University Seminars - Information for Faculty

For more than a decade, the University Seminar (USEM) program has provided an opportunity for first-year students to take unique seminar style courses in a variety of topics taught by faculty from all of the University’s twelve schools. University Seminar faculty engage students in discussion, hands-on experiential learning, research, trips around the Charlottesville area, and in critical self-reflection that helps students shape the direction of their studies at UVA.

University Seminars are two-credit courses that are offered during both the fall and spring semesters. Proposal requirements and expectations contained in this RFP will be the same for both semesters, however, there are staggered proposal submission periods. Fall 2021 proposals are due on January 10, 2021 and Spring 2022 proposals are due July 11, 2021.

Some reasons why you should apply to teach a University Seminar…

  • These are not required classes. Every student enrolled in a University Seminar has chosen to be there. Students value USEMs as opportunities to work directly with faculty members in a small and intellectually engaging setting.
  • The intimate and focused setting of a University Seminar provides a unique opportunity to meet and mentor engaged first-year students.
  • University Seminar faculty are a community dedicated to innovative teaching and the development of the University’s first-year students. The flexible nature of a USEM provides faculty members the opportunity to innovate with both course topics and instructional techniques.

What Topic Should a University Seminar Address?

Any topic! Student participation in a USEM should foster a love of learning with the goal of igniting a spark of enthusiasm for a particular subject. It is expected that these courses will help students develop critical thinking skills and explore new ideas in an environment that encourages interactive learning and intensive discussion. Enrollment in a University Seminar should provide first-year students the opportunity to work closely with faculty and to develop an intellectual community with other students around a shared area of interest.

While any topic of interest may be proposed, it is highly encouraged that proposers think outside the box and consider courses that students may not otherwise find at UVA. Furthermore, special consideration will be given to proposals that meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Proposals that equip students with the skills to interact in an increasingly pluralistic society by connecting to emerging issues at the University and our greater communities, such as topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • Proposals that include a hands-on learning component, such as opportunities for reflection and critical analysis; opportunities for students to take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for the results; and designed learning experiences that include the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes, and successes.

  • Proposals that are interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary, which may include proposals that are team-taught classes, topics that would not easily fit into a single academic department or major, course design that allows for the synthesis of ideas across disciplines, and the development of important, transferable skills such as critical thinking, communication and analysis.

Please note that special consideration will be given to course proposals that have not been offered as part of the University Seminar program in any of the last three consecutive semesters.

Who is Eligible to Teach a University Seminar?

Tenure/Tenure-Track and Academic General Faculty members are eligible to propose courses to the USEM program, and preference will be given to their submissions. On an exceptional basis, A&P Faculty Members and University Staff may submit proposals, but must obtain release time for this activity from their department chair or unit director, and are strongly encouraged to review policy PROV-008: Teaching Courses for Academic Credit.

What Funding is Available for University Seminars?

A $6,000 award will be provided for each two-credit USEM course. Nine-month faculty members may choose to receive this award as either summer wage or in a research account. Twelve-month faculty, A&P Faculty, and University Staff are only eligible to receive the award funds as OTPS. All disbursements are subject to University, state, and federal guidelines, policies, and procedures. Teaching a USEM course is not an eligible cause for approval of faculty overload.

What Should I Include in My University Seminar Proposal?

Your proposal must include the following components:

  1. Overview and Justification: Please include an overview of student learning objectives and a detailed justification for how your proposed seminar aligns with the goals of the University Seminar program. If you are proposing a USEM that you taught previously, you must also provide information about how the course has evolved over time and the steps you have taken/will take to improve the course going forward. (One page max – PDF only)

  2. A syllabus (draft form is acceptable – PDF only).

  3. Curriculum Vita or Resume for each instructor. (Two page max for each – PDF only)

  4. Letter of Support: Your proposal must also include a letter of support from your department chair/unit supervisor. For A&P Faculty Members and University Staff, the letter needs to note the approval of release time and state how this teaching has been accommodated in accordance with policy PROV-008: Teaching Courses for Academic Credit. The letter of support will be solicited through the application system and should be uploaded directly by the letter writer. Proposals that involve co-instructors will be required to include a letter of support for each prospective instructor (one letter is acceptable if the supervisor is the same for both individuals).

When are Proposals Submitted?

University Seminars are two-credit courses that are offered during both the fall and spring semesters. To provide as much flexibility as possible, proposals for each semester will be due at staggered times. However, the proposal requirements and expectations contained in this RFP will be the same for both. Fall 2021 proposals are due on January 10, 2021 and Spring 2022 proposals are due July 11, 2021. These due dates apply to all proposal materials, including letters of support.

Fall 2021 Proposals are Due on January 10, 2021 by 11:59 pm

Spring 2022 Proposals are Due July 11, 2021 by 11:59 pm


For convenience, the online application portal (InfoReady) is now accepting proposals for both fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters. Feel free to submit early if you have your spring proposal ready!

How are Proposals Submitted?

All proposals must be submitted online via InfoReady (see link below). The online application will ask a few short questions before you upload your proposal materials and submit your application. Applicants may submit more than one proposal.

How are University Seminar Proposals Reviewed?

An advisory committee of faculty, staff, and students will review all submitted proposals and make funding recommendations to the Provost’s Office. It is expected that funding decisions for fall 2021 courses will be made by mid-February and decisions for spring 2022 courses will be made by early August.

Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Does the course title and description seem appealing to first-year students?
  • Does the instructor satisfactorily justify how the class, including intended student learning objectives, syllabus, and grading scheme, aligns with the goals of the University Seminar program?
  • Does the instructor appear to have sufficient knowledge of the subject that has been proposed?
  • In cases where a proposed seminar has been offered in the past, does the applicant provide sufficient information about how the course has evolved over time and the steps the applicant has taken/will take to improve the course going forward? Proposals that have been offered during any of the three most recent semesters should have convincing justification for the ongoing support.


Any questions about the University Seminar program should be directed to: