Calvin outlines details of new first year course


The curriculum for the new class First Year Seminar (FYS) is aimed less at Calvin’s mission statement and more towards helping students navigate their first semester of college.

First Year Seminar is a mandatory seven-week course for all first year students and will replace Prelude — the previous “welcome to Calvin” course that students have taken for the past decade.

Psychology professor Julie Yonker said that the new course, which will be pass/fail instead of a standard grading system, will help students deal with the practical challenges of their first semester.

“What we see is that on a regular basis fall semester first year is the hardest for students,” she said. “We want to help students transition, give them tools.”

One major goal of the course will be to provide students with the resources they need to navigate any problems they might encounter in their time at Calvin.

“[FYS] is the first resource which connects you to the institution,” said Mike Stob, dean of institutional effectiveness.

One of the problems that had to be addressed was Prelude’s tendency to be more theoretical than practical.

“Prelude had the tendency to feel superficial because it was just an introduction to DCM [Developing a Christian Mind],” said Stob. “Prelude was 10 years old and was in need of a careful look.”

FYS was developed largely based on surveys taken by students after Prelude.

But the First Year Committee was comprised only of faculty members and did not directly consult students in the process of developing the curriculum.

FYS also features the introduction of “c-talks,” a series of three-to-five minute videos modeled after the popular Ted Talks.

Some of these videos will be watched in class while others will be assigned as homework. Students will be able to pick and choose many of the videos they watch so that they can tailor the class to suit their needs.

The course will use the overall theme of vocation to introduce practical tools to help first year students transition to life at Calvin.

Despite the new curriculum and multimedia sessions, the new course will stay within the budget assigned to Prelude. The change will lower costs to students by eliminating the need to purchase course materials.

The course will be evaluated at the end of the seven weeks and will be reconsidered in light of next year’s potential core changes.