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January 29, 2021

The Inaugural First-Year Seminar All Virtual Class Is a Success!

We made history! The leadership team made up of Sandra (Sam) Brzoza, and student mentors Michael Urbanski and Vincenzo Gizzi led the first all virtual First-Year Seminar (FYS) course at Roberts Wesleyan College this past Fall 2020. The challenges we identified from the start included: how to build community, how to explore the history of Roberts Wesleyan College, how to do a virtual service project, and how to maintain the FYS themes of Learning, Living and Faith with our additional FYS theme of Shaping Attitude. We determined the best approach for building community was going to include biweekly Google Meets, weekly forums and weekly journals. The forum and journals included prompts that helped students write about their experience as a freshmen at college, life changes, family changes and personal challenges and struggles as they worked through their first semester of college. The Tuesday and Thursday Google meetings included guest speakers, assigned readings, student led presentations and other instructional topics. One student even asked if she could coordinate a forum for one week! Sophomore mentors Michael and Vincenzo quickly realized how important the journals were to help students express their thoughts, wishes and attitudes around life as first time freshmen in college. Michael and Vincenzo were able to share their first-hand experience with the students and connect easily to the issues the Freshmen students were facing. The valuable feedback they provided to the students helped the freshmen move forward.

Then came the service project, and what to do! This called for a hefty dose of creativity as we had students from India, Columbia and around the U.S. The leadership team (Sam, Michael and Vincenzo) decided to give students choices. The choices for service included the following: writing letters to homeless veterans to be distributed by the staff at the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester, NY, building memory aids for use at the Memory Care Unit at Cherry Ridge, St. Ann’s, serving as a pen pal (via email) with residents at Chapel Oaks, St. Ann’s, and lastly, making fall and Christmas decorations for the residents at Chapel Oaks, St. Ann’s. Students signed up for their area of interest and the service projects were a huge success! Here (You are an American Hero) is an example of one of the letters sent to our veterans and below is a picture of one of our Google meetings.

Teaching completely virtual FYS was a huge success for the students as well as the leadership team! Below, Paul Ziegler, Staff at Roberts, is guest leading a discussion on suicide prevention and mental health.

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