PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University’s award-winning Freshman Seminar program has scheduled this semester’s Final Project Fair for Wednesday, Nov. 18, from 4-6 p.m. at the Student Advising and Learning Center in the Lighty Student Services Building.
Displays of original research by Freshman Seminar students explore a range of issues including the causes for deviance and alcoholism, movie stereotypes of African Americans, gender and ethnicity influences on the music markets, dining opportunities in the Pullman/Moscow area and the accomplishments and successes of Philip Lighty, for whom the student services building is named.
Earlier this year, WSU’s Freshman Seminar Program was singled out by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators as one of six “exemplary programs” in the country for enriching the educational experiences of students.
The program was approved in 1996 to assist first-year students with their transition from high school into a large university community, explained Jean Henscheid, associate director of SALC and director of the seminar program. It replaced and expanded two smaller traditional study skills programs for students in the residence halls and others identified as being academically at-risk.
Fall enrollment in the seminars is 400. Another 150 take part in the spring semester.
The Freshman Seminars depart significantly from traditional courses. There are no lectures, presentations from experts, textbooks or tests. Emphasized are writing, visual literacy, using resources on the World Wide Web, working collaboratively with other students, and creation and presentation of multimedia compositions.
It is a computer-rich environment where students receive support from advanced undergraduate students who serve as peer facilitators and “hypernauts” skilled in computer applications.
Employing undergraduates also saves resources. The program’s human resource budget is the equivalent of two assistant professor salaries, but pays for 30 peer facilitators and covers stipends for participating faculty members.
The approach has been received very well by students, according to Henscheid. They say the program’s most valuable components include learning through new technologies and becoming friends with a small group of other new students.
Assessments of the program indicate grade point averages for at-risk students have been significantly better; grades in shared courses are better for the highest ability students; and a primary beneficiary group, in terms of improved grade point averages, has been those students just below the highest ability levels.