Undergraduate Seminar Program Guidelines

Below are the general guidelines for the seminar program, as well as answers to many frequently asked questions. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact April Burcham (x25855).

Program Information

Program Faculty

General Campus and Scripps Institution of Oceanography Senate faculty are eligible to teach in the program:

  • Professor, Associate Professor, and Assistant Professor (ladder rank appointments)
  • LSOE series (Sr. LSOE, LSOE, LPSOE)
  • Professor Emeritus *(a recall to teach form is required at time of proposal in order to process)
  • In-Residence Professor
  • Adjunct Professor (with a teaching title)

School of Medicine and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty with Senate teaching titles may teach in the program without the research funds. Please email the program coordinator before submitting a proposal.

Research Funds

  • A department/program may offer Senior Seminars if it also offers at least two Freshman Seminars during a quarter.
  • General Campus and SIO Ladder Rank and LSOE series faculty receive research funds of $1,000 per seminar (up to two seminars per quarter for two different Freshman or Senior seminars).
  • Professor Emeritus and In-Residence faculty have a limited number of seminars per academic year that are eligible for the research funds. Emeritus faculty should see the AP/HR staff contact in their department regarding a recall to teach form to process a teaching appointment.
  • Adjunct faculty are not eligible for the research funds since these seminars are taught off-load.
  • A minimum enrollment of 10 on the first Thursday of First Week is required to receive the research payment for teaching a seminar. A seminar with fewer than 10 students may be taught without a research payment.
  • All eligible faculty to receive the research funds will have $1,000 transferred to a departmental research account of your choice. The funds are available for expenses such as travel, research supplies, seminar instruction enhancement, or any other purpose allowed by that account (but not as salary).
  • Faculty may team teach a seminar with one colleague. However, only one research payment of 1k will be given per seminar (which can be shared).
  • Research funds are awarded after the 2nd week of classes.
  • After email notification is sent to faculty and their home department’s Business Officer, the appropriate person should contact Karen Stecher (x49089) with the index number.
  • School of Medicine and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty with Senate teaching titles may teach in the program without the research funds.
  • Seminars are taught off-load and may not be used to substitute for regularly assigned teaching. The seminars do not affect regular teaching assignments and department workload requirements.

Program Policies

  • Faculty may teach up to two different seminars per quarter.
  • Seminars are one-unit courses graded pass/not pass.
  • Faculty must be in residence and may not be on leave when teaching seminars.
  • Proposals to teach seminars must be submitted by the quarterly due dates. These dates are posted on the proposal webpage.
  • Proposals for new seminar topics require Department Chair and Undergraduate Council approval and April Burcham will coordinate the approval.
  • There are no course prerequisites for Freshman Seminars to allow students to enroll in courses on a variety of topics.
  • Freshman seminars are open first to all incoming freshman and incoming freshman with sophomore standing to allow students to enroll in courses in a small class size setting.
  • Seminars must be scheduled in rooms with seating capacity of at least 20. Departments, Programs, and Colleges are responsible for securing a seminar meeting location using department, program, or college space.
  • To receive the research payment, we ask you do not lower the enrollment below 20 to allow as many students as feasible to take one of these small class size seminars.
  • Faculty are encouraged to monitor their enrollments. The Schedule of Classes will show the number of seat available to reach the enrollment limit. The seminar program office will also monitor enrollments and will keep both the faculty and department staff contact apprised of enrollments
  • Seminars should meet for 8 to 10 hours during the quarter (excluding holidays).

Appropriate Workload for Students

  • Students should typically expect two hours per week of outside class work for every one hour of in seminar work.
  • The decision regarding whether or not to give students a mid-term or final exam rests with the instructor. Seminars are exempt from required final exams during the University’s scheduled final examination week.
  • Seminars are intended to provide a small group of students an opportunity to engage in an academic experience with faculty for eight to ten hours in an informal, seminar-style setting on a topic of mutual interest absent the pressures of a letter grade.


  • Due to limitations of the WebReg system, graduate students can enroll in all courses (irrespective of system-imposed enrollment restrictions). Graduate students can be administratively dropped from your seminar. The Freshman Seminar website includes the following statement, "Any student who enrolls in a Freshman Seminar who does not have undergraduate student standing will be administratively dropped."
  • Incoming freshman students with advanced standing should be referred to the UC San Diego Student Freshman Seminar Program website for detailed instructions about how to enroll in Freshman Seminars.

Seminar Evaluations

  • Seminars will be included in the online CAPE process during Weeks 9 and 10.
  • You and/or your department may already have a separate evaluation process that you may want to use in addition to CAPE evaluations.

Program Publicity

The Seminar Program will publicize Freshman Seminars in the following ways:

  • An email is sent to all incoming Freshman at the beginning of the enrollment period (first year students with sophomore standing can enroll in seminars during the first enrollment pass by contacting the department offering the seminar and asking them to clear them to add).
  • An advertisement will be posted on the electronic newsletter, Student Event - Insider, at the beginning of the Freshman enrollment period.
  • A seminar notice will be posted on the "Academics" page in Tritonlink at the beginning of the Freshman enrollment period.
  • After freshman enroll, an email is sent to all Sophomores inviting them to enroll in seminars (the Scheduling Office will open up all seminars to sophomore so departments do not need to clear students to add at this stage -- unless they are second year students with junior status).

Most seminars will reach enrollments between 15-20 within a week after Freshman start enrolling. If your seminar has not reached the enrollment minimum at the end of the initial enrollment period, we encourage you to contact your student affairs office to publicize your seminar both inside and outside of your department. Please feel free to contact the program for further suggestions on how to publicize your seminar. Many departments have found it helpful to promote seminars to student groups and organizations that are affiliated with their department.

Submitting Seminar Proposals

Department & Program Seminars

  • To submit a proposal, please use the web proposal form (single sign-on required).
    Fall 2018 Quarter deadline – Friday, March 9, 2018
    Winter 2019 Quarter deadline – Friday, June 22, 2018
    Spring 2019 Quarter deadline – Friday November 16th, 2018
  • There are no prerequisites for Freshman Seminars to allow students to enroll in courses on a variety of topics.
  • Please note that any prerequisites for the specific Senior Seminar being proposed must be included on the web form in the prerequisite box. Prerequisites will be included in the seminar description when posted on the Senior Seminar website. Please see the prerequisites section below for more information.
  • The professor proposing the seminar, the staff contact in the proposed seminar's department (program or college), and April Burcham in the Seminar Program Office will receive an electronic copy by email of the proposed seminar once submitted via the web form.
  • A Department Chair, Program Director, or College Provost and Undergraduate Council must approve new proposal topics after a proposal is submitted via the web form.  April Burcham will coordinate the process. Approval can take two to three months and professors and seminar contacts will be notified of approvals.

College Seminars

  • Topics that do not logically fall under a faculty member's department or program, as determined by the Department Chair/Program Director, may be offered through their College, subject to the Provost's approval. Proposals for new seminar topics require Undergraduate Council approval and April Burcham will coordinate the approval.
  • Faculty who are not affiliated with a College (such as colleagues in IR/PS, SIO, and SOM) may submit proposals through an appropriate campus department/program or through any undergraduate College.

Senior Seminars Topics

  • Senior Seminars can be topical seminars that have made the Freshman Seminar so successful; but now approached from the perspective of the students being seniors and with three years of university course experience.
  • A few creative ideas for Senior Seminar topics from departments:
    • a seminar that would look at a single work in great detail – a symphony, a painting or a collection of paintings, a collection of contemporary short stories;
    • a senior seminar that dealt with scientific writing or phenomena within a particular discipline;
    • a capstone type seminar that would post a particular problem (perhaps a social issue such as public policy issue) and would have students examine that issue from a disciplinary base.

Prerequisites (Senior Seminars Only)

  • Senior Seminars may have prerequisites. For example, any individual seminar may require that a student be a senior or a major in a specific course.
  • These “conditions of enrollment” will not be computer enforced (but can be enforced by the department). Only prerequisites that apply to the department's XXX 192 as a whole (as opposed to a particular seminar) can be computer enforced. The responsibility for checking “conditions of enrollment” will rest with the department and/or individual instructor.
  • Please note all seminar 192 courses require department pre-authorization. If you receive any questions from students about enrollment, please direct them to reach your department Student Affairs office by using the Virtual Advising Center.

Best Practices

Encouraging Student Participation

Feedback from faculty and students consistently indicated that student participation was split 50/50 in many seminars – half of students actively participated and the other half did not. Lack of participation may occur for several reasons, however, the common factors for that were indicated by faculty and by students were: shyness, awkwardness, and the transitioning process from high school where in some instances students appeared to have been more accustomed to a lecture-style format.

You may want to consider some of the following suggestions to actively engage students in seminar discussions:

  • Consider basing a percentage of grading on participation.
  • Consider giving credit/points for participation.
  • Consider assigning oral presentations.
  • Consider having students work in small groups on a project and have each group member take turns presenting the group’s findings.
  • Consider letting students know that you plan to call on non-participating students for their contributions throughout the course of the seminar.