Class for Freshmen Provides Support for Transition to College
April 01, 2010
For Mount Union College freshmen, perhaps one of the most important classes they will take only lasts 10 weeks, about half of the first semester.
The Liberal Arts Experience, or LS100, is a general requirement for all incoming freshmen. The purpose of the course, according to Dr. Michelle Collins-Sibley, the director of the liberal studies program and one of the coordinators of LS100, is to help students make the transition from high school to college, and to serve as an introduction to a liberal arts education at Mount Union.
Each LS100 class consists of approximately 16 students and a mentor, and these are critical influences - there to challenge and support the freshmen through their first semester and beyond. The mentors consist of faculty, student life staff and administrative staff members. These mentors voluntarily participate in the program, and serve as academic advisors until the students declare a major. Perhaps more importantly, they also serve as a support for the adjustment to college life.
"We call them 'mentors' because we really believe that mentoring is the purpose they serve through this LS100 experience," said Collins-Sibley, who coordinates the LS100 program with Michelle Gaffney, director of residence life; Deborah Lotsof, associate professor of theatre; and Dr. Pete Schneller, assistant professor of education.
Being in a small class of other freshmen is also an important component of the experience. It is an opportunity for the freshman to develop a bond and forge friendships with the approximately 15 other new students with whom they share this experience.
This year's class of freshmen have started on their first college assignment, reading "A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League," by Ron Suskind. This best-seller follows Cedric Jennings as he makes the transition from a student in a crime-infested inner-city school in Washington D.C. through his first two years at Brown University. Through the LS100 course, the freshman students will be discussing the book and eventually complete two essays that relate to it. This is the third year a shared learning experience for all freshmen involving a summer reading project has been implemented. This is also the second year that "A Hope in the Unseen" has been selected as the summer book.
The summer book is selected through a very thorough process involving faculty, mentors and students.
"We had a huge response that suggested selecting "A Hope in the Unseen" for a second year," said Collins-Sibley. "The student response to it last year was very, very positive. We believe this book has great relevance for students as they make the transition from high school to college and participation in the Mount Union community."
Part of the LS100 experience includes attendance at various college convocations, offered once each week during the scheduled class time. The first convocation of the 2002-2003 academic year will feature Cedric Jennings, the subject of the summer book.
Another important component of the LS100 experience is the student journal. Each student is required to make journal entries weekly, and the mentors respond.
"The LS100 classes share a common syllabus, but there is flexibility built in for the mentor," said Collins-Sibley. "Some classes will be attending concerts, theatre productions or other extracurricular events, and some will be involved in service learning projects. In past years we have had lots of participation in "Make a Difference Day" by our freshmen, and we are looking forward to that again this year."
In addition to discussion of the summer reading selection, LS100 students will be reading and discussing "Foundations: A Reader for New College Students," which contains a selection of essays that deal with a liberal arts education.
"LS100 is about developing intellectual skills, but also, letting students know what is available to them in terms of service learning, the arts and other activities on campus," said Collins-Sibley. "This year our theme is 'Community: What Brings Us Together, What Pulls Us Apart.' One of the reasons students come to Mount Union is this idea of community. LS100 offers them the opportunity to build a community in terms of a relationship with a mentor, a relationship with their immediate peers and in a larger sense, the entire Mount Union community."