First-year students are overwhelmed when they come to school in the fall. But Castleton State College is all about having a big heart and making everything easier for their students and has a program to calm their nerves. Since 1997, every student has been required to take a first-year seminar class.
“The idea was to aid the tension from the transition of coming to college,” said Associate Academic Dean Renny Harrigan.
But is it working?
First-year seminar classes are offered in all different majors, and most of the time students get their choice. The common hour component of the course is typically Wednesday at noon, when the class meets, sometimes has lunch and does various activities on campus and off.
There are a few required common hour activities throughout the semester. A visit to the Academic Support Center and to the library are on that list. Some groups this year have already completed the library outing, where students are given a presentation about all the things that the library has to offer them and how they can access it all.
“It was a fun way to be reminded of where to look for things in the library and to learn interesting facts. The tour of where to look could have been more informative, but overall not a bad time,” said freshman Tamithy Bushey.
But some disagreed.
“Worthless,” said first year Lee Mohr. “I was there for an hour and learned that you could flip the magazine holder back to find more magazines.”
Amy Derick was equally unimpressed.
“It was my third time being brought through the same thing within weeks,” the freshman said.
Faculty members are welcome to volunteer to teach the FYS courses, and some get asked by administration.
“I look for faculty who is really committed to working with students outside of classroom and we also look at the student evaluations. They have to take an interest in students beyond the classroom, that’s just the way it has to be,” said Harrigan.
Professor Christopher Boettcher is a second-year faculty member and a first-year FYS professor this year.
“Coming to Castleton means joining a new culture, and it also means stepping up to meet a new set of challenges. It’s sometimes difficult for faculty and students both to understand that we share this common experience. That is, every faculty member has been through the experience of moving off to college, or starting a job at a new college, and we’ve all faced similar kinds of anxieties and excitement trying to figure out what to do in this new place, said Boettcher.
But are students really getting anything out of this?
“I think that most of the students think that they can’t like it, like it’s not cool for them to think its fun. But, from what I can see, my group really likes Boettcher and their common hours,” said Rosie Williams, Boettcher’s Student Orientation Staff leader.
“I think my SOS group enjoys common hour, however I’ve heard some of them call it “study hour.”I think that once the year progresses they will have more fun with common hour and their SOS group,” said SOS leader Maegan Walsh.
In order for FYS to be successful, leaders say everyone needs to be on the same page. But some students say they simply can’t see the importance of common hour.
“Orientation and our FYS class is really helpful. Our common hours don’t really seem to be doing much but wasting some time. But we’ve only had a few so here’s to hoping it can only get better,” said Bushey.