Students walking on campus

Your Student Directed Seminar

Get involved

If you are an upper-year undergraduate student (in your 3rd year or later) you are eligible to coordinate or participate in a Student Directed Seminar. UBC students can register in two Student Directed Seminars during their degree: once as Coordinator and once as a participant. View a full listing of current and past seminars as well as previous Faculty Sponsors.

The application deadline is in April and approved courses will run in the following academic year, usually taking place in Term 2. Applications are reviewed by an Advisory Committee and decisions are announced to students by the end of May.

Information Sessions and Proposal Writing Workshop

Information sessions are a chance for you to learn more about the proposal and selection process and the experience of coordinating a Student Directed Seminars.  Please bring along any questions you might have about your own application and we will do our best to answer them for you.

Proposal writing workshops are an opportunity for you to bring a draft of your proposal and work with your peers and our staff in refining your application. Focus will be given to the comprehensive two-week plan for your proposed seminar, which is one of the core requirements of the proposal.

To be informed when these information sessions and workshops are happening for AY 2019-2020, please send us an email at

Creating your Student Directed Seminar

Once you have a topic in mind for your Student Directed Seminar, you will need to:

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. 

Develop a course proposal

A course proposal is limited to 5 pages and needs to demonstrate the academic value of the course and reference appropriate readings, theories, research, or other academic materials. The course proposal is  your opportunity to build your idea into a clear and thoughtful course plan that links ideas to implementation. We want to see an outline of the assignments with identified weighting and grading plans. You may also want to include a short draft syllabus, course outline, and reading list to help us understand your plans.

Make sure the course you are proposing is unique, has not been offered previously, and does not duplicate an existing UBC course. Have a look at the Application Guide for more instructions on how to build a strong proposal.

Create a plan for assignments and grading

Assignments must be reflective of an upper-year class and allow students to integrate, apply, or learn deeply in the content area.  This must also include establishing a clear and appropriate grading scheme and weighting for assignments.

Create supporting documents for your proposal

We recommend including a draft syllabus, course outline, and reading list to help us understand your plans.  

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. 

Complete all components of the application package by the deadline

The application can take time so make sure you don’t leave this to the last-minute.

It was an interesting dynamic that allowed for views to be shared outside of the usual lecture seminar. It was a meeting of equals, all of us contributing and making a space for ourselves.

former sds participant

Finding a Faculty Sponsor

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.

Do you have a Faculty Sponsor in mind?

Great! Feel free to approach them about your request. You can send them a polite email or ask them in-person during their office hours.

Make sure you are very well prepared before you approach potential sponsors.  Have a written draft of your seminar proposal and some concrete ideas about assignments and grading.  They can provide you with advice and feedback but you need to approach them with more than just an idea and you should show that you are serious about doing the work required. Seeing that you are well prepared will give faculty members confidence in agreeing to be your sponsor.

You can also provide them with the FAQs for Faculty Sponsors which will help them understand their role, outline their responsibilities, and provide the academic context for the program. If they agree to be your faculty sponsor, make sure they fill out the Faculty Sponsor Form and ask them to submit that directly to us at

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.

Not sure who to approach?

Not to worry! Send an email to with the idea behind your seminar (topic, content, structure). We will use this information to provide some suggestions of possible faculty members that might be a good fit for your seminar. 

Application components

The following components are required to be submitted via the Online Application by Coordinator(s). If you are proposing with a Co-Coordinator, you will submit one application for both of you:

Seminar proposal

This is the statement of your academic idea. It can include a draft course plan, syllabus, readings, assignments, and grading schemes. We are looking for academically rich, challenging, and well thought-out courses that will create an exceptional learning environment for students. See the Application Guide for a more detailed outline of what to include in your proposal.

Unofficial copy of your grades (all years) from the SSC

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 and if you studied at another institution for a portion of your degree, please include those grades (if this is not possible, let us know). Instructions for how to download a copy of unofficial grades from the SSC are in the Application Guide.

To be submitted by faculty members directly to the program office:

Faculty sponsor form

This confirms that your Faculty Sponsor has agreed to supervise your coordination of a Student Directed Seminar. This is a fillable PDF that needs to be emailed directly from your Faculty Sponsor to by the application deadline. 

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 can be completed by any Faculty Member; it does not need to be filled out your Faculty Sponsor. This is a fillable PDF that needs to be emailed directly from your Faculty Recommender to by the application deadline.

Application timeline

April 7, 2019 - Application Deadline
May - Advisory Committee reviews proposals
May - Decisions communicated to students
August - Training for Term 1 Coordinators 
September - Term 1 seminars begin
October - Training for Term 2 Coordinators  
January  - Term 2 seminars begin

After your seminar is approved

If your proposal is approved, you will be 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 made available for registration to students at UBC-Vancouver as a 3-credit, upper level course. Minimum enrolment for each seminar is 8; the maximum is 15.

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

former sds participant

Student Directed Seminars

Student Directed Seminars

Brock Hall
1874 East Mall Room 1036
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1

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