University News

Underclassmen ‘reorient’ for second semester

Brown Conversation helps freshmen and sophomores reflect on undergrad experiences

Contributing Writer
Thursday, January 24, 2013

More than 50 students and faculty members gathered this weekend to discuss the value of a Brown education at a “Re-Orientation Boot Camp,” organized by the Brown Conversation. Through a series of two-hour discussion blocks with upperclassmen, faculty members and other community members affected by the New Curriculum, students evaluated their educational experiences thus far.

Named for its mission statement to continue the goals of the student architects of the New Curriculum, the Brown Conversation spearheads initiatives for discussing and improving students’ undergraduate educations at the University.

During the two-and-a-half-day program, underclassmen participated in individual conferences with mentors to help them clarify their thoughts for the upcoming semester and conversed as a group with professors and alums about the value of the University’s unique educational approach, exploring questions like ‘What is the purpose of an education?’ and ‘How can we make the most out of Brown curricular offerings?’

Guest speakers included faculty members with special insight on how to best use a University education and those who worked at Brown before the initiation of the New Curriculum and have thus “watched the Brown Education evolve,” said Marguerite Joutz ’15, one of the event’s co-coordinators.

“The conversations were facilitated but not commandeered by one person — they were driven by the students,” Joutz said.

Elliot Maxwell ’68, co-writer of the New Curriculum, also attended the event. Inspired to create the New Curriculum because he “slept” through the first two years of completing requirements when he attended the University, Maxwell told attendees, “The open curriculum gives you a chance to do wonderful things, but it’s up to you to take the responsibility to do them.”

Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences Sheila Blumstein advised students to be inquisitive, recommending students schedule time to reflect on why they participate in their extracurricular activities and warning them not to “thoughtlessly book activities into (their) calendars.”

The event was designed to “build a community of students who feel comfortable discussing their thoughts about their education and help students reevaluate the educational standard here at Brown,” Joutz said.

“We felt that there was not common space on campus that encouraged introspection on academics and life paths,” said Wayne Byun ’16, co-coordinator of the event.

The group plans to continue the event each year between the fall and spring semesters, Joutz said. Members felt sophomores and first-years both face important transition periods in the middle of the academic year ­­— first-years may need direction in choosing classes or want a chance to reflect on their semester, and sophomores are about to choose their concentrations, Joutz said. The coordinators of the event said they hope the program will guide underclassmen through these decisions.

The event was an effective way to help students “understand what to think about their bewilderment” when facing the New Curriculum, Maxwell said.

At its conclusion, Byun said the program achieved its goal of creating a community of Brown students interested in critically evaluating their education. “Students were excited to continue the spirit of Re-Orientation in conversations they began here throughout the semester,” he said.

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  1. Fellow great man says:

    Wayne Byun is a great man.

  2. All the Brown Deans should be re-oriented similarly, about how they are in their jobs, and not just about how to keep their jobs.

  3. Fellow quality gentleman says:

    Mr. Woo-Hyun Byun is indeed a quality gentleman.

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