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      President and Professor

      Widener President Makes Time for Teaching

      Freshman Seminar 101

      Widener President Dr. Julie Wollman teaches a one-credit seminar "College: What, Why and How?" for freshman.

      Widener students have the benefit of learning from a richly diverse faculty. Each instructor brings unique skills and experiences to the classroom. The depth of Widener’s faculty is perhaps best illustrated by the woman at the helm of Freshman Seminar 101, Section I.

      Widener President Dr. Julie E. Wollman teaches the one-credit class made up of 15 freshmen. In addition to leading the university, she spends two hours a week teaching the seminar and another four to five hours – largely late at night or on weekends – preparing for class and responding to the students’ writing.

      “I thought it was pretty cool the president would be my teacher,” 18-year-old Ashley Davis, an exploratory studies major from southern New Jersey, said.

      Wollman’s seminar, “College: What, Why and How?” gathers two days a week in the same space Widener’s Board of Trustees uses for its meetings. The seminar is designed to help freshmen examine what they experience on a day-to-day basis, and make sense of it all. They explore expectations, personal growth, and debate the purpose and value of college.

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      Wollman teaches seminar

      Wollman sees teaching a freshman seminar as a vital investment of her time, on top of running the university.

      In her syllabus, Wollman tells the students they will connect their lived realities to the topics they read about and discuss. The seminar is intended to help them shape their college experience to achieve their goals.

      “I hope this is a really worthwhile experience for the students, because they are getting valuable, practical insight into their new college lives through a scholarly lens. It’s a really worthwhile experience for me, because I am able to connect with students at this level and take their points of view back with me to the president’s office, which is critical to our mission of providing a transformative education,” Wollman said.

      Wollman likes to write, and she has her students write during each class. They also do a lot of reading, from New York Times articles to the anthropological study of college as a culture, My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student.

      This is the first time Wollman is teaching at Widener since she became president in January 2016. It is unusual for a president to teach. The work of modern college and university leaders more typically involves fundraising, community and government relations, attending numerous events, managing budgets and raising the institution reputation. But to Wollman, in addition to all of those other responsibilities, teaching is a vital investment of her time. She led a similar course when she was president of Edinboro University.

      Both Davis and classmate Rebecca Westrom said they enjoyed telling friends the president is their professor.

      “She’s very nice and not as intimidating as I thought,” Davis said. “I can ask her questions and I’m comfortable with her.”

      Westrom agreed. “She’s just a normal professor.”

      The students’ reactions punctuate Wollman’s observation of her students. “They forget I’m the president very quickly,” she said.

      Want to explore additional unique freshman seminar experiences? Read the latest feature story, "First Stop – Costa Rica".


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