The First-Year Seminar Program includes intense intellectual interchange, both written and oral, in a setting in which all participate in critical thinking and analysis of arguments. Courses include discussion and debate on issues, examination of opposing viewpoints and written and oral assignments that help students learn to make explicit their ideas and thoughts.

Seminars enroll approximately 15 students per section and are taught by faculty from all academic divisions. Every student must enroll in and pass a first-year seminar during the first year of enrollment at Wake Forest.

Students who completed Assistant Professor Lynn Neal’s first-year seminar on “Surprising Spirituality: Popular Culture and Contemporary Religious Life” submitted comments about their experience.

Watch: Video clips from the Surprising Spirituality seminar » 4 min.

Alison Sielbeck

Dr. Neal’s class forced me to look at religion from a totally new perspective. I learned that religion takes many different forms and is found where we least expect it.

Alison Sielbeck Brentwood, TN

Josh Dewitt

Professor Neal challenged my traditional thinking of what religion is. In doing so, I feel more equipped to discuss what the relationship between religion and popular culture entails.

Josh Dewitt Sioux Falls, SD

Natalie Deuschle

Any teacher can spoon-feed materials from a book, but that’s not what you get in Dr. Neal’s class; here, you are actually encouraged to think and analyze. The class helped me to become more cautious when it comes to stereotypes and forming opinions not only in the academic realm but also in the real world.

Natalie Deuschle Knoxville, TN

Varian Tunstall

This seminar was actually not my first choice–it was my third! But after taking it I cannot imagine being in any other class. The reason I chose it at all was that I had lots of knowledge on the subjects of both religion and pop culture, but I was curious to know how they were intertwined. Dr. Neal prods us to think deeper and find a more significant analysis. She also challenges us to question our own beliefs and think about the beliefs of others.

Varian Tunstall Vienna, VA

Laura Pinnie

I was challenged to not only question my preconceived notions, but also to recognize why I had these preconceived notions. Dr. Neal helped me to recognize the deeper meaning hidden in various forms of pop culture and religion. This semester opened my eyes to a new type of learning, a type of learning where I was encouraged to think outside the box.

Laura Pinnie West Chester, PA

Jeffrey Turner

The “Surprising Spirituality” seminar required me to have an open mind and think critically about how I’ve traditionally defined religion. Without question this class will be a great assest to me as I continue my studies at Wake Forest.

Jeffrey Turner Mt. Olive, NC

Anna Simpson

Professor Neal asked many probing questions– encouraging deeper thinking and leading students towards answers and discovery rather than explicitly lecturing. The class was engaging overall, required appropriate scholarship (papers, lots of reading, debates and a final project), and taught me many things about our world.

Anna Simpson Annandale, VA

Mary Catherine Lindsay

The class proved to be incredibly intellectual as well as fun! One minute, we would be laughing about an episode of “The Simpsons,” and, in the next minute, we would be discussing the theological implications of that same episode.

Mary Catherine Lindsay Atlanta, GA

Photo by Ken Bennett
Web editor Kim McGrath


1. Surprising Spirituality
2. Romance for the Religious
3. Romancing God
4. First-Year Seminar

Listen to Lynn Neal discuss how she came up with the idea for her first-year seminar and what she hopes students take away from the course. (16 min.)

Listen to Mark Pinsky, religion writer for the Orlando Sentinel and author of “The Gospel According to the Simpsons” discuss religion and popular culture. (19 min.)

Department of Religion