Yale 101 offers yearlong help

Yale 101 is not listed in the Blue Book, but University administrators said they hope this new lecture series will help freshmen transition into college life.

Organized by the Office of Freshman Affairs, Yale 101 is a set of informational workshops and lectures held throughout the year and designed to offer assistance to freshmen beyond orientation. Administrators said the purpose of the program is to improve the current orientation experience — which has been criticized by students in the past for its lack of depth and inadequate preparation — by placing additional emphasis on crucial college skills. In its first year, the program has already sponsored a lecture skills workshop and a math and science tutors open house. A writing workshop and a series of Undergraduate Career Services talks about summer opportunities are scheduled to take place before the semester’s end.

“The program is evolving and we’re still experimenting,” Dean of Freshman Affairs George Levesque said. “We can’t have a month-long orientation, but we thought a year-long series that touched on some of the same themes that one might cover in a longer orientation program would be useful.”

The first workshop of the year was “Listening and Note-Taking Skills,” which Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Schenker offered Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. This particular workshop has been offered for the past 12 years, Schenker said, but is only now being joined by other similar sessions.

Schenker said his presentation, which approximately 100 students attended over the two sessions this year, emphasizes the importance of active learning — even in large lecture classes.

“Taking notes is not merely a matter of reflexive transcription,” he said in an e-mail. “[Notes] are rather the record of what the student processes while listening in the lecture hall.”

Schenker’s presentation, which uses videotapes of actual Yale lectures to help students find strategies for learning, owes at least some of its popularity to a requirement that all freshmen on the men’s and women’s swimming teams attend one of the sessions. At one of the workshops, Schenker asked for a show of hands indicating which members of the audience were on the swim team — nearly half those in attendance raised their hands.

Head swimming coach Frank Keefe said he has required attendance at Schenker’s lecture for the past eight years because he thinks the workshop is useful and because attendance at the session emphasizes to his athletes the importance of their academic work.

“The presentation is a great discussion of what you should be hearing in the classroom and how to find the meat of a lecture,” Schenker said. “Kids get overwhelmed while they’re here; it’s important that they are given opportunities to learn important skills that they might not otherwise think about.”

But some non-swimmers said they wish they had attended the lecture skills discussion. Simon Goldstein ’11 said he thinks Yale 101’s programs have the potential to be valuable, but that he was not even aware that Schenker had made a presentation at all.

Levesque said spreading awareness of the events is a priority in the program’s first year. An e-mail was sent to all freshmen and an ad was placed in the News before Schenker’s workshop, he said.

The next Yale 101 offering will be a workshop on writing essays led by Alfred Guy, director of the Writing Center. Guy said he would use examples of Yale students’ essays to address what he sees as the largest obstacle for freshmen writers — using sources.

“You’re supposed to be able to write as an expert — an insider, not an outsider in the academic world — on your first day, but that takes time to learn,” he said.

Guy’s presentations, scheduled for mid-November, will also introduce freshmen to the Writing Center and the residential college writing tutors. Freshmen already use these resources more than any other students, Guy said.

Some freshmen interviewed said they would be eager to attend Guy’s workshop in particular. Hannah Karmin ’11 said she sees a real need for discussion about writing at Yale.

“Writing essays here is different from writing essays in high school,” she said. “It’ll be helpful to hear from someone who knows what can make a Yale essay good.”

During the week following Thanksgiving, Yale 101 will feature a “Freshman Blitz,” Levesque said. UCS will make presentations throughout the week about various summer opportunities, ranging from fellowships and internships to community service opportunities, he said.

Yale 101 also featured an open house for the Math and Science Tutoring Program that was held Oct. 8.

Many students — including Steelsen Smith ’11 and others who attended these first events — said they think Yale 101 fills an important gap in the Yale education.

“You can never know enough about how to learn,” Smith said. “Even if you’re a Yale student.”

Josh Tannen ’11 said he thinks students here — by virtue of their acceptance to Yale — are already competent in the areas on which the workshops focus.

“I’m at Yale,” he said. “I don’t really have problems with these sorts of issues.”

Levesque said topics for future presentations are still unclear, but that he will continue to seek input from representatives on the 24-member Freshman Class Council and freshmen counselors as to what offerings would be most worthwhile. He said the fall sessions are primarily focused on academics, while topics including time and stress management might be addressed in the spring.

The sessions, while primarily designed for and marketed to freshmen, are open to all students.

Comments