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Writing Seminar

Welcome to FWS

Welcome to First-Year Writing Seminar (FWS 101)! This course introduces first-year students to Cottey’s threads of leadership, social responsibility, and global awareness while teaching foundational writing skills.

Watch special welcome videos created by the FWS instructors below.

FWS 101 will help you:
  • Expand your understanding of “writing” and “texts,”
  • Hone your intellectual skills, specifically critical reading, thinking, and writing, and adapt those to college-level work,
  • Write in different genres for varied audiences,
  • Become introduced to the values of Cottey to better understand Cottey’s mission, as well as the value of a Liberal Arts and Sciences education, and
  • Establish a learning and social community that helps you develop bonds with other students, which will help increase your success. 
FWS 101 has unique course elements that help accomplish these goals:
  • An annual common reader selected by the Cottey community. This text provides examples of Cottey’s threads in action and serves as the basis for many class discussions.
  • Out-of-class special events. These allow you to expand your understanding of Cottey’s threads and experience them in new contexts.
  • Sections taught by instructors from various academic disciplines.


  • All first-semester Cottey students participate in FWS to improve their writing, gain an introduction to Cottey, develop a sense of identity, and connect with the campus community.
  • FWS courses are taught by faculty from across various disciplines – Writing, International Relations, Physics, Environmental Science, Leadership and Anthropology to name a few.
  • Classes are a mixture of discussion, lecture, and experiential learning.
  • All sections of FWS will cover the same course material. Sections will read the same common reader and writing textbook and produce the same major writing assignments. Individual instructors make determinations in terms of daily work/in-class work with readings as well as informal writing assignments (in-class writing, response writings, reflections, etc.).


  • Dr. Jonathan Green, Writing, Writing Center Director
  • Professor Denise Carrick Hedges, Director of Leadership Development
  • Dr. Peter Hyland, Physics and Astronomy
  • Dr. Sarah Polo, Writing, FWS Coordinator
  • Dr. Sarah Quick, Anthropology
  • Dr. Oindrila Roy, International Relations


  • FWS 101 is not an orientation or experience class to help you learn “how to do college.” While you may learn skills to help you succeed in college, these skills, like time management and study habits, are not the focus of this course.
  • FWS 101 is not a busy-work course. This is an academic seminar course worth three credits, and it is a requirement in Cottey’s general education core. View this class as you would any other college-level course.
  • FWS 101 is not an English class. This course counts for a writing requirement, but the FWS designation doesn’t not belong to a department or major, making the course unique. Additionally, this class is taught by faculty across multiple disciplines to help expose you  to the variety and importance of writing beyond English courses alone. 


Every year, members of the Cottey community submit nominations for the upcoming academic year’s Common Reader. This is a text read by students in all sections of FWS 101 that connects to the particular Cottey thread of focus for that year. These nominations are carefully reviewed, and a text is selected by the FWS Curricular Advisory Board. 

Past Common Readers have included the following:

2017: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

2018: A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

2019: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

2020: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

2021: The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clementine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

2022: A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

2023: What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

In addition to regular class sessions, students in FWS 101 participate in out-of-class special events that further enhance their understanding of writing and of Cottey’s threads. Examples of major events include the following; these may be added to or adjusted.

Films for Changemakers

Film is a powerful tool to help ignite conversation, raise awareness, and drive change. Join us as we explore important issues through viewing documentary films and engaging in discussions.

We Who Wow

This webinar discussion celebrates changemakers taking action on issues from systematic racism and poverty to gang violence and sex trafficking. Learn about what inspired their ideas, how they took action, and what you can do to make a difference in your communities.

Optional: Be a Changemaker/Beyond the Common Reader

Students may have the opportunity to apply for this two-credit hour course. This eight-week excursion course will explore the intersectional effects of colonialism, sexism, racism, and poverty. Following travel, each student will develop and facilitate an action project related to the themes of the excursion.

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 Bill Stanfill, registrar, 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 Bill Stanfill, registrar.