About Discovery @ UCSB Seminars

UCSB offers an exciting educational opportunity for members of the freshman and transfer admissions classes—Discovery @ UCSB Seminars (formerly known as Freshman Seminars). These small group courses each have a maximum ranging from twenty students to forty students. They are taught by distinguished faculty who have chosen to work beyond their normal academic loads in order to meet and influence students early in their university careers. These seminars are open to all eligible freshman and transfer students from any campus college or major.

There are several benefits to Discovery @ UCSB seminars. They facilitate student-faculty contact, promote valuable intellectual discourse in a small group setting, and allow students to explore subjects outside of their majors without affecting their grade-point averages.

"Freshmen seminars really helped ease my transition to UCSB! It was an awesome way to meet other first years, and also a way to really establish genuine relationships with some of the professors. As an added bonus the seminars were innovative, and interesting, and always fun!" -Rayana Poole

A large number of Discovery @ UCSB are offered each year. Seminar topics may introduce a particular discipline, explore an area of professional interest, or provide important insight on a matter of contemporary concern. You are invited to review the current seminar course listings by clicking the Seminar List link. Continue to check the seminar list regularly, as courses often are added after the quarterly class schedule has gone to print.

Please note that Discovery @ UCSB seminars differ from normal class offerings in the rules and restrictions governing them. If you are considering enrollment in a Discovery @ UCSB seminar, please see the information below.

About Discovery @ UCSB Seminars

If you are interested in Discovery @ UCSB seminars, please review the important information below:

  • Seminars are listed as one of the following course numbers in the Interdisciplinary Studies department, (INT), each with a double suffix (AA-ZZ):
    INT 94AA-ZZ (Exploration Seminars, First-year/LD)
    INT 89AA-ZZ (Discovery & Linked Seminars, First-year/LD)
    INT 186AA-ZZ (Exploration Seminars, Transfer)
    INT 187AA-ZZ (Discovery & Linked Seminars, Transfer)
  • Each 1.0 unit seminar meets for a total of ten hours during the quarter, and each 2.0 unit seminars meet for a total of twenty hours.
  • All grading is passed/not passed (P/NP).
  • Enrollment is completed using GOLD.
  • There is a 3-unit maximum for the 1.0 unit Exploration seminars, and a 6-unit maximum for the 2.0 unit Discovery/Linked seminars. In other words, you may take up to three courses of one type and continue to earn credit. Discovery @ UCSB seminar courses offered by the Freshman Summer Start Program also apply to this maximum.
  • No seminars with the same suffix (AA-ZZ) may be repeated.
  • Students with transfer units or AP test credit may need an approval code to enroll.
  • Detailed course descriptions can be found by visiting the Seminar List tab.

Seminar List

Complete Seminar List

Discovery @ UCSB Seminar Faculty Information & Guidelines

The Discovery @ UCSB Seminar Program, administered by the College of Letters & Science, extends a welcome to our current faculty! 

Application & Deadlines

Academic Year 2017-2018: We are now accepting faculty applications for seminars to be offered Fall 2017.  The deadline for priority consideration for Fall quarter is Monday, May 8th.  We will still consider late submissions if funding permits.

Online Faculty Application Form

Future deadlines for priority consideration are:

  • Winter 2018: Friday, October 13th
  • Spring 2018: Friday, January 19th

Seminar Information

Discovery @ UCSB seminars introduce students to subjects that UCSB faculty care about, and the ways that the faculty teaching the seminars think about these issues. In this way, they serve as introductions to academic disciplines -- that is, they enable students to understand what issues or problems are of interest within particular disciplines, how faculty members in those disciplines think about those subjects, and how they go about exploring those interests.

Seminar units and meeting times vary by format (see below).  Each seminar is graded on a Passed/Not Passed basis.

Beginning in fall 2017, faculty will have new options for proposing seminars. The option to propose traditional, 1-unit seminars on subjects of interest to faculty (called "Exploration" seminars) will remain. Additionally, faculty may also choose to propose two new types of seminars: “Discovery” Seminars and “Linked” Seminars.  All three formats are detailed below.

“Exploration” Seminar
Traditional 1 unit seminar with a single instructor.  Instruction totals 10 hours for the quarter, and enrollment is capped at 20 students.

“Discovery” Seminar
New format, 2 unit seminar with TWO instructors from DIFFERENT departments/disciplines; designed to explore a common focus, subject, or theme from different disciplinary perspectives.  Instruction totals 20 hours for the quarter, and enrollment is capped at 30, 35, or 40 students as determined by the instructors.

“Linked” Seminar
New format, 2 unit seminar with TWO instructors from THE SAME departments/disciplines; designed to explore a common focus, subject, or theme in greater depth and from common disciplinary perspectives.  Instruction totals 20 hours for the quarter, and enrollment is capped at 30, 35, or 40 students as determined by the instructors.

Research/Professional Development Funds for Instructors:

  • For Exploration seminar formats, the participating faculty member receives a $1,500 research stipend (not salary), and their respective home departments receive $300 for supplies and expenses. 
  • For Discovery & Linked seminar formats, each participating faculty members receives a research stipend depending on the chosen enrollment maximum: $2000 per faculty member for 30 students, $2500 for 35 students, and $3000 for 40 students.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, the program offered 87 courses, and student evaluations from these courses were positive. A number of faculty members reported that their experience teaching one of these seminars has been one of the highlights of their careers as professors. For the 2016-2017 academic year, the program’s goal is to offer approximately 100 seminars.

To apply for a teaching opportunity, you are invited to submit a course proposal through the Online Faculty Application Form. Please complete all required fields, and the additional instructor fields if the seminar will have two instructors. Please note that, upon approval of your course, the College of Letters & Science will manage all room scheduling, book orders, and media requests.  All faculty members who submit the electronic applications understand and agree to be the primary instructor of this proposed course.

For further details on instructor eligibility, enrollment, and other questions, please consult the information below.


Who is eligible to teach a Discovery @ UCSB seminar?

Only current faculty who are members of Academic Senate and/or Continuing Lecturers with annual appointments of .67 or higher are eligible to teach freshman seminars. Seminars are taught over and above a faculty member’s normal teaching load.  That means that graduate students are not responsible for teaching the seminars.

Who is eligible to enroll in a Discovery @ UCSB seminar?

All first-year UCSB students (not including junior transfers) are eligible to enroll in lower division Discovery @ UCSB seminars. All transfer students are eligible to enroll in upper division Discovery @ UCSB seminars. Note that some eligible students may require an approval code to enroll on GOLD due to ‘junior’ standing from Advanced Placement test credit or transfer units.

Enrollment and Scheduling

How are Discovery @ UCSB seminars identified?

Seminars are listed in the general catalog under the following course numbers in Interdisciplinary Studies (INT), each with a double suffix (AA-ZZ):

  • INT 94AA-ZZ (Exploration Seminars, First-year/LD)
  • INT 89AA-ZZ (Discovery & Linked Seminars, First-year/LD)
  • INT 186AA-ZZ (Exploration Seminars, Transfer)
  • INT 187AA-ZZ (Discovery & Linked Seminars, Transfer)

When, where, and how often do Discovery @ UCSB seminars meet?

Exploration seminars meet for a total of ten hours during the quarter, while Discovery and Linked meet for a total of 20 hours during the quarter. Typically, a 1 unit seminar meets one hour a week for ten weeks, and a 2 unit seminar meets two hours a week for ten weeks, with the exception of field trips (please see question below in the “Coursework and Topics” section).

In order to maximize classroom utilization on campus, all seminars meet in general assignment rooms. However, if it is your preference, you may choose to hold your seminar in a department-controlled room. If this is the case, you are responsible for scheduling room use in your home department. In choosing your course’s meeting time, we ask that you choose off-peak times when rooms are more likely to be available and when students tend to have less conflicts in their academic schedules. Early mornings, late afternoons, evenings, and Friday afternoons tend to be the most ideal times.

Do seminars have a final during Finals Week?

Freshman Seminars do not have finals during Finals Week. Any final exam should be administered during the final class meeting. In addition, regular class meetings may not take place during Finals Week.

Credit and Grading

How many units is each freshman seminar worth?

Each Exploration seminar is worth one unit.  Discovery and Linked are worth 2 units.

How are seminars graded?

Freshman Seminars are graded only on a Passed/Not Passed (P/NP) basis.

Coursework and Topics

Are off-campus trips allowed?

Professors are more than welcome to plan field trips. Outings to museums, field research sites, plays, and lectures provide wonderful material for class discussions. The $300 course support funding can cover field trip costs associated with a seminar. However, total expenses must not exceed $300. If you choose to plan a field trip, please note that your seminar will have an enrollment cap of 11 students.  Course instructors are responsible for coordinating the use of campus vehicles for off-site excursions through Transportation Services.

What kind of reading and course work should be assigned?

As freshman seminars are one-to-two-unit classes, formal research papers are rarely assigned. Grades might be based largely on attendance, class participation, or in-class work/presentations. In addition, a final exam or a short paper could be required. In regards to course reading, one to two books or a compiled reader are within reason.

What subjects/topics are taught in freshman seminars?

Faculty from every college and every department on the UCSB campus can teach freshman seminars. Many seminars are based on a professor’s current research project/topic, professional interest, or personal interest. Allowing each professor to choose his/her topic gives students the opportunity to learn about current faculty interests and provides academic exposure to the research process. Since these seminars are designed for first-year college students, coursework and discussion level should be appropriate for this level.


What kind of financial support is received for teaching a freshman seminar?

Funding is provided for both course support and faculty incentive. Each home department will receive $300 for supplies and expenses, and each professor of record will receive a $1,500 research stipend (not salary).

How can I use the $300?

The $300 course support funds can be used to pay for expenses associated with the course including: copies, handouts, a video for class, transportation on a field trip, museum admission, etc.

How can I use the research stipend?

The $1,500 research stipend may be used for any research-related activity. To date, it has been used for books, equipment, a laptop computer, and to fund a research assistant. It also may be used towards professionally-related travel.

How do I access the funds?

Both the course support funds and the research stipend will be transferred to your home department approximately one month after the start of the quarter in which the seminar is scheduled to be taught. The Freshman Seminar Coordinator will be in touch with your department’s financial contact regarding the details of the transfer. To coordinate the disbursement of the funds, please work with your department.

Contact Us

For more information about Freshman Seminars, please contact Linda Adler-Kassner, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education at adler-kassner@ltsc.edu or Anna Guido at aguido@ltsc.ucsb.edu or (805) 893-5258.