Exploring the Liberal Arts

The broad network of advising resources available to first-year students includes the option of taking a voluntary, college-advising seminar, or COLA. These popular one-credit seminars are open to first-year students in the College and aim to foster productive, long-lasting advising experiences with their COLA instructors, who serve as their academic adviser until the students select a major.

COLA classes are limited to 18 students to facilitate lively seminar discussions. First-years may select COLAs covering course topics ranging from life on other planets ("Are We Alone in the Universe?") to seminars on food ("The Words We Eat," "Food Talk," or "Food and Culture") to the upcoming election ("Religion and the 2016 Elections" or "Watching the Election"). About 20 percent of the weekly class time is reserved for group advising topics, such as navigating the add/drop process for classes, exploring majors, and the summer internship and employment resources available at the University Career Center, study abroad opportunities, and more.

More information on the 80-plus COLAs being offered can be found at
Another College program, the Liberal Arts Seminars (LASE), helps students understand how to transfer the value of their liberal arts educations into lives of professional success.

The “Liberal Arts and the World of Work” seminar for first- and second-year students features guest lectures by some of the University’s most distinguished faculty, as well as accomplished alumni invited to offer students their perspective on how their liberal arts educations prepared them for their careers. A separate LASE, “The Liberal Arts and Professional Engagement,” requires third- and fourth-year students to complete a semester-long group project that includes career-planning visits off Grounds and organizing forums and roundtable meetings with professionals outside the University.

The Exploring the Liberal Arts (ELA) classes include course materials on study skills, leadership, and professional and strategic career development. In the new “Collect, Select, Reflect” ELA class, for example, students will learn how to use video/audio editing tools and other digital resources to assemble “learning portfolios” (for educational and reflective purposes) as well as “presentational portfolios” (for prospective employers and other external audiences).

For more information on LASE and ELA classes, see

New for the 2016-17 academic year are the Forums, an innovative way for students to fulfill their College Area Requirements in their first two years at UVA. Beginning with the incoming class of 2020, up to 200 students will be selected to participate in the five Forums — tailored groups of courses organized around a central theme or topic, such as epidemics, human impact on the environment, creative processes and practices, mobility and community, and visions of the good. The Forums were designed and are being led by some of the University’s most committed scholar-teachers, each with years of expertise researching their Forum topic.

More information on the Forums is available at