On Friday afternoon, August 24, 14 brand-new Wagner students make their way to Main Hall room 11 for the first meeting of their reflective tutorial. It’s the beginning of a journey into college life.
A professor of religion at Wagner College since 1971, Walter Kaelber is clearly in command when he enters a classroom.
“You are probably tired, so I want to make this easy,” he says as soon as he walks through the door in his trademark cowboy boots. First, he tells them to move the tables into a U-shaped arrangement. “So you can look at each other,” he says.
Kaelber, a veteran teacher of first-year learning communities, takes an easy, bantering tone as he gets the meeting rolling. “I went over your files, and almost everyone picked this LC as their number-one choice,” he says. “Which says to me that you’re certifiably insane.”
What is the FYP?
Our First Year Program (FYP) is designed to help students take charge of their own education and use the tools that are necessary for active and lifelong learning. The FYP Learning Communities create conversations and links between subjects and courses. By linking those courses to genuine fieldwork in communities and organizations, students discover the connections (and sometimes the disconnections) between ideas and real-world problems. Beginning with the very first semester at Wagner, students are involved in real-world problems and field work directly linked to their coursework.
A first-year LC, taught by two professors in different disciplines, combines two General Education courses with a third course called the Reflective Tutorial (RFT). LC's are clusters of courses that are linked together by a single theme and share a common set of students. The faculty plan their LC courses with overlapping assignments, common readings and joint problems so that courses share common ground. Writing instruction takes place in the RFT, which is designed to be small — usually 12-14 students per tutorial. View the Fall 2013 FYP courses.
The Wagner Plan links the LC's directly to field experience, as small groups from the LC are placed in carefully selected field sites. This experiential learning component includes service learning, field trips, participatory learning and/or community research. Students typically spend three hours per week at the designated site observing the organization, its practices and its dynamics.