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The Freshman Seminar: When Another Course Just Won't Fit

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.413.1 - 2.413.5



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Paper Authors

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Jerry W. Samples

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Robert Martinazzi

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3547

THE FRESHMAN SEMINAR: WHEN ANOTHER COURSE JUST WON’T FIT Robert Martinazzi, Jerry W. Samples University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown


All good intentions are often derailed by the realities of the moment. The need for a freshman engineering course to provided the “basics” needed by all new students of engineering is recognized by most of the profession. However, there are limits to the number of credit hours freshman can handle and be successful; i.e. return for the sophomore year. Couple this natural limit with the recognized necessity for a strong core of humanities and the solution becomes easy: don’t have a freshman course. This solution serves no interest well. It deprives the freshman of the vital mentoring they need as they enter the profession and anecdotal evidence indicates that the student drop-out rate increases when mentoring is absent. So, what do we do?

A unique solution is the zero-credit, two-semester freshman seminar. Freshman enrolled in the engineering technology program at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown attend this seminar once a week for both semesters. The program concentrates on the holistic development of the freshman student. It focuses on the technical, instructional, administrative, performance and extra curricular information necessary to successfully navigate the freshman year thereby lessening the possibility of student attrition. Included in the course are an introduction to the various engineering technology disciplines, exposure to different university services, information on student organizations, a student “peak performance” lecture series and a clarification of several important administrative policies and procedures.


Freshman come to universities with a multitude of reservations, apprehensions, and expectations. Fear of the unknown creates anxiety and stress among freshman which in turn does very little to help them adjust to college life. Under this scenario attrition takes its toll and many freshman, approximately 30%, leave or change four-year universities taking with them frustration about the academic system as well as a lower self esteem.1 It is incumbent on universities to offer freshman a learning experience designed to minimize the fear of the unknown. Concurrently, the educational experience should provide the freshman with the knowledge of the various important aspects of their first year and the understanding necessary to survive and succeed in this traumatic encounter with university life.

Many universities have freshman orientation programs that focus on the difficulties of this new experience. The concentration is on generic issues including; study habits, getting along with roommates, campus layout and activities, security, and so on. The freshman are assembled in groups by dorms and are taught by both professionals and sub-professionals. All of this is fine, but it fails to promote teamwork and camaraderie in specific academic disciplines. A new engineering student, for example, is not courted by the engineers who are too busy with engineering. Many times this new student does not meet an engineering professor until the second year since most early classes are preparatory in nature. This lack of inclusion is often a reason for leaving programs, and the university in general.2

Samples, J. W., & Martinazzi, R. (1997, June), The Freshman Seminar: When Another Course Just Won't Fit Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6582

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