Value found within first year freshmen courses

Anna De SimoneContributor

Southern students often complain that required Liberal Education Program (LEP) courses such as Intellectual and Creative Inquiry (INQ 101), which is designed to prepare incoming freshman in their transition to college life, are a waste of time. However, many students like social work major Amber Drobnak, a sophomore said that the course successfully prepared them in their transition to Southern.

“They told me where all the important departments were located such as the student success center, and also where the counseling department was,” Drobnak said.

Bayleigh Takacs, a freshman who completed INQ 101 this past fall, agreed. She said that INQ 101 helped her adjust and feel at-home at Southern, and she wouldn’t change a thing about the program.

“It was an awesome learning experience and a great place for me to ask questions,” Takacs said. “I think the peer mentors are such an influence to the students by acting as a teacher and friend who is there for the students no matter the need.”

A peer mentor is assigned to serve as an experienced guide for students alongside each faculty member. These peer mentors are trained upperclassmen students who remain in INQ 101 throughout the entire Fall semester.

Freshmen peer mentor Emily McElfresh said she helps her students properly cope with their new-found, overwhelming amount of freedom by dedicating a section of her curriculum to time management.

“I do time management presentations during the semester if I see it is being severely problematic for my students because it is a key skill to have,” McElfresh said. “I personally have come across multiple students struggling with balancing homework, jobs, or social events, especially with the new engagement path.”

Dyan Robinson, Assistant Director of the First-Year Experience program, said the most common challenges that Southern freshmen face range from personal or social insecurities to lack of confidence in an academic setting.

Robinson also said “culture shock” that freshmen students experience. She said students leave high school a as seniors who are comfortable in their surroundings, and enter college not knowing what to expect.

“We all question if we are ‘smart enough’ at certain times, and I think first-year students in particular struggle with this” Robinson said.

Associate Director of Student Involvement and Leadership Development Eric LaCharity said his students struggle the most with their newfound freedom.

“While it’s very much something that can be seen as a positive of university life, students seem to be challenged with not having someone keep them on track” he said.

Freshmen students can also have difficulty with relationship building and finding their place in the Southern community, according to LaCharity. To promote student involvement on campus, INQ 101 created a new engagement path, which, as McElfresh mentioned, “is designed to push students outside their comfort zones to find something they are interested in joining on campus.”

INQ 101 has and will continue to evolve with each new school year. Robinson said the university is “always evaluating our course and our contribution to student success. with hope that our students will take what they have learned here and find success in whatever they do when they leave us.”

She also mentioned that Southern’s changes to the program are based off of what the students need, so it is a constant process. Incoming Southern freshmen can expect the course to function differently this Fall 2019 semester.

INQ 101 assists in reducing student self doubt by easing “that uncertainty, and helps students gain confidence by providing guidance, mentoring-by both peers and faculty, and campus engagement which promotes involvement” she said.

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