Science & Tech

Geosciences To Offer Six First-Year Seminars

Six seminars in the geosciences will be offered to incoming freshmen this fall semester through the university’s new First-Year Seminar program.
By Carol Trono, Texas A&M College of Geosciences July 17, 2008

TAMU geoscienceSix seminars in the geosciences will be offered to incoming freshmen this fall semester through the university’s new First-Year Seminar program. These one-credit seminars are open only to first year freshmen. Each will use a learning community setting to focus on a particular research area or topic of current interest.

First-Year Seminar courses help new students transition intellectually and socially into University life by participating in a class with 15-20 students led by a faculty member they can get to know personally. In this more intimate setting, students will be motivated to actively participate in their learning through critical inquiry, listening and contributing to class discussion, reading broadly from research sources, and writing original works.

Faculty from the College of Geosciences and Evans Library will lead the geosciences seminars. The topic of each course is based on the research or outside interests of the instructor, current events, and/or popular culture.

Dr. Gerald North, distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences, will lead two seminars on energy, water and climate change. Dr. Andrew Klein, associate professor of geography, and Dr. Mahlon Kennicutt, II, director of sustainable development and professor of oceanography, will lead a seminar that explores Antarctica’s past and future.

Students new to Aggieland will gain a unique perspective in a seminar offered by visiting assistant professor of geography Erik Prout titled Exploring Brazos County: Geographies of a University Town. Interim Vice Provost and Professor of Oceanography Luis Cifuentes’ seminar will lead students through the first steps to becoming a global citizen. Evans Library Associate Professor Katherine Weimer and GIS Specialist Miriam Olivares will lead a seminar on applications of geospatial technology beyond Google Earth.

“It is really exciting to see how many of the faculty in the College of Geosciences will be offering first-year seminar courses to new students,” said Björn Kjerfve, dean of the college. “In principle, this means that every one of our incoming freshmen and transfer students have the opportunity to participate. That is unique!”

While each course addresses a different topic, all will focus on common student learning outcomes. These courses will also be more experimental in nature than typical classes so most will be taught as Pass/Fail. All faculty and staff teaching a seminar section will have training in integrative learning techniques and first-year student issues.

These seminars for first-year students address two of the “big ideas” of the Murano Report: build faculty/student engagement through small classes, and create an academic culture of communities of learners available to all students. Learning communities enhance student learning and success, build connections between students and faculty, and link in-class and out-of-class experiences.

The First-Year Seminar program is an initiative of the offices of the dean of Undergraduate Programs and the vice-president for Student Affairs. It involves faculty and staff from eight colleges, the library and student affairs teaching more than 30 different seminars.

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