Though this Fall semester is winding down, plans are already underway for on particular aspect of next Fall’s offerings.
The First Year Experience (FYE) Steering Committee began reviewing proposals Nov. 1 for 2018-2019 FYE seminars, the required course for all first-year students at Baldwin Wallace.
Each seminar is themed around a unique topic and includes both an academic and a transitional component. Every year, the call for proposals goes out for faculty, staff, and student course assistants to design and lead the next year’s FYE seminars for incoming students adjusting to college life.
The process of creating an FYE seminar begins with a faculty member submitting a proposal for the academic component, said Randy Molmen, professor of computer sciences and co-chair of the FYE Steering Committee. Avoiding having the focus of the classes be dictated from the top-down is quite purposeful, he said.
“The proposal for the seminar comes from the faculty member because they are the primary one teaching it,” Molman said. “We want them to propose things that they’re interested in, that they’re passionate about, where they think they can communicate that passion to students.”
In fact, this actually means faculty end up proposing interesting and unexpected options.
“Maybe it’s in the area they usually teach,” he said. “Maybe it’s not.”
This freedom of professors to choose any academic topic they’re passionate about as the basis for an FYE seminar leads to great variety in seminars, including those that might not seem like traditional topics, said Dr. Michael Dolzani, professor of English and FYE Steering Committee member.
“Faculty who get interested in teaching one or two sections are allowed to propose any subject matter that has some potential serious intellectual validity, even if it’s not an ordinary scholarly subject,” Dolzani said.
After a faculty member chooses a topic for their proposed seminar, they must fill out an FYE proposal form. There are three different proposal templates, said Dolzani: one for an FYE seminar that has been taught before, one for a modified version of an FYE seminar that has been taught before, and one for a new FYE seminar that has never been taught before.
In an e-mail to Baldwin Wallace faculty about the FYE seminar proposal process, Molmen wrote that proposals should include a title and brief description for the seminar, the seminar’s main goals, a summary of content and assignments, suggestions for when and where the course could be held, and ideas of faculty members and current BW students who could comprise the course’s required three-person leadership team.
The proposal must also state the goals of the FYE seminar and how those goals fit with the larger goals of FYE, which ensures that the proposals do serve the purpose of FYE, Molmen said.
“Faculty members have to show us how their proposal matches and advances these four goals: critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, clear communications — especially written — and understanding the BW mission,” said Molmen.
After a proposal is completed, that proposal is submitted through the First Year Experience Blackboard site to the 11-member FYE Steering Committee, said Molmen. The committee is co-chaired by Molmen and Marc West, dean of first-year students. It also includes representatives from various academic departments and members of BW’s staff and administration.
From Nov. 1 on, the Steering Committee reviews FYE seminar proposals for approval on a rolling basis, said Dolzani.
When reviewing the proposals, the Steering Committee takes several different elements into account and is open to working with faculty members to tweak proposals as needed, said Molmen.
“We look at the proposals and we say, ‘Does this advance the goals? Does it look like it’s going to be a good course? Does it seem like this is going to be something students pick?’ Because students have to pick these,” Molmen said. “It’s got to have a title that means a first-year student would want it. If we think it’s really close but could use some tweaking, we can talk with the faculty member that’s making the proposal.”
Once the seminar proposals have been reviewed and any needed changes have been made, “we approve the proposals,” said Molmen, “and Marc West does most of the matching of staff and faculty and course assistants.”
After a seminar is approved, a staff or administration member in charge of the college transition component and a student course assistant are assigned to the seminar’s leadership team, said Molmen. This team works together to teach the proposed course.
All accepted FYE seminars for the 2018-2019 school year will be listed as course offerings on Web Express by February 2018.