The College of Creative Studies is offering a selection of new student-led colloquiums this quarter.The two-unit courses are open to all UCSB students and cover topics ranging from modern geometry to author David Foster Wallace’s body of work. Pending faculty advisor approval, student leaders choose the colloquium topics and required texts.
CCS Dean Bruce Tiffney said colloquiums are led by students who wish to share their knowledge of one distinct subject area with peers.
“We can’t teach everything at a university so [student-led colloquiums] certainly add to the diversity of courses,” Tiffney said. “It’s a great learning experience for those leading and those taking it and is a training experience on how to present material that is logical, thought-provoking and does not just lecture. The real goal is that students can come away with ‘new eyes’ and see the world a little differently afterwards.”
Aside from being more discussion-oriented than traditional courses, Tiffney said student-led colloquiums also boast smaller class sizes — about 20 students per class.
E.J. Merenstein, a fourth-year literature major, is leading a colloquium on David Foster Wallace this quarter. Merenstein said the relaxed feel of student-instructed classes is particularly appealing to students.
“The student-led colloquiums are a little more open,” Merenstein said. “A lot of the students in my class are friends of mine, so the class is in a conversational mode.”
Kai Flanders, a third-year literature major, taught a class on Ernest Hemingway last Spring and is currently taking Merenstein’s course on Wallace. Flanders said the colloquiums offer an atmosphere of mutual respect between students and student leaders that is conducive to intellectual discourse.
“[Professor-led and student-led courses] are just different,” Flanders said. “In a professor-led class, you might be more inclined to do the work out of fear or respect for that professor. … CCS’s support and encouragement of the student-led colloquiums show a lot of faith in the quality of their students,” Flanders said.
However, while student leaders may encourage a casual classroom atmosphere, Merenstein said students aren’t allowed to slack off — he assigns eight required books and over a thousand pages of reading for the Wallace course.
“Success to me would be people reading the material, learning a little about what Wallace is trying to do with fiction and sharing our findings,” Merenstein said. “I also hope that students just enjoy the material.”
Founded in 1967, CCS is one of three colleges at UCSB. CCS typically enrolls about 300 students a year and offers eight emphases: art, biology, chemistry and biochemistry, computer science, literature, mathematics, music composition or physics.