The course is designed to introduce Liberal Arts and Human Sciences majors to methods of undergraduate research, specifically in respect to their majors. It is taught through three weekly meetings: a large Monday lecture, a department-focused Wednesday class, and a Friday small group that collectively works on a research project for a final grade.
Last year, there was little focus on the department; it was not added until this year. Students wanted to see how research could be applied to their own individual major. On the other side of the spectrum, the administration firmly believes the program is effective for students.
The three weekly classes are meant to connect, but a noticeable complaint is that the course is too repetitive between the three meetings.
Some students do not support the program, such as theatre and psychology major Katie Conner.
“For me, I think this is a rehash class and there’s no new information that I’m getting at this point,” Conner said. “For me, it’s basically a dummy’s guide to college research.”
Director of Student Development in Undergraduate Academic Affairs Diana Ridgwell said that she understands why students like Connor feel frustrated with the course, but “they will have such a better understanding of what research is in their field,” as a result.
“For me, the Wednesday class is the only one I’m getting anything out of — and that’s your department meeting,” Conner said. “For example, I know some people in communication or political science feel like they aren’t getting anything out of their Wednesday meetings because they are such huge groups. I feel like if you could separate groups out of these larger majors, it would be better.”
“For another class I’m in, I have to write a 10-page essay for next week, so it’s kind of helping, but I already understand what we’re doing — it’s a little redundant,” said Emily Hurley, political science and economics major. Ridgwell said the more students hear a topic, they more likely they are to retain it.
“I would say that research indicates for first-year students it is important to reiterate the concepts repeatedly,” Ridgwell said.
According to Ridgwell, the course has been implemented since 2008 and was once available to students of any year, not just freshmen.
“I can see where a lot of freshmen think that they don’t have to do another science research project because they’re an English major,” Hurley said. “But there actually is research to do. Because it is a research university, it’s teaching research.”
The course also relies on student feedback for growth and development.
Ridgwell explained that unlike other FYE programs at Tech, the CLAHS program listens to student commentary.
Accordingly, the FYE has a faculty board made up of administration and peer facilitators. Students are required to complete weekly reflections. Each summer, the program is tweaked based off these class evaluations and reflections.
“I love feedback, because to me, it’s just more information to help us change the course for next time,” Ridgwell said. “The way we handle it is I ask the peer facilitators to send us any reflection they feel is negative, then I ask the students to come in and share their ideas, because that’s how you develop a course that meets student needs.”
Some form of FYE program is required by Tech for colleges to be accredited by the university. This year’s program is based off the University of Texas at Austin’s model. Their goal is now to make it fit Tech’s students. The college chose to have an academic approach to research rather than a program that acts as an orientation to the university to benefit students for the future.
“Sometimes they don’t see the relevance upfront, sometimes it’s not realized until later in their career,” Ridgewell said. “But we put the seed in to get them excited as they move on to do other things.”
Next year, Ridgwell believes this course will incorporate more technology through online activities, such as videos or interviews, in order to reach out to all the majors. But, none of it can happen without the essential voice of the students.
“It’s been built by students and will continue to be built and tweaked by students,” Ridgwell said.
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