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Freshman seminars cater to wide interests

Sept. 19, 2003

By Kelli Hinz, reporter

'Stop me if you've heard this one...' is a phrase that most students do not expect professors to say during classtime. However, students in Dr. DeAnna Toten Beard's freshman Comic Theatre seminar have grown used to it.

'My class is reading, writing and discussion,' Toten Beard, theatre arts professor, said. 'I try to offer a variety of writing exercises for the students because I feel that it is important for them to feel that they have something to say and for them to discover the best way to say it.'

Toten Beard responded to the College of Arts and Sciences' proposal for the seminar program. She has incorporated a variety of different books, movies and plays into her curriculum, Toten Beard said.

'I love Dr. Toten Beard's seminar. All we ever do is laugh in [class],' Jacinta Anderson, a San Antonio freshman, said. 'What I really like is how she tricks us into writing a paper. She makes everything so enjoyable that you don't realize you have done the work until it's done.'

Toten Beard's seminar is one of six new freshman seminars Baylor University added to the curriculum this year, expanding the current freshman seminar program beyond the Honors Program. Seminars being offered this semester cover topics such as environmental science, law and health.

Baylor's Honor Program has offered seminars for freshman honors students for the past five years.

That particular program has been highly acclaimed by both students and professors, most citing the seminars as an exciting, great experience.

This year freshman seminars were added as a result of an interest in the sort of learning experience offered in seminars, Elizabeth Vardaman, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said.

'Nationwide studies have shown that freshmen students enjoy a more in-depth, concentrated style of learning that these seminars offer,' Vardaman said. 'We hope to increase the number of seminars offered and continue this program because of the positive responses that we have had in relation to it.'

Seminars can be substituted for English credits and other social science courses. Professors teaching seminar classes work with the departments and develop a curriculum to allow this substitution.