While college-life adaptation classes were offered as options in past semesters, freshmen are now required to spend some time learning about university life.
Although the University College 101 core curriculum requirement was approved last year, it was not required of freshmen until this semester, said Amber Manning, a graduate assistant and UCOL 101 teacher.
The class aims to help students become more accustomed to the university and college life in general, and class assignments often require students to attend events on campus and then write a paper on their experience, Manning said.
“Everybody gets to let their hair down, talk about what’s been important in influencing them,” said Pat Manfredi, director of University Core Curriculum. “Then we get to talk about, ‘Here you are. What do you want to look like as an individual four years from now?’”
Among assignments UCOL class is the lifeline assignment, which requires students to look back at significant events in their lives to see what has helped them to become the individuals they are, Manfredi said.
“The lifeline for me is really a way to understand where (students) are coming from,” Manning said. “We’re all human. We’re all here, and we’re all developing in our own ways.”
Manfredi said it is important to note that the instructors are connecting with students not just as an instructor, but also as a friend and mentor. If the students are having problems with roommates or making a transition, they have someone to connect with, he said.
“It is definitely part of the instructor’s role to connect with students,” Manfredi said. “That’s a major part of the course so that students begin to see SIU as their home and they begin to develop those skills that are going to make them successful when they hit their sophomore, junior and senior years.”
Events and political issues are often tied into class, Manning said. If students are going through issues as a group, the class will talk about the issue, she said.
“Because instructors relate to students on a personal level, it gives students and instructors the chance to bridge these (generational) gaps,” Manfredi said.
Emily Craske, UCOL 101 instructor and coordinator of Student Programs, said she tries to give students the tools to be successful, including knowledge of reference points on campus and important offices students need to know. However, she said it is up to the students to use those tools.
“I really try to be honest with them and let them know that everything is not going to go their way,” Craske said. “Everything is not going to go as planned, and sometimes you have to roll with the punches.”
Requiring freshmen to take this class and complete the assignments, especially the RSO assignment, can be useful for new students, said Brandon Truax, a freshman from Elgin studying architecture.
Truax said after attending an architecture RSO meeting as a part of the course assignments, it helped him to reflect on his experience.
Elizabeth Evans-Mosley, a freshman from Cape Girardeau, Mo., studying criminal justice, said the class would help students become more familiar with the university’s traditions.
In a Facebook poll posted on the Class of 2016 page, several students gave their opinions on the class. User Eric Palley said UCOL is not needed at all. User Rob Goodin said the class is a waste of time and money, and user Bradley S. Maschhoff said the class could be beneficial to those who pay attention.
Craske said she tries every class period to let students know she cares about them and their success.
“Those are powerful words that you can say to a student,” Craske said. “Should they need anything that maybe their parents or guardians or other friends can’t help them with, I am a resource they can use on campus.”