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Incoming freshmen listen as Professor Florenz Plassmann discusses economics during a "First Lecture" during summer orientation.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
‘First Lecture’ gives new students a peek at Binghamton classes
August 26, 2013Tweet
When new students start their studies this week, they will already be familiar with the Binghamton University classroom, thanks to a series of “First Lecture” events held during summer orientation.
“The ‘First Lecture’ is important in order to figure out how the classroom works and what the university’s expectations are,” said Peter Nardone, assistant director of New Student Programs.
The lectures were held on the afternoon of the second day of the orientation sessions. The hour-long gatherings in the university’s largest classroom – Lecture Hall 1 – featured faculty members discussing a topic from their fields after student orientation advisors provided basic “do’s and don’ts” to the soon-to-be freshmen.
The summer talks featured a guest lecturer, such as Wayne Jones, professor of chemistry, discussing smart energy; Florenz Plassmann, professor of economics, discussing the definition of economics; and Chris Reiber, associate professor of anthropology, discussing the concept of health. The three spent the 2012-13 academic year as interim dean and associate deans, respectively, of Harpur College.
“We offered (students) a taste of what a lecture is like at Binghamton University, but it was more than just a lecture,” Nardone said. “We wanted student-to-student interaction, as well, so we had the orientation advisors discuss study techniques, classroom etiquette, the syllabus, and the expectations of professors.”
The “First Lecture” concept came up earlier in the year when Nardone and his staff were discussing different ways that they could engage students during orientation.
“We wanted to start small and see where the concept went,” Nardone said. “We thought it would be a good opportunity to find a place within the orientation program for this kind of event.”
Nardone and his team decided that the lecture was best placed before students registered for classes on the second day. Incoming students were already spending much of their second orientation day preparing for registration by building potential schedules with advisors. Placing the lecture right after lunch and prior to course registration was an ideal fit, Nardone said.
“What if we did this type of event to try to ease the tension and stress of students before registering for classes?” Nardone said he asked his staff.
The plan received a positive reaction from the students who had to stand in front of hundreds of others and discuss life in the classroom – the orientation advisors.
“The OAs love interacting with their students,” Nardone said. “Whether it’s making announcements at big sessions or leading smaller, one-on-one sessions, they enjoy the interactions. They like the peer-to-peer work.”
The faculty members also did their own interactions, as they walked up and down the Lecture Hall stairs, engaging students on the day’s topic. Jones, Plassman and Reiber also spent the last 10 minutes of their talks giving tips and advice to the students on matters ranging from where to sit in class to time management to the importance of attending office hours.
“You hold the key to your success,” Reiber said. “In high school, your teachers reminded you what your homework was. They reminded you what to read. Your teachers and parents held up some portion of that burden for you.
“When it comes to college, you have to make the decision to be successful. You need to prepare, read the syllabus and attend class. We are not here to hear ourselves talk. We are here to help you learn. Give us a chance to do it.”
Nardone said he is open to having more faculty members participate in future “first lectures.”
“I think it would be good to have a variety of people doing presentations,” he said. “It’s part of a ‘making connections’ goal. If we can have a lot of faculty invested in our program, it’s better service for the students.”
The “First Lecture” events were just one change made to the 2013 orientation sessions, which were mostly held in July for new students in Harpur College and the professional schools. The orientation team also:
• Expanded orientation advising teams for new students.
• Added a “Money, Food and Books” session for parents.
• Offered a pilot math-placement examination to students prior to coming to their orientation session in collaboration with the Math Department
• Worked with Financial Aid & Student Records to provide an online portal for students to submit an ID photo. This made student ID available at orientation check-in.
• Purchased iPads for the orientation advisors to use.
• Expanded the Campus Resource Fair.
• Encouraged professional-school deans to speak at opening sessions.
• Showed “welcome videos” before orientation and during the opening session.
Nardone, now in his third year of leading the campus orientation sessions, said he is looking forward to getting feedback from new students about the “First Lecture” and other aspects of orientation.
“This is my passion,” he said. “I hope it transcends down through everyone else and that they put their best foot forward. I can see it with our staff. … We’ve made a lot of improvements over the past three summers.”