Innovative Proseminar Takes BSFS Students Beyond Freshman Year
"It has been much more than a class, it has been a lifestyle," says Hammad Hammad (SFS '08) of his freshman proseminar. Hammad participated in STIA Director Betsi Stephen's proseminar, "Cinematic and Textual Representation of Immigration," during his first semester at SFS and was one of a handful of students to continue on with Professor Stephen in her endeavor to keep students together studying topics related to immigration for the duration of their undergraduate careers.
"The basic idea is that I take students from my freshmen proseminar through an in-depth review of the subject matter from different perspectives over four years and develop a community of scholars," Professor Stephen said. After their proseminar, those who wish to continue their study of immigration take "Immigrant Ethnography" as sophomores and a seminar on immigration research as seniors. Juniors go abroad and are given a technology grant to produce a blog. Over the four year period, students' work is collected in online portfolios which they can then show to parents and potential employers. This year, two papers produced in Professor Stephen's senior seminar have been accepted for publication, and one student's blog won a national award.
Taught by the SFS' most highly sought-after professors on topics of their choosing, the freshman proseminar is an integral and unique part of the BSFS experience promoting the formation of close relationships between a small group of peers and their professor. "Every year I taught the freshman proseminar," Professor Stephen reflects, "I found the end of the semester bitter-sweet because I would never have this group of students again. In November of 2004, I spoke with the freshmen for the first time about continuing as a class and they were enthusiastic."
While classes are organized around the topic of immigration, they cover a wealth of information and scholarship is balanced with practical projects. This year, the second-year students in "Immigrant Ethnography" worked with 44 8th graders from a DC charter school on 12 different service learning projects. Professor Stephen has replicated her model with two more classes of students. "I have a rising class of seniors who have worked with me all four of their years at Georgetown, a group of juniors who are going abroad this year and will be blogging. And in September, I will start with a group of freshmen from the class of 2012!"