Flash Topics to include student instructors

Kiera Manion-Fischer

Student instructors for First Year Colloquium will not be completely eliminated from the first year experience program, but their opportunities will be different, said Gary Padak, dean of undergraduate studies.

Padak said it will now be up to the faculty members teaching the Flash Topic courses of First Year Colloquium to decide whether they want to have student instructors.

Provost Robert Frank said in a statement that a group of 50 student instructors will be trained in the traditional course content, such as study skills, university policies and icebreakers. Flash Topic faculty members who desire a student instructor can request one from this pool.

The 200 student instructors currently involved in the program will have the option of remaining in the group of 50 or becoming peer mentors assigned to individual freshmen, Padak said.

“We know that we still have a lot of talented students who have jumped at the chance to be student instructors,” he said.

The intent of the Flash Topics courses, Padak said, is for faculty to design a course that is academically engaging for first year students.

Padak said this may also increase the retention rate, which is currently 72.5 percent.

He said the goal is to have 120 Flash Topics sections in Fall 2008 out of the 180 estimated sections of First Year Colloquium.

Lauren Pernetti, First Year Colloquium coordinator, said her office isn’t recruiting student instructors for next fall. Until now, student instructors had been recruited in the fall and trained in the spring to team-teach First Year Colloquium, formerly called university orientation.

She said, however, that there will still be opportunities for students to get involved — but a reduced number.

Pernetti said she isn’t sure if, under the new system, freshmen will still get the necessary information taught in the “traditional” university orientation classes, such as in the health issues.

“When the course was designed, you could require certain things (to) happen through the class,” she said.

Padak is teaching a Flash Topics course called “Understanding the World of Your Parents: American Popular Culture in the 1970s.” He said he’s still teaching the traditional content, such as study and time management skills, but he is not using a student instructor.

Padak said some of the traditional content will be moved to the Week of Welcome, become optional workshops or be introduced electronically after the PASS program, but before students arrive on campus.

Some First Year Colloquium student instructors are concerned about the changes.

Samantha Oliver, junior business management major, has been a student instructor for three semesters.

She said she thought the peer mentoring is a good idea.

“It would be a disappointment to freshmen to eliminate the student instructor role altogether,” Oliver said.

Chelsea Dulaney, sophomore early childhood education major, is teaching her first semester of First Year Colloquium.

“I was planning on doing it again for a couple years,” she said, “So it was kind of disappointing.”

Contact academics reporter

Kiera Manion-Fischer

at [email protected].