FYE program to be rebuilt

The faculty held a forum Sept. 17 to discuss proposed changes for Guilford’s First Year Experience (FYE) program. The proposal contained three central goals: to create a more cohesive community of teaching and learning, to facilitate interdisciplinary teaching and learning, and to integrate Principled Problem Solving into the general education program.

Faculty discussed a revised edition of an initial proposal.

“The first draft was very similar to a five-year plan from the USSR,” said Zerbe, “It’s going to take a lot of work and time, but hopefully the faculty will get excited about the new changes.”

A central, overarching theme for the new program was a major topic of discussion during the meeting. Ideas for the theme include “Making a Difference in the 21st Century” and “Making a Difference in the Universe.” The latter was proposed to help fit historical disciplines, such as Medieval Studies, under the umbrella of a common theme.

While the proposal says that all FYE classes will incorporate the “Making a Difference” theme, they are not required to draw from the same content base.

The proposal outlines FYE curriculum as “a stand-alone course using (a professor’s) own discipline as a starting place for an interdisciplinary class, with deep connections to the common theme.” However, in order to follow the interdisciplinary direction of the program, some classes may be grouped into “clusters” with shared syllabi. Discussion of this matter is not yet finalized.

Some faculty at the forum expressed worry that having a common theme might destroy the individuality of their designed courses.

“Most classes will only require a bit of tweaking to fit the new proposal,” said Zerbe. “Anytime you do a curricular change, some people get excited and some people get scared, and some people anticipate getting very tired.”

The integration of Principled Problem Solving into the curriculum goes hand in hand with the new overarching theme. “Principled problem solving is a term we use to describe how we apply learning to working on real world problems,” said Zerbe, “It can be much simpler than, ‘oh let’s go work on poverty.’ Learning can be applied to improving much more specific aspects of our community.”

The forum also proposed the idea of randomized FYE class selection for incoming students. The idea behind this proposal (which will only be relevant if classes remain individualized) is to prevent the formation of academic “cliques” and provide an interest-diverse classroom.

Professors from many different departments shared their opinions about this idea at the forum.

“I have never had anything close to a homogeneous class,” said Jon Hatch, assistant professor of mathematics. Immediately after Hatch finished making his statement, other professors expressed the opposite, describing their own classes of 18-year-olds who shared the same exact academic interests.

Some teachers felt as though this phenomenon was potentially a positive one. “I think it is important for students to have a core group within a larger community,” said Associate Professor of Philosophy Nancy Daukas in support of allowing students to select their own FYE classes.

Other ideas brought up during the meeting include having a common reading for all FYE classes, making sure the workload in each class is at a shared level, and assessing the two-day week schedule.

It has also been proposed that the FYE program be renamed back to IDS 100 (Interdisciplinary Studies). The new name will reflect the new, community-based learning direction of the program, and allow students to follow a path from a communal IDS 100 as first-years to their specifically chosen IDS 400 during their senior year.

During a later interview, Zerbe stressed the idea of positive change.

“This is not just a nod, ‘Oh, we have a new name,’ or we’re just repackaging the whole thing,” he said. “We are really making significant changes here, and hopefully they will improve the community as a whole.