The small class sizes available to English majors at the University of Rhode Island have shaped my experience because of the content of my courses and the interactions with my peers.
English courses, and those of the other humanities, have given myself and other students the freedom to openly discuss both the assigned texts and our perspective on life in general. We are encouraged by our professors to look for deeper meanings and find ways to relate the material to our lives, rather than to tediously absorb the lessons.
In the math and science courses I have taken at URI there were facts to memorize and correct answers to find. However, there was only one correct answer for each question that I was assigned, and I generally took in these facts as another face in the crowd of a lecture hall.
In English, I have been encouraged to find more than one answer in my reading, and not only to find these various answers, but to be able to support each argument fully. I have learned to accept that there is not always a single, clear answer when trying to problem solve, which I believe is an asset for post-graduation living.
My major, similar to the other humanities, is also not rigidly structured in the courses I have to take. As a freshman, I was randomly selected to live in one of the designated Engineering dormitories, Peck Hall. I watched as all of my friends from my hall were given a strict set of courses, lined up until graduation, with few opportunities allowed to take electives because of the commitment their engineering major required.
I have been able to freely pick which classes most interest me within my major, with loose guidelines to help give me experience in a variety of time periods. I have taken electives in many other fields to supplement the lessons I have been given in English, such as philosophy, journalism and art.
With the smaller class sizes I have been forced to participate more, to find my own voice and to speak my own opinions on the books in discussions. Every student is able to listen respectfully to their peers, as well as to disagree with other students’ opinions. We read and think on our own frequently, developing an independence of thought through this process, and we bring these ideas to class to bounce off of each other.
URI has deemed English classes worthy of being four credits each, rather than the standard three given to most courses. Stephen Barber, an English professor and former department chair, told me the movement to four credits stemmed from the Provost’s Office because of the work load given to English majors. While the classes do not include additional labs or lectures each week, they do challenge students with more reading and discussion than most.
According to English Department Chair Dr. Ryan Trimm, I am one of approximately 290 English majors here at URI. Yet, with the small class sizes and involved discussions that each English course involves, I have never felt like just a number to the URI English department .