One credit may change your life
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Hundreds of students pile into the lecture hall, take their seats and open up their computers to Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter. Conversation buzzes throughout the room. The last thing on anybody’s mind is what is going on in the front of the classroom.
Unfortunately, this is the environment of many large three-credit lecture courses at UB. However, the Discovery Seminars Program is going to change that.
The Discovery Seminars began in 2007 under the direction of then Provost and current President Satish Tripathi. The goal of the program is to enhance the undergraduate experience for UB students. The program provides students the ability to interact with a distinguished senior faculty member in a narrow focus in a small class environment.
Danielle Vegas Kuroski, program coordinator for the Undergraduate Academies, plays an instrumental part in the logistics of the program and ensuring its continuing success.
The American studies department offers diverse and thought-provoking courses such as Vampires and Zombies: Lives of the Undead and (In)famous. The department hopes more students will be drawn to the program due to these class additions.
“We aim to offer between 20-25 seminars each semester, with an enrollment of between 15-20 students in each seminar,” Kuroski said. “This means that in any given semester, there could be between 300-500 students enrolled in the Discovery Seminar program. Approximately 100 distinguished faculty have taught in the Discovery Seminar program since its inception.”
The program has been consistently growing since it began in 2007 and is now pulling professors from diverse disciplines, such as oral biology and the SUNY Buffalo Law School.
Dr. Donald McGuire, a professor in the classics department, is working to build upon the already vast program. He hopes to add new and innovative courses for the Spring 2013 semester.
“So many students come into the university and face large courses across their curriculum and don’t have any positive, direct interaction with senior faculty, which is also a point of frustration for faculty,” McGuire said.
McGuire faces these frustrations through his own experiences with teaching very large three-credit courses in massive lecture halls.
“I get students coming to me their senior year and their first words out of their mouth are, ‘you probably don’t remember me but…’ They’re going out into the job world without any personal and functional interaction,” McGuire said.
When students go to a professor for a letter of recommendation, many times they have not seen this professor since their freshman year and have no relational bond with them, which creates a disconnect, according to McGuire. The Discovery Seminars Program is attempting to change this.
The classes given within the program are only one credit. Professors hope this will be less threatening and intimidating than the large three-credit courses and will encourage more students to enroll.
The program aims to give students better insight into a discipline they might have interest in, without bombarding them with a sizeable workload that will overload their studies.
Many of the courses also deal with very specific and in-depth concepts of the field they wish to enter, which gives them a taste of what it might be like to either be in the major or take a larger course in the field.
“We have a wide range of courses being given this spring. We have psychology courses, including one on bullying, and oral biology is going to [offer] a course called ‘open wide,’” McGuire said.
With the wide range of courses offered in the spring semester alone, McGuire hopes more and more faculty will propose courses from their field because of the overwhelming response from professors across UB so far.
With many different fields of study engaging in the program, Dr. McGuire said the effects of every field will be diverse.
“Different professors see different programs in different ways. We just want students to take an interest and bring something away from the program,” McGuire said.
Geoff Brown, a sophomore pharmacy student, said the Discovery Seminars Program helped him choose a field of interest.
“I took a class that was on research with gastric acids and it definitely made me want to get into research in the field,” Brown said.
Dr. McGuire, along with his distinguished colleagues, are excited to see the turnout of the spring 2013 Discovery Seminars Program.