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IFS may be different this year; staff prepares for different scenarios



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Intensive Freshman Seminars staff and their international students pose for a photo in 2018 at the Sample Gates. IFS is exploring ways to take the program online while maintaining its core elements. Courtesy Photo

IU’s Intensive Freshman Seminars program will likely take place this summer, but the program may not be on campus, said Mike Beam, director of the IFS program. 

The program is preparing different strategies while waiting for the university to make a decision about what the fall semester will look like.

“Whatever the campus is going to do, we feel confident that the IFS faculty and staff and student staff can respond,” Beam said. “We want to make sure that the experience is as successful and as meaningful as we feel like it’s been for 30 years.”

The current focus of the IFS staff is to identify and seek ways to maintain the core elements of the program in an online setting, while exploring how virtual instruction can help facilitate student development, Beam said.

The program is also focusing on connecting faculty members with the relevant campus resources to help them prepare for virtual instruction. However, Beam said plans for individual courses and issues such as housing can only be rolled out after IU confirms its fall semester plan.

"Because it's a showcase of what the campus has to offer, part of our limitation is that the campus has to take shape," Beam said.

AJ Boyd, a rising senior majoring in history and African American and African diaspora studies, said she will miss the IFS experiences she has had for three years. Boyd participated in IFS as a freshman and was on staff during her sophomore and junior years. She is set to be on staff this summer, but as of now, it is unknown whether the program will be in person. 

“I’m just going to miss watching my students grow,” she said.

Boyd said first-time student staff members will have to pick up a lot in a short amount of time. The routine spring training for student staff was not conducted this year, and their first training will be in July through recorded videos.

Boyd said that moving online will pose a challenge for the staff members this year. 

“I think that will be the next big challenge, which is how do we facilitate the social aspects of IFS?” she said.

Boyd’s IFS experience as a student was defined by her course and her friendships. She got to learn what the discipline of history is like in a college setting, but she also bonded with other incoming freshmen, one of whom became her roommate for three years of her college life. 

Boyd thinks some elements of the IFS experience will be missing for students this year if the program goes online. 

“Hopefully not, but I think they are going to miss out on their first set of college friends,” she said. “They’re missing out on their first support system.”

English professor Dana Anderson will be teaching for IFS for the 14th year this summer. He said that for his course, Leaving Teenage Wasteland: Expectations of Adulthood in Literature and Culture, he would regularly bring the whole class to different locations across campus for lectures to help them feel at home. 

Anderson said this year, he might need to look for a different way to give students a reason to call IU’s campus their new home. He said that he is also concerned about how some students might lack access to adequate internet connection. 

Despite challenges with a possible online mode of instruction, Anderson is confident he will maintain the core components of IFS in his course. 

“What makes IFS so special is that ideally, it introduces you to people that are friends that stand the test of time,” he said. “I’m going to find even more imaginative ways for people to be working together and learning about each other as people, not just learning about English.”

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