Freshman seminars provide exposure to University

The University has more than 40,000 students, 705 buildings and 17 different colleges. Traversing a campus this large can be a daunting task for the almost 8,000 incoming freshmen the University admits every year. In recent years, the University decided to create freshmen seminars, a series of classes across all colleges specifically tailored for incoming freshmen.

These seminars did not always exist in their current form. Most colleges had what were called first-year experiences. These were non-graded one hour courses. In LAS, there were opportunities for freshmen to have small classes together called learning communities or a one hour credit class called Global Studies.

Ruth Hoffman, director of LAS 101, saw the opportunity to merge the classes. The decision to make it a one credit hour course came from responses from students.

“We read thousands of comments from students who said the course, when it was graded, had a certain validity,” Hoffman said.

The courses have come to focus on academic skills as well as personal.

“We know our students need certain skills to succeed, not only in college but in life,” she added.

The skills include things such as time management, critically analyzing sources and developing good study habits.

While some students feel that the seminars are effective, other students do not see them as necessary.

Victoria Han, sophomore in Engineering, said she is in favor of the system currently in place. As a freshman, Han was enrolled in both a general orientation program and a major specific one. Han felt that the transition from high school to college was greatly eased by the seminars she took.

“I felt that they really helped me learn my way around the campus, and they helped me to learn more about my major.”

Other students do not respond as well as Han did to the seminars.

“A lot of the stuff is either common sense or things we learned in freshmen orientation,” said Maddie Rehayem, a freshman in media studies, currently enrolled in Media 101.

Rehayem said she has issues with the way the class has been run, specifically the group projects.

“They had us go around and take pictures of campus places and office buildings, a lot of which were closed when we could all get together,” Rehayem said. “It all seemed really pointless.”

Hoffman said that students like Rehayem will eventually learn to appreciate the skill set the seminars teach students.

“I’ve had seniors write back saying how valuable the skills they have learned in LAS 101 (are).”

When asked if the University plans on changing the seminars, Hoffman said they will remain as they are for the most part.

“We’ll always tweak it according to the response we get from students,” she added.

Next year’s plans include a larger section on academic dishonesty and a bigger emphasis on academic matters.