Revamped class splits professors’ opinions

Kiera Manion-Fischer

Faculty discussed concerns about changes to the First Year Colloquium class at yesterday’s Educational Policies Council meeting.

The Educational Policies Council is a group created by Faculty Senate and charged with academic planning. The council meets once a month to discuss and approve curriculum changes.

Gary Padak, dean of undergraduate studies, asked the council to approve changes to the First Year Colloquium class, formerly called University Orientation.

Changes will be made to the content, staffing and size of the class. Padak said the class will become “a more intellectually engaging topical course.”

The council was split on the decision, but it voted to approve the changes 15 to 12.

Provost Robert Frank, who chairs the council, said more details have yet to be worked out, and a working group will be formed to tweak the changes. Also, the changes still need to be approved by Faculty Senate.

“We’re clearly divided,” Frank said. “We need to have more consensus.”

According to the proposed changes, there will be less student instructors trained in the traditional orientation course content. The remaining instructors will have the opportunity to become peer mentors, and the class size will be decreased from 25 to 20.

Also, the name may be changed to “First Year Experience FLASH Point.”

Cheryl Casper, chair of Faculty Senate and professor of economics, asked what would happen to the common requirements of the traditional orientation class.

“I just don’t see the common body of experience that warrants it being a university requirement,” she said.

Padak said students need the information they were receiving in the old version of the class, such as study and test-taking skills, but not necessarily in a lecture format. The information will be provided during the Week of Welcome, electronically and in the form of seminars.

Tim Moore, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he liked the topic-oriented aspect of the course.

“It’s an ideal opportunity for faculty to share what they’re doing in their disciplines with students,” he said.

Music professor Tom Janson said he couldn’t vote on the proposal, because in his school, orientation has been mostly taught by the student instructors.

“We don’t have the teachers to spare,” he said about making the faculty more involved in creating course content.

Frank also talked to the council about reviewing the Liberal Education Requirements. He hopes to begin a conversation with faculty about Kent State’s philosophy of undergraduate education, as well as what that philosophy would mean for the curriculum and the first-year experience.

“What does it mean to be a Kent State student?” he asked.

Also, the council approved creating an interdisciplinary concentration in the fine arts major, as well as an acute care nurse practitioner concentration in the nursing master’s program.

Two new majors were created at regional campuses: a music technology major at the Stark campus and a respiratory technology major at the Ashtabula campus.

Contact academics reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].