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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Movies serve as focus of geoscience courses

 
 

As part of its retention program, the College of Geosciences will begin to implement freshman seminars with non-traditional topics, using movies such as “The Day After Tomorrow” and even “Finding Nemo,” to enhance freshman students’ first year of college and introduce them to the different aspects of geosciences.
“These courses give our first-year students the opportunity to explore the many ways that geosciences affect our lives every day,” said Sarah Bednarz, associate dean for academic affairs and coordinator of the college’s First-Year Seminars, in a statement. “Such interdisciplinary seminars will also give students the opportunity to engage with their peers and the college community while learning in small classroom settings from highly engaged faculty. Our goal is to excite students about the geosciences and to help them make a successful transition from high school to college through this high-impact educational program.”
Roxanna Russell, senior academic advisor in the college of geosciences and Class of 1989, explained that the main point of the freshman seminars was to ease the first-year students’ transition to life at A&M.
“A&M is a large university and many students come from small communities, small high schools,” Russell said. “Therefore, A&M can be overwhelming. [Freshman seminars] create one-on-one relationships with faculty members and the opportunity to make new friends among their peers since the classes are small, usually 16 people. They also show different aspects of geosciences and help them utilize what they learn in real world situations. We also of course want to retain the students if at all possible.”
The topics in the 10 courses range from culture and diversity to movies and art. “Geosciences in the Movies,” taught by Debbie Thomas, analyzes the movies “The Day After Tomorrow” and “The Core.” “Geosciences in the Arts,” taught by Vatche Tchakerian, analyzes the representation of geography, geology and the environmental sciences in the visual arts and music. “Finding Nemo,” taught by David Brooks, analyzes the ocean environment topics in the popular Pixar movie by that name. “Triple Digits and Two-a-Days: Exploring the Influence of Weather and Climate on Sports,” analyzes weather’s impact on human athletic performance. “Moby Duck” focuses on the true story of 28,800 rubber ducks which were released into the Pacific Ocean to study currents. The class will discuss “core topics of oceanography, arctic research, exploration and the geosciences are explored. “Culture, Diversity and the Geosciences,” taught by Sonia Garcia, analyzes diversity and culture in the fields of Geosciences.
Garcia, also the director of recruitment and retention, talked about the faculty’s motivation for providing these nontraditional, topic-based seminars.
“We want [students] to see their majors from a different point of view,” Garcia said. “We want students to be involved early on with faculty, which will lead to research opportunities and encourage higher education. [Faculty] enjoy being with freshmen and like to see their excitement. We want to increase their interest and passion in the different areas of geosciences. It allows each faculty member to bring his or her background, expertise – quirk for lack of a better word – to how they see geoscience.”
Garcia talked about the future of the seminars, explaining that it would depend on the success of this coming year.
“It’s a pilot program and we will see how it works,” Garcia said. “A number of colleges across the country have found [freshman seminars] leave a great impact on freshman classes and more universities have started offering them. It’s great that we get to be a college at the forefront of something like this that will hopefully have an impact on future freshman classes.”
Russell also talked about the future of the seminars and mentioned the significance of the topics studied.
“At the end of the year, we will determine the success of the seminars,” Russell said. “They will most likely continue for a couple of years so that we can gather statistics and feedback. We still currently have seats open and they are not restricted to geoscience majors. We want to share fields because many of these topics impact the entire world and not just those studying geosciences.”

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