First-Year Experience

What is a First-Year Experience?

There are many things that set the Illinois Wesleyan experience apart. Beginning in your first year, IWU offers exceptional opportunities to integrate the ways you learn, live, innovate, and explore.  

The application deadline for the 2019-2020 First-Year Experience has passed.

First-Year Experience courses (FYEs) are year-long academic courses that offer a unique opportunity for small groups of first-year students to interact with faculty and fellow students while exploring topics beyond the classroom

Although there are ten (10) unique FYE courses scheduled for this 2019-20 school year (see descriptions below), they all share similar components such as faculty-led visits with prominent scholars, artists, and musicians, travel (often over Spring Break, sometimes over weekends) to conferences, lectures, museums, and historical sites in cities such as Chicago or St. Louis. Through these hallmarks they  emphasize "breakthrough" learning through an experiential and hands-on approach.

Enrollment into an FYE course is an optional opportunity and in most cases replaces the standard, semester-long Gateway courses that all first-year IWU students take.

There is no additional cost to take part in a First-Year Experience.   

Admission to a First-Year Experience course is based on (1) materials you have already submitted to IWU in your application for admissions and (2) your brief response to the FYE application question. 

The application deadline for the 2019-2020 First-Year Experience has passed.

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FYE Courses for 2019-20

Analytical TitansAnalytical Titans

Do you have an analytical mind? If you are curious about how math can be used to tackle challenging problems and are interested in fields that make use of mathematical models such as economics, finance, or any of the STEM fields, you are encouraged to apply to be an IWU Analytical Titan. In this class, you’ll work as part of an interdisciplinary team in the consulting firm, Titan Analytics, housed in the math department. Titan Analytics works with local community partners on solving problems using mathematical models.

Creativity ScholarsCreativity Scholars

Are you inquisitive? Do you have a desire to know and understand a topic beyond the surface level? Are you interested in a wide variety of subjects? Are you curious about different ways to view the human experience, including scientifically, artistically, and historically? Have you wondered how you might bring multiple interests to bear on your future professional life? If so, we encourage you to apply to be an IWU Creativity Scholar.

Humanities FellowsHumanities Fellows

Do you have a passion for reading literature? Do you love to argue the finer points of a philosophical or religious debate? Do you like to contemplate how artists and thinkers engage with the most urgent questions of their time, and perhaps even do these things in another language? Do you wonder how you might someday integrate these interests into your professional life? If so, we encourage you to apply to be an IWU Humanities Fellow.


Global TitansGlobal Titans

"Globally aware • Intellectually dare • Compassionately share" 

Do you like experiencing other languages and cultures? Are you interested in examining world problems that affect politics, economics, or culture on a larger scale? Would you like to discuss global issues with your peers as part of a dedicated learning community? Do you want to become an informed citizen, and prepare to make a difference in the world? If so, apply to be an IWU Global Titan. Break the "bubble" and experience the world, from the first moment you arrive on campus!

Innovation FellowsInnovation Fellows 

Do you love imagining creative solutions to all kinds of problems? Do you think about finding new and innovative ways of helping other people? Do you like inventing and making new things? Do you want to learn how you might someday integrate your interests into your professional life? If you do, we encourage you to apply to be an IWU Innovation Fellow, for a project-based learning experience where you can develop your passion for innovation, design, and entrepreneurship.


Justice ScholarsJustice Scholars

Do you like watching crime TV shows and listening to crime podcasts? If you have an interest in the law or  are passionate about justice in general, you should apply to be a Justice Scholar. We’ll talk about why people are wrongfully convicted – over 2,000 people have been exonerated from prison for crimes they didn’t commit – and we'll explore cases in the Bloomington area in which the men in prison are now being represented by innocence projects. We will read courtroom transcripts, talk to the attorneys involved, and hear from the prisoners themselves. In the spring, we’ll tour the local juvenile detention center, county jail, and head to Chicago for the Innocence Network conference. 

Titans for ChangeTitans for Change

Do you admire those who expose inequality, protest injustice, and mobilize meaningful change? Do you like to contemplate how contemporary authors, artists, poets, and musicians engage with the most urgent questions of our time, and how such thinkers have influenced the leaders of movements such as LGBTQ+ Rights, Black Lives Matter, The Dreamer Movement, Standing Rock, and Me Too? If you have a passion for social justice and wonder how you might someday integrate your interest in activism into your professional life, you are encouraged to apply to become an IWU Titan for Change.

Titans for Diversity and DialogueTitans for Diversity and Dialogue

Are you someone who listens in order to understand--not just waiting for your turn to talk?  Even when people or parties do not agree on the fundamentals of each other’s beliefs or systems of ideas, dialogue has the power to bring such groups together to address common social problems. Genuine dialogue is important to bridge communication gaps; to better understand each other; to foster mutual respect, understanding and consensus; to resolve conflicts; and to promote peace and mutual co-existence. Our course goal is to address diversity-related issues from the perspectives of race, gender, and religion in order to promote diversity and pluralism in our thinking and engagement with the world. Apply to be a Titan for Diversity and Dialogue and participate in the conversation.


Gender Equity in STEMTrailblazers: Gender Equity in STEM 

Are you curious about the current climate for women in the STEM professions?Are you ready to learn about trailblazing women including Marie Curie, Katherine Johnson, and Elizabeth Blackwell who challenged the social norms of their respective generations to pursue careers in science, mathematics, and medicine? Have you considered how identities including gender, race, class, and nationality can influence a person’s experiences with STEM? Do you wonder how STEM professionals balance their careers with additional priorities and passions?  Would you enjoy exploring STEM careers through field trips and in-depth conversations with faculty and alumni? If you’re ready to examine the journey to equity in the STEM professions, become a Trailblazer.

Policy and Ethics Partners (new course offering!) 

Policy and Ethics Partners

Are you able to see more than one side of a controversial issue? Should marijuana be decriminalized?  Should abortion be legal?  What government regulations, if any, should restrict access to firearms? Some people like to avoid discussions of controversial political issues. The Policy and Ethics Partners course is for those people who like thinking critically about public policy debates and considering the best points on both sides. If you are interested in opportunities at IWU to explore the relationship between morality and the law while honing your argumentation skills, you are encouraged to apply to become a Policy and Ethics Partner.


 Admission to a First-Year Experience course is based on (1) materials you have already submitted to IWU in your application for admissions and (2) your brief response to the FYE application question. 

The application deadline for the 2019-2020 First-Year Experience has passed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Illinois Wesleyan offers a first-year community-based residential experience in addition to this academic First-Year Experience. Learn about the  community-based residential experience .