New First Year Seminars to Emphasize Writing Skills
The University has proposed changes to the First Year Initiative (FYI) Program, creating 15 First Year Seminar (FYS) courses that will emphasize writing skills and will be offered next fall for the class of 2016 to take the place of FYIs. The new FYS courses are a result of the discussions within a task force devoted to improving the current FYI Program.
The FYI Program consists of freshmen-only courses taught by professors who specifically volunteer to participate in the program. FYI courses admit a maximum of 19 students and focus on topics related to each professor’s expertise that are appropriate for first-year students.
“The rationale for the FYI is to facilitate the academic transition from secondary school to college by providing a challenging but supportive academic experience in the company of peers, to feel academically home [at Wesleyan] as quickly as possible,” the University website reads.
FYI courses do not have a particular proscribed structure or content; up until now, the only requirement has been the class size limit. These classes are especially small to facilitate more intimate discussion, exchange of ideas between students, and more personal interactions between students and faculty.
Although the FYI was launched as a pilot program in 1993, previously there has been no official evaluation of the program.
“Last year, before I was dean, I was asked to be on a FYI task force which is at the origin of the overall evaluation of the FYI,” Dean of the Arts and Humanities and Professor of French Andrew Curran said. “South College and the Provost [Rob Rosenthal] asked me—in consultation with the other deans—to think through the program and propose something else, with writing as a major component.”
The result are FYS, which will closely resemble current FYI offerings but will now emphasize writing as a major component of their syllabi. According to Curran, many FYI courses are being retrofitted to reflect that new emphasis.
“Students will simply have a serious writing component,” he said. “20 pages of polished writing, and a combination of pedagogical strategies associated with the teaching of writing: oral or written feedback, peer mentoring, group discussions about writing process in or outside of class, etc.”
In addition to traditionally writing-based disciplines such as history and English, the FYS program will also focus on science courses, and the FYI task force plans to add more courses that educate students on science writing.
“One of the things that these classes can do is to help students present evidence and documentation,” Curran said.
According to Curran, in the future, there will still be classes reserved for freshmen that will not include a heavy writing component, but they will not be classified as FYS.