Student instructors to be dropped from orientation

Jackie Valley

Two-hundred less faces will greet freshmen next year in the First Year Colloquium: Flash Topics courses – the student instructors.

Terri Capellman, First Year Experience Program Director, said Lauren Pernetti, coordinator of University Orientation, informed her Thursday that the 200 student instructor positions would be eliminated after this semester.

Pernetti said she could not verify who ultimately made the decision. President Lester Lefton said Provost Robert Frank is a key player in the issue, but Frank could not be reached for comment.

“I certainly wasn’t unaware that there were changes coming,” she said. “I did not expect a total elimination of student instructors.”

Pernetti said the FYC program, known last year as University Orientation, has existed since 1978 as a team-teaching effort between student instructors and faculty members.

This semester, she said the university introduced a limited amount of the new Flash Topic courses, which aim to establish a sense of community among faculty members and freshman students by exploring various topics.

Pernetti said 62 of the approximately 180 current FYC sections are Flash Topics courses – such as “Harry Potter Goes to College,” “Culture of the ’60s” and “Shop Till You Drop” – and next year almost all sections will be Flash Topics courses.

Pernetti said the decision to eliminate the student instructors saddens her because of what she believes are benefits to both freshmen and student instructors.

“I’m terribly saddened because I know in the 20 years I’ve done this, what this means to the student instructors,” she said.

Pernetti said the 200 student instructors involved in the FYC program are a combination of classroom instructors, veteran student instructors who help train new instructors and interns who help oversee the program. All positions are unpaid, but students receive elective credit hours for their participation.

Pernetti said the student instructors help freshmen transition to Kent State by answering questions that faculty members may be unable to answer, such as using Web for Students and college life, while faculty members help freshmen adjust academically.

“I’m not sure either one could exist without each other, at least in presenting that balanced approach to the class,” she said.

Pernetti said between 30 and 50 students – about 25 percent of those currently involved – may be able to participate in a capacity not yet determined next year.

Even so, Pernetti said the student instructor positions currently available give students an opportunity to become involved on campus while helping others.

“It’s a way for those individuals who wish to get involved in the life at the university and make a difference in others’ lives,” she said. “This is the perfect way to do that.”

Senior history major Demitrius White, who has been involved in all aspects of the FYC program for five semesters, said his time spent with the program has been an invaluable experience.

“I would have done this regardless of whether I was getting paid or not,” he said. “The experience was more rewarding than a paycheck.”

But White said freshmen would also be at a disadvantage without the student instructors.

“I think that it is a huge disservice to our freshman population,” he said. “I feel the student instructor is a very important resource to our freshman students in the way that they can relate to us regarding questions and concerns just about college life.”

First-time student instructor Kira Carey, junior German translation major, agreed, saying she likes the “idea of having a community as a class.”

“I’m worried with the changes, it won’t be as good as it is,” she said.

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].