First-Year Writing Seminar

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Overview of First-Year Writing Seminar (FWS) Course

The First-Year Writing Seminar (FWS) course was designed to achieve multiple goals:First Year Writing Seminar

  1. To help students transition from high school-level work to college-level expectations,
  2. To hone students’ intellectual skills, specifically critical reading, thinking, and writing skills, and adapt those to college-level work,
  3. To introduce students to the values of Cottey during their first semester to better understand Cottey’s mission as well as the value of a Liberal Arts and Sciences education, and
  4. To establish a learning and social community that helps develop bonds among students.

This is a foundational course for Cottey students for both writing and content. They will be introduced to the benefits of women’s-only education, Cottey history, women’s leadership, social responsibility, and global awareness through the practice of thoughtful reading, analysis, and writing within a liberal arts context. This course provides students the opportunity to connect with our institution, and connection is shown to increase student success. This signature Cottey writing course allows students to absorb our threads and become strong writers as well as socially and globally aware leaders within their first semester at Cottey.

In addition to the three threads and Cottey history, students will also read a book selected by the First-Year Writing Seminar Group. This Common Reader book will serve as an anchor for the threads, class discussion, and writing assignments.


About All FWS Courses

  • All first-semester Cottey students will participate in the FWS course to introduce them to Cottey, development a sense of identify, and connect with the campus community.
  • FWS sources are taught by faculty from across various disciplines – Writing, International Relations, Music, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Leadership, and Sociology to name a few.
  • All sections of FWS will cover the same course material on the topics of Cottey history, women’s leadership, social responsibility, and global awareness. Sections will read the same common reader each year and the same small reading assignments.
  • Students can expect classes to be a mixture of discussion, lecture, and experiential learning.
  • Course material and major writing assignments will be presented in the same sequence/order each semester.
  • All major writing assignments (of which there are four) will be the same across all sections of FWS.
  • Individual instructors will have freedom in terms of daily work/in-class work with readings as well as freedom over informal writing assignments (in-class writing, journals, reflections, etc.).

Common Reader
A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

The follow-up book to their best-selling Half the Sky, Krsitof and WuDunn’s next book, A Path Appears, focuses on how all of us can make a difference in our communities and world. The book highlights the stories of leaders around the globe who contributing in both big and small small ways to make change around them. This book is sure to inspire a new generation of leaders and socially responsible and globally aware citizens.

To learn more about the book, see these websites:

Campus-Wide Events and Activities

The FWS class will partner with many other initiatives and activities already happening on campus. Here are a few of the events for fall 2018:

August 18, 6-8 p.m. Location: Nevada Community Center (off-campus)
Nevada Community Dinner and Partner Fair, Kolderie Center
Become familiar with the Nevada community by attending the Nevada Community Partner Fair showcasing local businesses, churches, service organizations, and clubs, many who offer volunteer opportunities, service learning projects, local internships, and undergraduate research.

September 17-21
Cottey Volunteer Week, Kolderie Center
Celebrate Cottey volunteers with various events planned throughout the week.

September 22, TBD, Location: Off campus
Cross-Generational Sharing, Kolderie Center
Students will engage with residents at a local senior care facility through recreational activities and social interaction.

October 25, 7:30 p.m., Location: Missouri Recital Hall
Women Who Wow, Serenbetz Institute
This panel discussion celebrates changemakers taking action on issues from autism to wellness. Learn about what inspired their ideas, how they took action, and what you can do to make a difference in your communities.

December 1, TBD, Location: Off campus
Cross-Generational Sharing, Kolderie Center
Students will engage with residents at a local senior care facility through recreational activities and social interaction.

November 29, 7:30 p.m. & November 30, 4:00 p.m. Location: Various classrooms
Films for Changemakers, Serenbetz Institute and Ross Memorial Library
Film is a powerful tool to help ignite conversation, raise awareness, and drive change. Join us as we explore important issues through film and faculty-led discussion.
Other events may be added.

Fall 2018 Instructors

Amanda Cook, Music

Melody Denny, English/Writing

Peter Hyland, Physics and Astronomy

Mary Laughlin, English/Writing

Sarah Quick, Anthropology and Sociology

Oindrila Roy, International Relations

Transfer Credits and FWS

Transferring Credit into Cottey

English 101/Writing 101 credits cannot replace FWS 101. Students who transfer in with those credits will receive elective credit for those classes. Students who feel strongly their transfer credits are equal to the FWS seminar in both content and writing assignments may speak with the Writing Program Director, Dr. Melody Denny, about petitioning for credit.

Students can transfer credit for English 102/Writing 102 courses, and as long as those courses meet the requirements (see Transfer Policies in the College Catalog), those courses will count for Cottey credit.

Transferring Credit out of Cottey

The First-Year Writing Seminar group feels strongly that FWS is equal to any first-year writing class. While we can never guarantee that a class will be accepted as transfer credit at another institution, we believe that if a student were to petition for credit, FWS will almost always be accepted as a first-year writing course credit.

Students who know ahead of time they will transfer should be in contact with their transfer institution about this course as soon as possible. It is strongly recommended that students keep all course materials, such as the syllabus, assignment sheets, and completed assignments, should such a petition be required. If a transfer institution requires additional information, they should contact Dr. Melody Denny.


  • FWS 101 is not an orientation or experience class to help students learn “how to do college.” While students may learn skills to help them succeed in college, these skills, like time management and study habits, are not the focus on this course.
  • FWS 101 is not a “busy” or “blow-off” course. This is an academic seminar course and worth not only three credits, but also fulfills a writing requirement for Cottey. Students should view this class as they would any other college-level course.
  • FWS is not a “Cottey culture class.” While values important to the College are the content behind the course, this course is a writing course. Cottey culture and values are simply the content that students will read and write about.
  • FWS 101 is not an English class. This course counts for a writing requirement, but the FWS designation does not belong to a department or major, making this class unique. Additionally, this class is taught by faculty across multiple disciplines to help expose students to the variety and importance of writing beyond English courses. Students can absolutely expect reading and writing assignments.

Fall 2017’s FWS Course

Common Reader
This year’s Common Reader is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Henrietta Lacks died of an aggressive cancer in 1951. Unbeknownst to her, some of those cancer cells were taken and grown in cell culture. Those cells, called HeLa cells, have driven medical advances, saved lives, and built commercial empires. Her family knew nothing of this for many years, lived lives of the working poor, and have struggled to make sense of what it means for Henrietta’s cells to still be living. Skloot takes the reader on a journey through the Lacks family history, their personal struggles as well as many other lives affected by medical innovations and technologies. Through her accessible and personal account, we gain an appreciation of this science while also learning about the unintentional and sometimes unethical consequences in the common use of human biotechnology.

To learn more about Henrietta Lacks, the Lacks Family, and the author, see these websites:
The Lacks Family
Rebecca Skloot, Author
The Henrietta Lacks Foundation

Campus-Wide Events and Activities

The FWS class will partner with many other initiatives and activities already happening on campus. Here are a few of the events for fall 2017:

August 19, 6-8 p.m. Location: Nevada Community Center (off-campus)
Nevada Community Dinner and Partner Fair, Kolderie Center
Become familiar with the Nevada community by attending the Nevada Community Partner Fair showcasing local businesses, churches, service organizations, and clubs, many who offer volunteer opportunities, service learning projects, local internships, and undergraduate research.

September 7, 7:30 p.m. Location: Missouri Recital Hall
Special Guest: Jennifer Jo Cobb, Serenbetz Institute
Jennifer Jo Cobb is a professional race car driver, NASCAR team owner, public speaker and entrepreneur. Cobb’s presentation will focus will on topics related to perseverance, overcoming obstacles and leadership.

September 11-15
Cottey Volunteer Week, Kolderie Center
Celebrate Cottey volunteers with various events planned throughout the week.

October 19, 7:30 p.m. & October 20, 4:00 p.m. Location: Various classrooms
Films for Changemakers, Serenbetz Institute and Ross Memorial Library
Film is a powerful tool to help ignite conversation, raise awareness, and drive change. Join us as we explore important issues through film and faculty-led discussion.

October 22, TBD, Location: Off campus
Cross-Generational Sharing, Kolderie Center
Students will engage with residents at a local senior care facility through recreational activities and social interaction.

October 26, 7:30 p.m., Location: Missouri Recital Hall
Women Who Wow, Serenbetz Institute
This panel discussion celebrates changemakers taking action on issues from autism to wellness. Learn about what inspired their ideas, how they took action, and what you can do to make a difference in your communities.

November 10, 8 p.m., Location: Missouri Recital Hall
As a Woman Sings, Cottey Chamber Singers
Under the direction of Professor Theresa Spencer, the fall concert will explore women’s leadership, social responsibility, and global awareness.

November 11, TBD, Location: Off campus
Cross-Generational Sharing, Kolderie Center
Students will engage with residents at a local senior care facility through recreational activities and social interaction.

Various Dates, TBD, Location: Ross Memorial Library
Henrietta Reading/Listening Nights, Ross Memorial Library

Fall 2017 Instructors