Ten student-led forums have been approved to run this fall, including many brand-new options. These forums range from Introduction to Tap Dance (DANC419.01) to Prison Education and Pre-College Pedagogy (SOC419.01). Students who participate in a student forum generally receive one credit.
According to Leonid Liu ’14, co-student leader of Reading Walden (ENGL419.01), student leaders of forums work with faculty sponsors to plan readings and assignments, and they must have a syllabus approved as well as complete other tasks in order for the forum to be accepted by the University.
Liu and fellow co-student leader Oren Finard ’14 hope that their forum will allow all involved students to discover Thoreau’s “Walden” on new levels.
“The fall of my freshman year, Oren and I took a course called ‘Thoreau,’” Liu told said. “In this course we read “Walden” more closely than any text I’ve ever read before. The conclusion that most students in the class came to is that there’s a lot that this book can teach us. Reading it only once was limiting, and many students wanted to revisit it.”
Andrew Ribner ’14, co-student leader of Preschool Math (PSYC419.01) as well as Education Policy (SOC419.02), has a slightly different goal for his forums.
“Ultimately, we want to show the University that there is student interest in education,” Ribner said. “There are no professors that are devoted exclusively to education, and we want to change that.”
Ribner’s Education Policy forum will include weekly guest lectures given by non-University professors as well as professionals in the field. These lectures will be open to all students.
Sydney Lewis ’14, another co-student leader of Education Policy, hopes the class will allow her, as well as other students, to learn more about recent changes in education.
“I’ve been really involved in Middletown schools in the past two years and in debates surrounding education reform, but I feel like I lack a basic understanding of the history of education and the current state of public education in this country,” Lewis said. “This class will provide a stronger background in national and state education policy to support activism on campus.”
Catherine Doren ’13, the third co-student leader of Education Policy, looks forward to hearing students’ views on the issues that will be discussed.
“I’m excited to hear peoples’ critiques of reform movements,” Doren said. “I think there’s a lot that needs to be changed.”
Each forum is open to up to 15 students. Forums are intended to allow students to explore their interests in greater depth. For Nathaniel Dolton-Thornton ’15, student leader of Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan (WILD Wes) (BIOL419.01), this means discovering and implementing new horticultural practices at the University. Dolton-Thornton participated in the forum as a freshman.
“I was hooked, and have been since then,” Dolton-Thornton wrote in an email to The Argus. “It’s a wonderful and almost intuitive concept — using natural ecosystems as a model for designing an agricultural system — and it’s just really fun to engage with the play and experimentation of actually figuring out what that means for us, in our place. And it’s a chance to get my hands in the dirt, which I always need at Wesleyan.”
Ribner also sees student forums as an opportunity for students to implement a hands-on approach to what they are learning in a way that may not be possible in a typical class. In his Preschool Math forum, Ribner and co-student leader Simoneil Sarbh ’13 will require that all participants teach short weekly math workshops at local preschools.
“I’m looking forward to exploring the way preschoolers learn,” Ribner said. “Even learning to count as a toddler is a process. They learn about three before they learn about four. For college students to get to see this is so interesting.”
Students can view a list of approved forums at wesleyan.edu/registrar/enrollment/student_forum_approved.html. Interested students should contact student leaders for more information and to sign up.