Rarely when a student enters college do they possess the ability to become a scholar. Academic Inquiry and Scholarship (AIS), an addition to the core curriculum, is an organized effort by the UTSA faculty to teach incoming freshmen the skills required for scholarship.
According to Tammy Wyatt, the associate dean of UTSA’s University College, the reason for this is because AIS is unlike any other course offered at the university in that is does not further a student’s progress towards their major.
Wyatt explained that the goal of AIS is not to teach study skills but to provide students with an understanding of academic inquiry, “the asking of questions and creation of knowledge,” from the three cultures of inquiry: the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Wyatt, along with much of UTSA’s faculty, hope the course will help freshmen not only quickly identify an area of study they are interested in, but also “develop a respect for other disciplines.”
A notable, unique feature of AIS is its support team, which includes faculty, teaching assistants and peer mentors — specially trained upperclassmen that not only assist AIS students with course work, but also spend time with them outside of the class room.
Freshman reactions to the course vary from critical acclaim to disdain for the course. Among the freshmen currently enrolled is business marketing major Krista Perez.
“It can be tough sometimes, financially speaking,” said Perez. “I just don’t want to have to waste money on a class that isn’t as helpful as it could be. Unless it somehow incorporates my major in further detail, I don’t think this is a course a student should have to take.”
Perez is also disappointed in the course since she was told it would teach her and her peers skills they need to know in order to thrive at UTSA, a promise she believes has not been fulfilled so far. “All I’ve learned about is eating healthy and why it’s bad to plagiarize, but that’s stuff that has been nailed into my head since high school. It hasn’t taught me anything significant I didn’t know,” she explained.
While Perez had nothing positive to say about AIS, she claimed her professor and peer mentor should not be blamed for the course’s failure to appeal to freshmen.
“She is a good professor. If only she taught some of my other courses,” Perez said. “As far as my peer mentor is concerned, he is always helpful and always there if needed.”
Ruben Lara is also a freshman currently enrolled in the AIS course, but unlike Perez, he feels the class is beneficial. Lara, who is part of the Honors College, states that AIS doesn’t deserve its negative reputation.
“It allows students to view certain topics through three different perspectives,” Lara explained. “It allows us to understand different things about the college environment, things that I don’t think I could’ve learned on my own.”
According to Lara, AIS introduced him to different people and different perspectives. He likes the information presented to him during a class period, even if it doesn’t necessarily focus on his major, public health.
“It has helped me make connections with classmates who are part of different organizations. I probably would not have interacted with these students had it not been for this class. I’m glad that the university offers this course.”