New seminar could replace FYE courses

Carrie Blazina

KentWired Video

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Video provided by TV2 Reporter Anthony Ezzo.

Kent State University President Lester Lefton discussed adding a freshman seminar to first-year students’ schedules at the last Faculty Senate meeting Dec. 12, and now his plan is one step closer to being implemented.

Provost Robert Frank now says he is going to create a “joint provost-Faculty Senate task force” to reexamine the current First-Year Experience courses.

Frank said whether FYE is phased out or incorporated into a new freshman seminar course, the course will be very different from its current model.

“I think it will be a class where students work and address really current issues across a multitude of disciplines like (looking) at concepts, philosophies, histories, economics, etc.,” he said.

Lefton said at the Faculty Senate meeting the course would be designed to boost freshman student retention. According to the Office of Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, Kent State’s Fall 2011 retention rate was 75.4 percent, which is the percentage of undergraduate freshmen who come back for sophomore year.

“A high-impact freshman seminar would enable all students to learn to reflect and apply knowledge as a first-year student,” Lefton said at the time. “I believe this could be a win-win retention program for students and faculty.”

Frank said he does not think most students are challenged enough by the current FYE model.

“FYE classes vary by colleges right now, and we think a little more uniformity in the model and frankly a little more integrated, challenging class for students might help them enjoy it from the comments we’ve got from students,” he said. “Students don’t always find it as challenging and engaging as they like.”

Students have varied opinions on their FYE courses.

“I liked the classroom setting, but the homework was worthless,” said Amanda Seitz, junior visual communication design major. She said the course required her to experience a variety of campus events like a football game or a student performance.

“You had to plan your schedule around everything that was happening on campus and do certain things certain weeks,” Seitz said, which made the class seem like “a hassle” and “another set of homework.”

Why should I care:

While students who have already taken a first-year experience course may not be affected by changes, any revamping or changing of the FYE model could make a big difference to incoming freshmen and the requirements they have to meet in the class.

This will be a prominent topic over the next few months or years, as administration will almost certainly ask current students for input about their FYE experience and what changes they would like to see.

Seitz said she would like to see some changes made to the FYE model.

“If (the new FYE model) is going to be a homework-based thing, then it should have more than one credit,” she said. “And if it’s going to be more of a ‘welcome to campus’ thing, I think it should be more … (going) on field trips, like, experience the campus.”

Freshman architecture major Kelsey Kinney said she liked some aspects of her FYE course but disliked her instructors, who were fellow architecture students called Student Success Leaders rather than professors.

While Kinney said she thought the class was useful in the long run because of the final project for the class in which she got to create a poster about a famous designer or architect in her field, she, like Seitz, disliked the community involvement requirement.

“I just felt it wasn’t really relevant to what my major was,” Kinney said.

Initially, the university would need to keep FYE in place, Frank said, until it can either be revamped or eliminated and replaced with an alternative like the freshman seminar.

Lefton said at the December Faculty Senate meeting researching and implementing the new course could be costly and require hiring additional faculty, but no other details are available at this time about cost or potential faculty additions.

Frank said the timetable for implementing the new or redesigned freshman seminar course is still up in the air, but he said “it will take one semester (to collect) the ideas and one for the campus to respond and create discussions on it.”

Frank said he has asked associate philosophy professor Linda Williams to chair the task force, and he will name other members and a co-chair in about a week once he gets recommendations from Faculty Senate chair Paul Farrell.

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].

Megan Wilkinson contributed additional reporting and interviewing.