ANGLES: Freshman Frenzy: Should Augustana continue First Year Seminar curriculum?

Yes, FYS teaches important college skills



Chaos reigns supreme as students flood the football field frantically looking for their Welcome Week group that corresponds with their First-Year Seminar (FYS) class. The next few days are packed with awkward ice breakers and arduous plenary sessions. Even the most introverted students are forced to get to know each other.

Knowing people in at least one class can help ease the anxiety of being submerged in an entirely new environment. FYS is an important and useful class that prepares freshman students for their future college careers.

Incoming freshmen can be overly confident in their writing and presenting skills. FYS engages students with a professor who guides them into college writing. FYS professors understand that much of the information they teach may be redundant; however, they also understand that it is important to reiterate these skills as they will  be carried through to graduate school.

Freshman Whitney Twitero explained she had taken writing and speech courses in high school, so she wasn’t too excited about taking FYS.

“I figured I knew how to write already in college, but learning from an actual college professor [helped me] understand how to write better for professors,” Twitero said. “[Kristen Carlson] is very picky about how she wants you to write.” Twitero also said that her high school classes didn’t prepare her as well as she thought for college writing. 

For my FYS class, we were required to give speeches and presentations based on our essays. I learned how to present professionally. For example, we were required to wear professional dress clothes or have points taken off. We were also shown how to make powerpoint presentations that enhanced our speeches.Learning these techniques has made me more confident about presenting projects in the future.

“I really like how supportive [Carlson] is of you and if you mess up, she really helps you through it. You’re actually learning instead of just hurting your grade,” Twitero said.

During the writing process of our first essay, my class went through an intense learning curve on how to write better and be more concise. Although it was frustrating at times, I am grateful for the lack of sugar-coating my professor showed because I was able to learn from my mistakes and spot them for myself later on. Although I still have a long way to go, FYS has helped me improve my college writing to prepare me for the future.

As a freshman, it can be overwhelming to start classes in a whole new environment without knowing many people. Having a professor who is there to answer any question we throw their way can ease that stress.

Macy Loechler, a student in the “Making Monsters Out of the Other” FYS, said that “[Julie Swantstrom, my professor] makes it really easy to talk to her about anything [and] she makes sure that you understand what you are supposed to do.”

My FYS class is called “Lost Tribes and Buried Cities,” and has an archaeology-based curriculum. As an anthropology major, I have been able to learn more about my field of study as well as learn how to cite in the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) style that is most common in archaeology writing.

FYS is a tedious class that may seem pointless to some; however, it is important to keep an open mind because there are still many things to learn. College is a whole new playing field where students must learn new plays and condition their writing to match individual professors. FYS turns the chaos of welcome week into a structured class of prepared and capable college students ready for their future.

Laura Johnson is a journalism and anthropology major from Canon Falls, Minnesota.


No, the curriculum is redundant



Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10:40 a.m. I am thankful I no longer have to make my way to a First Year Seminar (FYS) class.

This may seem like a controversial opinion but talk to enough freshmen and you’ll see it’s not.

I would like to acknowledge that I was in the first freshman class to take FYS, so my class was the guinea pig for the whole program. We provided a lot of feedback about the structure and curriculum that the FYS committee took into account.

However, I’m also a Viking Adviser in the freshman dorms, so I hear about FYS daily, and the general opinions seem to have remained the same.

FYS is neither beneficial to the students who take it nor to the professors who teach it.

According to Augie’s website, “In addition to its collection of innovative courses, FYS also enables you to connect with professors, your fellow students and campus resources, such as the Student Success Center.”

Making connections and forming relationships is what Welcome Week was specifically made for; the students in your Welcome Week group are the ones in your first-semester FYS class. FYS doesn’t really enable you to meet anyone outside of your class. You must do this yourself. Also, it feels like forced friendships are encouraged when all of us are perfectly capable of making friends on our own; after all, most of us have been doing that since kindergarten.

FYS is built on the notion that first-year students need an introductory class to writing, thinking critically and public speaking.

For the students that come into college with high school credits because they were told it would eliminate classes like freshman composition and public speaking, this is unfair. Many students, especially the high-achieving ones like we have at Augie, already know the basics of grammar, essay writing, critical thinking and public speaking.

I am not discounting the students who come to college without these skills. However, Augie also has invaluable resources such as the Writing Center, the Success Center, tutoring and learning accommodations for those that need it.

None of this is to say that the professors who teach FYS aren’t doing a great job; they are all wonderful professors who bring life into these courses. However, the overall curriculum feels laborious and at times, pointless.

The curriculum is not consistent throughout all of the sections. I have heard some freshmen who have already written two or more essays and given speeches; I have also heard some who say that their first paper is due finals week.

Many of these students came to Augie to focus on the one or two subjects they plan to get their degree in.

FYS is required for all freshmen, but the subjects don’t lend any aid to those who are in classes that don’t relate to their majors — either because they weren’t able to get into one or because there simply isn’t one offered.

“I think that the topics that are being presented only pertain to certain majors,” said freshman Maddie Reinarts. “The topics aren’t [all] relevant. In my class, for the whole first month, we literally talked about South Dakota’s hemp laws.”   

No matter which major students study, changes need to be made. FYS sections should be consistent with their assignments, a larger variety of sections should be made available, the class should be optional or Augustana should not continue with FYS curriculum.

But until changes are made, I’ll keep enjoying my free time (and the open washing machines) during  the FYS period.

Keeley Meier is a journalism and Spanish major from Savage, Minnesota.

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