First year program

Our Urgent Questions First-Year Program is all about finding your footing in college.

Image: Students listening to lecture in class

About the Program

You begin by choosing an Enduring Questions Seminar, taught by faculty from across all disciplines. These seminars are designed to enhance your written and spoken communication skills and add your passion and experience to our learning community by asking you to critically examine complex, enduring questions. Held to just 17 students, your Urgent Questions Seminar professor serves as your first academic advisor, giving you daily access to mentoring and academic support during your first semester.

In the second term, you will further sharpen your research, critical thinking, and writing and speaking skills in an Urgent Questions Seminar. Again, these seminars are offered across disciplines and focus on broad questions that speak to the problems of our contemporary world such as “How do we fight Climate Change?” or “What is Addiction?”


We put our very best faculty in these classes.

At most colleges the rough equivalent is the Writing 101 and 102 sequence. These are generally taught by a large pool of adjuncts, many of whom only have bachelor’s degrees. We have our most established faculty teaching these classes.

We keep them small and deliver lots of personal attention.

The caps are generally held at 17 in all the Seminars. This means our best faculty lavishing close attention on first year students.  Students are asked to write at least two drafts of every paper, so they get lots of individual feedback on their written work.

Every First Year class has a Student Course Assistant or Writing Assistant.

These student assistants are vital to providing “social counseling” to our students, helping integrate them into the Hiram community. They also are very strong academically and provide another set of talented eyes on our students’ written work.

These classes are taught by faculty from across the curriculum.

As part of our Writing Across the Curriculum philosophy, we have physicists, biologists, historians, etc., teaching these classes. The program is owned by the entire campus community, not just the English Department. This means new students can sample professors in areas they might have an interest, before jumping into a disciplinary class.

The topics are diverse.

Every class is unique (from the “The Irish Question” to the “How do we do Ethical Science,” to “What is an ‘American Sin’”). Students engage with topics that actually interest them. They are much more likely to grow as writers, speakers, and thinkers if they are engaged with the subject material.

Enduring Questions faculty serve as advisers.

At many schools, new students are assigned to an adviser who is a staff member. Such advisers only get to know the student in the context of advising meetings.  At Hiram, we pair the student with the professor they will have in class. Therefore, the professor will better know the student. They will know the student’s strengths and weaknesses and they will have better rapport, allowing more frank and helpful conversations.