Wollman teaches freshmen class

Photo: Logan Lilly
President Julie Wollman addresses her first year experience class that studies the culture of a college campus on Monday afternoon.

By Logan Lilly

The classroom fills with the sound of students chatting and supplies being put onto desks. The professor walks in and chats with the students light-heartedly before class begins. The scene is a familiar one but this time there’s a twist, the professor is the president of the university.

This exact scene is what happened on the first day of class for the students enrolled in President Wollman’s first year experience seminar class call “College, What, Why and How?”.

The class, which is only available for first year students, is set up like an anthropology class that is studying college as a culture.

“I think that [the students] have found it interesting, especially when the topic relates to them directly,” Wollman said. “I was very glad that they enjoyed the first chapter of the book I selected.”

The idea for the class came from Wollman herself who had missed teaching. Wollman expressed that it had been a number of years since she taught a class and even longer since she has taught freshmen.

“It’s a great opportunity for me because I love to teach,” Wollman said. “I think I can learn a lot from [the class].”

President Wollman wasn’t given an special treatment setting up the class either. Wollman had to go through the same process to get the class approved as most professors and has her own office hours for her students.

“[Teaching the class] really makes you appreciate how hard our faculty work,” Wollman said.

While being in a class taught by the president of the university may sound intimidating several of her students, Georgett Bridgett and Jeffrey McManigal, both expressed it’s just like all their other classes.

“I was really excited because most people don’t get to meet [the president of the university],” Bridgett said. “She doesn’t act like you would expect a president to act. She’s down to earth and speaks to you just like any of your other professors.”

The subject matter of studying college, specifically for freshmen, seems to be what drew students to the class in the first place.

“I thought [the class] would be really interesting to be in it because it’s all about the first year experience,” McManigal said. “Being a freshman I thought it would be enlightening.”

Both her students and President Wollman agree once in the classroom the class is treated like any other one on campus.

“The class is really interesting, you find out things you never would have thought of, it’s a lot to take in but it’s good information,” McManigal said.

“My feeling is that when we’re in class we’re just like any other group of professor and students,” Wollman said.

For the most part students in the class have expressed that the thought of being in class with the president of the university hasn’t effected how they approach the class.

“I don’t feel intimidated, I feel motivated to do her work and do it properly,” Bridgett said. “I take her class very seriously.”

It isn’t just her students the are learning in the class however, President Wollman is also learning from the experience.

“I started teaching at the university level almost 25 years ago and taught a graduate class as recently as three years ago when I was a vice president, before I came to Edinboro,” Wollman said. “I learned a lot while putting the course together as I thought about how best to induct freshmen into college academic life, how to structure the class to meet their needs, and how to provide the right amount of guidance balanced by growing independence. And I continue to learn with each class meeting.”

The class meets twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays, on the second floor in Crawford Hall.

“More than anything I hope they grow individually as students and as people,” Wollman said.  “I hope they open their minds to new ideas and perspectives and become more accepting of the complexity of issues instead of trying to simplify them; I hope they all develop a deeper desire to learn and they take satisfaction in learning for its own sake.” 

Logan is the editor-in-chief at The Spectator. He can be reached at (814) 732-2266