Starting college is an overwhelming experience, but liberal arts students are getting an extended orientation with a specially designed course.
LA 101: Liberal Arts Planning and Pathways is a one-hour online and discussion class that introduces incoming freshmen to the College of Liberal Arts and UT Austin and provides them with insight and information they may not have received until later in their college careers. Topics covered include utilizing campus resources, communicating with peers and professors effectively and learning how to build a resume.
Liz Hastings is an academic advising coordinator who spent nearly a year working on a team to conceptualize LA 101. She’s also an instructor for one of 10 sections of the course being taught this semester.
“We all have one common goal: student success,” she says. “We’re doing this because our students mean a lot to us.
“Our hope is that students will utilize the concepts they learn each week to become resourceful and successful first-year students. We anticipate that they will also be able to plan out their 4 years at UT and graduate on time with a suitcase full of skills that will carry them beyond the 40 Acres.”
A typical class period involves students talking about the “high” and “low” point of their weeks, reviewing the online assignment, learning about upcoming events on campus and a question and answer period with the instructor.
Caroline Oakum, a philosophy major from Hinsdale, Ill., says enrolling in LA 101 has helped her adapt.
“The class environment is very welcoming and I feel open to ask questions,” Oakum says. “It has been a great resource to become acquainted with campus.”
The course has also helped Kevin Cortinas, an economics major from San Antonio, adjust to life on campus.
“I find the sessions very helpful because I have become more comfortable with the college atmosphere and classes,” he says. “Knowing that other people within my major are going through the same things I am is a relief.”
This year, more than 140 students are enrolled in LA 101, and the college plans to expand and develop the course based on recommendations from students and instructors involved this semester. This could include everything from updating the curriculum to basing enrollment in each section on students’ majors or interests.
“We look forward to feedback from students and staff involved so we can continue to create community in Liberal Arts,” says KJ Harris, director of student success programs for the College of Liberal Arts. “A Liberal Arts education is one of the most rewarding and explorative experiences a student can have, and we consider LA 101 a great foundation to this path. “