The First Day Lecture, an initiative that debuted under a pilot program in the Ivan Allen College (IAC) last spring, was introduced to the rest of the campus during the first week of this semester’s classes. As part of the program, professors in all majors were encouraged—but not required—to take time during the first lecture of the semester to discuss their academic backgrounds and research interests with their students.
The initiative emerged as the result of a joint effort among the Student Advisory Board for Undergraduate Research (SABUR), the IAC Student Advisory Board (IAC SAB) and SGA’s Academic Affairs Committee.
“The two primary goals of this effort were to facilitate better communication between faculty and students and to encourage more undergraduate research,” said Executive Vice President Austen Edwards, who served as SGA’s Executive Director of Academic Affairs last year.
Conceptualization of the First Day Lecture began in discussions among SABUR and the IAC SAB about how to increase student involvement in undergrad research.
“[Former IAC SAB President Alex Henke] wanted to just start out by having [IAC] professors talk about their research to students, and I was really excited about the idea because I had also been thinking about doing something like that campus-wide. So we figured we should team up,” said Katy Hammersmith, SABUR President and a fourth-year BME major.
SGA’s Academic Affairs Committee, which worked to establish the Student-Faculty Expectations Agreement last year to improve student-faculty relations, became involved with the discussions late last fall and worked alongside SABUR and the IAC SAB to develop the initiative. With help from IAC Associate Dean John Tone, the students were able to set up a meeting with the Associate Deans from various colleges at Tech and quickly gained their support for the initiative.
“Major [credit] should be given to Dr. Tone. When he heard the idea, he got really passionate behind it, and when he introduced it to the other Associate Deans of the university, his drive for it really convinced them,” said Elena Petrakieva, IAC SAB President and a fourth-year ECON/INTA major.
Since the First Day Lecture debuted across all of the Institute’s colleges, professors have generally been receptive to the idea and have taken up the opportunity to discuss their backgrounds.
“You’re asking professors to talk about their research, and that’s what they are really passionate about too,” Hammersmith said.