Seminars offer new perspective to freshmen

Conducting research just got a lot more exciting, thanks to a series of freshmen seminars offered by the College of Arts and Sciences.

This fall, freshmen will have the opportunity to take one of 18 seminars that will expose them to the research being conducted by the professor running the class.

These seminars count toward general educations requirements and may also count toward requirements for a major, depending on the program.

The seminars were started three years ago by the former dean of the college, Michael Halleran. He wanted to create a special experience for freshmen by involving them in research for the beginning of their time at UM, according to Traci Arden, a senior associate dean of academic affairs and civic involvement.

“One of the things that is unique about being in a liberal arts school is that you have contact with professors who conduct research,” Arden said.  “We wanted to get students exposed to that from the very being.”

Mitsunori Ogihara, the director of data mining in the center for computational sciences at UM, led a class last year called iListen/UListen, which he will teach again this fall. The class explored how sites like Pandora determine what music to play, and how music and emotions are intertwined.

This year, Ogihara hopes to replicate some of the activities he had last semester but also wants to introduce some new elements to the course.

“The course is mostly open-ended,” he said. “It will have quite a bit of music listening activities both in class and as homework. How the class runs depends on the students. If they have ideas, I am happy to entertain.”

Excursions were an integral part of Louis Marcelin’s seminar, Mapping Diversity and Inequality in the Global City. Marcelin, who is the director of research at the Family and Youth Community Research Center at UM, will be teaching the course again in the fall.

Students will travel around South Florida, from Overtown to Coconut Grove, to learn about the city’s social structure.

“Miami is unique,” Marcelin said. “The idea of the class is to use the city as a text. I create the storyline but what students experience is up to them.”

Marcelin plans to run the seminar like his graduate classes and hopes to foster “intellectual autonomy.”