Feature Stories

The journey begins

More than 90 percent of new, incoming University of Georgia students have enrolled in a First-Year Odyssey seminar, a fall-semester program that will offer students an understanding and appreciation for the academic, service and research missions of the university.

Tenured and tenure-track faculty from across campus are teaching the 329 First-Year Odyssey seminars, which range in topics from sustainability, fashion, the CIA, and biotechnology to Sherlock Holmes. The small classes are limited to 18 participants.  Students will also be required to attend at least three campus events during the semester that highlight some aspect of the mission of the university.  Participants will be graded and awarded one hour of credit for successful completion of their First-Year Odyssey seminar.

In its inaugural year at UGA, the First-Year Odyssey program was established with three major goals in mind, said Tim Foutz, program director:

  1. Introduce first-year students to the importance of learning and academics so that they are engaged in the learning culture of the University;
  2. Give first-year students an opportunity for meaningful dialogue with a faculty member which will lead to positive, sustained student-faculty interactions; and,
  3. Introduce first-year students to the instruction, research, public service and international missions of the University and how they relate to teaching and learning in and outside the classroom in order to assure the participants' understanding in the mission of the university.

Foutz is optimistic that the First-Year Odyssey program will succeed in meeting these goals. "A student's first year at UGA is an exciting time to experience and explore the academic rigors and opportunities available," he said. "By engaging with faculty and other first-year students in an intimate classroom setting, we hope they will grow to understand the value of a UGA education."

Incoming students registered for their "Odyssey" seminar during orientation. Many classes filled up quickly, and some of the more popular ones included College Athletics: Sports, News, and Education; Making Sense of Modern Art; Chocolate Science; Stem Cells in Medicine and Society and Fashion and the Movies.

Incoming freshman Lauren Risse of Watkinsville is enthusiastic about her upcoming "First-Year Odyssey" seminar, Exploring Protein Structure and Function: A 30-Year Odyssey. "I plan on majoring in microbiology, and I have a fascination with protein structure," she said.  "So, I was thrilled when I discovered this course was offered."

Faculty proposed their classroom topics, which were reflective of their teaching, research and service passions. All schools, colleges and many departments are represented in the "First-Year Odyssey" faculty, which includes UGA President Michael F. Adams, who will teach The History and Development of the University of Georgia through the Eyes of the President, and Provost Jere Morehead, whose seminar topic will be Exploring Current Issues in Law. 

Foutz said the support the University community has shown for the First-Year Odyssey seminars has been overwhelming.  "The UGA faculty has stepped up to the challenge of offering seminar topics that will engage a first-year student; in fact, faculty are offering so many creative seminar topics that students continually ask if they can enroll in more than one class. Various units from all across campus have shown their support by offering workshops to help faculty design their First-Year Odyssey seminars and by developing materials that complement the program.  Even students not enrolled in these seminars have supported our efforts by helping us do things such as select the logo, design the web page and determine how to promote the program during orientation.

"I particularly would like to acknowledge the orientation leaders and academic advisors who worked so hard to get the message out and help incoming students understand the University's commitment to engaging them in the academic culture of UGA."

Published Saturday,