Creating your Student Directed Seminar

Overview

If you are an upper-year undergraduate student (in your third year or beyond), you are eligible to coordinate a Student Directed Seminar. UBC students can register in two Student Directed Seminars during their degree: once as Coordinator and once as a participant. You can view current seminars or explore past seminars and previous faculty sponsors.

Student Coordinators must complete mandatory training in Term 1 and be prepared to facilitate their seminars in Term 2 of the same academic year.

Applications for the 2022/23 Student Directed Seminars are now open. Follow the application instructions below and submit your proposal by Fri, May 27 at 11:59 pm.

Application timeline

  • Fri, May 27, 2022: Application deadline and application review by Advisory Committee
  • June: Applicants are notified of the status of application
  • July: Resubmissions due
  • August: Mandatory program orientation
  • September to November: Mandatory participation

Before you submit your proposal

There are a few things that you will need to prepare and submit a proposal. Before starting your proposal, be sure to read through the FAQs.

For more information, consider attending an information session and/or proposal writing workshop before applying. If you need one-on-one support, please book an advising session.

Proposal Writing Workshops

Get tips on how to create a detailed proposal ready for submission with a staff member from the Student Directed Seminars team. All workshops are held on Zoom. Please check back in the spring for proposal workshop dates.

Creating your Student Directed Seminar

Once you have a topic in mind for your Student Directed Seminar, you will need to complete the following steps.

Step 1. Reflect on your suitability for being a seminar coordinator

We are looking for academically motivated students who have a strong academic background and leadership experience that can translate to a classroom environment. Student Coordinators must be willing to engage in a true peer-based learning environment and share responsibility with the participants for achieving course outcomes. Becoming a Student Coordinator requires a significant amount of time and strong time management skills.

All Student Coordinators must complete mandatory training in Term 1 and be prepared to facilitate their seminars in Term 2 of the same year.

Step 2. Find a Faculty Sponsor

A supportive faculty member is an important part of your application process. They can provide advice and guidance and help shape your idea into a clear and intentional course plan. Ideally your Faculty Sponsor will be a tenured professor who has expertise in your proposed seminar’s discipline or a closely related discipline. An ideal Faculty Sponsor is someone who is interested in mentoring you through  course design and facilitation process.

Finding a Faculty Sponsor can be the most difficult part of your application process, but it doesn’t have to be if you start your search early. Reach out to potential faculty sponsors with information about who you are, your qualifications, and your ideas about the course.

You may want to direct your potential Faculty Sponsor to FAQs for faculty (pdf).

Choosing a Faculty Sponsor

Your Faculty Sponsor should be a tenured or tenure-stream faculty member. Sponsoring a Student Directed Seminar requires additional work that may not be included in the work terms for faculty with other appointments.


However, with the support and approval of a Department Head, the SDS Advisory Committee will consider seminars supported by colleagues other than tenure or tenure-stream faculty. In this case, it is important that such faculty members agree to take on this supervisory role voluntarily and understand that it is not a condition of their UBC employment.

If you don’t know who to approach

Responsibility for finding a faculty sponsor rests with aspiring student coordinators. We suggest you look to connect with a faculty sponsor whose interests align with yours and with whom you’d like to develop a close working relationship.  When ‘cold-calling’ professors to express interest in collaborating on an SDS, consider setting up a meeting to explain your interest, providing links to the SDS program and an abstract of your course idea.

If you’re really stuck, have a look through the list of previous SDS faculty sponsors or ask one of your current professors for ideas.

Step 3. Find a Faculty Recommender

Your Faculty Recommender cannot be the same person as your Faculty Sponsor. Your recommender should be able to attest your abilities in the key areas required to become a successful Student Coordinator, including leadership, facilitation, communication, and time-management skills.

The Faculty Recommender must submit the 2022/23 Student Directed Faculty Recommendation Form (pdf) and email it to student.seminars@ubc.ca by the application deadline. The email must come dfirectly from the Faculty Recommender.

Step 4. Develop a course proposal

The course proposal is a strategic document which helps demonstrate the academic value of your proposed course in a way that links academic literature and peer-based learning. Your proposal also helps to contextualize why your seminar would be an asset to the scholarly community at UBC.

Importantly, a strong course proposal clearly demonstrates how your proposed course is unique, including how the material has not been offered before and how it does not duplicate an existing UBC course.

The proposal is also an opportunity to build your idea into a concise and thoughtful plan that links an idea to implementation. Student Directed Seminar Proposals must include the following:

  • Seminar rationale (200-500 words)
    Include your academic focus, the gap you wish to address in the UBC curriculum, any informing literature or frameworks, and academic rigour.
  • Learning objectives
    Show the ultimate behavior change your seminar is hoping to achieve in terms of knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
  • Learning environment (250 words)
    Outline strategies or approaches to foster a peer-based learning environment.
  • Commitment to reconciliation and equity, diversity, and inclusion (250 words max)
    Write a statement indicating how your course will take into consideration Goal 4 of the UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan and work towards decolonization through the inclusion of Indigenous Ways of Knowing, culture, histories, and worldview. Also indicate how you will foster an inclusive, equitable, and diverse learning community.
  • Role of coordinator (150 words)
    Describe your positionality within the learning environment.
  • Coordinator suitability (250 words)
    Share your previous personal, professional, and/or academic experiences that have prepared you to successfully design and facilitate a seminar.
  • Seminar grading and evaluation
    Highlight the types of assignments and strategies for evaluation.
  • Seminar recruitment and selection (250 words)
    Identify the eligibility criteria for enrolment and strategies for recruitment and selection.
  • Seminar schedule and plan or sample syllabus
    Provide a schedule of topics or readings for the first 4 weeks, as well as the frequency of your seminar.
  • Reading list
    List the readings for the seminar on one page.

Step 5. Complete all components of the application package by the deadline

The application can take time, so make sure you do not leave it to the last minute.

How to apply

Submit your Student Directed Seminars Proposal by Fri, May 27, 2022 ​​​​at 11:59 pm.​​

Please be sure to submit your final seminar proposal form and your unofficial academic record using the online application form. If you are proposing your seminar with a Co-coordinator, you will submit one application for both of you.

Required application components

Seminar proposal

The committee is looking for academically rich, challenging, and well thought-out courses that will create an exceptional learning environment for students. 

Submit your final seminar proposals using the 2022/23 Student Directed Seminars Proposal Form (pdf).

Unofficial copy of your grades (all years)

We need to ensure that coordinators have the academic background to undertake this rigorous form of study. All coordinators are required to submit unofficial grades for all years at UBC from the Student Service Centre.

If you studied at another institution for a portion of your degree, please include those grades. If this is not possible, please let us know.

This unofficial record must be uploaded to your online application form when you are ready to submit.

Faculty sponsor form

This confirms that your Faculty Sponsor has agreed to supervise your coordination of a Student Directed Seminar. Have your Faculty Sponsor complete the 2022/23 Student Directed Seminars Faculty Form (pdf) and email it to student.seminars@ubc.ca by the application deadline. The email must come directly from your Faculty Sponsor.

Faculty recommendation form

This form should come from a Faculty Member who can attest to your suitability to take on the role of a Student Directed Seminar Coordinator. It cannot be filled out by your Faculty Sponsor. In other words, your Faculty Recommender cannot be the same person as your Faculty Sponsor.

If you have a Co-coordinator, each individual must submit a separate faculty recommendation form.

Have the Faculty Member submit the 2022/23 Student Directed Faculty Recommendation Form (pdf) and email it to student.seminars@ubc.ca by the application deadline. The email must come directly from the Faculty Recommender.

Sample Seminar Proposals

If you need help with your proposal

Book a one-on-one advising session to walk through your Student Directed Seminar Proposal. Meet virtually or select an in-person appointment, available Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Book a session

After your seminar is approved

If your proposal is approved, you are required to attend training to support the development of seminar facilitation and coordination skills and develop your seminar’s official syllabus, reading list, and materials. You will also need to schedule a class meeting time, book a classroom, and identify any guest speakers you might want.

Once this has been completed, your seminar will then be made available for registration to students at UBC Vancouver as a 3-credit, upper level course. The minimum enrolment for each seminar is 8, and the maximum is 15.

It has been the most wonderful and insightful educational experience of my life. Period.

former sds participant

Frequently asked questions

When do Student Directed Seminars run? 

Student Directed Seminars are expected to run in Term 2 of the year your proposal is accepted, after you have completed mandatory training in Term 1. In exceptional circumstances, some seminars may run in Term 1 of the following year.

Do I have to participate in training? When does training take place?

All seminar coordinators must participate in mandatory training in Term 1 of the year their proposal is accepted. Training is a requirement for running an SDS course. Training takes place in Term 1 and the dates and times are decided by each cohort.

I am graduating in the fall. Can I be a student coordinator?

All student coordinators must be undergraduate students for the full-year of the year their proposal is accepted (Sept to May) in order to complete training prior to course facilitation. This means if you submit a proposal in the summer and are graduating in Term 1 of the same year, you are unfortunately ineligible to participate in the program.

Is there a grade cut-off to participate in the Student Directed Seminar program? My grades aren’t perfect, can I still participate?

The Student Directed Seminar program works with students from all academic backgrounds. While there is no specific grade requirement, the SDS adjudication committee looks for students with a strong academic background. Aspiring student coordinators need to demonstrate both the capacity to undertake the time commitments of coordinating an SDS and the ability to facilitate a rigorous upper-level course. Academic performance is one component of the adjudication process.

How do I approach a Faculty Sponsor? Can you help me find a Faculty Sponsor

Some best practices to consider when soliciting a faculty sponsor include:

  • Providing background information about the SDS program, including a link to the program website
  • Providing some initial ideas about your proposed course, like an abstract
  • Providing a link to the Faculty FAQ page
  • Scheduling a chat or meeting to introduce yourself

Responsibility for finding a faculty sponsor rests with aspiring student coordinators. We suggest you look to connect with a faculty sponsor whose interests align with yours and with whom you’d like to develop a close working relationship. When ‘cold-calling’ professors to express interest in collaborating on an SDS, consider setting up a meeting to explain your interest, providing links to the SDS program and an abstract of your course idea. If you’re really stuck, have a look through the list of previous SDS faculty sponsors or ask one of your current professors for ideas.

Who makes a good Student Directed Seminar Coordinator?

SDS coordinators come from all backgrounds, disciplines and experiences. Some of the characteristics which make for a successful SDS coordinator experience include:

  • Strong time-management skills
  • A willingness to learn
  • Leadership experience
  • Strong communication skills

Training is provided to help develop facilitation, teaching and communication skills.

I’m not an expert in the idea I am proposing. Is this okay?

Potential Student Directed Seminar coordinators are not expected to be experts in the areas they are proposing; however, background knowledge and curiosity in the topic proposed is important. We look for proposals which demonstrate an academically rigorous knowledge base (e.g., academic literature and media).

I’m a graduate student. Can I participate in this program?

Unfortunately, the Student Directed Seminars program is only available to undergraduate students in good academic standing.

How are proposals adjudicated?

All proposals are reviewed by a committee of faculty, staff and alumni coordinators. The committee looks for many qualifications, including:

  • Academic rigour
  • Demonstrated gap in the UBC curriculum
  • Qualifications of the seminar coordinator(s)
  • Proposed learning environment and processes

All proposals receive feedback after their first review and some proposals may require resubmission before acceptance into the program.

If you have questions