Foundations pilot program takes flight

There’s a new feature on the docket of courses for new students this year, the Foundations Year Curriculum Program. Foundations is a group of classes being piloted at UNBC during the 2012-2013 semesters. It is based on themes of “intersections and conversations” and is offered jointly by six departments in the College of Art, Social, and Health Sciences.

Ideal for first year students coming from high school, Foundations is meant to improve their reading, writing, and general university skills to ease the transition into university. “It’s an interdisciplinary program. We wanted students to not only be exposed to a wide range of things, but to know the disciplines are interconnected, where you can take a single issue and view it from a variety of different perspectives and that they all have a legitimate perspective,” says Corbin Greening, a TA for FNDS 104.

“It centers on ideas of cohort building, to actually allow them to get to know one another and have a safe space for learning. It is amazing since none of them knew each other before taking classes. It allows them to work through the hardships of their first year, understanding what’s required and managing the work,” said Angele Smith, program professor and committee member.

So what should students expect in foundations year? Two themed courses, this semester they are Waves of Globalization and What is Security, as well as a skills based course meant to improve students writing, reading, and research skills. “When students are learning: What do we do at university? What is scholarship? How do we read scholarship? They’re actually reading the scholarship from the two theme based courses,” says Tracy Summerville, program committee member and professor.

Talking with some of the students in December at an end of semester exhibition of coursework projects in the Gathering Place, it was clear that they had gained much from the experience. Group Projects for their classes, People, Place and Culture, and Ways of Knowing were on display. In pieces named “Remixes,” students take readings such as 1984 and The Republic and reinterpret it through a different medium.

Student Casey Lisk (who painted the face of Big Brother from 1984 on grand scale for her Remix) said this about the program, “I would have probably failed first year without it. I’ve realized I would not have known about the [library] dataset, how to read an academic article, or how to talk with a prof.” Along with the three foundations courses Casey also took 2 additional courses and found the contrast between programs confusing. “It actually helped me remember, because I was constantly linking other courses together because foundations courses are linked, such as Women’s Studies. We were talking about suppression, and I kept linking that to simple things from Foundations like How do you know your place? What is your place? What is your homeland?

 This semester the students of Foundation Year will be talking courses by Paul Bowles, Heather Smith, as well as Dr. Summerville who will continue her skills-based classes from first semester. With 19 students signed up this year (all of whom have given glowing reviews about the project), it looks as if the Foundations Year Curriculum may be around for years to come. There’s even talk about a possible Foundation-type program within the Sciences says Keith Egger, “We’re looking at their experience, and their integration of disciplines and we’re thinking if we could apply this in the science system, or apply some of the concepts. We are interested in the whole issue of integrated knowledge across disciplines so students get a better idea of how things fit together and how scientists think about science… I think it’s important for students to learn how to understand content instead of just absorb it, how to critically evaluate it.”

By Leila Maheiddinibonab