1. What is a "WittSem," again?
"WittSem" is short for Wittenberg Seminar. These are topical, first-year seminars designed by individual instructors or teams of instructors based on their interests. At its May 6, 2003 meeting, the faculty approved a motion to require all first-term, first-year students to enroll in a fall semester WittSem as a way of meeting the Integrated Learning goal in the General Education Program: "A student should gain an understanding of connections between differing modes of inquiry, experience learning as a shared experience, and see the relationships between the world of learning and their lives."
2. Other than fulfilling the "L" requirement, what do WittSems have in common?
In the same motion, EPC recommended a "core structure" for all WittSems. These courses will:
- help students understand the importance and practices of academic critical thinking
- help students become intellectually and personally engaged in the seminar topic and in academic inquiry in general
- be either math or writing-intensive
- meet for the first time during New Student Days
- integrate instruction on targeted high school to college transition issues
3. What will these "transition issues" be?
The 2004 WittSem faculty chose to use the same set of transition issues targeted in the pilot WittSem program last year:
- help students develop college learning skills (problem solving, reasoning, synthesis, comparison, analysis/critique)
- introduce students to the theory and practice of the liberal arts and liberal learning
- inform students of the importance of academic integrity at Wittenberg
4. So, academic advising is an option, not a requirement of the WittSems?
Right. We think the advising relationship is a crucial component of the WittSem program, but we also recognize that there are limits. At the May 2003 faculty meeting, EPC endorsed the following statement as a working principle for the program: "WittSems should typically be advising sections. However, some sections may not be advising in order to allow instructors to teach the course in two consecutive years without creating an unamanageable advising load." We'll leave it up to instructors to decide whether or not to offer their courses as advising sections.
5. What other options do I have in designing a WittSem?
Faculty may decide to teach linked courses with one or more WittSem instructors, participate in the learning/living program, or use peer mentors.
6. Will money be available for field experience and special projects?
Yes, the WittSem program budget includes money for "field experience." The field experience budget is intended to help WittSem instructors build out-of-class learning opportunities into their courses. Typically, this means arranging class trips to local museums, conferences, concerts, living history re-enactments, etc. Although the primary purpose of the budget is to support out-of-class learning experiences, we want to make some allowance for instructors who prefer using the money to bring an outside speaker or performer to campus. The approval process is simple. If you have an idea for a field experience project for your WittSem, contact Miguel Martinez-Saenz.
7. Do WittSems qualify for new course grants?
Yes. If you're teaching a new WittSem, plan to submit a new course grant proposal to the Faculty Development Board by its March 5th deadline. In preparing the FDB proposal, please follow the guidelines for new courses as listed in the Faculty Manual (Support and Services 7-8). But note this exception: WittSems will not require departmental or EPC approval. They will require approval from the General Education Committee, however, which will review WittSem submissions and forward its recommendations to FDB.
8. How were students placed in the WittSems?
Incoming first-year students view a list of available WittSems and course descriptions. During pre-orientation, first-year students fill out a course preference form that asks them to select their preferences for a WittSem. Those preferences along with their other course preferences are submitted to the Registrar's Office. The Registrar uses the preference list to enroll students in one of the WittSems they selected.
9. Do we meet our WittSems during New Student Days?
Yes. The WittSems will meet for the first time on the Friday of New Student Days. At this first meeting, WittSem faculty will have a chance to meet their students, pass out syllabi, and explain the design and goals of their courses. But it will also be an opportunity for faculty to introduce students to the academic style and expectations of the university right from the start. We hope students come away from this class session excited by the intellectual intensity and creativity of their WittSem.
10. What's a Peer Mentor and How Do I Get One?
A "peer mentor" is an upper-division Wittenberg student assigned to the course. Although the actual business of teaching the course remains in the hands of the WittSem instructor-(mentors are not "teaching assistants")-peer mentors will attend all scheduled class sessions, serve as role models for classroom engagement and behavior, actively participate with ideas and suggestions in course planning sessions with the WittSem instructor, assist in presenting classroom activities at the request of the instructor, and be available to students outside of class at designated times. Faculty should select their own peer mentors, preferably an upper-division student of outstanding character and academic achievement, and send those choices to Miguel Martinez-Saenz as soon as possible. Peer mentors will attend a training session prior to the start of the Fall semester. Peer mentors will be paid a stipend.
11. Can Students Drop Their WittSem?
Normally, Wittenberg students are allowed to drop a course with a "W" (which remains on the student's transcript) up through the 10th week of the semester. First year, first-semester students, however, are allowed to drop one course (with a "W") any time until the last day of classes in the Fall semester. (Remember, though: students must file a signed drop slip with the Registrar's Office in order to withdraw from a course, and this late withdrawal policy applies to one course only). This late withdrawal policy does apply to the WittSems, but students should know that it's difficult to fulfill the "L" requirement for General Education without a WittSem. It's not impossible, just difficult (because there are so few "L" courses in the Wittenberg curriculum).
Contact Ty Buckman
Associate Provost for Undergraduate Affairs & Curriculum