The Classroom, The Campus, The City

Soon after incoming freshmen leave Colonial Inauguration, they will know GCRs from CRNs, and ESIA from SMPA. But while the CI staff and advisers provide information and assistance, it is just a student, the computer and a race against time during course registration on the last day of CI.

However, there is good news. Everyone is in the same situation, and administrators said they do their best to accommodate all students.

The more popular introductory courses such as Political Science 001 and Chemistry 003 are held in lecture halls in Funger Hall or the Elliot School of International Affairs building. The University also only allows a certain number of students to register for a class during each CI session, so there is ample space for all attending CI.

“The registrar is very good about holding a certain percentage (of spaces) in each of the courses so there’s the same availability for each CI group,” said Renee Clement, assistant director of CI.

Clement said the Registrar’s office has opened up new sections in some cases in previous years, if courses become full.

Professors of popular freshman lecture classes said they are prepared to teach first-year students and use different methods to engage first-year students.

Assistant Professor Martin Zysmilich teaches Contemporary Science for Non-science Majors (CHEM 003 and 004) in the fall and spring, sometimes dubbed “baby chem.” Although he has only been an instructor at GW for three years, Zysmilich said he quickly learned the best way to teach a 275- person lecture class – with Power Point presentations.

“When I started teaching in Funger I realized I couldn’t use the blackboard. I realized the only way to teach large classes was to use Power Point slides,” Zysmilich said. He added that he has received positive feedback from students about his teaching style.

Zysmilich’s creative and often humorous classes won him a 2002 Robert W. Kenny Prize for teaching. Zysmilich also said he incorporates Prometheus into his lectures.

Prometheus is GW’s online course system that allows students and their instructors to exchange information such as syllabus changes and discussion forums outside of the classroom. Professors are also able to post document files on Prometheus for students to download.

Before each lecture, Zysmilich posts the day’s slides on Prometheus. However, he said the slides are not the complete ones he uses in class. Although he said he does this to encourage attendance, only about 60 to 70 percent of the class generally shows up for lectures, he said. Labs, like those of other introductory science classes, are taught by teaching assistants throughout the week and are mandatory.

Other popular science classes for freshmen include Diversity of Life (BISC 003) taught by Elizabeth Wells and Introduction to Biology – Biology of Organisms (BISC 013) taught by John Burns.

In addition to science, mathematics and writing courses, many GW students choose to take classes in the social sciences. And since the University is in the heart of Washington – just minutes from the White House and Capitol Hill – introductory political science courses are popular for freshmen. In fall 2001 GW had 2,997 undergraduate political science students, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

Professor Maurice East has been teaching freshmen since 1995. Familiar with courses Introduction to International Politics (PSC 003) and Introduction to International Affairs: A Washington Perspective (IAFF 005), East will be teaching 240 students in his PSC 003 class this fall.

East’s political science class follows the basic structure of GW’s lecture courses. There are two 50-minute lecture classes per week and one discussion section with a TA. Like several other professors who teach in the Funger 103 or 108, East uses Power Point slide in his lectures.

“The slides I use are concept slides. They give the big picture, but students need to look at the context,” East said. “I use film clips, CNN, hotlinks from periodicals and government texts.”

However, East said he doesn’t post slides on Prometheus prior to class periods because he saw a drop in attendance when he did.

East said he holds his office hours in J Street, which he said is popular with students.

“When I meet in J Street, I’ll have six, eight, 12 students at one time. It’s informal,” East said. “We could end up talking about GW basketball as much as talking about weapons of mass destruction.”

In addition to PSC 003, the other introductory political science classes, Introduction to Comparative Politics (PSC 001) taught by Michael Sodaro, and Introduction to American Politics and Government (PSC 002) taught by Lee Sigelman, follow a similar class structure to East’s class and are also prerequisites for 100-level political science courses.

Sodaro’s lecture course is one of the largest classes at GW. In the fall, he will be teaching 300 students in the Elliott School building.

Denise Schroeder, a senior majoring in international affairs and political science, said she took PSC 001 during her freshmen year. She said that class lectures follow the book Sodaro wrote, and that attendance drops after the midterm because there is no final exam for the course.

Besides liberal arts classes, most students in the School of Business and Public Management must take economics courses.

Professor Anthony Yezer stressed the importance of economics to incoming students.

“This is an incredibly difficult subject. And that’s why there is great financial reward to those to know economics,” he said.

Yezer, along with professors Robert Dunn and Robert Trost, will teach more than 800 students in the Principles of Economics (ECON 011) this fall.

Yezer said his course is designed like any other standard economics course at a major university.

“I don’t introduce any topics not in the textbooks,” Yezer said. “I am a big believer in learning through problem sets.”

By testing students through problem sets Yezer said he tries to improve students’ logic.

“You have to go through several steps to complete word problems. I think freshmen, particularly, are used to questions where you can get an answer right away,” Yezer said.

Yezer said the word problems prepare students for what lies ahead of them after college.

“Some of the students don’t like the word problems,” Yezer said. “The bad news is that I give word problems. The worst news is that life is a word problem.”

Yezer said his classes have strong attendance.

“Attendance is pretty high. If everyone is giving midterms, though, attendance is about 60 to 70 percent,” Yezer said. “You are in big trouble if you don’t attend lectures. A textbook can’t dynamically show you how to solve a problem.”

Class of 2003 graduate Carissa Monfalcone said she wished she stayed consistent in the selection of her economics professors, after taking ECON 011 with Trost and ECON 012 with Dunn.

“My advice to freshmen is to pick an Econ. professor and then continue to take him for all of your requirements,” Monfalcone said. “That way you get consistency in what you learn and what you are supposed to know from semester to semester.”

For some classes that fulfill requirements and aren’t boring, click here!

And for some things to do around the city, click here!

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