By Amber Allen
Town Hall events throughout this past academic year have covered topics including the freshman experience, the Bachelor in Science and Art (BSA) degree plan, diversity and success, flipped classrooms, and the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee (CTBAC). Dean Sacha Kopp gave an overview of past issues and explained measures the college has taken to adhere to them.
The College of Natural Sciences has been aggregating student input through focus groups and student-led committees such as CTBAC. CTBAC has presented ideas including support for incoming students, restricted admissions to the college, and further diversifying the university.
The committee has also requested continued evaluation and update of degrees in the college, as the BSA approaches the final steps of approval. All of these measures attempt to ensure that the college will continue to improve and present opportunities that best serves its students. If you want to be a part of this movement, participate in future Town Hall events, as the college will continue to hold them throughout the next academic year.
In comparison to more moderate growth across the university, the College of Natural Sciences has increased its number of undergraduate degrees conferred by 102% since 1990. Why? Because of its small learning communities. CNS was the first college to introduce small learning communities and wants to continue to improve and extend these communities to maintain the increase in graduation rates. Dr. Kopp presented the newest proposal to College of Natural Sciences: CNS 101.
"101" does not indicate a course, but a community. CNS 101 is an institution for incoming freshman students at the university, and will be replacing what are now FIGs. The institution has four main focal points.
Community. Many incoming students are overwhelmed by the large classroom sizes and difficulty of communicating with professors. CNS 101 plans to provide small cohorts of twenty students that have weekly meetings for the entire academic year. Each group will have a mentor and a faculty/staff advisor. These students will interact with each other through their linked classes, lunches, and service projects.
Academic success. This will be achieved through consultation with mentors and faculty on study strategies and time management, as well as information on preparation and college readiness.
Career and Majors. In response to student desire to know their options up to and after graduation, CTBAC brought up the need for consistent evaluation and improvement for the CNS degree programs. CNS 101 plans to ask students for input and inform them of the improvements made while educating students about the variety of post-undergraduate career options for each major. Additionally, CNS 101 intends to resolve any cultural or family issues involved with students at the university.
Advising. This program aims to make students to feel more at ease with classroom issues through improved interaction between students and their advisors.
Q & A- Important questions asked by students and answered by the faculty panel at Town Hall
Q: Can students in organizations such as TIP, FRI, or POD also be in CNS 101?
A: CNS Honors programs, TIP, and FRI will be continued. These programs will become sections of CNS 101, and will be further improved. Honors programs will remain a part of CNS. POD and FIGs will be replaced by CNS 101. CNS is trying to maintain the same idea while improving these programs. The goal is to take all existing programs and make them better with additional CNS 101 ideas and make sure it’s available to everyone.
Q: What are the proposed improvements that will be made to the current programs?
A: Improvements include attaching cohorts to good teachers, continuation of groups through the spring semester, more social activities, improving the community, and encouraging better attendance. Improvements are not limited to these ideas; CNS wants to hear student opinion on what they feel will best serve incoming students.
Q: What will be required of mentors?
A: Graduate students and upperclassman undergraduate students can be mentors. Post-doctorates and faculty members will supervise these mentors.
A mentor must commit around five hours a week. This will include overseeing a cohort of twenty undergraduate students, planning social and service activities, collaborating with faculty leader on lessons to present at weekly meetings, and training every three to four weeks throughout the year. Also, the mentor must be available for training in May or late summer.
Q: How will students be placed in cohorts?
A: Placement consideration will start with majors, then continue with other factors to accomplish diversity. Assignments will begin with the wing meetings at orientation.
Q: Does “101” mean course credit?
A: No, it is just to convey “beginning” and an avenue to get into linked classes. However, future plans to make CNS 101 into a one-hour Pass/Fail credit have been discussed, but not confirmed.
Q: What if a student decides to drop the linked course(s) during one of the semesters?
A: Nothing will change. The student will still be in their respective cohort through both semesters.
Q: Is there an intiative to incorporate upperclassmen and graduate students?
A: The expressed need was not as strong for upperclassmen. CNS101 will be an experiment for what works and what doesn’t. The program could eventually be extended. However, CNS is focusing on first year students as of now.
Q: If a student starts out undeclared and then chooses a specific major, are they required to remain in their undeclared cohort?
A: The student will be able to switch to an appropriate cohort at semester when the change is made.
Q: What about transfer students?
A: CNS desires to extend this opportunity to transfer students. The college proposes that transfer student involvement will be voluntary, not required. Five cohorts of transfer student groups have been initiated as a trial run for the coming academic year.