Harpur College, Student Affairs team up for freshman seminars
August 31, 2010Tweet
Every year about 2,200 freshmen arrive on campus with newfound freedoms and great expectations. They’re starting to explore new interests and passions as they try to decide on the right major and what to do with the rest of their lives. But they lack a full understanding of what college work entails and where certain majors may take them.
To give freshmen the tools for a successful transition while exposing them to the possibilities of a liberal arts degree, Harpur College of Arts and Sciences is collaborating with the Division of Student Affairs to offer eight seminars, open only to freshmen, that combine spirited discussion of intriguing intellectual issues central to faculty members’ research with strong adjustment strategies.
Each two-credit seminar, restricted to 20 students, will meet two hours a week. During the first hour, a Harpur faculty member will explore with students issues critical to his or her area of research. For instance, Harpur College Dean Donald Nieman, a historian specializing in law, race relations and civil rights, will examine Abraham Lincoln’s role in emancipation.
During the second hour, a Student Affairs professional will take what students learned in the first hour and relate it to the seven areas recognized as being most challenging for freshmen — time management, study skills, career exploration, leadership skills, campus resources, major selection and how to use the library for research.
New Student Programs Assistant Director Marinda Souva said freshmen need to know “when you do research, you don’t just type in a Google search and see what comes up. And when Wikipedia comes up, you’re finished.”
Nieman said he was pleased by his colleagues’ response when he approached them about the seminars.
“I asked seven and every one of them said yes,” he said. “I was delighted by that. I think the opportunity for this kind of intellectual interaction with our freshmen as they come in is really important. The opportunity to help them address some of the transitional issues is very useful as well. I’m excited about this.”
English professor Elizabeth Tucker, who will be teaching a course exploring ghost stories in American culture, said she jumped at the chance to teach a seminar.
“I think it’s very important to bring together living and learning on our campus,” said Tucker, who is a former faculty master. “Residential life is such an important part of the students’ experience. With the faculty masters and Student Affairs staff there are many efforts to make connections, but this is a new way to do it by combining academics and transitioning into the college setting.”
For Nieman, this intertwining of living and learning, academics and practical information, and students and faculty is what the University is all about.
“The thing that’s very special about Harpur is that we bring together very bright, highly motivated students with outstanding faculty,” he says. “We have students who really profit from being able to interact with and learn from research-active faculty. These seminars really allow us to do that from the get-go because we have some of the very best faculty members in the college – people who are very active in research and very respected among their peers – teaching these courses. So they really cut through the dichotomy of teaching and research, which I think is a false dichotomy.”
In addition to Neiman’s course, other courses are: New York City and Its Neighborhoods; Folk Medicine, Fact or Fiction?; The Global Energy Crisis; Do Judges Follow the Law?; The Science of Romantic Relationships; and Were Malcolm (X) and Martin (Luther King, Jr.) Polar Opposites?