Freshman studies evolves each year to meet student needs

Freshman Studies—the class that most Lawrentians have in common. All freshman find themselves with an unfamilar group of people studying unfamilair topics.

The course was created in 1945 by Nathan Pusey, the president at the time. The purpose of the course was to introduce freshmen to the liberal arts. The pillars of Freshman Studies are developing the students’ ability to read, think and write critically, even about subjects outside their areas of familiarity.

As important or unimportant as Freshman Studies may seem, there was a time when it didn’t exist as a two-term course. This resulted in students strongly disliking the course and not enjoying the set-up of the course.

From both a student and staff member’s point of view, Freshman Studies is a good transition into college writing and workload.

The course not only teaches students about liberal arts and other subjects that may or may not be in their interest, but it also teaches professors about other subjects. Director of Freshman Studies Megan Pickett states, “As instructors, we are also faced with the challenge of teaching material that is often outside our own area of specialization, and so we model for students how a liberally educated person analyzes such subjects.  These are often the most fun to teach, because we get to learn a lot from and with our students!” Therefore, instructors are also confronted with the task of teaching something completely out of their expertise.

According to art history professor Carol Lawton, who is also teaching Freshman Studies this term, “We get to know one another (other professors) and we all know that we are in the same boat. We also get to meet and know a group of freshmen very well. ”

As much as the professors enjoy Freshman Studies, students do, too.

“My class is more of a discussion between the students. So I really enjoy listening to the different perspective of my peers,” freshman Megan DeCleen said.

But a common question asked by previous students is, “What happened to this book? It was my favorite.”

Pickett explains, “The works are chosen in a couple of steps. Every division in the university has a list of approved works. The works are drafted by a committee that consists of the Freshman Studies director, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Academic Dean of Students and one faculty member from each division who will be teaching Freshman Studies in the coming year.  Two slates of works are created, and then the faculty who will teach Freshman Studies vote on the selection, usually around eighth through tenth week of the Spring Term.”

For the Winter Term, Pickett says there will be two new works, a film, short stories, an opera and Richard Feynman’s “The Character of Physical Law.”

Books come and go depending on the committee, but it doesn’t mean that only the committee and the professors teaching the course have a say in which works move on or get cut off.

Pickett clarifies that “there is student input, and that is part of the reason why we really need students to fill out class evaluation forms at the end of the term. As part of this important feedback, students rate the works in a number of areas, including whether the work should be kept or rejected, how well the work encouraged discussion, paper topics and so forth.”

She also encourages us and stresses the importance of student feedback, for we are the reason Freshman Studies exists, and therefore, our input is vital.