Benefits of required freshman class

by Jillian Ryks, University student

As a senior CLA student with close ties to the college’s First Year Experience program, it disappointed me that the Minnesota Daily failed to look at our curriculum on a deeper level and presented misinformed arguments.

Everything in CLA 1001 has been developed because of a need expressed by upperclassmen. In fact, three years ago, I was a first-year student who had anxieties surrounding making friends, connecting with student groups and balancing schoolwork. All incoming students share these concerns on some level, and CLA First Year Experience combats them by encouraging students to connect early with relevant resources, to engage broadly across campus and to plan carefully for their college experience. It is highly customizable to the interests of each student and can give some the nudge they need to take the first steps in student engagement. Assignments for the course are often experiential — asking students to “jump in” and to go to a student group meeting, an art gallery opening or any of the other diverse opportunities provided by the communities we live in. Students are also asked to explore their personal values, strengths, expectations and goals so that they can put these experiences into context. I understand how, if not taken seriously, it could seem like busy work, but it’s like the old saying goes: You only get out what you put in.

The Daily also mentioned “an informal survey of 50 CLA freshmen where 78 percent of students said the class wasn’t worth their time.” However, a survey conducted by the CLA of 1,800 first-year students showed that over half of the respondents do not feel that they possess good strategies for connecting with faculty members, and over half of first-year students agree or strongly agree that they need to spend more time exploring their values, interests, motivations and strengths. These are key topics explored in the course. In addition, nearly nine out of 10 of our incoming students see value in connecting with a more advanced student, and the center of CLA’s First Year Experience is a relationship with an upper-class program assistant who can give individualized attention to each student.

I love this campus and this school, but I have learned throughout my three-plus years here that there is no shortage of hoops to jump through. However, this course is not one of them. I wish that I would have had the support offered to this year’s first-year students, and I believe that if they put energy into it, this experience will challenge them to think critically.