History of FRST
The Freshman Studies program was first introduced in 1945 by President Nathan Pusey. Inspired by a similar program he had helped create at Wesleyan University, Pusey envisioned a course that would awaken beginning students’ intellectual curiosity with reading, writing, and discussion in the liberal arts. The course was initially taught as a two-semester course, with groups of fifteen or fewer students in each class and a shift in instructors each semester. Works studied most often in the program’s first ten years included works by Plato, Shakespeare, Marx and Engels, and Darwin, as well as works of art, music, and film. The course was initially popular among both students and faculty, though some faculty held concerns about the additional teaching load.
A shift in educational priorities in the 1960s further strained existing tensions between the general education nature of the course and faculty specializations. In 1969, one term of Freshman Studies was replaced with disciplinary “Topics of Inquiry.” The program was restructured several times during subsequent years until it was essentially abandoned in 1975.
After a few years of replacement freshman core programs, many faculty began to feel that these programs had failed to produce desired results in improving student writing and other objectives. One term of the traditional Freshman Studies program was reinstated in 1978, with additional support from a newly appointed director of the program, J. Michael Hittle. In response to growing sentiment in favor of returning to the original program, the faculty voted to reinstate the two-term program in 1986.
Since that time, the program has maintained its two-term structure. The course has also largely maintained its focus on encouraging intellectual curiosity in the liberal arts, though building skills in critical thinking and writing remain additional objectives.