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What Classes To Take? First-Years Ask The Profs

Story posted August 29, 2011

thompson-at fairNeuroscience professors Rick Thompson and Patsy Dickinson (right) talk about courses with first-year students.

Sargent Gym was jammed with eager, slightly bewildered first-year students Monday at the 2011 Academic Fair.

The Orientation event brought all 485 incoming students face-to-face with Bowdoin professors from every academic department, who were lined up and ready to talk turkey.

The fair, which is part of a four-day Orientiation, lets new students ask faculty directly about courses, requirements and prerequisites. Afterwards, students met with their individual academic advisors to begin nailing down their course selections.

"It's an opportunity for students to get to know professors, get to know majors and departments, and get a sense of what might interest them in their first year," said Environmental Studies Chair Phil Camill.

It's also a chance to get a feel for professors.

"People want to know how much writing I assign and if it will be too much to do in conjunction with another class," smiled Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Brian Purnell, who is teaching a first-year seminar called Affirmative Action and U.S. Society.

"I've been telling them that all Bowdoin classes are challenging, so they'll be all right. I don't think I'm too tough, but we want our students to work. If it were easy then they wouldn't grow."

What people were saying:

Ben Cumings '15

Ben Cumings '15

"I was really wowed by the courses in the English department because they're more than basic first-year courses. They do have intros, but they also have very specialized things such as Prof. Watterson's Hawthorne course or the Shakespeare's Afterlives course, which is about the way Shakespeare is interpreted in modern times. It's great that we can jump into a first year seminar with something we're really interested in.

Even more than the subject of the courses, I wanted to meet the teachers, the people I'd be interacting with in the various departments. I think it's very important that I can gel with them, talk to them easily. So far it's been fantastic."

Sivana Barron '15

Biggest challenge? Definitely the amount of courses that are available to take. I looked at the course book and was overwhelmed by the number of courses and the multiple levels in everything. I'm going to meet with my advisor later this afternoon to discuss my first year seminar, he'll help me weed out the ones I want to do. Potentially, a psych class or maybe economics.

Greg Stasiw '15

Greg Stasiw '15

I'm Just trying to get a feel for what's offered and this is really helping me figure out what I want to focus in. I've known that I wanted to take Environmental Studies and a language. I also want to leave some room to explore, so I might take a drawing class and band.

Brian Purnell, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies

I just talked to my first-year advisees and got really excited about the Acting I class. I would love to take that class myself. I imagine it to be something that could really stretch a person's academic abilities -- to express yourself, or even make an academic argument, through the creation of a character. It just sounds really fun and I've encouraged some of my students to take it.

Brian Purnell share a light moment with a first-year student.

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