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Out of Class Experiences aid students college career

by Morgan Culp

BAC or HON classes are mandatory for freshmen to take during their first two semesters at The University of Tampa. These courses were put in place to aid students in the transition from high school to college, and they offer many different types of out of class experiences. 

“The goal is to get students out of the classroom and experience something outside of their normal academic plan,” said academic program specialist Gianna Nicholas. “By doing this, students get to have a lot of fun.”

Each section of these courses has an assigned peer mentor and professor. A peer mentor is an upperclassman at UT who has been accepted into the role to help students navigate their first year in college based on their experiences. According to Nicholas, some of the classes are themed and the out of class experiences, or OCEs,  can reflect the certain specification.

“My class was music themed,” said previous peer mentor Kelly Collins, junior music education and theatre double major. “We took our students on a tour of the Tampa Theatre and we learned all about its history and had a private performance on the theatre organ by UT faculty. The students really enjoyed seeing that in action.”

The syllabus for the BAC or HON 101 and 102 courses allow room for professors and their peer mentors to tailor the OCE to their class interests, even if the course is not themed.

Senior psychology major, Jessica LaFontaine, has been a peer mentor for many different types of sections. She has facilitated a volleyball game, a mock CSI investigation and the leadership challenge course on campus.

LaFontaine said she had a great experience during her OCE as a freshman, conducting research at the Glazer Children’s Museum in an inquiry-based course, so she wants students to have the same experience.

“I think it is really important for a peer mentor to work together with their professor to figure out what OCE your students might be interested in,” said LaFontaine. “It’s awesome that professors get the student perspective so the mentor can be honest if the OCE proposed by the professor might suck for students.”

Although OCEs have the capability to be fun for all students, not all BAC or HON classes utilize their funds in the proper way.

According to Nicholas, BAC 101/102 courses get $100 for the full academic year to use how they would like. If an instructor does not use the funds, the money is used for other, more expensive OCEs such as Tampa Aquarium visits, which is a new OCE this year.

“We don’t want professors to just use this money on pizza parties,” said Nicholas. “We want students to get out of their classrooms and see Tampa.”

Ciara Gallagher, freshman international business and marketing major, had an OCE that she partook in recently. Her class went on the leadership challenge course, which is an outdoor exercise physically, mentally and within a team.

“I loved all the teamwork and how we really had to work together,” said Gallagher. “The only bad thing was having to get so close to my sweaty classmates.”

In the midst of all the positive experiences that some students get out of an OCE, many UT students—both freshman and upperclassmen—do not get to experience them.

OCE’s are not mandatory, but highly encouraged, according to Nicholas. Ultimately, each student’s experience in the BAC and HON courses is dependent upon what the professor and peer mentor decide they want to take on.

Morgan Culp can be reached at morgan.culp@spartans.ut.edu

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