Ohio Wesleyan University has appointed Ashley Biser, Ph.D., as faculty director of the first-year seminar.
In the newly created position, Biser, associate professor of Politics and Government, will oversee development of the full-credit, faculty-taught seminar that will become a foundational component of each Ohio Wesleyan student’s first-year experience.
The seminar will be structured around a single complex issue or question, which students will investigate from a variety of academic perspectives and disciplines. Their work will help train the students in critical reading and information literacy skills and applied problem-solving practice.
The seminar is intended to provide Ohio Wesleyan students with all of the foundational academic skills and connections they need to succeed academically and graduate successfully.
Biser will collaborate with eight Faculty Teaching Fellows to develop the first-year seminar, which will launch as a pilot in fall 2022 and be incorporated universally into the OWU first-year curriculum in fall 2023. The newly appointed Faculty Teaching Fellows are: Laurel Anderson, Ph.D., (Biological Sciences); Kira Bailey, Ph.D. (Psychology and Neuroscience); Kristina Bogdanov, M.F.A. (Fine Arts); Nancy Comorau, Ph.D. (English); Susan Gunasti, Ph.D. (Religion); Brian Granger, Ph.D. (Performing Arts); Franchesca Nestor, Ph.D. (Politics and Government); and Michele Nobel, Ph.D. (Education).
Since joining Ohio Wesleyan in 2008, Biser has served in roles including as the assistant provost for curriculum and equity and as the associate dean for curriculum. In addition, she assisted with implementing the Equity Fellows Program, which included 25 faculty members collaborating on curricular-based diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
The development of a universal first-year seminar is one of three new pillars of the Ohio Wesleyan curriculum, as adopted by faculty members this spring for full implementation in fall 2023. The pillars resulted from a yearlong study and represent the first reimagining of the OWU curriculum in more than 50 years.
“Their goal was to create a simpler, more flexible, more compelling liberal arts program that provides greater OWU Connection cohesion and ensures that students develop the skills to be successful in our truly global and deeply complex society,” President Rock Jones, Ph.D., said in sharing information about the changes with the campus community. “The resulting general education curriculum, supported by WCSA (student government), is forward-thinking and student-focused, and it upholds and enhances OWU’s historic strengths.”
In addition to the first-year seminar, Ohio Wesleyan’s curriculum also will include course requirements based on core competencies rather than general distribution checkboxes and a signature OWU Connection experience requirement.
The core competencies change is intended to teach students to think, speak, and act as global citizens, equipping them with the tools needed for lives of meaning, purpose, and accomplishment, both personally and professionally.
The signature experience requirement will fully integrate the OWU Connection into the Ohio Wesleyan curriculum, helping students to use their core competencies to think big (understand issues from multiple academic disciplines), go global (gain international perspective), and get real (translate classroom knowledge into real-world experience).
“By the end of their four years,” Jones said, “OWU graduates will be ready to take on the world and build meaningful lives and careers.”
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