FYS 101 needs to focus on the specifics

Julia Perkins

Most students on campus either hate their QU seminar series classes because they give too much work or tolerate them because they are easy. But the fact that a student’s enjoyment in their QU 101, 201 and 301 classes depended on the amount of work their professors gave shows why the classes needed to go.

The workload discrepancy was not the only problem with the seminar series. Faculty and administrators need to make sure the new First Year Seminar 101 (FYS 101) class actually teaches students, without forcing them into a situation where they need to write a bunch of nonsense busy work they don’t believe in.

For my QU 101 and QU 201 assignments, I often found myself exaggerating in papers about how the classes made me think differently about my role in the Quinnipiac or national community. Sometimes I did take something away from a reading or class discussion, but most of the time I could not because the courses were so rooted in the abstract.

However, my QU 301 experience was completely different because I traveled to a sugar cane village in the Dominican Republic, where I saw global problems, like poverty, with my own eyes. Since the class was focused on something concrete, I was able to understand the broader issues surrounding being a part of a global community.

When a course purposely tries to teach students about community or build critical thinking skills, it often fails. This is because these lessons must be learned organically. For example, I have improved my critical thinking skills through my journalism classes because I have needed to learn to look at the reliability of sources and evaluate articles. In doing something specific, I have developed a more general skill that will stay with me throughout my life.

If the FYS 101 course wants to avoid falling into the same trap the QU seminar series was in, the class needs to focus on teaching students something specific, rather than discussing the abstract. The FYS 101 proposal explains that the course will deal with the concept of “inquiry.” Students will have to develop a question that they want to delve into throughout their time at Quinnipiac, according to the proposal.

If done correctly, this could be a great way to make students curious about their interests and majors. But if throughout the course, professors keep harping back to this idea of “inquiry,” students are going to tune out. The proposal contains a sample syllabus for the class, which has students complete a paper titled: “How can inquiry help me understand the world?” Especially as a journalist, I understand how important it is to ask questions and investigate issues. But I do not know how I would write this paper without writing some disingenuous fluff. A more focused paper on how looking into a specific problem could shine light on community issues would be much more helpful toward students’ learning.

Getting rid of the QU seminar series is a step in the right direction for the university. It is great that Quinnipiac wants to revamp the courses to better drive home the lessons the QU seminar series was supposed to teach. Now the university just needs to learn from the setbacks the seminar series had.