?" Most writing assignments in University Seminar are open, so find ways to make the topics your own and keep your interest high. Exhibit a positive attitude toward testing and stretching your limits.
  • Collaborate. Exchange and use the expertise and knowledge of faculty and classmates to enhance learning and understanding. Give and ask for help as appropriate.

Student Expectations of University Seminar Faculty
Students may expect faculty to

  • Be prepared for each class session (and be flexible when needed)
  • Respond to your work in a timely manner
  • Be available in and out of class to discuss specific assignments and course material
  • Be interested in your success

Foundation Strands

Foundational skills—core skills for all SOU students—are introduced in University Seminar and developed and extended throughout the University Studies curriculum and the majors:

Goal A: Communication Goals

Communicate effectively using writing, speech, and image.

  1. Demonstrate ability to use Standard American English.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Use standard conventions of grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and spelling.
    2. Structure sentences in varied and appropriate ways.
    3. Use vocabulary and phrasing appropriate to purpose and audience.
  2. Accurately comprehend written, verbal, visual, and/or symbolic communications.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Summarize relevant components and structures in messages.
    2. Interpret communications’ purposes and cultural assumptions.
    3. Identify arguments used to justify a position.
    4. Critique and assess meanings.
  3. Communicate in ways appropriate to purpose and audience.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Use effective styles, content, and or images.
    2. Adapt messages to facilitate mutual understandings.
    3. Target varied audiences for specific communication purposes.
    4. Develop claims and supporting information.
  4. Collaborate with others to achieve a common goal.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Demonstrate accountability to group processes and goals.
    2. Practice norms of effective communication and active listening.
    3. Use a variety of conflict management skills.

Goal B: Thinking Goals

Conceptualize ideas holistically, logically, and creatively.

  1. Demonstrate awareness of multiple perspectives.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Understand how thinking relates to historical and cultural contexts.
    2. Articulate the salient points of any idea.
    3. Identify the questions at issue.
  2. Identify perceptions, assumptions and biases in any point of view.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Distinguish between critical thought and subjective reaction.
    2. Assess claims and conclusions in relation to points of view.
    3. Evaluate inferences in thought.
  3. Apply logical thought to theoretical and practical issues.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Summarize an argument’s main claim(s) and conclusion(s).
    2. Analyze and evaluate an argument’s logic, evidence, and efficacy.
    3. Weigh evidence to determine accuracy, relevance and sufficiency.
    4. Assess implications and consequences of ideas.
    5. Produce effective arguments using claims, evidence, and valid inferences.
  4. Creatively shape ideas, evidence, and experiences.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Use ideas to structure and solve problems.
    2. Frame decisions using sound interpretations, findings, and solutions.
    3. Effectively create a course of action or communicate a point of view.

Goal C: Information Literacy

Access and use information resources effectively and ethically.

  1. Determine the nature and extent of information needed.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Develop and refine research questions.
    2. Identify key concepts and terms required to locate information.
    3. Examine and assess potential resources specific to research purpose.
  2. Access information effectively and efficiently.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Differentiate among keywords, subject headings and descriptors.
    2. Differentiate between primary and secondary sources.
    3. Implement a variety of information search strategies.
    4. Use full array of library services to retrieve information.
  3. Evaluate information and resources.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Determine accuracy of information by questioning source of data.
    2. Analyze limitations of information gathering tools or strategies.
    3. Investigate differing viewpoints in the information.
  4. Integrate information ethically and legally.
    Proficiencies: Students will be able to
    1. Retrieve and manipulate information across contexts and in multiple formats.
    2. Understand intellectual property, copyright, and fair use of information.
    3. Cite sources using appropriate documentation style, without plagiarism or misrepresentation.

In addition to these Foundation Goals, each seminar will introduce ONE of the goals from Integration (upper-division general education):

Integration courses deepen and demonstrate levels of learning both in major courses and University Studies (general education) courses while teaching connections between science and human affairs, civic responsibility, ethical perspectives, and intercultural knowledge and actions. These strands emphasize the interconnectedness of ways of knowing and ways of acting:

H. Science, technology, and society: Understand the interactions of science, technology, and human affairs.

I. Citizenship and social responsibility: Understand and apply moral standards to individual conduct and citizenship through ethical inquiry, social awareness, and civic engagement.

J. Diversity and Global Awareness: Understand institutions, assumptions, and values from national and global perspectives.

Services for Those with Disabilities
If you are in need of academic support because of a documented disability (whether it be psychiatric, learning, mobility, health-related, or sensory) you may be eligible for academic accommodations through Disability Services for Students (DSS). Contact the Director, DSS, 552-6213, or schedule an appointment in person at the Academic Support Programs, Stevenson Union, Lower Level.