As I passed a tour group by Roosevelt Hall last week, I listened to a tour guide pitch URI 101 to a bunch of prospective students and parents.
URI 101: Planning for Academic Success. It left me with a funny feeling as I heard the guide say that the one-credit seminar was supposed to acclimate incoming freshman to the university and their respective majors.
I suppose that’s what it is intended to do. It’s a title geared for great potential paired with a program that promises even better potential. After doing my 10 weeks of mandatory time, I felt that way in the beginning, well prepared to take on my major and tackle the requirements set in front of me.
Later this year, I learned that understanding my personality type and doing some community service wasn’t about to teach me how to register for housing or teach me how to file a sexual assault claim.
Before I continue, I need to be clear that I am not trying to bash this program and its entirety. I’m better off for taking this course undoubtedly, and I left URI 101 with a lot more knowledge about college than I entered with; resources and skills that taught me how to study, learn and grow as a college student. URI 101 hooked me up with the Ghost Hunting team and the Cigar, just two of the several experiences that have made all the difference my freshman year.
Benefits aside, URI 101 doesn’t live up to its potential.
I realized this when I tried to apply for fall housing a couple weeks ago. I barely figured out how to fill out my application on eCampus and make my deposit in time before the housing deadline.
Outside registering for classes, I still feel so limited in my knowledge of how to use eCampus. It’s not the most user-friendly system, but it’s arguably the most widely used. Understanding the interface is absolutely necessary when dealing with the business end of URI, from housing, to meal plans, to tuition payments, to class registration and advising appointments.
It’s not just eCampus, though. My year has been filled with minute emergencies and unanswered questions. There are so many more moving parts that are put together into making our URI experience worthwhile, meaningful and well oiled. Sakai, for example. The only time I remember to mess with the settings or try and comprehend it is when I do my homework, and at that point I’m already crunched for time.
Speaking of being crunched for time, it would be awesome to know when the RIPTA is swinging by my dorm in a pinch when running to class doesn’t cut it. Hungry? Good, you have a meal plan, but unless you want to wait in line at Hope, you can use your combo meals–but on what exactly? On your way to class and need to print something but all the library computers are taken? It’d be cool to learn how to download the printing software to your personal computer. There are others, like the honors program, greek life, information on recitations and permission numbers–the list really goes on and on.
If only there was a required course built into our schedule that everyone took in their first semester that helped prepare us for all the technicalities over the next few years.
I brought a laundry list of questions to John Rooney, Coordinator of the Transfer Resource Center, and also the one in charge of the URI 101 curriculum. I asked him why certain things like why campus life’s technicalities were or weren’t included in the curriculum, and I didn’t get an answer I liked.
He began to tell me about the numerous YouTube videos about using ecampus and sakai, and mentioned the support hotlines for housing and the numbers to call for financial aid.
Basically, he told me to find the answers on my own. He explained to me that there was only so much time in which to teach incoming students about the university, and that it would be nearly impossible to fit all the different aspects of student and campus life into 10 different 75 minute classes, which I can understand.
We’re all adults here and I should have taken the initiative to ask for help or find the answers on my own. But there’s a difference between taking initiative and just being overall informed about where to look. Not to mention, none of us have the time.
Rooney was also concerned about misinformation about different departments. Again, understandable, but if URI 101 can’t keep up with the changing University dates and deadlines, how can the students?
There’s only so much the university can pack into 10, 75-minute classes. Time is clearly of the essence, so why not optimize what little time we do have? URI 101 is the only class that all freshman are required to take. Shouldn’t we teach them the technical basics of the university and brief them more on how to use URI’s resources, instead of having them reflect on their feelings and turn in mindless homework assignments for events they didn’t really go to?
And I thought we were supposed to learn to prioritize our schedules.
URI 101 isn’t perfect, but it’s a perfect solution to several problems. All of these obstacles could have been diverted if they were addressed, just once or twice, in the beginning of the year. We don’t need all the answers at once, and we don’t need them to be spoon fed to us either, but at least help us find them in the future.
In the end, doesn’t all this struggling to deal with these day to day minor issues get in the way of planning for academic success in the first place?