Freshman Seminar Syllabus

University Course Catalog Description

Freshman Seminar will introduce the student majoring in either Studio Art or Graphic Design to issues related to professional practice, philosophical direction, and the creative process in the visual arts. Prerequisites: none.

Course Prerequisites

Course Overview

Freshman Seminar will introduce students majoring in either Studio Arts or Graphic Design to the basics of four critical areas for efficient & professional practice in the visual art studio. Those areas are:

  1. Basic department studio procedures, policies and safety
  2. What It Means to Be a successful Artist/Designer, a philosophical grounding
  3. Introduction to Professional Business Practices
  4. Personal Portfolio Website

The topics & practices introduced in each of the general areas listed above are meant to prepare the student for creative success in upper division classes of their major in Studio or Graphic Design. The student’s experience will include lectures, slides, & videos, assigned reading, writing & discussion. Freshman Seminar is meant to enhance the education of the student by providing an awareness of practical, technical & professional practices utilized in materials & processes related to the fields of art & design.

The development of an artist website will be the primary means for exploring these course concepts/topics & serve as an ongoing vehicle for documenting the student’s individual work & artistic direction. This website will evolve over the entire semester and continue in the second semester. It will then be submitted for evaluation & critique during the annual Freshman portfolio review. This portfolio review is a formal process and occurs during the spring semester.

Examples of specific topics include (but are not limited to):

  1. Sketch book
  2. Personal portfolio development
  3. Electronic file management & formatting
  4. Digital printing procedures
  5. Formal composition frameworks
  6. Artwork presentation techniques
  7. Equipment use policies & safety practices
  8. Studio etiquette & responsibilities
  9. Aesthetics
  10. Art philosophy
  11. Process & artistic development documentation techniques

Contemporary production & presentation issues will be explored relating to the overall process of portfolio development. This is a class meant to clarify Visual Art Department policies, equipment usage, & studio practices with the further purpose of preparing the student for success in pursuing their BFA or BA degree in art/design.

Course Objectives/Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course the student should be able to:

  1. Formulate an aesthetic philosophical foundation to form and defend value judgments about art and design.
  2. Initiate a working vocabulary of art/design terminology, utilizing this in verbal and written analysis and interpretation of their own work.
  3. Apply the critical process [description, analysis, interpretation and evaluation] to the development of a personal artist statement and philosophy.
  4. Demonstrate a basic knowledge of media, technologies and equipment applied to drawing, painting, 2D/3D design and graphic design.
  5. Demonstrate an introductory understanding of the principles of visual organization, including the ability to work with visual elements and technology.
  6. Develop a personal artistic/design vision/plan for the future.

The objectives will be achieved by:

  1. Completing projects of increasing complexity
  2. In class & homework exercises
  3. Analysis & critique one’s own work & then apply the skill to the work of others
  4. Readings, lectures & discussion of readings
  5. Person reflective writing
  6. Producing a personal portfolio website of their work and artistic/design philosophy

Students will submit a comprehensive CD containing all projects completed during this course at the conclusion of the semester to assess how the learning objectives of the course are being met.


Reading Topics will include:

  • Aesthetics
  • Creativity/Process
  • History
  • Safety
  • Business Practices
  • Art & Design Inspiration
  • Creativity and Knowledge
  • Composition

Other items you should already own… but if you don’t, purchase them now.

  • three-ring binder notebook
  • sketchbook
  • basic studio supplies


Below is university policy followed when administering letter grades on projects, papers, & other tasks that do not utilize a point or percentage system.

A: Exceptional, means objectives of the assignment are fully understood as applied to the particular assignment & an intriguing balance exists between clear communication of the message & creativity. The assignment is executed with impeccable craftsmanship, accuracy, & neatness & exists as part of the complete design development of thumbnail, rough, & finished comp; a quality piece of work.

B: High, objectives are met & design principles are primarily well understood. May be lacking in overall quality, craftsmanship, clarity, or design development; good overall effort.

C: Average, the minimum requirements of the assignment have been met but not exceeded. Extra effort & insight into development of the basic assignment are necessary to produce higher quality work.

D: Below average, there exist problems in completely understanding the concept or objectives of an assignment. Incompleteness in several areas of craftsmanship, design, creativity, clarity, or development is also apparent; see instructor.

F: Unacceptable, please do assignment over see instructor immediately for further clarification.

Areas of Evaluation: Professionalism, Process & Realization:

Project grades are the result of three areas of evaluation: Professionalism, Process & Realization. At any time during the semester, you may meet with the instructor for evaluations of current grades or dissatisfactions with a grade that you received on any project & how it may be improved upon.

Professionalism: Your grade in the area of professionalism will focus on issues of attendance, preparation, deadlines, critique participation, personal attitude & articulation – the ability to speak & write clearly about ideas/concepts presented in class. Projects for this course will be assigned similar to the way that professional designers receive “design briefs” detailing the specific requirements for a project. The student will then be expected to document the creative process, which they follow in developing individual design solutions. Successive projects will be assigned for the class, & modified or customized to a certain degree based on the overall understanding of previous assignments.

Process: Faculty rely on classroom observation in evaluating a student’s process in developing a project. It will focus generally on how thoroughly the student pushes visual exploration & concept research through such processes as sketching/thumbnails & creative/thoughtful writing. Students who attend class, make visible their process investigations & are prepared for the scheduled activities/discussions, reveal valuable information about their performance. In the absence of such information, faculty must resort to an unsatisfactory rating in evaluating the student’s process. When handing in an assignment, you may be required to include photocopies of relevant pages from the journal & other process materials in addition to the actual assignment.

Realization: The final evaluation of work (realization) involves more than totaling the grades on individual projects &/or determining that all assignments have been completed. Faculty assess student’s abilities in realizing concepts & controlling the visual elements of communication throughout the semester. This includes such issues as craftsmanship & the improvement & progressive mastery of increasingly complex material are evaluated.

Grade Dissemination: For each project & assignment, you will receive a detailed rubric that will break down the grade according to your performance within the areas of Professionalism, Process & Realization. Each area will be customized to the project’s specifications & learning objectives.

Late Work Policy: All projects & exercises are due on the day & time given, always at the beginning of class unless otherwise noted. A late accommodation is given only with the understanding that emergencies & unforeseen circumstances occasionally arise. A late project must be turned in by the following class & will be marked down one letter grade accordingly. A later submission will not be accepted. Missing a scheduled critique or presentation will result in an “F” for that project.

Grades of “Incomplete”: The current university policy concerning incomplete grades will be followed in this course. Incomplete grades are given only in situations where unexpected emergencies prevent a student from completing the course & the remaining work can be completed the next semester. Your instructor is the final authority on whether you qualify for an incomplete. Incomplete work must be finished by the end of the subsequent semester or the “I” will automatically be recorded as an “F” on your transcript.

Group Work Policy: Everyone must take part in a group project. All members of a group will receive the same score; that is, the project is assessed & everyone receives this score. However, that number is only 90% of your grade for this project. The final 10% is individual, & refers to your teamwork. Every person in the group will provide the instructor with a suggested grade for every other member of the group, & the instructor will assign a grade that is informed by those suggestions. Once formed, groups cannot be altered or switched, except for reasons of extended hospitalization.

Technology & Media

Laptop Usage:
You are welcome to bring your own laptop & use it in class. Although it is possible to use different computer platforms, the Apple Macintosh is the industry standard used in the majority of professional design fields & is the platform used in the Visual Arts Department. If you are used to using a platform other than the Apple Macintosh, consider this knowledge a “multi-lingual” additional skill, but the professional design world operates on the Mac.

All programs in the computer labs are licensed for the machines in the labs only. Students are prohibited from copying programs from the computers in the lab for their personal use. It is not only a violation of University policy; it is a violation of the law.

Mac Lab

Lab Computer Login: Use InsidePacific user names and passwords. If you receive a keychain error, it’s because you changed your InsidePacific password, and the keychain needs to be updated. Type in your previous InsidePacific password and it will update, and will stop the error message.

PacificPrint: Printing in the main Computer Lab is to the PacificPrint printer. Use your insidePacific login. Swipe your Pacific ID card at the printer to initiate printing.

Log in with your InsidePacific username and password. If you receive a keychain error after a while, it’s because you changed your InsidePacific password, and keychain needs to be updated. You can type in your previous InsidePacific password and it will update, and this will stop the error from appearing each time.

Email is the preferred communication tool. You may each have private email accounts that are not associated with the University.  Please be aware that I will only be utilizing your Pacific email accounts to communicate class information to you so please check these regularly since I may send out important announcements pertaining to the class. When emailing me, please follow standard email conventions including addressing me & signing your communications. I check my email regularly & will try answer your questions within one day (with the exception of weekends or holidays.)

Cell Phone Usage:
Per university policy & classroom etiquette; mobile phones, iPods, etc. must be silenced during all classroom & lab lectures. Those not heeding this rule will be asked to leave the classroom/lab immediately so as to not disrupt the learning environment

Course Policies/Student Expectations

Student Requirements & Responsibilities:

  • Three-ring binder notebook for lectures, sketches, & for assignment sheets & critiques. This notebook should be brought class & utilized for recording lectures & demonstrations, as well as drawings & sketches.
  • Active participation in all phases of the course, attendance, lecture / demonstrations / critiques
  • Materials described in the attached materials list.
  • Meeting assignment deadlines
  • A concern for the highest level of craftsmanship
  • Projects for this course will be assigned similar to the way that professional designers receive “design briefs” detailing the specific requirements for a project. The student will then be expected to document their creative process, which they follow in developing individual design solutions. Successive projects will be assigned for the class, and modified or customized to a certain degree based on the overall understanding of previous assignments.


Expectations & Work Load: The basic structure of this course will revolve around assigned studio problems. There will be time given to lecture & class discussion, practical tutorials, exercises, & assignments. A significant amount of time will be also spent in critique of student work.

It is very important that all students engage themselves in a discourse of the work at hand. In turn I will give each of you conscientious feedback on as much of your work as is possible. All students should be prepared to spend a significant amount of time outside of class time for research, process & final production of assigned projects.

Students are expected to think creatively & critically as well as participate thoughtfully in class. As a good portion of this class is based in critique of student work, it is expected that all students will participate in this dialogue so that we may all benefit from the feedback. All comments are expected to be constructive & honest. It is the group dynamic that will inform & educate our individual projects. Be open to the critique process, as your lack of participation will impact your final grade.

Class Preparation: Students are expected to arrive to class on time & be prepared for work with the requested supplies/materials/assignments. Class preparation is essential to receiving feedback on one’s work. Lack of preparation on a continual basis will affect your final grade. If you happen to miss a class or lecture, please make arrangements with a fellow student who can either take notes for you &/or get the required handouts, etc. While I will be happy to clarify information for students who are confused, I cannot repeat lectures or elaborate project descriptions on an individual basis.

Controversial Content: Since a portion of the course will include studying art/design throughout history, there may be times when some of this art may have nudity in it. If you feel uncomfortable with this, please let me know & we can make accommodations.

Attendance Policy: No more than three absences are allowed per semester. Students are required to make prior arrangements with the instructor whenever possible. Students are expected to be on time & to participate for the duration of the class. The student’s grade will be negatively affected & lowered one full grade point for each absence exceeding the three allowed. So, for example, if you were to earn a B+ & had four absences, your final grade will be C+.

Students should be informed that the allotted absences are to accommodate routine illness, weddings, transportation troubles, etc. Doctor appointments, advisor conferences, trips to supply stores & labs, employment, etc. should not be scheduled to conflict with class. Religious Observances cited in the handbook will be followed.

Tardiness is defined as being fifteen minutes late for class or departing before the teacher has formally dismissed class. Three tardies will be counted as one absence. Tardiness that exceeds one hour will be counted as an absence. Each student is responsible for his/her own recorded attendance. If you are late it is your responsibility after that class period to make sure the teacher has you added to the roll.

Open Studio Hours Policy:

Studio Hours are:

  • M, T, W, TR 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. (except those studios holding evening classes)
  • F 8:00 to 6:00 p.m.
  • Sat & Sun 1:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Plan your schedule so that you will be able to complete your assignments during these hours. If you have exhausted these times & need additional time to finish projects or have extenuating circumstances that keep you from finishing during these scheduled hours you must receive written permission to stay in the studio beyond the normal hours. You must obtain this permission by 5:00 p.m. on the day in question. This written permission will allow you to work until midnight only. No students will be allowed in the building after 12:00 midnight.

Honor Code: The University Honor Code is an essential element in academic integrity. It is a violation of the Honor Code to give or receive information from another student during an examination; to use unauthorized sources during an examination; or to submit all or part of someone else’s work or ideas as one’s own. If a student violates the Honor Code, the faculty member may refer the matter to the Office of Student Life. If found guilty, the student may be penalized with failure of the assignment or failure of the course. The student may also be reprimanded or suspended from the University. A complete statement of the Honor Code may be found in the Student Handbook, Tiger Lore. Section 1.1 – 1.3

A violation of the principle includes, but is not limited to: Plagiarism: Intentionally or knowingly presenting the work of another as one’s own (i.e., without proper acknowledgment of the source). The sole exception to the requirement of acknowledging sources is when the ideas, information, etc., is common knowledge. Artists & designers occasionally work from photographs or other imagery. This is allowed & is sometimes necessary, however the artist’s intent must be clear that the new work was not made to merely duplicate someone else’s artwork in another medium or form & claim it as one’s own.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you are a student with a disability, who requires accommodations, please contact Mr. Daniel Nuss, Coordinator of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities in McCaffrey Center, First Floor, Room 137 and Room 115 for information on how to obtain an Accommodation Request Letter. Contact: or (209) 946.3221. Then please schedule a meeting with me during office hours or some mutually convenient time to arrange the accommodation(s). These services may include, but are not limited to, extended time for completing exams, alternative testing procedures, note takers, & transportation to & from classes. The Policy Manual can be found at:


University Writing Center:

The University Writing Center is a free resource for student, where a trained writing consultant will work individually with you on anything you are writing (in or out of class), at any point in the writing process from brainstorming to editing.

The Student Writing Center is located on the 2nd floor of the Main Library.


Email Melanie at or call (209) 932-2969 if you have any questions.

Please retain a copy of your syllabus. It is not only an outline of the course it represents a contract between you, the instructor & the University.

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