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Sophomore Seminar Overview

Sophomore Seminar Overview


Sophomore Seminar (SOPHSEM 2900) is an interdisciplinary studio seminar course that is focused on mentoring by core SAIC faculty, cultivating conceptual focus in the developing portfolio, expanding critique skills, and visualizing a unique curricular pathway. Each section of Sophomore Seminar is intended to be interdisciplinary in that students with various conceptual and material interests may take any sections offered and be fully engaged by the class conversation and critique. Students will engage in activities such as extensive interdisciplinary critiques, self-reflective writing about their practice, individual and small-group advising sessions with their faculty, development of a self-designed curricular plan, and documentation of a project from sketch to advanced stage, thinking about creative decision-making and process.

Sophomore Seminar is the first course in the three-course sequence of Academic Spine courses (Sophomore Seminar, Professional Practice, and Capstone), which is required for all freshmen who began their undergraduate degrees at SAIC in Fall 2015 and after (transfer students beginning Fall 2015 and after must take Research Studio for Transfer Students, Professional Practice, and Capstone).

Sophomore Seminar courses are offered in the Spring semester each year. Students should enroll in Sophomore Seminar during the Spring semester in which they have 30-60 credits completed. For most full-time students, this will be the fourth semester at SAIC, the Spring of their second year. This course is a prerequisite for all Senior Capstone courses, to ensure the Spine courses are completed in sequential order. 

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Course Description

What are the concerns that drive one's creative practice? How does one set the terms for its future development? Sophomore Seminar offers strategies for students to explore, reflect upon, and connect common themes and interests in the development of an emerging creative practice that will serve as the basis of their ongoing studies at SAIC and beyond. Students will examine historical and contemporary influences and contextualize their work in relation to the diverse art-worlds of the 21st Century. Readings, screenings, and field trips will vary each semester. Presentations by visiting artists and guest speakers will provide the opportunity for students to hear unique perspectives on sustaining a creative practice. One-on-one meetings with faculty will provide students with individualized mentorship throughout the semester. During interdisciplinary critiques, students will explore a variety of formats and tools to analyze work and provide peer feedback. The class mid-term project asks students to imagine a plan for their creative life and devise a self-directed course of study for their time at school. The course concludes with an assignment asking students to develop and document a project or body of work demonstrating how the interplay of ideas, technical skills, and formal concerns evolve through iteration, experimentation and revision.

Each section of Sophomore Seminar is intended to be interdisciplinary in that students with various material interests could take any of the sections and be engaged by the class conversation and critique. Of course, at SAIC, instructors always teach to their strengths and interests, thus readings and writing assignments in a particular section may reflect a faculty member’s discipline or departmental affiliation. Some faculty title their Sophomore Seminar courses descriptively and creatively, to signal the particular course focus to potential students, and also provide their own brief topic description, in addition to the Sophomore Seminar course description.

Students wishing to locate a faculty mentor within their particular area of study are advised to examine faculty bios and topic descriptions online in order to select a Sophomore Seminar course that best meets their identified goals and objectives. Academic advisors can also be helpful resources for helping connect students’ interests and goals with relevant faculty, in this area of the curriculum and all others as well.

Course Learning Goals

At the conclusion of the Sophomore Seminar course, students will be able to:

  1. Present self-motivated work of an iterative nature that demonstrates conceptual focus and technical ability as well as the beginning of a personal direction (Example of evidence: Documentation of Practice Project).
  2. Imagine, visualize, and communicate a self-directed course of study at SAIC that integrates curricular and extracurricular plans with life aspirations (Example of evidence: DIY Futures Project).
  3. Participate in a rigorous critique process in the art and design context that integrates peer-to-peer analysis and faculty to student feedback (Examples of evidence: At least three critiques, including at least two large group critiques).
  4. Demonstrate the ability to think, speak, and write clearly and effectively especially in regards to the developing body of creative work (Examples of evidence: Self-reflection AssignmentDocumentation of Practice Written Contextualization, participation in critiques).
  5. Display an empathetic capacity to respect, understand, and evaluate work made by a wide variety of artists pursuing creative expression in a broad array of disciplines (Examples of evidence: Self-reflection Assignment, participation in critiques).


Contact Us

For all questions about the undergraduate Academic Spine curriculum, please email