Academic Programs



August 2015

The theme of the 2015 First Engagements seminar is "Reading the Stories of Us: Histories of Entanglement." All first-year students will read:

  • "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" by Karen Joy Fowler

  • "The Sixth Extinction" by Elizabeth Kolbert

  • Check out some of the other activities that make August term special.

“Identity and Belonging in a Changing World”

The theme of the 2014 First Engagements seminar is "Identity and Belonging in a Changing World." All first-year students will read:

  • "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri

  • "Class Matters" by correspondents of The New York Times

“Reading the World”

The theme of the 2013 First Engagements seminar was “Reading the World,” which captures two goals of a liberal arts education: learning to read critically and exploring the wider world.

In 2013 all first-year students read:

  • "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time" by Mark Haddon

  • "Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason" by Russell Shorto

“Making Sense”

The theme of the inaugural First Engagements seminar in 2012 was “Making Sense,” a nod to new students’ efforts to make sense of their transition from high school to college.

In 2012 all first-year students read:

  • "Come and Go Molly Snow" by Kentucky author Mary Ann Taylor-Hall

  • "The Professor and the Madman" by Simon Winchester

August Term

August term is the first component of Transylvania's distinctive experience for first-year students. It’s the time for students to focus on making a successful transition from high school to a liberal arts college, both academically and socially.

In this three-week term before upperclass students return to campus, first-year students work together to sharpen their critical, analytical, and interpretative skills while making new friends and discovering new interests. It’s the perfect opportunity to get oriented to college life; participate in a wide range of social and intellectual activities; forge a new identity with classmates; learn about the campus; and explore the Lexington community.

Greeting line 

Students will also earn a full unit of course credit for the First Engagements seminar. Approximately 15 students, a professor, and an August term scholar (an upperclass Transylvania student who will serve as a mentor both in and out of class) will meet each day to learn from shared readings and discussions related to a particular theme.

To relieve some of the pressure of their first college course, students will not receive traditional grades for the First Engagements seminar. They will, however, receive feedback about their assignments from their professor and will ultimately receive credit for satisfactory work or no credit for unsatisfactory work. Through this process, students will begin to understand the expectations of a Transylvania scholar and the demands of a liberal arts curriculum.

Questions? Contact Melissa Fortner, associate professor of Psycology and academic director of August term.

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