Freshman Studies is an historical program which expands student perspectives

Devin Burke

Over the summer, the freshman class was initiated into the Freshman Studies curriculum en masse through the pages of the Communist Manifesto. From beginning to end, Freshman Studies will prove to be a very full two terms of lectures, papers, and discussions. The program creates a common bond between students and challenges them with its unique format. After Term II, few students leave ambivalent about their experiencesFreshman Studies has always attracted discussion, whether the topic is the program’s merits or the works themselves. Since it began in 1945, the curriculum has come to symbolize liberal arts learning at Lawrence. Over the years, Freshman Studies has changed to meet the needs of the times, students, faculty, and other academic departments. The reading lists change, the program has been reduced, added to, taken away, and restored. From year to year and class to class, the curriculum is as variable as it is steeped in tradition.

Some changes that have occurred in the program recently include more of an emphasis on what Freshman Studies director Peter Peregrine calls “faculty development.” All Lawrence professors are required to teach freshman studies within two years of their appointment. New professors attend seminars and workshops intended to gear them up for the particular challenges that the curriculum poses. This year, six of the ten new tenure-track faculty will be teaching freshman studies during either term I or term II.

During first term, new works include the Book of Job and Duke Ellington’s “Concerto for Cootie.” The Ellington choice was partly affected by the visit of Wynton Marsalis and the Linclon Center Jazz Orchestra. Marsalis, who will speak at a convocation on October 9, will speak on, among other things, jazz greats like Duke Ellington. Marsalis is one of the most acknowledged experts on jazz music.

The Shakespearean plays in the Freshman Studies curricula have been part of a growing tradition with ACTER, a British theater company, that will come to perform and give classes throughout campus. They are known for their interaction with students and for their exciting performances involving sparse sets and small casts that call for actors playing multiple roles.

The guest speakers are complimented by faculty speakers, experts who often bring different takes to a work than are encountered in class or in many critical opinions. Last year, for the first time, the lectures became available on the web and can be heard using Realtime Player. Soon after the lecture is given, the online recording will be available. Most of the previous two year’s lectures are currently available.

The Freshman studies program is a comprehensive one. Through the works committee, the assessment committee, the exam committee, the reading group, and the summer symposia, faculty and administration constantly review the works and the program. Much time and effort is used to keep the program up-to-date with the university and the students.

For a class that lasts just two terms of a typical Lawrentian’s twelve-term experience, the Freshman Studies program always remains that first lasting impression of college academia. It is a program that will be here for years to come and has much to offer both to students and faculty.