About Arts First


New Arts students must successfully complete Arts First courses ARTS 130 and ARTS 140 to meet the Undergraduate Communication Requirement.

  • Both courses should be completed in your first year, one in fall term and one in winter term*.
  • You can take them in any order, but take only one Arts First course at a time.
  • Each section of ARTS 130 and ARTS 140 has a different topic, but the overall learning outcomes and goals are the same for all topics in each course. 

Message from the Director & Associate Director of Arts First:

The Arts First program promotes excellence in teaching with a focus on active learning in a small class environment. Students in Arts First classes can expect to practice communication as a means of critical inquiry.

Communication courses help students to develop skills in speaking, writing, listening, critical reading, and collaboration. They also build competencies in analysis, research, and the thoughtful assessment of information, evidence, and data. These skills and competencies will support student success in their academic careers and in their life beyond university.

Image of student speaking at Climate Strike Waterloo

Parul Tambe, Arts First 2018-19 Speaking at Climate Strike Waterloo Region, Sept 27, 2019

To create a unique first-year experience for students, Arts First courses foreground practice-based learning and background discipline-specific knowledge. These small classes create a supportive and engaging environment that allows for the building of a genuine community of learners.

While all courses foreground practice-based learning, Waterloo’s world-class faculty design these courses around pressing and exciting areas of inquiry. From the “Science of Happiness,” to “The Politics of the Climate Crisis” or “How to Lie with Statistics,” each distinctive section of an Arts First course is driven by faculty expertise to spark students’ engagement with the important questions of our moment.

Image of students touring the REEP House for Sustainable living

 Angela Carter's "Politics of the Climate Crisis" Arts 140 students touring the REEP House for Sustainable Living

Our aim and our hope is that through the Arts First experience, students become more effective and confident communicators, better able to understand and influence the world they encounter.

Robert Danisch                                              
Director, Arts First