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CHASS 101 Opens Doors and Minds

Knowing where you are, where you fit in and the community’s expectations of you: it all matters. Even more so when you are a freshman entering a campus of more than 34,000 students. CHASS 101 — or formally, HSS 120 – Introduction to Humanities and Social Sciences — offers an orientation to the culture, resources, research methods, and interdisciplinarity of our unique college.

CHASS 101 students discuss their research into the college's disciplines.
CHASS 101 students discuss their research into the college’s disciplines.

Older students and alums may remember a “University Studies” course that autoenrolled first-generation and underrepresented students during the first semester of their freshman year. But after piloting the CHASS 101 course for several semesters, organizers decided to offer the course on a larger scale this semester.

This semester, 314 first-semester students are enrolled across the course’s four sections.

Part of CHASS 101 is similar to introductory courses required by other colleges, but the objectives of the course exceed a simple orientation.

CHASS 101 students filled Caldwell Lounge with presentations on the college's disciplines.
CHASS 101 students filled Caldwell Lounge with presentations on the college’s disciplines.

“We’ve redesigned the course to not only introduce students to academic components such as writing, research and lecture comprehension, but also to emphasize on-campus involvement and collaboration. We want to introduce students to diversity while also creating a sense of community that will extend beyond the semester,” says Dara Leeder, CHASS director of student recruitment and retention.

Jesse Crane-Seeber, a third-year CHASS postdoctoral teaching scholar, is leading the course this semester with the support of Leeder and Karen Young, assistant dean for undergraduate programs.

Crane-Seeber’s background in international relations and cultural politics make him an ideal instructor for the course’s research theme this year: race and ethnicity.

Also assisting in the instruction of the course are CHASS’ own student advisers. Serving as TAs, the student advisers draw on their experiences in academic counseling and knowledge of the college in each of the course’s sections.

Bethany Kendall, a freshman in the African Studies program, presents her research on Anthropology during  CHASS 101's poster exhibit.
Bethany Kendall, a freshman in the African Studies program, presents her research on Anthropology during CHASS 101’s poster exhibit.

Student adviser and TA Jonathan Inscoe was a student in the course when it was known as University Studies during his first semester in the fall of 2008. He says the course was helpful for him, but that the course’s current incarnation “will orient students to the many resources of the college and introduce students to the intricacies of interdisciplinarity that I wish I had known about sooner.”

Student reception of the course has been overwhelmingly positive.

Current Student Body President Alex Parker has commented that CHASS 101 was an intellectual turning point and one of his best educational experiences.

Keith Neal, now a sophomore in Psychology, says the course is a great door-opener for students. In addition to learning about the college, campus, and diversity, Neal said he is grateful for the “opportunity to interact with students from very different backgrounds during course activities. … The best part about the class was seeing the different professors speak about their disciplines. As a psychology major I had the chance to speak with a psychology professor about her recent research. This year I am actually assisting her with research!”

Neal also says the course made him “feel like a part of NC State. It helped me acclimate to college life and showed me that there are always opportunities open to students.”

By Alyssa Putt, CHASS Communication Intern