Innovative Freshman Seminars Made Possible by Generous Donors

December 2nd, 2006 / Advancement

Through the Program of Freshman Seminars, launched in 1986 through generous gifts from Princeton alumni and friends, many Princetonians have had the opportunity to start their academic careers in a uniquely challenging and rewarding way. Working in small settings with distinguished faculty members, students examine complex topics of study, gaining an understanding of how research and scholarship are conducted at the highest levels. Almost universally, students say that their freshman seminar was one of their best academic experiences at Princeton.

The 2006-07 program has 70 course offerings, covering such diverse topics as “’Good to Be Shifty’: American Swindlers and Impostors,” “The Idea of Black Music,” and “Neuroethics: The Intersection of Neuroscience with Social and Ethical Issues.” Many of these seminars are made possible through endowed funds set up by generous donors, including two seminars which were featured in a recent issue of the Princeton Weekly Bulletin: The Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar, “Technology in Art and Cultural Heritage,” and the William H. Burchfield ’1902 Freshman Seminar “Art as Science/Science as Art.”

The Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminars were established in 1998 by Richard L. Smith ’70, with the hope of extending support to future Princetonians. In addition to “Technology in Art and Cultural Heritage,” the Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminars will fund five other courses this year: “Active Geological Processes,” “What Do Your DNA and Your iPod Have in Common?” “Life on Mars—Or Maybe Not,” “Evolution and the Galapagos Islands,” and “The Chemistry of Chocolate.”

The William H. Burchfield ’1902 Freshman Seminar was established in 1996 by a bequest from the estate of William H. Burchfield ’1902. The courses for 2006-07 funded by this named endowment are: “Let’s Eat: Food in Contemporary American Culture,” “Into the Woods! What Disney Didn’t Tell You About Fairy Tales,” and “Democracy in the Ancient Greek World.”

In addition to the freshman seminars sponsored by Richard L. Smith ’70 and William H. Burchfield ’1902, the following seminars are supported by the endowment of generous alumni, parents and friends of the University:

Agnew Family Freshman Seminar. Established in 2002 by Franklin E. Agnew ’56.

Barrett Family Freshman Seminars. Established in 2005 by Milton A. Barrett ’56 to support freshman seminars in the areas of art and archaeology and Latin American studies.

Class of 1975 Freshman Seminar. Established in 2000 by the Class of 1975.

Class of 1976 Freshman Seminar in Human Values. Established in 2001 to support a freshman seminar in the University Center for Human Values.

Dean Eva Gossman Freshman Seminar in Human Values. Established in 2004 to support a freshman seminar in human values in honor of Eva Gossman, associate dean of the college from 1987 until 1996.

Professor Amy Gutmann Freshman Seminar in Human Values. Established in 2004 by an anonymous donor to support a freshman seminar in human values in honor of Amy Gutmann, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values, Emerita.

Peter T. Joseph ’72 Freshman Seminars in Human Values. Established in 1997 to support freshman seminars in the University Center for Human Values.

Shelly and Michael Kassen ’76 Freshman Seminar in the Life Sciences. Established in 1997 to support freshman seminars in the life sciences.

Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 Freshman Seminar. Established in 2000 by Bert G. Kerstetter '66.

John H. Laporte Jr. ’67 Freshman Seminar. Established in 2003 by John H. Laporte Jr. ’67 to support a freshman seminar in the discipline of finance.

Paul L. Miller ’41 Freshman Seminar in Human Values. Established in 1999 to support a freshman seminar in the University Center for Human Values.

Professor Whitney J. Oates ’25 *31 Freshman Seminar in the Humanities. Established in 1999 by an anonymous donor.

L. Richardson Preyer ’41 Freshman Seminar in Public Service. Established in 2000 in honor of L. Richardson Preyer ’41, former United States Congressman, U.S. District Court Judge, and long-time servant of the people.

Robert H. Rawson ’66 Freshman Seminar. Established in 2005 by The Trustees of Princeton University in honor of Robert H. Rawson ’66 who served as chair of the Executive Committee of The Trustees of Princeton University from 1992 until 2005.

Frank E. Richardson ’61 Freshman Seminar in Public Policy. Established in 2001 to support a freshman seminar in public policy.

Henry David Thoreau Freshman Seminar in Environmental Studies. Established in 1998 by Thomas A. Barron ’74 to support a freshman seminar in environmental studies, exploring environmental issues primarily through literary, philosophical, ethical, spiritual, or other humanistic perspectives.

Professor Roy Dickinson Welch Freshman Seminar in Music. Established in 1999 by an anonymous donor.

Donald P. Wilson ’33 and Edna M. Wilson Freshman Seminar. Established in 2002 to support a freshman seminar with an engineering or science focus.

William T. Young Jr. ’70 Freshman Seminar. Established in 1998 in appreciation of Princeton’s outstanding strength in the teaching of undergraduates in the areas of economics and finance.

Freshman Seminar in Human Values. Established in 2001 by anonymous benefactors to support a freshman seminar in the University Center for Human Values.

Other support

Additional support for the Program of Freshman Seminars has been provided by The Beck Foundation, John A. Corry ’53, Jason McManus *58, the Schnitzer Family Foundation, Trevor D. Traina ’90, and the Class of 1963.