ArtsOne two years in…

Navigating the first few days as a new Carleton University student can be as daunting as learning the tunnel route from the gym to the University Centre. While the stress of selecting courses, developing a conflict-free timetable and befriending the other 300 students in the lecture hall usually fades from memory by the time the winter term blusters in, ArtsOne reduces the anxiety for some Carleton students a little earlier.

ArtsOne began as a pilot project in 2005, one of the very few programs of its kind in Canada to be developed in response to Nancy Shapiro and Jodi Levine’s seminal book, Creating learning communities: A practical guide to winning support, organizing for change, and implementing programs.

The fledgling project offered three introductory courses in psychology, philosophy and English to 100 co-registered first-year BA students. The students also participated in a first-year seminar in applied language studies.

Beginning in 2006, ArtsOne was expanded to six clusters which included thematically linked courses in thinking and language, human rights, criminology, and the environment.

The program was designed to provide an engaging learning environment while reducing the stress first-year students often associate with course selection and registration. The smaller student to faculty member ratio promotes active learning and provides students with an opportunity to take control over their education early in their academic careers.

“I think it was partially the comfort of having everything organized in such a way that it made it less stressful transitioning in that first year,” says Veronique LeClair, a second-year political science major.

The smaller classes are more resource intensive and require additional commitment from participating faculty members. However, preliminary results that measure student engagement indicate the extra work is paying off. While initial student retention rates are no different than for students who are not in the program, ArtsOne students are completing slightly more credits in their first year, maintaining higher GPAs, and developing relationships with faculty and peers earlier on.

Like many students entering the first year of university, Nazneen Rustom was not sure where her academic interests lay. She registered in the Mind Matters cluster — a decision that would lead her to pursue her BA in psychology. “ArtsOne ended up being perfect, and it was a great experience for me,” she says.

While student testimonials and emerging statistics point to the successful implementation of ArtsOne, the participating students will be monitored throughout their university years to determine the long-term impact of the program on their success rates. “We will examine how any improvements in student performance are related to the “clustering” of 100 students in common courses, to the smaller class sizes, and/or to the nature of instruction in the classes themselves,” says Christine Adam, the assistant dean (first-year programs), for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

2008-09 ArtsOne clusters

Beyond CSI: Criminology and Criminal Justice

– SOCI 1003: Introduction to Sociology

– PSYC 1001/1002: Introduction to Psychology I & II

– LAWS 1000: Introduction to Legal Studies

Truths and Lies: Exploring Lives and Nations through Literature and Film

– ENGL 1000: Literature, Genre, Context

– FILM 1000: Introduction to Film Studies

– CDNS 1000: Introduction to Canadian Studies

Human Rights: Race, Gender, and Nation

– HUMR 1001: Introduction to Human Rights

– LAWS 1000: Introduction to Legal Studies

– WOMN 1808: Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies

World Issues: International Politics, Economics and the Environment

– PSCI 1001/1002: Great Political Questions (Fall) & Global Political Issues (Winter)

– ENST 1001: Envisioning Earth’s Environments

– ECON 1000: Introduction to Economics

Social Issues: History, Literature and Philosophy

– HIST 1705: The Atlantic World

– ENGL 1000: Literature, Genre, Context

– PHIL 1500: Contemporary Moral, Social and Religious Issues

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