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Undergraduate Catalog 2011

The First-Year Experience

UMBC takes a special interest in making students’ first year on campus an academic and personal success.

The transition from high school or community college to a research university can be challenging. Classes are filled with other talented students, and instructors have high standards and expectations. This can be both stimulating and overwhelming. UMBC takes a special interest in supporting students so their first year on campus is an academic and personal success. Students are welcomed into a diverse community where individuals demonstrate a strong sense of respect for one another. In addition, students are expected to uphold the highest ethical standards in their work and to respect and value the work of others through a commitment to academic integrity.

Although we expect students to strive to do excellent work, we know that success is not a goal attained solely through strong academic work. Other factors that have a profound impact on student success include the kinds of personal connections students make to the campus and the level of engagement each student has with his or her own educational experience. The offerings described below are open to all students at UMBC during their first year on campus, including students just beginning their higher education and those transferring to UMBC from another institution. They are designed to help students find an intellectual and social home. Becoming involved in these activities during the first year will help facilitate the transition to college life and prepare students for a successful outcome to their undergraduate experience.

  • Collegiate Summer Institute (CSI), Summer Bridge Program
  • New Student Book Experience (Orientation/Welcome Week)
  • First-Year Academic Seminars (FYS)
  • Introduction to an Honors University (IHU), First-Year Success Courses
  • Living Learning Communities (LLCs)
  • Student organizations and activities (through the Office of Student Life)

Collegiate Summer Institute, Summer Bridge Program

CSI@UMBC is a summer bridge program designed for students interested in getting a head start. Incoming students select one of two core courses offered during the summer session. Each core course includes an "Introduction to an Honors University" (IHU) seminar, designed to address transition issues as well as support students in developing the skills needed to reach their academic goals. During the seminar, students also become familiar with the many resources and opportunities that UMBC offers.  Students may also elect to take a second course, which is often an academic First-Year Seminar (FYS), to have the option of completing up to seven credits during the summer program. Although the program has an academic focus, it also includes opportunities beyond those experienced in the classroom in which new students will engage with faculty, staff, peer mentors, and other new students.

New Student Book Experience (NSBE)

Every year current students and faculty select a book to be read by all new students as a common reading experience. New students are expected to participate in a campus-wide conversation about the book scheduled during Welcome Week in August. The small-group discussions for all entering students are facilitated by UMBC faculty and staff. These discussions provide an opportunity for the community to come together to get a taste of the kind of discussion that is typical of university courses. The New Student Book Experience connects new freshmen and transfer students with each other and with faculty and staff members at the start of the academic year, providing an intellectually stimulating interaction that welcomes new students into the UMBC community. This shared experience provides new students with an opportunity to discuss ideas that relate to a common text in an environment where different interpretations are examined and discussed.

First-Year Academic Seminars (FYS)

First-Year Seminars provide new students with the opportunity to get to know a faculty member well and connect with peers through small seminar classes. Faculty, with deep commitments to undergraduate education and special interests they want to share with students, offer customized first-year academic seminars designed to introduce students to the academic excitement and rigor of a top-tier research university. First-Year Seminars are limited to 20 students, so participants have direct access to a full-time faculty member with whom they can engage and get to know well. In this way, new students face the challenges of an academically rigorous course with the support of a faculty member committed to their success. In this active learning environment, faculty partner with students in the exploration of course material. The courses incorporate creative and critical thinking, a focus on written and oral communication skills and significant opportunities for discussion and faculty/peer critiques of assignments.

FYS courses may be used to meet a general education program requirement, provided the course carries this type of designation. If in the arts/humanities (AH) or social sciences (SS) areas in which students must complete three courses in each area, if one of the courses applied is an FYS course then the two remaining courses must come from two different disciplines. In addition, many FYS courses also meet the mathematics (M), sciences (S) and culture (C) requirements.

Examples of Past FYS Offerings:

  • Images of Madness (SS)
  • Contrasting Visions of Society (SS)
  • Intercultural Exploration through Film (C)
  • Sustainability in American Culture (AH)
  • Crime Busting with Mathematics and Statistics (M)

For a current list of first-year seminars, visit

Introduction to an Honors University (IHU), First-Year Success Courses

IHU courses provide an introduction to the higher education experience in a personalized setting and are open to all new students at UMBC. These one-credit experiences are often attached to introductory courses in the major and/or to courses that meet a core general education requirement. Participation in an IHU helps set the stage for academic success at UMBC. They are designed to help new students:

  • Clarify academic expectations and develop essential academic skills. In these courses students have an opportunity to develop and improve their academic skills in relationship to specific course content.
  • Improve study skills and the ability to manage time, and strengthen written and oral communication skills. Students discuss strategies for academic success that apply directly to the academic content of the core course. Students who participate in an IHU experience have a higher level of early success at UMBC than those who do not participate and the skills acquired contribute to their success throughout their academic career.
  • Facilitate involvement by first-year students as active members of the UMBC community. Complementing the work done in the classroom are the many out of class activities that broaden a student’s UMBC experience. These opportunities include participation in clubs and organizations, leadership development, internships, athletics, intramurals and a variety of other activities that can enhance personal development and students’ future success. The IHU courses assist students in learning about these campus opportunities and how to get involved.
  • • Maximize personal development and self-awareness. Students will develop connections with other students with whom they will interact as they participate in campus activities, form study groups and learn about resources that are available for personal and academic support. In addition, students have an opportunity to get to know faculty and staff who have an interest in helping them to identify their goals and develop strategies for reaching those goals.

To participate in one of the “Introduction to an Honors University” seminars, look for courses that carry the letter “Y” after the course number in the Schedule of Classes.

As of academic year 2010-2011 courses that have a “Y” seminar (IHU) attached include:

  • Aging 100Y, So you say you want a Revolution: How Boomers are Revolutionizing Aging
  • Aging 200Y, Aging People, Policy and Management
  • Anthropology 211Y, Cultural Anthropology
  • English 100Y, Composition
  • Engineering 101Y, Introduction to Engineering Science
  • American Studies 100Y, Ideas and Images in American Culture
  • Science 100Y, Water: An Interdisciplinary Study
  • Math 106Y, Algebra and Elementary Functions
  • Information Systems 101Y, Introduction to Computer-Based Systems
  • Physics 100Y, Ideas in Physics
  • Physical Education 202, Introduction to Health Behaviors (Required for athletes)
  • Philosophy 100Y, Introduction to Philosophy
  • Philosophy 152Y, Introduction to Moral Theory
  • Philosophy 150Y, Contemporary Moral Issues
  • Biology 100L, Concepts of Experimental Biology
  • Sociology 101Y, Basic Concepts in Sociology
  • History 111Y, Western Civilization 1700 to the Present
  • History 200Y, Themes in World History
  • Political Science 100Y, American Government and Politics
  • Geography 102Y, Human Geography
  • Geography 110Y, Physical Geography
  • Geography 120Y, Environmental Science and Conservation