History and Background
The Semester In concept emerged from one of SFU’s signature programs, the Semester in Dialogue, a one-semester, full-time offering designed to inspire students with a sense of civic responsibility and encourage their passion for improving society. The Semester in Dialogue is unique in being the only undergraduate program at SFU outside of our traditional department and faculty administrative structure, an unusual position for any university teaching program.
The Dialogue Semester began in 2002 as a means to encourage student learning, inspired by the opening of the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, putting undergraduate students at the center of this initiative. The intention was to expand the boundaries of traditional education by creating deeper experiential learning, community engagement and dialogue-archive opportunities, thereby providing students with the inspiration and tools necessary to become active citizens. The Semester is thriving 18 years later, having completed more than 48 unique semester offerings to almost a thousand students.
The Semester in Dialogue is a rigorous, intensive program, and students have a workload similar to that of a typical full-time semester. The semester is open to students from all departments and disciplines who have completed 45 credit hours. Twenty students from diverse areas of study are selected for each program. Our recruitment process seeks disciplinary and experiential breadth, with admission criteria emphasizing motivation, community engagement, and accomplishments in addition to academic achievement. A typical semester will have students that represent 10 to 15 departments. A recent program, for instance, included students from archaeology, anthropology, biology, communications, economics, English, history, kinesiology, molecular biology, psychology, sociology, and women’s studies.
The Semester is a full course load (15 credits fall and spring, 10-credits in a full-time but shorter summer offering) and is presented as one seamless unit, but for grading purposes credits are divided into three simultaneous courses: DIAL 390 (Dialogue), 391 (Seminar), and 392 (Final Project). Students participate in the program Monday through Friday during normal working hours, either for formal class time or to work collaboratively with their peers and community partners. They spend time outside of formal class hours on reading, research, projects and writing.