Intensive Freshman Seminars prepare and challenge incoming students

IFS Students

August 8, 2012

Dozens of students gathered in the atrium of the School of Education Thursday to exhibit their Intensive Freshman Seminars (IFS) final project presentations for fellow classmates, faculty and visitors. While most freshmen have their first final presentation experience in December, these students have already completed a three credit-hour course before starting their first semester. Even more surprising, they did it in just two weeks.

“It is really an academic boot camp,” said Fritz Breithaupt, an associate professor of Germanic studies and adjunct professor of comparative literature.  The students attend class at least five hours per day, including Saturday.  In Breithaupt’s class, students studied empathy, combining literary contexts with psychological theory.  In just eleven days, students learned concepts, conducted research and assessed outcomes.

David Pace, professor of history, said he could see the effect IFS has on the students in the form of increased confidence and strengthened ability to learn. He advises new IFS professors to “be ready for students who are willing to do even more work than expected.”

Deb Zemlock, an IFS student, displayed her findings on similarity and how it impacts empathy.  After conducting research to determine her classmates’ perceptions, she determined that certain shared traits produced more empathy than others. “Religion was a more direct influencer of empathy than being from the same hometown,” she said of her findings.

IFS student Cierra McNeal realized quickly that finding balance between academics and social events was hard to achieve. “It was hard to do the extra activities because of homework.”

“I was surprised at how well we all connected and how quickly we got used to the workload,” Rachel Garastik said of her IFS experience.

For the students, IFS is the beginning of college life at IU Bloomington.  Deb Christiansen, professor of fashion design, took a group of students to the Bloomington Farmers’ Market on Saturday to help them get out and see their new community.  Sarah Patchen, now a sophomore and intern for IFS, said, “I knew where I was going,” as her freshman classmates were finding their way around campus.  Now, Sarah is a mentor to the new IFS class, helping them make the rapid adjustment to campus.

Each year approximately eighteen courses are available through IFS, a program offered by the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.  This year’s courses covered a wide range of topics such as psychopathy and empathy; applied media; foundations of leisure; heroes, superheroes, and antiheroes; the genetic science of CSI; pop music, identity, and social life; the limits of free speech in the US; and poverty in the US.

IFS offers incoming freshman students the chance to begin their academic careers at IU two weeks early, taking a three-credit course for which enrollment is limited to twenty students, and living together with their classmates for the duration of the program.  For more information, visit http://ifs.indiana.edu.

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