FSEM Showcase

FSEM Updates: October 2018


Dear FSEM Colleagues:
This email message is long overdue. I have been working relentlessly to understand the subtle and overt aspects of the FSEM course and program; the learning curve is steep, but I am enjoying the process.

Now that I feel a little more comfortable in my position as the director of the FSEM Experience, I would like to consider arranging intentional conversations with you about short- and long-term strategies to tackle  the what, how, and why of FSEM  within the context of the Quality Enhancement Plan. I believe small group settings is best for such discussions, and I will send out emails to small cohorts of +/- 6 faculty members to meet with me during October and November. In the interim, however, I would like to draw your attention to 3 time-sensitive items:

    1. After considerable thought, a decision has been made to cover some transportation costs associated with FSEM fieldtrips. If you are taking students on a field trip, you may provide transportation receipts (or mileage) for up to $100 for reimbursement. Please be aware that this support applies only to this year’s FSEM cycle because we anticipate having some money left in the budget. I will initiate discussions with the Provost’s Office for future years’ travel-related support. Please email me separately with questions or comments.
    2. Our end-of-FSEM-semester workshop and celebration of our work this semester is scheduled for Friday, November 16th from 2:30pm-4:30pm. Details will be sent once the agenda is confirmed. In the meantime, if you would like us to consider any agenda items, please email me separately.
    3. The FSEM program has not assessed two of its core learning outcomes (effective writing and oral competency) for many years, and it has not assessed two others (critical thinking and information literacy) ever. Our plan is to organize a series of workshops in the spring semester to address these learning outcomes. However, I have learned this week that in order to meet certain assessment targets, the writing and oral competency outcomes must be assessed across FSEM sections this semester. The effective writing outcome sampling will hardly impact the classroom environment, while the oral competency sampling process will involve videotaping, which will influence the classroom dynamics.  Depending on the level of interest, I will organize a one-hour meeting with faculty who would like some guidance on how to assess these outcomes this semester; please email me separately if you are interested. For details on the assessment processes, see the messages below from Megan O’Neill and Lisa Coulter and email them and me with questions or comments.


I write to you in my role as Director of Assessment. As part of Stetson’s ongoing assessment of general education learning outcomes (GLOs) this fall we will be assessing the Speaking outcome ( see attached Rubric) in the FSEM courses. Within the next week, we will obtain a random sample of students in FSEM from Institutional Research who are chosen to provide samples for this assessment. I will contact those of you who have students selected in order to discuss the logistics of how this will be done. Thank you for your help in this important work.

I write to you in my role as Writing Program Director to remind you that we’re intending to assess FSEM writing this fall. This is the next (and almost last) step in the four-year assessment project we took on when Stetson’s writing requirement changed. So far, the assessment results have been promising; we’re still developing the big picture, but I assure you that our efforts–your efforts–are not being wasted. We’re doing good work, and I appreciate your involvement and your attention to student writing.

A quick reminder about how assessment works. By the middle of next week, FSEM instructors will get email from me with a student name and ID number. You’ll pick the assignment from that student that best suits the assessment purpose (in this case, it should be an assignment that both makes a point and offers some sort of research). You’ll render the assignment anonymous, and you’ll email it to me. In the rare cases when two students have been selected from your course, I’ll ask you to email me both artifacts (still anonymous) and let me know which one belongs to which student. That will take care of it for now; in coordination with the University Gen Ed Committee, we’ll gather for reading and scoring during the spring semester workshops. More details to come about that. 🙂

We have a really great opportunity this year. Stetson is participating in the VALUES Institute, which essentially means that a cadre of trained faculty associated with the AAC&U will also be scoring the samples, separately and apart from our own scoring. They’ll send us their results and we can compare the two sets of score data. The benefits of this kind of norming are obvious, and the Provost is very eager to see what we can do with this opportunity. For this round of assessment, then, faculty submitting writing samples will have a bit of additional thinking to do. In addition to providing the assignment sample itself, the VALUES Institute asks also for your assessment of the difficulty of the assignment, how you yourself would score it using the Written Communication rubric, and how much the assignment is worth in terms of total course grade. Fortunately, their form is easy to understand and complete.

When I email you with the names of your selected students, I’ll attach the form and ask you to fill it out. That document gets emailed to me with the writing sample.

Thanks for being a part of this work. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have anything to ask me or tell me!

Enjoy the second-half of your semester!

Thank you for your commitment to the community of learning!

Ranjini Thaver, Ph.D. (Economics)
Director of the FSEM Experience
Professor, Department of Economics

FSEM Showcase

Stetson Announces Four Academic Appointments

Stetson recently announced four new academic appointments designed to enrich students’ academic experiences, help them compete for elite scholarships and fellowships, and help the university plan for the expansion of science programs.

Noel Painter, Ph.D., Stetson Executive Vice President and Provost, announced the appointments for three current faculty members and a one-year special appointment of an outside academic advisor.

The appointments include:

  • portrait seated at a desk

    Tim Elgren, Ph.D.

    Tim Elgren, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin College, was named Special Advisor on Strategic Initiatives and will lead a study to explore how Stetson can expand programs in the sciences and health sciences.

Stetson will construct a new science building on the DeLand campus and expand the sciences, thanks to an $18 million donation last spring from longtime Stetson Trustees Cici and Hyatt Brown.

Elgren, who is also a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Oberlin, will serve as Stetson’s special advisor during the 2018-19 academic year while he is on sabbatical from the Ohio college. (Read a Q&A with Tim Elgren as he discusses the yearlong science study.)

  • Megan O’Neill, Ph.D., director of the Writing Program and Jane Heman Language Professor, has been named the Director of the Core Academic Experience. O’Neill said this new role will draw upon her writing expertise.
Megan O'Neill at the podium during Convocation

Megan O’Neill, Ph.D.

“In many ways, the growth and visibility of the Writing Program at Stetson is the impetus behind my appointment to the Core Academic Experience leadership role,” she explained. “Our core General Education experiences, FSEM and JSEM, are writing intensive; the capstone research courses in the College, with impressive senior expectations in the Schools, are also writing-intense. What the Provost has asked me to do is deepen, enhance, and integrate the Core Curriculum courses, using writing but not limited to that essential skill.”

Improving those skills will give students “an increasing sense of security” about the value of their Stetson education, she said. Students should be able to clearly see how they developed key skills and interests while at Stetson, such as mastering writing and research skills, through such courses as the general-education curriculum, First Year Seminar (FSEM) Program, Junior Seminar (JSEM) and Senior Capstone.

“My goal for Stetson and our faculty is to ensure that we can provide a four-year education that makes forward progress in connected, integrated ways. That task takes a lot of listening, sharing thinking, and reflecting, which is essential if real change is to be created,” she added.

  • Ranjini Thaver, Ph.D., professor of Economics, has been named Director of the First Year Seminar Experience. In this role, she will work closely with O’Neill as the director of the Core Academic Experience to foster an integrative learning process among Stetson students, faculty, staff and other constituents.

Ranjini Thaver, Ph.D.

During this academic year, Stetson celebrates the 10th anniversary of its signature First Year Seminar (FSEM) program and is well positioned to adopt an integrative strategy to facilities students’ progress from novice to mastery of effective writing and research skills from their first through their senior year and beyond, she said.

One goal is to present FSEM as the first of three common learning experiences that also include JSEM and the Senior Capstone.  With writing, critical thinking, and information literacy as linchpins of the three core learning experiences, FSEM is positioned as the foundational course of each student’s unique, integrative learning journey from first year to graduation and beyond.

To facilitate and make transparent this trajectory, the FSEM Program will promote and reinforce shared understanding of FSEM learning outcomes by all stakeholders through focused workshops and other year-round events. Paramount to facilitating coherence across the arc of the student’s tenure will be purposeful scaffolding of these outcomes to make the nature and reach of skills gained more transparent to the concerned and engaged Professional Stetson Hatter Graduate.

“I will work with the Core Academic Experience Committee to adopt an integrative and interwoven core learning process,” Thaver said. “For the FSEM program, this means intentionally creating coherence and consistency in a student’s academic learning, from admission, into the FSEM, and pulsating all the way through the rest of the curriculum, and ultimately, beyond Stetson.”

  •  Grace Kaletski-Maisel, M.S., assistant professor and Learning & Information Literacy librarian in the duPont-Ball Library, has been named External Scholarship Advisor.

Grace Kaletski-Maisel, M.S.

This new position will help students apply for prestigious and competitive scholarship programs, such as Rhodes Scholars, who receive full financial support to pursue a degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and Fulbright Scholarships that provide for international graduate study, research or teaching through a worldwide exchange program.

“The goal of this position is to enhance Stetson’s advising capacity in providing new student research opportunities and promoting competitiveness for elite scholarships, fellowships and awards,” Kaletski-Maisel said. “I’ll be working with faculty to recruit more students who want to compete for distinguished scholarships or who demonstrate promise, working with those students to identify opportunities that fit their individual strengths and interests, and providing support to students and their mentors throughout the award application process.

“As a librarian, I am passionate about connecting students with the information and resources they need to be successful. I am excited to apply this passion to scholarships that will help students achieve their personal and professional goals and enhance Stetson’s national reputation,” she added.

Reproduced from Stetson Today