UNIV 101: A new GE requirement for first-year students

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BYU students hike and light the Y as part of BYU’s Homecoming week. First-year students will have a new course requirement beginning Winter 2024. (Courtesy of Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson)

Many incoming first-year students have heard of the ROC pass, American Heritage and BYU Creamery chocolate milk before ever setting foot on campus.

There is, however, no precedent for UNIV 101 — a new required university introduction class exclusively for first-year students. True freshmen in Winter 2024 will be the first to experience the latest update to general education requirements.

“This class is gonna push you a bit outside of your comfort zone, but it’s a class that if you take it seriously, it will benefit you for the rest of your time at BYU,” senior and peer mentor, Kyndal Eardley, said.

The course is part of a general education redesign. For now, students will take UNIV 101 and have the chance to opt out of one of the other general education courses. 

UNIV 101 aims to teach the mission and aims of BYU, build community and advertise campus resources. 

For example, students will have assignments to attend campus events, visit resource offices and read classic BYU speeches.

The two credit course is pass/fail, and enrollment caps at 25 students per section. Each course will be taught by a full-time faculty member. Administration hopes the course will make a difference, especially for students who are first-generation or low-income.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Chip Oscarson has been on the front lines with the new program. He shared UNIV 101 represents a significant sacrifice on the part of programs and faculty. 

Winter 2024 will have reduced numbers — only 30 sections. Fall 2024 will be a different story. Oscarson explained he anticipates 300 25-person sections to accommodate all first-year students.

“It’s kind of inspiring to see the way the faculty are lining up to say, ‘Yeah, I want to be part of something that will help students learn better,’” he said.

According to Oscarson, pilot programs have been “off the charts successful,” showing that students really do learn, socialize and integrate better with the course. 

Chip Oscarson shares about a student whose BYU experience was transformed by UNIV 101. The course ensures that no student slips through the cracks.

In Oscarson’s view, a BYU education should be more than a tool for future professional placement. It should be a time of growth, self-discovery and service.

“General education classes teach you how to think rather than just giving you content,” he said. UNIV 101 can be understood as a university framework, giving context and purpose to future BYU experiences.

Peer mentors will play a big role in the course. The peer mentor program will be integrated into the course, giving mentors a “close-range,” as well as more frequent and personal interactions with students.

“I feel like it’s been a transformative experience for everyone involved,” peer mentor Emma Lambert said. “For mentors, it’s helped us become closer to our students, so we feel like what we do is more helpful for them.”

Lambert shared she became close friends with her own peer mentor freshman year, which inspired her to snag the job for herself in 2022. She was involved with UNIV 101 pilot courses and now trains other peer mentors for the position.

In her view, UNIV 101 helped first-year students start their BYU experience on the right foot.

“It was a class for them to really learn how the university works. No student can fall through the cracks,” she said.

Eardley shared it would have been “huge” if she could have taken UNIV 101 her first year. She lived off-campus for her first semesters at BYU and had a hard time meeting new people.

“This is an opportunity that takes them (first-year students) out of their comfort zone to meet new people and build a relationship with a professor on campus,” she said.

Solana Armatage explained she thinks UNIV 101 is a step forward for students and for the peer mentor program. Right now, students may view a peer mentor as “just a number in their phone,” she said.

According to her, twice-weekly interaction will help peer mentors connect better with first-year students.

“What the students put in is what they get out. That’s how they can take on the entire university experience,” Armatage said. 

Ultimately, UNIV 101 is designed to help students become learners, she said. 

The course is designed for first-year students in their first semester. Transfer students will not need to enroll. For more information about the course, visit this site

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