Department of Rhetoric & Writing
Department of Rhetoric & Writing

FYF Description and Goals

As the largest university in the nation, UT faces a serious challenge:

How can we transform a campus of 50,000+ people into an intellectual community?

The DRW’s First-Year Forum contributes to that ongoing effort.

Established in 1998 by John Ruszkiewicz, the First-Year Forum is a series of in-class and out-of-class activities based on a single book—a significant, extended piece of prose that is chosen annually by DRW faculty and instructors. The FYF text is the cornerstone of RHE 306, the required first-year writing course. In class, students identify the ways the chosen book models sound rhetorical principles, and they analyze and discuss the public controversies in which it participates. Outside of class, they have many opportunities to continue engaging the book’s central issues—by participating in discussion groups, constructing websites, contributing to panel presentations and writing contests, and attending the First-Year Forum Lecture.

By providing students with a common, challenging reading as they begin their undergraduate education the University of Texas at Austin, the First-Year Forum supports the University’s goal of creating bonds of shared interest and experience among undergraduates. And by asking students to give sustained and serious attention to a major public issue, the Forum helps them appreciate both the practical and intellectual dimensions of a required course in writing, and prepares them to participate in public discourse beyond the UT campus.

First Year Forum Lectures

FYF StudentsThe pinnacle of the FYF's out-of-classroom activities is a spring lecture, open to the university community, in which an invited speaker explores the major themes and issues of the First-Year Forum text. When possible, the DRW engages the book's author to address students and answer their questions. Past lecturers have also included public figures whose work or writings qualify them to comment substantively on the book's themes and ramifications.

Previous Lectures (and student contributions)

  • Colin Beavan, No Impact Man
  • James McWilliams, In Defense of Food
  • Michael LewisThe Blind Side
  • Luis UrreaThe Devil's Highway
  • Lawrence LessigFree Culture
  • Josh RushingAl-Jazeera and America’s Image: What’s at Stake? Introduced by Adam Avramescu, Class of 2007, Rhetoric Major and President of OxFam-UT.
  • Barry GlassnerCulture of Fear
  • Eric SchlosserFast Food Nation
  • Andrew SullivanThe Blogging Revolution
  • Malcolm GladwellTipping Points and Social Power
  • Douglas RushkoffBreaking the Trance: The Myth of Media Manipulation
  • John McPheeEncounters with the Archdruid. Introduced in a multi-media presentation designed by students John Gonzales, Daniel M. Armediaz, Steve Briones, John Smart, Scott Fitzhugh, Raul de la Rosa, Robert Rosenbaum, Chris Tollinger, Ken Cantu, Shoba Eason (on photo).
  • Deborah TannenFighting for Insight: Agonism in the Academy and the World
  • Neil PostmanSix Things You Ought to Know About Technology
  • Stephen CarterIntegrity. Introduced by then-freshman John Smolik, whose contributions to an online discussion about cheating had been featured in "A Whole Lot of Cheatin’ Going On," Christian Science Monitor, January 19, 1999.