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Freshman seminars start today

BY LAUREN MILLS | AUGUST 24, 2009 7:05 AM

As freshmen wander the campus toting maps and schedules, there is a chance they are headed to one of roughly 100 seminars offered to first-year students.

“I thought they would be interesting ways to get credit hours,” said UI freshman Asher Stuhlman, who is taking three seminars this year.

He said he is looking forward to Video Games as Learning Tools, musing that the field seems underappreciated.

In 2004 the UI offered only 13 seminars. But, because class sizes are restricted to approximately 15 people, many closed before students had a chance to sign up.

“I really wanted to take Hairitage,” said UI freshman Zamira Fraire, bemoaning the closing of a seminar discussing the importance of hair to the African American experience.

Fraire leaned against the wall of a Daum hallway on Sunday, her curly hair held back with a bright yellow scarf, ready to head to the UI block party at the President’s Residence.

“My hair is a part of my identity, and I was excited to talk about it, but the class was full,” she said. “I am disappointed that [the seminars] are only for one year.”

UI Provost Wallace Loh wanted to increase the number of seminars this year, said Don Guckert, the UI associate vice president for Facilities Management. When Loh sent out a call for faculty and administrators to volunteer to teach a seminar, Guckert responded and decided to do so this fall.

His class, Lessons from the Flood of 2008, features firsthand accounts of UI administration, state officials, engineers, and federal agents who handled the disaster.

“It is very rewarding to teach a class like this and share what I have experienced,” Guckert said. “It is an opportunity for the administration to connect with students.”

Some seminars’ names require a glance at their descriptions to understand, covering unconventional subjects from outer space economics — which examines the burgeoning market for tourism in outer space — to superheroes.

UI freshman Jake Chappelle is signed up for Fictions of Environmental Disasters, in which students study films and texts dealing with environmental disasters.

“I like that sort of scenario — the end of the world, the apocalypse,” Chappelle said.

Returning students who took the seminars their freshman year remarked on their unique teaching approach, especially compared to other lectures and general education courses.

“You learned differently,” said UI sophomore Megan Bradley, who took two seminars her freshman year. “[The class] was more interactive, more about the students.”

Lounging in the air-conditioned lobby of Burge, she and friend Angie Campos, a UI sophomore, spent part of their night before classes snacking on treats from the cafeteria’s late night menu.

“I think everyone should take one,” Campos said, munching on a hot dog. “It is a good way to meet people and you really get to know the professor, without going to the office hours. I wish I could have taken more.”


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