The Gateway Colloquia section of Illinois Wesleyan University’s undergraduate curriculum was designed to give students a solid writing foundation upon which to build the rest of their college experience. Now, IWU’s Student Senate is working with Curriculum Council and faculty members to incorporate a few improvements in the program for future students.
While the school feels that Gateway is a beneficial and essential program for first-year students here at Wesleyan, there are a few problems that have been brought to the surface.
As Senate Vice President Blair Wright notes, “The most prominent points of discussion surrounding Gateway reform are consistency in pedagogy and curriculum and sustainable staffing.”
She continued, saying, “Regarding staffing, the goal is to assure that there is an oversight system in place and that we are able to continue to have engaged, passionate professors teaching these exciting first-year courses.”
Currently, Gateway Colloquia classes are staffed approximately 40 percent by adjuncts, but with limited resources, this might not be a sustainable figure moving forward.
Senate and Curriculum Council are working to ensure the development of a staffing model that is agreed upon by faculty and ensures the sustainability of the program. Talks are preliminary as of now, but Senate hopes that they will snowball in the fall as they receive more student input about potential changes.
Something that will assist the school in reducing its reliance on adjunct professors is the anticipated decrease in enrollment in coming years, which will come as a result of the lower number of high school graduates in the near future.
This will make it easier for the school to truncate and focus the program, and, in turn, students will experience a consistent and unified Gateway experience.
The Curriculum Council’s biggest goal is to make these changes all while maintaining the diversity that is central to Gateway’s identity. As Student Senate President Austin Aldag noted, there are always several different majors that comprise the various classes offered, saying that it is a good way for students to meet other students outside of their field of study.
Essentially, the Gateway program serves as an introduction to general education classes here at Wesleyan, and improvements, Wright mentioned, are “a great opportunity to show students that we care about teaching to their passions.”
Student Senate is looking to build upon what is already a strong program. “It’s good we’re not rushing,” Wright added, noting that it takes time to spread awareness and enthusiasm for such changes. “We can’t afford to have a good program without also having interested professors and students. Having a diverse range of classes is central to the liberal arts’ mission.”
Another idea that is being tossed around in meetings is formalizing the research component of the Gateway curriculum—in essence, offering more regulated opportunities for students to conduct research and gain experience using the tools available at Ames library.
In addition, a suggestion that is being discussed is increased oral presentation. This would better equip students in the field of public speaking, as speaking skills in both formal and informal settings have been set as priorities.
In addition to potential changes to the Gateway program, Wesleyan administration is also mandating a three-year on-campus housing requirement for upcoming first-years, which, as Wright affirmed, would help foster a united and socially healthy environment that would encourage the student body to get involved.
As we approach the end of the school year, many changes are on the horizon.