FYS FAQ

What is it?

  1. What is First Year Studies?
  2. What are the benefits of taking a First Year Studies course?
  3. Am I required to take a First Year Studies course?
  4. What are the First year Studies Courses for Fall 2003?
  5. How is First Year Studies different from First-Year Experience?


How do I register for for a FYS course?

  1. How do I register for a First Year Studies Course?
  2. All sections for the couses I want to take are filled. What can i do?
  3. There still seems to be open slots for this couse, but I'm not able to register. Why?


What will a FYS course do for me?

  1. What are the goals of First Year Studies courses?
  2. What common experiences do students in First Year Studies courses have?


FAQs for Instructors

  1. How do I create a First Year Studies course?
  2. What are the requiremenst for First Year Studies couses?
  3. Who authorizes First Year Studies couses, and how are fiscal arrangements handled between the School of Humanities and Social Science and individual departments?
  4. Can departments ouside of HASS participate in the FYS program?
  5. What is the FYS summer workshop?
  6. I am intereted. How can i participate in these workshops?
  7. What is the future direction of FYS, and how can I get involved?
  8. What are its specific objectives and pedagogic goals?

 


What is it?

1. What is First Year Studies?

First Year Studies is a program, housed within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, offers a set of courses specifically designed for first year students. These courses aim to provide new students with an opportunity to understand the social world in which they will live and work. It is based on the liberal arts component of the student's education, and aims to develop such skills as critical analysis, imagination, and interpersonal communication. Many of the first year course offering will complement and enhance the student's future profesional concentration by connecting the liberal arts to issues of science and technology.

2. What are the benefits of taking a First Year Studies course?

First Year Studies courses generally take place with discussion sections of no more than 25 students. This permits more personalized instruction and provides students with space for active participation. Many First Year Studies courses also make effective use of teamwork and other forms of collaboration, which not only contribute to professional development objectives (much of the work world requires teamwork) but also provides students with an early opportunity to make strong social bonds within the classroom that they can rely on throughout their career at Rensselaer.

3. Am I required to take a First Year Studies course?

No. However, all students are required to take a substantial number of H&SS courses to graduate (24 credits, or approximately six courses). This means that students must enroll in an H&SS course during most of their semesters at Rensslear. It therefore makes sense to enroll in a class specifically designed for first year students. These courses are designed to help students make an effective transition into the academic program at Rensselaer

4. What are the First year Studies courses for next Fall?

A full list of the Fall 2003 FYS courses are posted at this website. Click here to see the list.

5. How is First Year Studies different from First Year Experience?

First Year Studies and the Office of the First-Year Experience are separate programs within this institution. Having said this, we work very closely with the Office of the First-Year Experience, given our similar goals. In general, the First Year Studies program, which is housed in an academic unit (the School of Humanities and Social Sciences) deals with the academic aspects of a student's first year at Rensslear, especially with regards to the non-technical part of their curriculum. The Office of the First-Year Experience helps students cope with their social transition to college life and also has general cognizance over the institute-wide first year academic curriculum. Their efforts also include   extracurricular and co-curricular programs, the latter which includes programs that involve direct collaboration between First Year Studies and the Office of the First-Year Experience.

 

How do I register for for a FYS course?

1. How do I register for a First Year Studies course?

At Rensselaer, first year students, including transfer students, register during the orientation sessions that generally take place during July of each year. Within the document, "Planning Your First Semester" distributed during orientation, is detailed information pertaining to all First Year Studies courses offered for the Fall semester. Students will be given additional information regarding registration procedures during their orientation session.

2. All sections for the couses I want to take are filled. What can I do?

Keep trying. Students add and drop courses all the time, so if there is a particular course you would like to take that is currently full, there is a good chance that you will find an opening later on. Make sure to sign up for another course in the meantime, just in case you are unable to get in to the course that you would like to take.

3. There still seems to be open slots for this couse, but I'm not able to register. Why?

There are some courses, such as IHSS-1970 Design, History, and Society, that is restricted to specific majors (in this case, Architecture). But more likely, you are hitting up against the fact that certain seats are being reserved for students who arrive at an orientation session later than yours.

What will a FYS course do for me?

1. What are the goals of First Year Studies courses?

First Year Studies courses aim to offer a wide variety of courses that draw on the disciplinary and interdisciplinary strengths of the various departments housed within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. All of the courses invite students in the first semester to relate their ideas and experiences within the new context of academic life. All First Year Studies courses draw on a broad array of pedagogic strategies (teaching philosophies) including, but not limited to those of critical thinking, written and oral communication, teamwork or group work, diversity / diversity of perspectives, and personal instructional attention. We also foster a sense of community, both within the classroom, as well as among all first year students at Rensselaer.

2. What common experiences do students in First Year Studies courses have?

Currently, there are three forms of common experiences that students enrolled in a First Year Studies course receive. These are:

- Team-oriented projects
- A shared lecture series
- A common theme for each semester that many FYS courses integrate into their curriculum

FAQs for Instructors

1. How do I create a First Year Studies course?

We would very much welcome new First Year Studies course offerings. Please contact the director, Atsushi Akera, directly at akeraa@rpi.edu.  If you are using a recent version of Internet Explorer, or another compliant browser, you may also download the Application Form for New Courses here.

2. What are the requirements for First Year Studies couses?

During AY 2002-2003, the FYS Faculty Advisory Committee, director, and director of pedagogy produced revised guidelines for new courses to be introduced into the program.  We have tried to put in place very flexible guidelines that simply requires instructors, for the most part, to adopt a "topics" approach that builds a course around a specific issue or theme that would be immediately familiar to first year students, and hence encourage their direct engagement with the course content.  (FYS courses should not be an "Intro to X" type course.)  We also continue to emphasize courses with an interdisciplinary orientation.  There is also a set of pedagogic strategies for the program.  While there is no expectation that any single course will fully incorporate all of these strategies, instructors should feel comfortable with the pedagogic approaches described under the heading of "Philosophy," above.   The information may also be found in the Application Form for New Courses.  In general, however, the uniformity of the program's pedagogic style is sustained through the two-day FYS Summer Seminar (substantial compensation is offered to all participants, including TAs) held in May of each year, as well as the optional Fall pedagogy brownbag sessions where all FYS instructors will have an opportunity to share their teaching experiences and philosophies.

If you are interested in developing a new first year studies course, please contact the director, Atsushi Akera, at akeraa@rpi.edu.

3. Who authorizes First Year Studies couses, and how are fiscal arrangements handled between the School of Humanities and Social Science and individual departments?

Beginning with the AY2003-2004 fiscal year, all FYS courses will be subject to regular three-year evaluations.  The FYS Faculty Advisory Committee currently serves as the curriculum committee for all FYS courses.  While the advisory committee can certify that a particular course and instructor can teach within the program, the ultimate decision regarding what courses to offer lies with the individual departments within H&SS.

The current fiscal arrangements are best explained in the context of the history of the program and institute budgetary policies.   As part of a fundraising effort for H&SS, the school received an $800k endowment, originally to support three dedicated faculty positions.  When the institute shifted to an incentive based budgeting system, the budgeting of participating faculty members was transferred to their departments.  This continues to be the practice, although it is under evaluation with the recent shift away form incentive budgeting.  Adjuncts who are teaching in the program are supported directly out of the endowment income.

4. Can departments ouside of HASS participate in the FYS program?

Yes. Under one vision, a number of First Year Studies courses would be team taught by faculty across the various schools at Rensselaer. This might involve a collaboration between an Engineering, Management, and HASS faculty member all of whom are dedicated to looking at a particular issue or technology (such as biotechnology) from different disciplinary perspectives. It is expected that at least one HASS faculty member be involved in such an effort. But aside from this constraint, we would very much welcome conversations across the various schools in creating innovative, interdisciplinary offerings for first year students.

5. What is the FYS Summer Seminar?

Currently, the FYS Summer Seminar constitutes one of the main venues through which we are able to carry out serious discussions about pedagogy as it related to university education and especially the training of first year students who are making a very important transition to academic life. The summer seminar, as described in more detail within the Philosophy section of this website provides an opportunity for FYS instructors and teaching assistants to discuss pedagogic goals and strategies. External speakers and facilitators are brought in to assist us with the process during these two-day paid workshops.

6. I am intereted. How can I participate in the Summer Seminar?

Please contact the director of pedagogy, Julie Gutmann, at gutmaj@rpi.edu.

7. What is the future direction of FYS, and how can I get involved?

The future direction of FYS is determined jointly by the FYS director, its director of pedagogy, and the members of the FYS Faculty Advisory Committee.  The committee is comprised of representatives from each of the five departments within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. If you are interested in contributing to the planning process for our program, please contact the director at akeraa@rpi.edu.

8. What are the specific objectives and pedagogic goals of the program?

For a detailed answer to this question, see the Philosophy section of this website.

(revised 8/12/03)