“A college student is not a test score,” said Daniel Rosenberg, Ph.D., director of Adelphi's General Studies Learning Community.
by Cecil Harris
“A college student is not a test score,” said Daniel Rosenberg, Ph.D. As director of the General Studies Learning Community at Adelphi University, he has tried to make sure every student in the program understands that as well.
“What is innovative about the program is the program itself,” Dr. Rosenberg said. “General Studies Learning Community is the only academic program on campus where students can say, ‘I don’t want my SAT score considered.’ Many of them have been traumatized by standardized tests. Many have been bored to death in classrooms by teachers who don’t engage them.”
Offered in the College of Arts and Sciences, General Studies Learning Community is a one-year intensive program for freshmen whose potential for academic achievement has been identified by the university through interviews with faculty, administrators and counselors, but whose high school grades and standardized test scores may not meet Adelphi’s traditional admission requirements.
“I guess you could say this program is iconoclastic,” said Dr. Rosenberg, who has taught Western Civilization at Adelphi since 1985. “We avoid the straight lecture. We use spontaneity as a teaching method. Not uncontrolled spontaneity, but as a way of reacting to current events, as part of a question-and-answer form of teaching—asking students ‘What do you think?’—to give them information that will be retained better.”
Dr. Rosenberg, the 2013 recipient of Adelphi’s Professional Excellence in Teaching Award, is writing a book about the General Studies Learning Community to emphasize its viability for freshmen. The program combines liberal arts courses, presentations and off-campus learning with individual counseling and tutoring. Students who complete the program are absorbed into Adelphi’s other undergraduate programs as sophomores.
Adelphi senior Justin Long-Moton and junior Kedene McLeod—both General Studies Learning Community alums—were winners in the annual New York Knicks Poetry Slam contest.
Hundreds of other graduates have achieved success in numerous professions. The list includes Carla (Williams) Deazle ’01, M.A. ’02, an alumna of the General Studies Learning Community and the Scholar Teacher Education Program (also known as S.T.E.P.) in the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education. Today, she’s a General Studies Learning Community professor, the assistant director of the program and a doctoral candidate.
Deazle and John Rizzi, Ph.D. ’14, occasionally team-teach a General Studies Learning Community course. Each already teaches an innovative Expository Writing course that draws upon mass media to motivate students to think, read and write critically. Dr. Rizzi, who earned his doctorate in the School of Social Work, makes mental illness the theme of his course; students watch episodes of Homeland, a TV series with a character with bipolar disorder. Deazle incorporates a serial killer theme into her teaching; students watch film such as The Talented Mr. Ripley and episodes of the TV series Dexter.
“Some students don’t realize the value of the General Studies Learning Community when they’re in it, but a lot of students come back after they’re out of the program for the counseling and tutoring,” said Deazle, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in higher education administration.
Karen Sandoval ’12, M.S.W. ’13, is another General Studies Learning Community alumna who teaches in the program. Other Adelphi alumni who are GS professors are Dr. Rizzi, Eileen Kline, M.A. ’77, and Deseree Wiltshire ’04, M.A. ’05, who is a member of Adelphi’s 10 Under 10 alumni for 2014.
“One thing the General Studies Learning Community professors do,” Dr. Rosenberg said, “is talk regularly about what works and what may have to be updated. Next semester, I think students may be falling all over themselves trying to decide whether to take Expository Writing with the serial killer or mental illness theme.”
This article appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of The Catalyst, the College of Arts and Sciences newsletter.