Teachers Weigh in on First Year Experience

By Laura McDonough

Whether they like the course or not, a handful of professors have been tasked to teach the new First Year Experience courses at Youngstown State University. The course requires they teach campus safety, career services and financial literacy.

Of those who returned requests for interviews, the response was typically positive. Most professors believe that the FYE courses are a step in the right direction to help freshmen succeed in college.

Donna Marie Walsh, the FYE professor for the business college, said these courses are beneficial to the students in the end.

“It’s meant to help our freshmen make the transition from high school to college and give them the tools they need to make better decisions,” Walsh said.

Some teachers reported that using Blackboard for the course was difficult during the first semester, especially for professors who aren’t’t used to using it for their courses.

“Any time you try to roll out a big new program like this, there are bound to be kinks here or there,” Walsh said.

Mary Lynn Janek, a part-time faculty member in teacher education, said she fully supports implementing the FYE courses.

She has taken her students on field trips during the class where she shows them exactly where resources are, such as the Andrews Recreation and Wellness Center, the Writing Center and the Center for Student Progress.

Janek said it is important to teach financial literacy because they may not have learned how to manage money before because they haven’t had to.

“I remember watching Oprah one time and college age and late high school age kids were on it,” Janek said. “And they thought the expiration date [on a credit card] was when you had to start paying it back.”

Karen Becker, the director of First Year Experience, has offered more structure to the courses since being appointed to the position in 2016.

“I think one of the biggest problems we had was that there wasn’t really a director, and now there is,” Janek said.

Janek said Becker helps make sure everyone is teaching the right material, and if someone sends her something they believe is helpful she can forward it to all of the teachers.

“There’s a more directed information line now that Karen Becker is in there, and we didn’t have that in the beginning,” Janek said.

Sean-Michael Doty, who teaches an FYE course for human performance and exercise science, said he thinks the FYE course is necessary for the students.

“I think it’s something that while students may be frustrated with, having all this extra work, I think it’s absolutely necessary for the long run,” Doty said. “If [the class is] not something they immediately appreciate, I hope in the future they’ll be glad they did it.”

Pamela Jayne Heggins taught an FYE course for counseling last fall and echoed Doty, saying she hoped that students appreciated the extra help the FYE course provides.

“The reason why they don’t appreciate it is the support system they’re surrounded by,” Heggins said. “YSU is aware that a lot of students are first generation college students and might not have an understanding support system.”

She said she had students from different local high schools who all planned on going to college after high school.

“They were really into it because … this was their plan to go to college, and it gave them a course of awareness for what to expect in the future,” Heggins said. “They were a great group of students.”

Heggins said her students expressed they enjoyed the course, made new friends and even joined Greek life because they were asked to attend campus events. She said that the course isn’t all good or all bad, it’s more neutral. She believes there are still kinks to be worked out, but that comes with anything new.