University Seminars

First-year University Seminar courses, or USEMs, are taught by some of Notre Dame’s finest scholars, members of our teaching and research faculty who are leaders in their fields and passionate about their subjects.  These courses exemplify the core values of a Notre Dame liberal education and mark a first step toward the goal of “intellectual excellence.”

With a class size of no more than 18 people, this small, writing-intensive learning environment will engage you in meaningful discussions with your instructor and peers, introduce you to the rich tapestry of theory and research within a field, and show you some of the problems and issues involved in that discipline. 

Each University Seminar requires students to write a minimum of 24 pages on a subject with the benefit of feedback from a leading scholar in the field and the chance to rewrite at least one paper.  Many instructors nominate papers students produce in their classes for Fresh Writing, Notre Dame’s journal of award-winning first-year essays.

USEMs are organized in categories that align with many of the Areas of Study or Ways of Knowing. Regardless of which core curriculum you fall under, a University Seminar course may be double-counted to fulfill both the USEM requirement and one of the other requirements. For example, the Contemporary Education Issues course counts as both a USEM and a social science. Japanese Ghost Stories counts as both a USEM and a literature course.  

You may use your USEM opportunity to look more deeply into an interest that you already have, or to explore new intellectual territory that may lead you to new abilities and interests.

Working with your First Year Advisor, you will select a University Seminar course either in the fall or spring semester.  Every first-year student must complete a USEM.