Students Learn Essential Skills in First Year Seminars
Exploring topics such as everyday law and world music, First Year Seminars aim to give Alma College students a taste of their future.
Students traditionally spend their first two or three years of study gaining background knowledge about their field of study, with few chances to participate in research or use their knowledge in applied learning activities. The First Year Seminars change this, says Alma College Provost Michael Selmon.
“First Year Seminars bring the excitement of research and hands-on learning to the beginning of a student’s program of study,” he says. “In this way, Alma students gain knowledge and valuable hands-on experience throughout their entire course of study.”
Students line up for the opening convocation in August 2010.
Each of this year’s 25 seminars, which begin for 400 first-year students on Aug. 27 during Orientation Week, is capped at 16 students. This allows students to get to know their professors on a personal level. With more opportunities to interact with other seminars, students also will have the chance get to know each other better, says Selmon.
“As an example, when students in the Famous Trials of the 20th Century seminar study the Scopes trial, students in the Your Inner Fish and Searching for Science Policy seminars will work with them, taking different disciplinary approaches,” he says.
In addition, students will have the opportunity to connect through shared experiential activities in places such as Midland, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Mackinac Island. These trips help students feel like they’re a part of the campus early on in their studies, which increases their chance to persist in college, says Selmon.
“If you look at what engages people and leads them to success, it’s a combination of both academic challenge and a supportive environment,” he says. “First Year Seminars make certain that students get a chance to experience both of these things.”
Other planned group activities include a special lecture by motivational speaker John Dau, a former “Lost Boy” of Sudan, and library and technology orientations. Students also will attend multiple department informational sessions to help them explore possible majors.
“Departments will talk about their majors, so students get can a sense of what a biology or English major is like and what courses they will need to take,” says Selmon. “This gives them a chance to not just hear about one thing they think they want to do, but it also presents them with other majors they may be curious about.”
Throughout the seminars, students will not only learn essential college skills, but they also will gain an understanding about what it means to be an Alma student.
“First Year Seminars will give students an appreciation for the liberal arts by encouraging them to think both creatively and critically,” says Selmon. “The seminars also promote community, and health and well-being. All these things are an important part of the Alma experience.”
Posted: Mon, August 15th, 2011 at 3:33PM