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YCP’s First Year Seminar: Learning college life through lively courses

April 26, 2017
York College First Year Seminar

“The Art of Genius.”

“Identity and the Self in a Digital and Pop-Culture Whirlwind.”

“The Harry Potter Phenomenon: Fandom to Scholarship.”

These are just a few three-credit courses available to first-semester freshmen. It’s part of YCP’s way of introducing new students to college, called First Year Seminar.

First Year Seminar and its companion program, First Year Experience, are designed not only to introduce freshmen to college-level work but also immerse them in the campus community.

A program of their own

Most colleges have some sort of introductory program for new students, but YCP takes a cutting-edge approach, says Dianne Creagh, who is director of the First Year Experience and also teaches a First Year Seminar course called “Disney for Grown-ups.”

“We call it a hybrid model,” she says. “It is about 80 percent college academic skills and 20 percent college success skills – things you can apply in every class like time management, personal management, and finding resources on campus.”

Another unique feature of First Year Seminar is the class fellow, or peer mentor. This is an older student paired with the class who adds another level of engagement for the freshmen.

Sophomore Ben Hinkel served as a fellow last fall, something he was excited to do because of his own First Year Seminar experience.

“Becoming a fellow felt like a natural continuation,” Ben says. “I just wanted to share the knowledge I gained from First Year Seminar and help the new students succeed.”

A different perspective on Disney

While the First Year Seminar courses are designed to be attractive to the freshmen, they usually have an unexpected twist.

Students registered for “Disney for Grown-ups” may think they’re going to watch Disney movies all semester, Dianne says, but the course goes deeper than that. It involves college-level reading, writing, and analysis. What makes it easier to get the students engaged, however, is the interest they already have in all things Disney.

“They have a personal investment in the topic, so it’s easier in that sense to get them to delve into harder readings, more complicated analysis because they already feel successful in the topic,” Dianne says.

Making connections

For Ben, the First Year Seminar course he took allowed him not only to get to know the York College campus but to get involved in downtown York, as well.

He and his classmates worked with Central Market to develop ideas for improvement, and they made presentations to the community. It was a challenging task for first-semester freshmen and an experience Ben relished.

“That was really exciting, nerve-wracking, out of our comfort zones,” he says. “But some of the ideas our groups came up with were actually implemented at Central Market.”

Ben says he’s still in contact with his classmates, and several have gone on to be fellows, as well. He’s also enjoyed the opportunity to connect with this year’s freshmen as a fellow.

Those relationships, so valuable to new students, aren’t only built with fellow students. Faculty members for the First Year Seminars are deeply engaged with their students, both in and out of the classroom, Dianne notes.

“The professors have a genuine care for their classes and connect with them to succeed as people, not just as students,” she says. “They spend time with students outside of class, they take them to movies, or go to the dorms for pizza. They make connections that carry on after First Year Seminar.”

Ready to take on college

First Year Seminar leaves freshmen ready to take on this new world of college. Ben says he gained confidence, leadership skills, and the knowledge that he was capable of many new things through hard work.

“First Year Seminar is a really good way to show you what college is,” he says. “No one will hold your hand, and that prepares you for the real world, too. It might not be what you’re expecting, but it’s what you need.” 

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