Since the early 1990s, first-year students at Williams have had the opportunity to participate in an innovative program called the First-Year Residential Seminar (FRS). Students who elect to take this seminar live in the same residential entry and take the course together in the fall semester. The program is designed to foster interconnections between students’ social and academic lives, partly via its residential aspect—discussions begun in class can be readily continued beyond it, and students can test or refine their ideas about an assignment with their peers before coming to class—and through the seminar’s central engagement with the question of what intellectual life is “for” and how it impacts our daily lives.
The heightened interconnection between the social and academic experiences of FRS participants is designed to help students establish comfortable and productive relationships with classmates and professors during their first year as undergraduates, and to encourage them to integrate their intellectual interests with the rest of their pursuits at Williams. By providing students with texts and issues they negotiate collectively and collaboratively both in the classroom and beyond, the program encourages students to share with one another their ideas, passions, values, and beliefs, and to benefit from and come to terms with the differing approaches, ideas and opinions of their peers. The FRS program seeks to reduce the sense of separation between in-the-classroom life and outside-the-classroom life. This is done in order to emphasize that the process of learning is not restricted to the classroom, and to promote a fuller awareness among Williams’ students of their opportunities and responsibilities in contributing to one another’s education and intellectual life.