A course in its third semester, Academic Inquiry and Scholarship (AIS) was designed to ease the shift from high school to college for incoming freshmen, a positive but idealistic intention.
Among the students involved, the course is anything but popular.
Part of the First Year Experience (FYE) program, AIS was designed to teach freshmen the necessary tools to navigate the world of higher education.
The objectives of the course aim to foster critical thinking skills and develop strong study habits, research skills and the ability to work well in groups.
The class is interdisciplinary in nature; activities involve formulating researching questions, mastering the writing process, identifying scholarly resources and allowing students to explore the three academic disciplines: natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities.
Nonetheless, students overwhelmingly unenthused about their being required to complete the course.
Most freshmen did not expect to have a mandated course other than the typical core classes: math, science, composition, history and politics.
Many freshmen are offput and see AIS as an additional course forced upon them.
Freshman cyber security major Jackson Korinek views the class a waste of his time.
“I try to be optimistic and actually learn something while in the class, but I honestly can’t fathom myself benefitting from learning about the three academic disciplines and how they each research,” he said.
“Sure, I have learned about identifying scholarly articles and academic journals, but it’s just basic common sense. Most days, I am appalled that I am paying hundreds of dollars for such a useless course.”
AIS is still in the preliminary stages and its coordinators are satisfied with the program’s progress.
Associate Dean of the University College Tammy Wyatt explains that the program is designed to give professors freedom to decide how they teach the course in order to find their most effective method.
“We have revamped from last spring. All of the faculty has a mannequin—that’s the analogy we use—where there are objectives for the course that everyone adheres to. Everyone is asked to address those objectives and so we say that the mannequin has to be dressed, they have to have a shirt and pants and so on. But how you want to accessorize is for the faculty to be able to determine depending on their expertise and background.”
Another commonly-expressed grievance among freshmen is the course’s redundancy.
Many feel that in AIS they learn that is not relevant to their majors.
Najla Jaafar, a CAP student, understands that new programs require time to come into their own, but sees the class as a nuisance.
“AIS is not as useful as it is aimed to be. We learn certain ideas that can and should be self taught and picked up through studying, research and common sense. It may be useful for students who were not in a higher-level English course in high school, and it has taught me to be as thorough as possible. But it is a waste of time and money.”
However, Wyatt and Director of AIS ,Susan Colorado-Burt, compare the skills being retaught in AIS to a student taking a class in high school and retaking it at a university level.
“Some students who are in a history class right now already learned about the Civil War, but you learn about it in a different way.There are some aspects where there are going to be some things where you go ‘I didn’t learn about that or I learned about different aspects that made it more interesting to me.’”
Wyatt states that her office has received multiple emails from students saying that they used the skills taught in the course or that they were ahead of upperclassmen who never took AIS.
Sophomore criminal justice major Nohelia Villeda, expressed her gratitude for the material taught in AIS and its applicability to her research and methods course in an email.
“As a result of taking [AIS], I was able to develop a research question using the methods [it] taught, something many of the upperclassmen couldn’t figure out. I didn’t think I would use the methods from AIS in my classes so soon, or at all. Hopefully this will serve as inspiration to others and prove that the material taught in the AIS course is useful throughout the rest of our academic careers.”
UTSA’s University College attributes the doubling percentage of students declaring a major after completing 30 hours of course work to AIS.
Proponents of the course predict that it may be tedious now, but in the future, their students might begrudgingly admit: “Huh, I guess I did need to know that.”