Skip to main content

First-Year Seminars

All first-year seminars are designed to help you succeed as a college student—learning about the academic and cultural expectations and resources at a university in general and at UHD in particular. The skills and information are relevant for all majors. As a framework for these success goals, the faculty have developed unique course content on a range of contemporary topics.

Below are the specific topics and brief descriptions for first-year seminars. (If you are not a first-year student, and have passed ENG 1301, you should not take a first-year seminar. Please see the University Seminar webpage for information on other seminar options.)

Before you meet with your Academic Success Coordinator, check the schedule to see which of these seminars are being offered in the coming semester. They may fill up quickly, so be sure you have back-up options in case your first choice is not available when you register.


Seminar FAQs

UHD's first-year seminars prepare students to understand and succeed in the academic and cultural expectations of the university. Students develop learning strategies essential to college success through the exploration of a unique and contemporary topic as well as connections between majors and career readiness. All first-year seminars are open to all majors required of first-time-college-students.

We want to make sure every student who attends UHD has an opportunity to develop a foundation for success. Evidence from universities throughout the United States shows that students who complete seminars tend to earn higher GPAs, complete more credit hours toward graduation, develop a better understanding of college, and become more involved in campus activities.

Think about whether the seminar topic is of interest to you, though it does not need to be tied to your major. Does it spark your curiosity? Will it be a new adventure in thinking that will take you somewhere you have never been? Will it present a challenge that will assist you in developing a growth mindset that is not afraid to take risks, seeks out challenging experiences, and is willing to leave the familiar and try something new? Keep in mind that all seminars will be focused on providing information and strategies to help you be successful as a college student and not just in the specific topic area.

Look at your overall course schedule; does the day and time of the seminar pair well with other classes? Think about leaving yourself time on campus before or after classes on any given day to use some of the resources like the math lab, library, or computer lab.

Be sure to have a backup option in case your first choice is not available when you are ready to register!

No. The seminars are not tied to specific majors. You can take any seminar that interests you. All seminars are designed to support your success as a college student.

The seminars do not offer an introduction to any major. Seminars focus on establishing a foundation for success in college. Other types of courses offer introductions to specific majors and often have titles such as Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Criminal Justice, or Introductory Biology. Your Academic Success Coordinator can help you identify these courses in the course catalog and your degree plan. An introductory course in your major does not fulfill the seminar requirement. Seminars and introductory courses in major fields of study fulfill completely different requirements.

Seminars are designed to help you succeed as a college student—learning about the academic and cultural expectations and resources at a university in general and at UHD in particular. The skills and information are relevant for all majors.

UHD offers both First-Year and University seminars with topics that are relevant in each area of our core curriculum. The UHD numbers (UHD XX01-UHD XX08) correspond to the different areas of the core curriculum. While the topics will vary, all seminars are designed to support students in all majors

All students, transfer or first-year, should take the relevant seminar course in your first semester at UHD because they are designed to help you learn about university life, expectations, and resources.

Students should take only one seminar.

No. If you need to retake a seminar, you can take any of the ones at the same level that you originally registered for (UHD 13XX) or UHD (23XX), and the highest grade will be used to calculate the GPA (though both will stay on your transcript).

We have 8 versions of first-year seminars (UHD 1301-1308) tied to different topic areas but they all share the purpose of supporting students to learn about how to be successful as a college student, and they all count in the same way toward the general education core curriculum requirement—they will share learning strategies, help you leverage resources on campus, and support you in learning how to research majors and career pathways.



How to Search for Seminar Classes

Follow these simple steps to find and register for seminar classes:

Click on the "Show Steps" button to view the detailed instructions:

  1. Visit the class search portal on our UHD website.
  2. Select "UH Downtown" in the subject search options.
  3. Browse the list of available 13XX first-year seminars, and click on each to view the specific seminar topic. NOTE: the seminars are all in one of 8 generic categories (UHD 1301-1308)—you must actually click on the class to open more details to see which seminar topic is being offered.
  4. Note the class codes, days, times, and locations for the seminars you're interested in.
  5. Log in to your student portal to add the selected seminars to your schedule.

For visual guidance, refer to the image below:

UHD Seminar Class Search


Seminar Topics

Faculty: Logan, Paul

This course will provide students with the skills and strategies to succeed in college. Towards that end, our work together will be organized around the study of digital media theory and skills. We will ask questions such as: What is the role of technology in higher education? How can practitioner skills in digital media help students pursue their careers after graduation? What is the system of ethics underlying new media technologies, and how can this system of ethics help students participate in their civic responsibilities? How does the law dictate our use of new media? We will read a range of scholarly and mainstream sources across the communication field, and will analyze a variety of graphical, video and radio sources.

Faculty: Beane, Susan

Success in college and beyond will be the focus of this course.  Students will collect personal data, analyze and represent the data mathematically, and develop critical thinking and analytical skills to improve performance in college and obtain career goal.

Faculty: Blaimont, Pauline

We will consider the science behind your everyday world and how it can inform how you approach college and life in general. Topics will include analyzing personal well-being (for example making healthy nutritional choices and reconsidering what actually makes you “happy”?) based on scientific findings. We will approach everyday decisions with a scientific lens while incorporating important skills for your future (study skills, career information and resume writing etc.). 

Faculty: Brown, Houston

Sustainable energy in our modern world will be examined with an eye on the chemistry behind the science.  From fossil fuels to nuclear energy, and then to modern renewables, students will learn that all energy focuses back on the atom, either through fission or fusion processes.  Student teams will choose an energy topic to explore, while understanding some of the most basic chemistry which delivers energy on a daily basis.

Faculty: Minard, Meghan

‘You are what you eat!’  What does this mean?  This first year seminar will make your favorite foods talk to you and tell you their story- where they come from and how they become part of you.  By way of interesting readings, label analysis, nutrition discussions, and surprising research findings, you will come to understand food on a whole new level!

Faculty: Nakamura, Mitsue

Do you know that you can find many interesting research topics in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics by watching your favorite movies? You will be inquiring, analyzing data, using technologies, and communicating through research project and group collaboration led by experienced and trained peer leaders who have the same goals as you. You will also improve your critical thinking skill by solving a murder mystery. The main goal of this class is to “Learn How to Learn STEM topics” in college and make a transition from high school to college as one of your success stories.

Faculty: Saha, Sanghamitra

​‘Are men and women really from different planets? What makes women different from men? The answer is in the chromosomes! In this seminar course, you will explore the biological changes an infant girl experiences to become a woman. With relevant readings, classroom activities, informational videos, and group discussions, you will understand half of our species on a whole new level’.

Faculty: Standlee, Courtney

​In this course, we will review basic concepts of human anatomy, microbiology, and immunology in the context of the description of the human microbiota. You will be introduced to the microbial world that inhabits the human body, the interactions between the microbial organisms and the human host, how human diet and behavior can influence the microbiota, how the microbiota changes during disease or health, and the ethical issues related to widely-promoted diets, probiotics, and other public health emerging trends. 

Faculty: Harris, Cyril

​The course will cover a variety of topics from a computer science perspective.  These topics include: the scientific method, spreadsheets, data visualization, artificial intelligence, robotics, natural language processing, algorithms, web design, search engines, web crawling, algorithmic trading, bioinformatics, 3D printing, computer graphics, game design, computer networking, computer security, and computer architecture. The course will also introduce students to the plethora of UHD resources that are available to them.   Part of a scientist’s responsibilities involves conducting research and delivering presentations on their research to a group of their peers.   

Faculty: Cueva, Edmund

​A multidisciplinary approach to explore and analyze urban legends. How do urban legends come in to and out of existence? Which legends persist and why? How do they reflect, support, or challenge cultural norms and beliefs?  Among many others, the course includes such well known legends as the Vanishing Hitchhiker, Jersey Devil, UFOs, Ouija Board, Slender Man, and the Chupacabra. 

Faculty: Dalhberg, Sandra

Explore the cultures of Native America and how Indigenous peoples of the Americas revolutionized the global food supply and shaped North America. Examine topics ranging from Disney's appropriation of Pocahontas (Matoaka), racialized sports mascots, and cultural sovereignty from Native perspectives.

Faculty: Gascoigne, Carolyn

We all use a host of "languages" throughout our day; speaking to our friends one way and to our professors another way. This course will provide a cultural, linguistic, and psycholinguistic examination of code-switching across dialects and across languages.

Faculty: Jackson, Chuck

Monsters, ghosts, evil, terror – the very best horror stories conjure a nightmarish world and leave their audiences giddy with fright and disgust. This seminar invites students to study and enjoy some of the most famous American horror stories ever told. We will turn to experts to help us better understand why horror remains such a popular genre in the United States, why some of us love horror and some of us avoid it, what inspires and influences creative people to make horror, how horror stories change over time, and why horror might even be good for us.

Faculty: Sullivan, Nell

This seminar will examine the relationship between the popular zombie horror genre and the serious social, moral, and political issues facing U.S. culture.  Students will analyze zombie films through the lens of Monster Theory, which employs a range of psychological, sociological, and political theories to hypothesize the ways in which a culture’s monsters reflect its major social issues. 

Faculty: Thomas, Tammis

Instagram posts, dating app swipes, dreams of makeover shopping sprees or transformed gym bodies —fairy tales enter our minds when we are children and continue to impact our thinking and behavior into adulthood. This seminar invites students to examine some of the most famous fairy tales ever created and to think about the powerful influence of key fairy tale concepts such as “happily ever after” and “rags to riches.”  Our discussions will focus on high-ranking princes, beautiful princesses, big bad wolves, beloved mermaids, and ugly beasts  and will examine how fairy tale tropes serve as essential templates for video games, the Super Bowl,  TikTok videos, modern weddings, and blockbuster movies.   

Faculty: Fedell, Lucas

“All the world’s a stage and all the students, merely players.” Meet with professional actors, designers, and directors from the local Houston area. Explore theatre spaces large and small. See live shows and find out what goes on behind the scenes. Remember it’s your first year of college... so “Break a Leg.”​ This course will introduce students to Houston’s theatre scene including the Alley Theatre, Theatre Under the Stars, Houston Grand Opera and other theatres through class discussions, fieldtrips and attending plays. It explores selected theatres, plays, playwrights and artists in theatre to expose students to the world of theatre and the cultural significance of theatre.

Faculty: Jackson, Larisa

Everyone loves music. What kind of music do you like? Find out about the other world of music that is out there. You can become a part of this world of classical music by experiencing it firsthand. The course introduces students to interpretation of artistic expression through classical music and enables critical, creative, and innovative communication about musical works.

Faculty: Secor, Mary

In this first year seminar, students will investigate and integrate social justice issues and Joseph Campbell's "The Heroes Journey" into their own Graphic Novel, which they will both illustrate and write.  The class will also explore Houston cultural institutions, meet artists and learn their stories, and will also develop basic skills in the visual arts.​

Faculty: Case, Theresa

Students in this course play starring roles in historical role-playing games called Reacting to the Past. Each game will send you back in time to a contentious, pivotal period in US history. You will dig into a fascinating controversy from the past, consider the reasoned arguments of leading figures from opposing sides, and take on the persona of a historical actor as you and your team strive to convey the most persuasive interpretation of the history.  

Faculty: Sanchez, Christal

In the context of PK-12 education, it is essential for families, communities, and schools to collaborate to improve educational experiences. This course focuses on how we can center family and community needs and experiences in the educational process to establish capacity building relationships and equitable educational experiences.

Faculty: Beebe, Ron

Urban schools provide a microcosm in which the dynamics of economic, historic, political and social factors of society play out in the lives of students, teachers, and communities. This course will explore the purpose and role of public education in the United States, the social and political forces that have shaped education, specifically in the urban context, as well as current issues arising from the increasing diversity of the urban classroom. Additionally, public school funding, school reform, the “hidden curriculum,” high stakes assessment, and legal considerations will be covered. Students will also have the opportunity to engage in conversations on related topics. The course develops knowledge, skills and dispositions related to the economic, historical, political, and social factors underlying the culture of urban schools.

Faculty: Neale, Nathan

This course begins students' journeys to becoming competent leaders. Despite the myth that leaders are born and not made, anyone can learn the knowledge, skills and abilities that constitute effective leadership. While this course adopts a business perspective, the concetps covered are relevant beyond the workplace, including at school and in the community. Students will gain practice as well as an understanding of their leadership strengths and weaknesses through a variety of experiential learning exercises.

Faculty: Pohl, Bernardo

This course investigates the historical, social, political, and philosophical contexts of American schools and debates about school reform. From the vision of Thomas Jefferson for the common schools in Virginia to the No Child Left Behind legislation, public and private education has been crucial in indoctrinating the masses for citizenship, moral character, and for productivity. Most importantly, education empowers individuals to reach their potential, allowing them to become whole and pursue a happy and fulfilling life. Through readings, discussions, and research, students will explore the complicated, even contradictory, relations between schooling and democratic life in the U.S.; in response students will analyze, synthesize, and evaluate findings to deliver defensible arguments, infer logical conclusions, and address issues of concern relative to education in the 21st century.