WIP: Enhancing Freshman Seminars with Themes: An Architectural Engineering Approach

Ryan Solnosky, M. Kevin Parfitt, Sez Atamturktur, Moses Ling

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


This article presents the development, implementation, and early results of a revitalization effort for engineering first-year seminar (FYS) classes offered by the Architectural Engineering (AE) Department at The Pennsylvania State University. At our university, based on a faculty senate resolution, all students must take a 1-credit FYS in their first year. FYS courses at Penn State are intended to help students develop good study habits; introduce students to Penn State and their intended major of study; and help them develop relationships with faculty and other students, especially those in their freshman peer group. For the past decade, the AE department has offered two sections of FYS every Fall semester. This course offered a somewhat traditional passive classroom environment and was not always very successful in meeting our goals and assisting with student retention in the program. Topical content was very traditional and centered around very standard and generic lessons regarding what the AE profession does. Couse material was inconsistent and varied between sections based on the discipline of the course instructor. Instructors without industry experience or multidisciplinary backgrounds sometimes struggled to provide a comprehensive view of AE to the students, which resulted in widely varying student satisfaction ratings. In Fall 2019, the AE Department initiated an effort to revitalize the FYS course to be more current in its topical coverage, active and engaging in its content delivery while at the same time maintaining standard university educational goals and requirements for first year students. Further, this new initiative was formulated to ensure consistency of goals and objectives between various sections of the same course without necessarily providing an exact duplicate of content. In other words, basic requirements were specified to ensure students experienced a consistent educational outcome regardless of the course instructor, but each section or instructor was given freedom to introduce or host special topics or “mini-themes” to add interest, take advantage of current events or emerging industry topics and to better align with the instructor's background and experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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