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Cornerstone Seminars: Home

Cornerstone Seminars

The Cornerstone Seminars at Stonehill College provide students with an opportunity to explore an engaging topic or question in a small-class format emphasizing writing, discussion, critical thinking, and academic inquiry. For this reason, seminar titles are often in the form of an overarching question. Students take four Cornerstone Seminars: One each in History, Literature, Philosophy, and Religious Studies.* Seminars are writing-intensive courses designed by faculty based on their own research or teaching interests. Because effective writing is integral to critical thinking, the seminars all emphasize frequent writing, close examination of texts, rigorous analysis and reasoning, and information literacy. All Seminars are three credits, have no prerequisites, and are open to all first-year students on a space-available basis, regardless of major.


The following guidelines apply to all Cornerstone Seminars:

  • Seminars explore engaging topics in a flexible seminar format that puts the emphasis on learning through reading, writing, class discussion, analysis, and synthesis. Instruction is provided in active, critical reading, emphasizing that this skill is a necessary precursor to effective writing.
  • Each FYS requires 15-20 pages of writing, including substantive revisions but excluding in-class assignments and timed writing. Writing forms the primary mode of assessment in these classes. Major assignments will receive constructive feedback from the instructor and, when appropriate, peers.  Drawing on this feedback, students will have regular opportunities to revise their work during the semester.

  • Instructors may make use of “writing-to-learn” pedagogy, such as journaling, blogging, online discussions, reader-response papers, or creative/expressive approaches to supplement more highly elaborated and formalized writing assignments. Shorter, more frequent writing assignments or more sustained writing projects are both acceptable, depending on instructor preference. Ideally, a combination of the two will be used to give students a chance to practice a range of writing skills.

WRI041: Writing Practicum

Students who want additional support as they develop and enhance their writing skills may choose to take WRI 041: Writing Practicum, alongside any of their Cornerstone Seminars. WRI 041 is a one-credit course that provides students with an introduction to the college writing process, including understanding and envisioning writing assignments, brainstorming, outlining, drafting, organizing, constructing and supporting a thesis, critiquing, revising, editing, and proofreading. This workshop will help sharpen composition skills and build confidence for the many writing tasks that lie ahead. 

Learning Outcomes

Students in all Cornerstone Seminars will demonstrate the ability to:

  • read critically, annotate texts, and gather and interpret evidence. (Active reading).

  • thoroughly (systematically and methodically) analyze their own and others' assumptions and evaluate the relevance of contexts when presenting a position.(Examining assumptions.)

  • critically state, describe, and clarify the issue or problem to be considered so that understanding is not seriously impeded by omissions. (Explanation of issues.)

  • understand context, audience, and purpose in response to an assigned writing task or assignment  (Context and purpose for writing.)

  • use appropriate, relevant, and compelling content to explore ideas through writing within the context of the course or discipline in order to shape the work as a whole. (Content development.)

  • formulate and clearly express a specific position (perspective, thesis/hypothesis) that takes into account the complexities of an issue while acknowledging other points of view. (Point of view.)

  • access information using effective, well-designed search strategies and most appropriate information sources; communicate, organize and synthesize information from sources to fully achieve a specific purpose, with clarity and depth. (Accessing and organizing information.)

  • use credible, relevant sources to support ideas that are situated within the discipline and genre of the writing and document sources using standard citation formats.  (Sources and evidence.)

  • draw conclusions that are logically tied to a range of information, including opposing viewpoints; clearly identify related outcomes, consequences, and implications. (Conclusions and related outcomes.)

  • clearly convey meaning to readers in straightforward language that is generally free of grammatical and mechanical errors.  (Control of syntax and mechanics.) 


Instructors may use a wide variety of formative and summative strategies to assess student writing and thinking, including traditional paper grading, high-stakes and low-stakes assignments, intellectual journals, peer review, reading response papers, sequenced writing assignments, performance tasks (emphasizing problem solving), rubrics, and/or portfolio assessment (emphasizing the writing process and the importance of revision). 

Faculty: Cornerstone Seminar Proposal

All Seminars are approved by the General Education Advisory Committee. A new proposal form will be available shortly via MyHill; currently, to propose a new First-Year Seminar course, please contact the Office of General Education,, for more information.

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