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Welcome to SNC: An Enhanced First-Year Seminar Experience Debuts

Incoming students will see the addition of First-Year Seminar course options to their already robust First-Year Experience initiative at St. Norbert. These courses, debuting in the Fall 2022 semester, aim to replicate the intimate, collaborative class experience already met by upper-class students once they are deep into their respective majors.

Options from 10 extracurricular experiences will also be knit into the seminar.

A rich classroom experience ...

Students will choose from 25 course offerings in subjects ranging from math to sociology to geology to art. Ben Chan (Philosophy), the program’s coordinator, says that these courses are a chance for students to get a taste of a seminar-style class early on. Class sizes will average about 15 students, giving instructors the room to give personalized attention to students as they transition from high school to college. Seminar instructors will become a primary academic and college life resource for their students.

There was a pilot of the program last fall 2021, and the feedback surprised Chan, in a good way. “I was expecting it to be good, but something like 97 percent of students agreed to the question of ‘Was my instructor responsive to my needs,’” he says. “And even more striking to me was how positive the feedback was from the instructors. It’s been a challenging few years … so when we talk about meeting students where they are, that feels more important now than ever. This format where we have this more intimate relationship with our classes, it gives us a fighting chance to actually get to know our students and their needs.”

The program sets out to nurture St. Norbert’s collective and individual sense of belonging. It’s an extension of the goal of Joe Webb, vice president of student affairs, to provide opportunities to cultivate belonging for all students. With a mission to help students transition to college, all first-year students are encouraged to enroll in one of the courses where they will experience the best of what St. Norbert has to offer in their very first semester.

Chan says that students are coming to St. Norbert with incredibly different past educational experiences, especially in a world changed by the pandemic. The new seminars offer flexibility for instructors and the college as a whole to welcome in students and help them find academic and social success.

Chan is motivated to help usher in the program because it encompasses everything he loved about his own liberal arts education. “I had a similar experience to what we’re trying to do early on in my own education. It was really transformational for me. … It was the first place where I felt that I really belonged. In this classroom with these people.” He hopes that the seminar courses will motivate students to pursue their passions and find fulfillment in their education. The environment will give students the tools and resources to feel the passions of the instructors and have truly authentic encounters.

... and a great start on campus

The first-year seminar will also include a component drawing from the many extracurricular experiences available outside of the classroom. Students will be asked to pick five from a list of 10 extracurriculars identified as key for undergraduate flourishing at St. Norbert. They can attend individually or work with their FYE mentors and RA staff to pick events where they can meet up and go together as a group.

“We want them to feel welcome,” says Shelly Mumma (Student Affairs). “And it’s very important for students to make connections on campus, with other students and also staff and faculty members. … We want them to find someone they can have a discussion with, about what they want to do with their college career.”

On the list?

• The Involvement Fair
• An individual appointment with Career & Professional Development
• “Broadening Our Understanding of Consent” (a Title IX offering)
• A Heritage Week event
• An Emmaus Center event
• A conflict resolution workshop
• “Life in the Library: Your Place for Success & Succor”
• “Preparing for Academic Advisement & Registration”
• A Native American Dance event
• A financial literacy workshop

Events like these provide a chance to discover campus resources and gain tools for success. Back in class, there will be room for informal conversations about students’ take-aways.

Aug. 10, 2022