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Faculty and Students: One-On-One
The benefits of direct student-faculty contact start right away

Sarah Lawrence believes learning is enhanced with close and frequent contact between students and faculty members. In fact, SLC students spend twice as much one-on-one time with professors as do students from other private liberal arts colleges. Because our focus is on actual learning rather than bureaucratic process, we don’t have distribution requirements or even majors. Instead, professors personally guide you toward realizing your goals in the concentration of your choice—or discovering a new direction you hadn’t yet considered.

Personal Advising, aka "Donning"

Based on the Oxford-Cambridge system, beginning in your first year, Sarah Lawrence assigns you a "don"—a faculty member who will be your close adviser throughout your years at the College. As the teacher of your First-Year Studies course, your don will get to know you right away. In weekly one-on-one meetings, you’ll build a relationship that will form the basis for his or her mentorship in subsequent years—not simply in course selection advice, but in helping you best develop your strengths and flourish at the College and well beyond graduation.

While students work closely with all of their teachers, the don remains the faculty member best able to help you  think about the connections between your work in different disciplines as well as reflect on the relationship between your academic and personal growth.

Students are free to change dons after their first year. Transfer students are assigned a temporary faculty adviser at the beginning of their entering year, and during the course of that year, select the don of their choice.

First-Year Studies Courses

The foundation of a Sarah Lawrence education, your First-Year Studies course will introduce you to methods of thinking and working, researching and supporting arguments, and written and oral communication you’ll find indispensable in college and beyond. What’s more, it will do all this while exploring subject matter chosen to enlighten and intrigue you. Whatever the topic, your First-Year Studies course will leave a lasting impression as it acclimates you to the College—and connects you with your don.

Examples of First-Year Studies Courses:

  • Achilles, the Tortoise, and the Mystery of the Undecidable
  • Amid the Tears and Laughter: The Political Art of Ancient Greek Tragedy and Comedy
  • Biography and Autobiography in 19th-Century Europe
  • Brains, Minds, and Bodies: Neuropsychological Narratives
  • Century of Revolution: Latin America Since 1898
  • Classical Music
  • Cultures of Nature: Environmental Representations and their Consequences
  • Democracy and Diversity
  • Global Inequalities, Economic Development, and the Role of the State
  • Health, Illness, and Medicine in a Multicultural Context
  • Language, Culture, Interaction, and Performance
  • Psychology: Child and Adolescent Development
  • Religion and Art in the Making of Europe
  • The Sociological Imagination
  • Visible and Invisible Ink: How Fiction Writing Happens
  • The Voice of the Filmmaker

Written Evaluations—Not Just Grades

Would you rather have a detailed written evaluation of your work in each course—or a grade without explanation? Sarah Lawrence challenges students to exceed expectations and provides them carefully considered feedback, avoiding a simplistic emphasis on grades. That way, you know exactly what your strengths are, as well as how you can improve. Considering each student as an individual in the evaluation process also prepares your professors to write comprehensive—and persuasive—letters of recommendation when you need them for employment or graduate school applications.

SLC students have about twice the one-on-one time with faculty as students at other institutions—and that’s even before counting the time students spend with their personal advisors, aka


Look Deeper

Bobby Elliott"My don has been a tremendous guide for me throughout. Most importantly, she has been a constant source of support, dedicated to my intellectual and personal growth and fulfillment."


Take an up-close look at the opportunities that come out of the student-don relationship:

Emily Lin and Drew CressmanIn summer internships, Emily Lin ’09 (Flushing, NY) worked with her don, Drew Cressman, on research investigating crucial immune system proteins. Watch video»

Alex PetersAs a research assistant for her don, Kim Ferguson, psychology student Alex Peters (Radnor, PA) worked with local teen mothers and in the Early Childhood Center; she also worked in the psychiatric adolescent unit at a hospital in White Plains. Watch video»

Ricky McGheePoetry student Rickey McGhee (New Orleans, LA) and his don, Suzanne Gardinier, met regularly to discuss writing and ways to reveal the self through attempts to communicate deeply with others. Watch video»