Dear Member of Bryn Mawr’s Class of 2019,
As the Director of the Emily Balch Seminar Program, I am delighted that you’ll be joining the Bryn Mawr community. As you probably know, every Bryn Mawr student takes a Balch Seminar (nicknamed “ESem”) in the fall semester of her freshman year. Below you’ll find general information about this fall’s seminars and directions for indicating your preferences.
Taught by Bryn Mawr faculty from several departments, the Emily Balch Seminars focus on significant questions of interest to students, teachers, scholars, and professionals in many disciplines. In your seminar, you’ll engage in probing reading of challenging texts; you’ll hone your critical writing ability; and you’ll participate in lively text-centered discussions of ideas. Because the seminars are small, you’ll get to know your professor and the students who share your interest in the seminar topic. You’ll also meet with your prof in conference every two weeks to discuss your ideas and your writing – a feature we think is one of the best parts of the course. We who teach these courses are excited about our fall ‘15 offerings, and we look forward to exploring and talking with you about the books, plays, films, art, music and science on our syllabi.
This year, we’re offering twenty-nine sections of the Emily Balch Seminars on twenty-four different topics. Click on “Course Listings” at the left to read the descriptions. You can indicate your seminar preferences online anytime between June 12 and July 10. To do so, click on the following link: Student Registration Page (link becomes inactive on July 10). On that page, enter your name, email address, and seven-digit ID number (leaving blank the box marked “College Code”). Then, click on the section number and the title of three seminars that you would like to take. You can find your seven-digit ID number on the top of your BIONIC page.
NOTE: Your choices can’t be ranked – that is, you cannot indicate a first, second, and third choice. We want you to choose three seminars, any of which you would be equally happy to take. This will help maximize the possibility of your being placed in a class that interests you. It usually isn’t hard to find three intriguing seminars. In fact, students in the past have told us it’s difficult to limit the choices to three! Enrollment in seminars is strictly limited to fourteen students, so choose carefully. Once we’ve gathered everyone’s choices, we’ll try to place you in one of the three seminars you’ve selected. You’ll find out your seminar assignment when you arrive in August.
Here are some tips for choosing your seminars:
- Read through the entire list of seminars to familiarize yourself with all the topics before making your selections.
- Make sure you register by July 10. Seminar choices are NOT first come, first served. As long as you indicate your seminar preferences by July 10, you’ll have an equal chance of getting into one of the seminars you choose. If you don’t meet the July 10 deadline, however, you’ll have to wait until you arrive on campus to choose a seminar from the few that will still have open seats. The ones you’re most interested might be filled at that point. So for the best choice, make your selections before July 10.
- Most of the seminars meet at the same time – Tuesday and Thursday from 11:25 until 12:45; so scheduling won’t be much of a problem. A few do meet at other times, however. The course descriptions will tell you when each seminar meets. If you want to think about how your seminar will fit with other courses you’re considering taking, please refer to the Tri-Co Course Guide
- This year, three seminars are offered at two different times. They are “Poverty, Affluence, and American Culture” (Sections 011 and 012); “Across Genders, Across Cultures: Transgenderism Around the World” (Sections 016 and 017); and “Delusion or ‘Divinest Sense: Interpreting Madness” (Sections 028 and 029). If you’re interested in one of these topics, choose the section that meets at the time you prefer. The times for these sections are listed on the course selection page. Please do not register for both sections of the same course.
- When you find a few seminars you’re interested in, look at the readings mentioned in the course description. Though one option is to choose a seminar in a field in which you might major, an equally attractive possibility is to choose a seminar with texts you might never study again once you get into your major field. And don’t be reluctant to choose a seminar whose texts you’ve read before. Seminar texts are worth re-reading. You’ll understand them differently in this course than you did in your last encounter with them.
- If you’re unfamiliar with the texts mentioned in a seminar description, look for them in your local library or online. Find out what they’re about, who created them, when they were written (or painted or composed or directed). You’ll make better informed choices if you know what the course texts are like.
- Writing is an important component of the Emily Balch Seminars. Every section of the course requires you to do a substantial amount of writing and to work at developing your abilities as a writer. The general writing requirements for each section are roughly the same. Beyond the guidance your instructor gives you about your writing, Bryn Mawr has an active Writing Center where students get feedback and support for their writing. You can visit the Writing Center for additional advice on the papers you’ll write in your seminar.
I look forward to seeing you in September!
English Department and Writing Program
Director, The Emily Balch Seminars