First Year Courses and Reflections

My Stanford Student Athlete Story

Photo of Stanford quad arched breezeway.
Aria Fischer, '21

Stanford University is the perfect combination of academics and athletics. I’ve heard that sentence a million times. From coaches, administrators, teammates, and my parents. I’ve also said it a million times to explain why I chose Stanford. But what do those words really mean? I didn’t find out until my freshman year as a Stanford student athlete on the women’s water polo team.

Why I Teach an Introsem

Students in a seminar
Bert Patenaude

I teach a variety of courses for various Stanford departments and programs, both on the main campus and through the Stanford Medical School, both undergraduate and graduate students.  To my mind there’s nothing that compares to teaching an IntroSem, something I have done each year for the past four years.  IntroSem students are relatively new to university life, and perhaps they’re more idealistic because of that.  They sign up for an IntroSem because they’re looking for an introduction to a topic that interests them, maybe even fascinates, or perhaps especially challenges them.

Why I Teach an Introsem

Detail of pencil poised to mark a voting ballot with text in English, Chinese and Spanish.
Martin Kay

We all know what universities are supposed to be about.  They are about teaching and learning to pass on knowledge to a new generation and research to produce new knowledge.  These are not separate enterprises because it is in carrying out research that much of the teaching and learning takes place. We naturally expect that, as a student progresses, learning through research will take on an increasingly important role until, in graduate school, it becomes dominant.  But you do not have to wait until graduate school, because learning through research is what seminars are all about.

Why I Teach an Introsem

Students posing in front of an Egyptian temple
Joel Beinin

I never thought that I would teach a course entitled “The American Empire in the Middle East.” My own research focuses on workers and peasants in the Middle East – the sorts of people who typically have no input into making foreign policy in any country, though they often suffer its consequences. I began teaching the course after returning to Stanford from an extended residence in Cairo, including serving as director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo for two years.

My PWR Story

PWR 1JS: Writing & Rhetoric 1: Beyond DNA: The Omics Revolution Spring 2015 Instructor: Jennifer Stonaker
Victoria White, '18

I came from a high school that emphasized writing, and already intended to minor in creative writing, so I knew long before Stanford that writing was something I loved. After switching my PWR assignment to autumn quarter, so I’d be prepared for writing here early on, I was assigned to ‘The Rhetoric of Gender and Sexuality in Pop Culture’—a subject far outside my major, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.


Rod Searcey via SALLIE
Amber Levine, '18

“Hi! I’m Amber, and I’m a dancer. I also love to draw and write poetry.” In ITALIC, everybody has their own thing, their own niche in the arts world where their passion resides. Walking into ITALIC the first day, I was blown away by the sheer scope of the arts - our 6 professors each introduced their own explorations of the question “What is Art?” in their own preferred medium by showing photographs, clips of dances, or playing music.


ITALIC Cantor Event, June 9, 2015 by Rob Searcey via SALLIE
Nikki Tran, '18

Much to the chagrin of those around me, when I found out that I was accepted into the Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture program (ITALIC), I couldn’t stop gushing to anyone who would listen – my parents, my brother, my grandma, my friends, my friends’ mothers – that I was going to be living and learning with 44 other students in a yearlong arts program. Thereafter, I began to map out my Stanford career with fervor, creating Excel sheets and four year plans. However, my excitement quickly turned into worry.


ITALIC Cantor Event, June 9, 2015  by Rod Searcey via SALLIE
Tori Testa, '18

As I exited the ITALIC Lecture Theater (a bright, acoustic space which just so happened to be mere steps from my dorm room) for the first time, I remember feeling an absolute sense of bewilderment. For the first day, each ITALIC professor and section leader had taken the stage to discuss a piece of art that was particularly meaningful to them and how it helped them answer the question: “What is art?” From comics and classic musicals to quartets and cognition, each piece seemed to stand for a different but no less important artistic interpretation and definition.

My Favorite Course Freshman Year

Screenshot from film 10 Things I Hate About You. FAIR USE: This image is a single frame from a widely known film. No free or public domain images illustrating this film have been located, and the presence of this screenshot in this student essay does not significantly impact the copyright holder's ability to profit from the original film.
Selby Sturzenegger, '18

While I know I’m supposed to be picking one class that really stood out to me, I can’t because I didn’t have a favorite class.  I had three favorite classes, and they were all the same type; they were Intro Sems.  Introductory Seminars, lovingly called Intro Sems, are small, typically all-freshman classes taught by professors who are deeply interested in their specific course subject.  I took three Intro Sems my freshman year, one each quarter, and they were all outstanding.  In the fall, I enrolled in an Intro Sem about World War One.


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