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Information for First-Year Students

Your First Year at SUNY Potsdam

During your first year at SUNY Potsdam you will take approximately five courses each semester – a total of around ten in your first year. Those courses will likely consist of:

  • Three WAYS of Beginning Seminars (all three classes will be completed throughout your first two semesters)
    • WAYS 101: Critical Thinking Seminar – View Courses
    • WAYS 102: College Writing Seminar - View Courses
    • WAYS 103: Speaking about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Seminar - View Courses
  • Perhaps a Core Writing course (for students who determine that they would benefit from strengthening their writing skills before taking WAYS 102: College Writing Seminar).
  • Other introductory courses in your major or to help you explore your interests as you decide which major is right for you.

The Potsdam Pathways Core Curriculum is set up to focus on some of the key skills that are so important for success ins college. Students will work closely with faculty and classmates in small seminar-style courses. Thinking critically, reading closely, writing clearly and speaking effectively are key components of various WAYS classes. We have found that students appreciate the chance to work on those skills while learning about a topic that interests them.

3 courses (9 credits) required

WAYS 101: Critical Thinking Seminar (3 cr.)

(SUNY Critical Thinking/SUNY Information Management)

WAYS 101 will be a “Big Ideas” course focusing on “wicked problems” and the contexts in which those problems occur. The courses focus on significant and messy issues with which the faculty experts are deeply engaged. They feature explicit instruction in critical thinking—the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do and what to believe—as well as oral and written applications of those abilities. Critical Thinking has been characterized as “... the awakening of the intellect to the study of itself.” This is important, as it implies a high degree of self-consciousness about and reflection on one’s thinking processes. Wicked problems seminars are specifically designed to introduce students to a rigorous and demanding liberal arts curriculum, to provide the opportunity for students to work closely with a faculty mentor, and to establish a sense of community among participants.

WAYS 101 Seminar Student Learning Outcomes

Through oral and written assignments, students:

  1. Articulate the complexities, subtleties, and nuances of the wicked problem. (Understanding)
  2. Map out claims made (what is being argued for) and reasons/evidence given in support of those claims. (Analyzing)
  3. Evaluate arguments, including detecting inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning (i.e., logical fallacies, or common forms of logical error, e.g., mistaking a correlation for causation). (Evaluating)
  4. Construct arguments, anticipating likely objections to those arguments and formulating possible responses to these objections. (Creating)
  5. Analyze their own and others’ assumptions in framing the problem and in defining the relevant evidence, and reflect on how those assumptions affect their position. (Analyzing)
  6. Critically evaluate the reliability of source materials (Evaluating)

WAYS 102: College Writing Seminar (3 cr.)

(SUNY Basic Communication/SUNY Information Management)

WAYS 102 helps students develop skills as critical readers, compelling writers, and thoughtful participants in the academic community. This course is designed to help students write effectively in other university courses; develop critical thinking and writing fluency; and find, critically evaluate, and incorporate source materials. Each WAYS 102 seminar will have a particular framing question/issue that provides a focused context within which students will approach texts and assignments. Students will read, discuss, and write about a variety of texts, identifying underlying assumptions, evidence, and points of view, drawing inferences, and reaching independent conclusions. They will begin to work with resources—evaluating, incorporating, and acknowledging them—with increasing sophistication.

Students will work with their advisors during summer orientation/advising to determine if they should take WAYS 102: College Writing Seminar or a Core Writing class. 

Find out more about Core Writing courses here

WAYS 102 Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students:

  1. Respond to the arguments of a diverse range of texts. (Evaluating)
  2. Construct (plan, draft, revise, and edit) extended writing in drafts of increasing quality, in response to feedback from diverse readers (peers, instructors). (Creating)
  3. Craft arguments with clear purpose, logical organization, internal consistency and appropriate tone. (Creating)
  4. Integrate appropriate outside sources into their own writing. (Applying)
  5. Apply conventions of grammar, structure, and citation appropriate to the disciplinary lens. (Applying)

WAYS 103: Talking about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Seminar (3 cr.)

(SUNY Basic Communication/SUNY Information Management)

WAYS 103 is a speaking class that exposes students to concepts necessary to live, work, and create in the diverse populations and social identities that characterize the U.S., including but not limited to the following: race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, disability status, socioeconomic status, religion, gender, gender identity and expression, and age. Students will explore personal and societal assumptions about differences, and will examine systemic cultural, political, and economic imbalances. Students will model civil and respectful discussions about difficult topics and charged issues.

WAYS 103 Seminar Student Learning Outcomes

After completion of this seminar, students:

  1. Describe and explain systemic cultural, political and/or economic imbalances.
  2. Describe and explain historical and/or contemporary challenges faced by underrepresented population(s) traditionally marginalized or oppressed in the U.S. and analyze their responses to them.
  3. Demonstrate an appreciation of the responses to the challenges faced by marginalized populations in the USA.
  4. Identify and evaluate personal and societal assumptions about differences.
  5. Use spoken communication to demonstrate understanding of differences and sensitivities for the diversity topics explored in the course that:
    1. is supported by credible, relevant and properly cited evidence;
    2. is designed for a specific audience and purpose;
    3. demonstrates consistent organizational patterns;
    4. identifies persuasive techniques; and
    5. employs appropriate and persuasive delivery techniques.

6 courses (19 credits) required

Thinking Aesthetically (TA-3 cr.)

(SUNY The Arts or SUNY Humanities)

Thinking Aesthetically courses will develop students’ reflective engagement with the creative process by engaging them in a variety of forms of artistic creativity—developing their ability to identify, understand, and appreciate the processes through which works of art are produced, analyzed, and interpreted. TA courses can be devoted to one of the following:

  1. producing forms of artistic creativity (such as painting, acting, poetry writing, dancing, singing, scenic design, music, etc.),
  2. analyzing, interpreting, and critically discussing forms of artistic creativity, or
  3. combining the production (doing), analysis, interpretation, and critical discussion of forms of artistic creativity.

Thinking Aesthetically Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students:

  1. Create art within the form. (Creating) - (Required only if the course focuses on (a) under the TA Description.)
  2. Critically analyze the form, content, and style of an art form. (Analyzing)
  3. Critically evaluate the form, content, and style of an art form. (Evaluating)
  4. Interpret the art form being studied. (Understanding)
  5. Critically analyze the historical, contemporary, sociocultural, or theoretical contexts of an art form.(Evaluating) - (Required only if the course focuses on (b) under the TA Description.)

Thinking Foundationally (TF-3 cr.)

(SUNY Humanities or other)

Thinking Foundationally courses are designed to uncover and critically (i.e., skeptically and argumentatively) examine foundational assumptions. Foundational assumptions occur in every subject area: i.e., every subject area is grounded in theoretical/foundational assumptions that guide inquiry in that subject area. Thinking Foundationally courses will build upon the basic critical thinking skills introduced and exercised in the WAYS 101 seminars. Students will be required to develop and practice higher-order argumentation skills. Thinking Foundationally courses will require a significant amount of writing in which students demonstrate their ability to understand and explicate arguments, and to anticipate, appreciate, and respond to objections. This might be done in a series of papers arguing on multiple sides of an issue, culminating in a paper which synthesizes the previous work and advocates for a particular position.

Thinking Foundationally Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain a range of foundational approaches used within the relevant subject area and apply those approaches. (Explaining and Applying)
  2. Articulate the foundational assumptions used by those approaches. (Understanding)
  3. Articulate the necessity, benefits, and drawbacks of making foundational assumptions within a subject area. (Understanding)
  4. Identify in writing the strengths and weaknesses of different foundational approaches and argue persuasively for and against the assumptions made by those approaches. (Applying and Evaluating)
  5. Compose papers in which they argue first for one foundational perspective and then for an opposing perspective, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each. (Creating)

Thinking Historically (TH-3 cr.)

(SUNY American History or SUNY Western Civilizations or SUNY Other World Civilizations)

Thinking Historically courses explore some of the sources, arguments, and methodologies used to understand the past. Why does the past matter? How do we know what we know about the past? How do we move beyond the idea that how we know things now is the only way we need to know them? Our understanding of the past is constructed from individual stories that are themselves shaped by larger cultural contexts. These courses are designed to help students become critical consumers of historical knowledge to assist their navigation through contemporary concerns that are themselves rooted in history.

Thinking Historically Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify relevant source materials commonly used to understand the past. (Applying)
  2. Critically evaluate the uses and limitations of a range of source materials for understanding the past. (Evaluating)
  3. Engage with evolving scholarly conversations about how we understand and remember the past. (Creating)
  4. Demonstrate student learning outcomes 1-3 in research-oriented writing assignments appropriate to the discipline. (Creating)

Thinking Mathematically (TM-3 cr.)

(SUNY Mathematics)

Thinking Mathematically courses build proficiency with fundamental tools of mathematics, such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, functions, graphs, and statistics. They teach students precise quantitative logical reasoning and applications of mathematical problem-solving skills in abstract and real-world problems. They engage students in oral and written communication of mathematical ideas.

Thinking Mathematically Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students:

  1. Use the fundamental tools of mathematics, such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, functions, graphs, and statistics. (Applying)
  2. Apply precise, logical quantitative reasoning to mathematical hypotheses and conditions. (Applying)
  3. Identify mathematical structure and pattern. (Applying)
  4. Engage in mathematical abstractions. (Applying)
  5. Communicate effectively with oral and written skills appropriate to the discipline. (Understanding)

Thinking Scientifically

(SUNY Natural Sciences/SUNY Social Sciences)

Courses that fulfill the Thinking Scientifically requirements (Natural World-NW and Social World- SW) engage students in the basic methods and goals of the natural and social sciences with the aim of making them scientifically literate and able to make reasonable and well-founded judgments on matters concerning the natural and social worlds.

Thinking Scientifically: Natural World (NW-4 cr. Includes lab) (SUNY Natural Sciences)
Thinking Scientifically: Social World (SW-3 cr.) (SUNY Social Sciences)

Thinking Scientifically: Natural World Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students:

  1. Explain the process of scientific investigation and its strict reliance on empirical evidence. (Understanding)
  2. Apply the scientific process to phenomena in the natural world. (Applying)
  3. Evaluate scientific claims to make informed and logical judgments about natural science issues. (Evaluating)
  4. Discuss the impact of science and scientific discoveries on their lives. (Creating)

Thinking Scientifically: Social World Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students:

  1. Assess the quality of qualitative and/or quantitative data. (Evaluating)
  2. Evaluate the quality of scientific inferences drawn from data. (Evaluating)
  3. Identify essential discipline-specific theories, terminology, and conceptual frameworks from the social sciences. (Applying)
  4. Comprehend diverse viewpoints from the social sciences. (Understanding)
  5. Apply basic course concepts and methods to answer a simple social science research question. (Applying).

3 courses (9 credits) plus 2 requirements fulfilled in major

WAYS 301: Connecting the Ways of Thinking (3 cr.)

(SUNY Information Management)

WAYS 301 courses are meant to enhance students’ ability to make connections across academic disciplines and to provide the opportunity for self-assessment of this cross disciplinary approach to problem shaping. Led by two faculty members from different disciplines, students will examine a central issue from multiple perspectives. The course critically examines information from diverse sources, shapes the issue through creative questioning, and explores and evaluates a range of solutions.

WAYS 301 Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students:

  1. Evaluate the relevance and validity of sources across multiple disciplines with a focus on identifying the authors’ assumptions and biases. (Evaluating)
  2. Synthesize information (e.g., examples, facts, theories) from multiple disciplines or perspectives to identify and describe the examined issue. (Creating)
  3. Reflect, in writing, and perhaps in other formats, on the evolution of their individual thought processes, awareness of their personal assumptions and biases, and how they might approach complex issues differently in the future. (Creating)

Connecting through Language Other than English (CL-3 cr.)

(SUNY Foreign Language)

These courses examine salient structural linguistic components of a language other than English as well as key cultural features of other-than-English language communities. Courses will develop effective ways to communicate in that language and will significantly increase students’ understanding and appreciation of a diverse range of non-English language communities and their creative contributions.

Connecting though Language Other than English Student Learning Outcomes

CL 101
At the conclusion of this course, students:

  1. Recognize distinct cultural features of at least one non-English language community. (Remembering)
  2. Develop pertinent reflections on cultural features of non-English language communities. (Applying)
  3. Identify sentences in present tense in the new language. (Applying)
  4. Use present tense verbs to discuss basic topics. (Applying)

CL 102
At the conclusion of this course, students:

  1. Recognize distinct cultural features of at least one non-English language community. (Remembering)
  2. Develop pertinent reflections on cultural features of non-English language communities. (Applying)
  3. Identify sentences in past tense in the new language. (Applying)
  4. All students who completed course IV in high school have met the CL requirement at SUNY Potsdam. Those students who excelled in French and Spanish IV will be encouraged to take either French 203 or Spanish 203. In addition, native and heritage speakers must approach the Modern Languages chair for an interview and possible examination testing.
  5. All CL courses will have a distinct creative cultural focus through a compelling and unique perspective and will follow an interactive methodology so as to motivate students to apply basic grammatical structures to communicate in a language other than English.
  6. Use past tense verbs to discuss a variety of topics. (Applying)

CL 103
At the conclusion of this course, students:

  1. Recognize distinct cultural features of at least one non-English language community. (Remembering)
  2. Develop pertinent reflections on cultural features of non-English language communities. (Applying)
  3. Identify structural nuances in the new language. (Applying)
  4. Formulate opinions and hypothetical situations in speaking and writing. (Creating)

Connecting Globally (CG-3 cr.)

(SUNY Western Civilizations or SUNY Other World Civilizations)

This requirement engages students in the study of ideas, peoples, places, and/or life in specific global context(s) (not derived primarily from the United States) with a focus on the societies, civilizations, and/or cultural traditions in Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Americas, and/or Europe.

Connecting Globally Student Learning Outcomes
At the conclusion of this course, students:

  1. Explain key characteristics and concepts in global and/or cross-cultural context(s) that are explored in the course. (Understanding)
  2. Identify significant aspects of global and/or intercultural connections with political, historical, artistic, cultural, philosophical, economic, scientific, technological, and/or international components. (Applying)
  3. Analyze historical or contemporary global issues, discourses, narratives, and/or artistic expressions from more than one perspective. (Analyzing)
  4. Demonstrate competence in cross-cultural understanding through written, spoken, visual, or performed content appropriate to the discipline(s). (Understanding)

Connecting Clearly: Communication in the Major (CM-credits count in major)

(SUNY Information Management)

This requirement adopts a “communicating in the disciplines” model that transmits the skills required to both learn and create knowledge within the chosen academic field, and to develop a professional voice through opportunities to write and speak on substantive issues arising from the major. This requirement may be met by a single course covering both writing and speaking in the major, or by separate courses, one focusing on writing and the other on speaking, to be determined by the major department.

Connecting Clearly: Communication in the Major Student Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this requirement students:

  1. Identify at least two types of written and oral communication specific to their discipline. (Applying)
  2. Explain what sorts of rhetoric are generally considered effective within the types of discipline specific communication they are studying. (Evaluating)
  3. Explain what sorts of evidence are generally considered valid within the types of discipline specific communication they are studying. (Evaluating)
  4. Produce (and accept feedback on) substantive written and oral work of their own that applies the understanding they have gained through analysis of models of the types of discipline-specific communication. (Creating)

Connecting Theory to Practice through Applied Learning (CT-credits count in major)

(SUNY Applied Learning)

Connecting Theory to Practice through Applied Learning, which counts in the major, is a credit-bearing experience in which students learn by engaging in direct application of skills, theories, and models. Students apply knowledge and skills gained from traditional classroom learning to hands-on and/or real world settings, creative projects or research, and then apply what they gained from their applied experience to their academic learning. The activity can be embedded as part of a course or can occur outside of the classroom.

Connecting Theory to Practice through Applied Learning Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this experience, students:

  1. Identify the links between skills/theories/models of the discipline and practice. (Applying)
  2. Explain how they grew personally, professionally, and intellectually as a result of the applied experience. (Evaluating)

"These are courses that will greatly prepare me for my future and give me skills to become a more desirable candidate in the job market."

 
Becky Holmes '24