Small Class, Big Community
Two students tell us why Woodsworth One was "the one" for them
Excitement is building for students beginning their studies at U of T this fall. With course enrolment soon underway, new students might be asking themselves questions such as: What courses should I take? Will I be able to make friends in class? How will I handle the transition to university?
For students with these concerns, the Woodsworth One program could be an ideal choice. Woodsworth One is among eight First-Year Foundations Ones Programs offered by the Faculty of Arts & Science. Commonly referred to as “the Ones,” these programs offer a small-class setting along with experiential learning opportunities and events held outside of the classroom.
Students who enroll in Woodsworth One choose between two streams: Order and Disorder and Popular Culture Today. Students take two half-credit seminars – one in each term – and also reserve a spot in their weekly schedule for group activities, known as “co-curriculars,” that build students’ sense of community within Woodsworth College and across U of T. These activities include field trips, film screenings, guest speakers, writing workshops and test-taking seminars. The smaller class size allows for a more interactive experience with an emphasis on discussions, role-playing games, simulations and debates.
I recently had a chance to catch up with two former Woodsworth One students, George Moshenski-Dubov, who completed the program in 2016, and Abena Somiah, who just finished up in April 2019. George completed his Honours Bachelor of Arts this June with a double major in Criminology & Sociolegal Studies and Sociology. This September, George is excited to begin law school at Western University and hopes to eventually practice in the areas of Sports and Entertainment law. Abena begins her second year of studies this fall and looks forward to pursuing a major in East Asian Studies and a double minor in Diaspora & Transnational Studies and Political Science. Read on to learn what George & Abena had to say about the Woodsworth One program.
Small Class, Big Community
With classes capped at just 30 students, Abena and George both found that making friends in Woodsworth One was a breeze. “I could easily befriend many, if not all, of my classmates,” says George, adding that many Woodsworth One students end up meeting their best friends in the program. Abena also made lasting connections in the program. “The fact that the class took place with a small number of students definitely fostered a sense of community and friendship,” she says. “I’ve been able to make friendships that will last me a long time!” she adds.
Another benefit of a smaller class size is that students can easily connect with their professor. “The instructor was always accessible before and after class, in person or over email,” says George, adding that this one-on-one time helped him to further strengthen his academic skills. “This is the course for students who want to get as much feedback on their work as possible, and are looking to improve their work for their other courses,” he adds.
"I’ve been able to make friendships that will last me a long time!"
- Abena Somiah
Two Streams to Choose From
Both Abena and George were enrolled in the Order and Disorder stream which focuses on the role of laws, values, government policies, trade, and innovation in creating and disrupting both social and global order. “Order & Disorder is 100% the course for students interested in studying Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, Criminology, Philosophy, History, or anything similar,” says George. Because of the wide range of topics covered, “no week ever got repetitive or boring,” he says. Abena also found the course material highly engaging, especially the study of crime, its origins and possible solutions. Her favourite activity was one in which students were asked to come up with solutions to crime in a fictional country. “Learning the material did not feel tedious...It felt more like we were internalizing information on our own, thanks to the assignments we were given and the debates and problem-solving activities we did in class,” says Abena.
The Popular Culture Today stream of Woodsworth One was not offered for the past couple of years, but fortunately for incoming students, it’s making a comeback this year! This stream explores how popular culture works and what it means. The seminar will examine the products and social behaviours associated with the entertainment industry. Students will have an opportunity to focus on one major area of popular culture in greater depth such as popular music, genre fiction or online culture, etc.
"This is the course for students who want to get as much feedback on their work as possible."
- George Moshenski-Dubov
Learning that Goes Beyond the Classroom
The material covered in both the Order and Disorder and Popular Culture streams is interdisciplinary and dynamic. But there’s more to Woodsworth One than just a series of classes: there are co-curricular activities such as guest speakers, films, interactive learning experiences, and field trips. George recalls that the most popular activities in his year were the Upper-Year Student Major Café – in which students shared their experiences of being in a particular academic program – and the Law Panel, a discussion featuring a group of working professionals who all held a law degree. The most significant event for Abena was an information session run by coordinators from various academic programs. “One of the programs presented was Diaspora & Transnational Studies,” says Abena. “It interested me so much that I decided to minor in it!”
George benefited from Woodsworth One’s networking and advising opportunities. “I learned about volunteering opportunities around the college and campus,” says George. “This helped me secure a position as a leader on the Woodworth Orientation team which continued to impact my ability to share in the Woodsworth community.”
In addition to instructors and teaching assistants, there’s a whole team of helpers available to Woodsworth One students who are trying to make the transition to university life. This includes a learning strategist, academic advisors at the Office of the Registrar, and instructors from the Academic Writing Centre. Abena particularly valued Woodsworth One’s academic skills workshops. “The workshops I participated in, which included test-taking and academic success workshops, were incredibly helpful to me,” says Abena. Other topics covered in the workshops include time-management and essay-writing.
Students also benefit from upper-year mentors called Student Liaison (SLs) who offer support and share their experiences on how to navigate first year. For George, the SLs were invaluable. “They’re available in-person or over email to answer questions regarding campus, student life, or personal experiences,” says George. “This was especially helpful during my first semester when U of T can be its most confusing,” he adds. George went on to become a Student Liaison himself during his third and fourth year.
"You cannot go wrong with this course"
When asked if they would recommend the Woodsworth One program, George and Abena didn’t hesitate. “I would definitely recommend this program to other students,” says Abena. “Not only is the course material incredibly relevant for Humanities and Social Science students - you also get the information and resources you need as a first year student, and you make unforgettable friendships.” George maintains that enrolling in the program was the best decision he made during his four-year degree. “Woodsworth One is the best option for students trying to balance university life, adapting to university-level grading and looking to make new friends,” says George, adding: “You cannot go wrong with this course.”
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