WSU Housing and Residence Life

Housing and Residential Life

First Year Focus

First-Year Focus and Academic Theme living options are living-learning communities in specific Washington State University residence halls. Through First-Year Focus, entering first year students select, with their Summer ALIVE adviser, a First-Year Focus course that they will take with a cohort of other first year students living in their hall. In Academic Theme living communities students with similar interests live together in a residence hall.

First-Year Focus enables freshmen to enjoy the benefits of living with other students with whom they share a course.


Assessment results have shown that choosing an Academic Theme living option or participating in First-Year Focus has resulted in these advantages:

  • Highest levels of student satisfaction with their residence hall and university experience.
  • More contact with faculty
  • Introduction to more campus resources
  • Better fall to fall retention at Washington State University
  • More out-of-class conversations about shared academic interests
  • Easier formation of study groups
  • New first-year friendships that include academic interests
  • Greatest educational benefit from room and board costs

The courses listed below are those that will be used in each hall for Fall 2019. Every hall has at least two First-Year Focus course that provide options appropriate for any major.  Those used for Fall 2020 will be similar, and a finalized listing of the Fall 2020 First-Year Focus courses in each hall will be posted in early May 2020.

First-Year Focus Classes by Hall for Fall 2019

Contemporary Ethnic Studies 101: Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies (3) [DIVR] Comparative issues in Asian American, African American, Chicana/o, and Native American cultures in the United States.

English 101: Composition 3 [WRTG] Course Prerequisite: Appropriate Writing Exam score or completion of ENGLISH 100 with an S grade. Designed to further develop students' academic writing, critical thinking, rhetorical strategies, reading, and library skills. Credit not granted for more than one of ENGLISH 101 and 105.

Entomology 101: Insects and People: A Perspective 3 [BSCI] The world's most abundant animals and their extensive effects on people yesterday and today. Typically offered Fall and Summer.

Entomology 103: Discover Insects: Laboratory for Non-Science Majors 1 (0-3) [BSCI] The biology and diversity of insects provide the context for training in the scientific method, including ways to take measurements, gather data, and organize information.

Fine Arts 101: Introduction to Art 3 [ARTS]  Course Prerequisite: For non-majors only. Appreciation of various visual art forms; emphasis on contemporary period.[PSCI]

History 105: The Roots of Contemporary Issues 3 [ROOT] Foundational first-year course that explores the deep historical roots of global contemporary issues relevant to students' lives in the 21st century. Credit not granted for both HISTORY 105 and 305.

Human Development 101:  Human Development across the Lifespan 3 [SSCI] Overview of lifespan development from a psychosocial ecological perspective; individuals, families, organizations, and communities and their interrelationships. Typically offered Fall and Spring.

Human Development 205: Developing Effective Communication and Life Skills 4 (3-2) [COMM] Enhancing interpersonal communication, leadership, and team skills through action-based learning

Sociology 101: Introduction to Sociology 3 [SSCI] Introduction to the discipline of sociology: Concepts and methods used in the inquiry into the social world. Typically offered Fall, Spring, and Summer.

School of the Environment 101: Introduction to Geology 4 (3-3) [PSCI] Introductory physical geology for non-science majors; emphasis on western US. Credit not granted for more than one of SOE 101 and 102. (Formerly GEOLOGY 101)..

School of the Environment 105: Natural Resources and Natural Hazards 3 [PSCI] Survey of key natural resources, the physical processes by which nature and society produce those resources, and the processes of related natural hazards. (Formerly ENVR SCI 102)

School of the Environment 110: The Environment, Human Life, and Sustainability 4 (3-3) [BSCI] Interactions between humans and their environment; multidisciplinary introduction to environmental concepts and concerns. (Formerly ENVR SCI 101).