SLU Students, Faculty Excited for New Academic Year
Very few days can blend excitement and anxiety quite like the first day of school.
You’re excited for what the new year will bring, what you’ll learn and the classes you’ll take. But seeing all the coursework and diving right into it on Day 1 can be overwhelming. And if you’re a freshman taking a college course for the first time — or a senior beginning their last year — those feelings are only amplified.
Fall classes at Saint Louis University officially began Aug. 24. However, the first day of classes at SLU was preceded by a long process that included students selecting courses months ago and faculty finalizing syllabi weeks in advance or even the semester before.
It's a process that Associate Professor of Mathematics Lauren Miller believes sets up both faculty and students for success.
“I see how many nursing majors I have and how many business majors I have to get a feel for what these students are going to need to get out of my class,” Miller said. “I want to make my class applicable to their majors so it’s easier for them to relate to the problems. I also look back on my notes from last semester, what went well and what didn’t, and I always try to make changes to my classes and improve them, to make them more interactive and less lecture.”
Miller consciously makes sure that her first day of class breaks from the mold of how syllabus day is traditionally held. Rather than read through a surprisingly dense syllabus, she gets her students up and moving right away, playing games on Day 1, setting the tone for the rest of the semester and showing her students it will, in fact, be an interactive class.
“I’m not a very competitive person, but we play a lot of games,” Miller said. “Polynomial division relay races, factoring bingo and the factoring Olympics. That’s the highlight of the year.”
Joseph Nichols, Ph.D., associate professor of education, points out that for the School of Education, preparing for this school year hasn’t just been a months-long project but rather one that’s been years in the making. The school completely revamped its undergraduate course map, now in its second year.
“The School of Education is a really exciting place to be right now,” Nichols said. “We’re growing and changing our curriculum to be more mission-centric. We spent years brainstorming and reimagining the program, and last year was the first year we admitted students into the new program. The fact we’re even more mission-intentional and community-facing is really paying off, and I’m excited for the new school year.”Students walk to class for the first day of classes on Wednesday, Aug. 23. Photo by Sarah Conroy.
For students, each new academic year moves them closer and closer to earning a degree and entering into the “real world.” But each year also gives them an opportunity to explore new areas and take classes just for fun.
While their course loads are already full, seniors Grant Bellchamber and Laura Donze both said they’d love to take a foreign language if given the chance.
“If I had extra credits this year, I’d want to try out a new language just for one class. No stakes,” Bellchamber said. “Maybe Italian.”
“Yeah, a foreign language like Greek or German would be great,” Donze added.
Faculty members Nichols and Miller say there are plenty of opportunities for students to explore areas of interest, and both encourage students to take advantage of those opportunities fully.
“I’m super fascinated with geospatial technology, and SLU has done great work with the Taylor Geospatial Institute, so if I had three credit hours to use, I’d take a course on that,” Nichols said. “It’s super cool, and I personally want to know more about it. And that’s what those electives are for, for diving into your passions and just learning more about things you want to learn about.”
“I would recommend as a senior, because it’s a really stressful time, to take an art class, take something relaxing,” Miller added. “Something where you can draw or paint, or they play classical music in the background, so you can just take a break from everything else going on in your life.”
Alex Rafi, assistant professor of media production, also encourages students to take classes outside of their major, not only to continue to pursue areas of passion but also to get perspective on their lives once they leave campus.
“I encourage students to think bigger than just what you need to do for your career,” Rafi said. “You’re in college, where you can meet all kinds of people from all over the world with totally different interests. Take classes that wouldn’t be your first choice and give it a shot. You may find a new passion.”