Flames of the Torch

Among all of the required courses that undergraduates must take at St. John’s in order to graduate, it is safe to assume that none has caused more student dissatisfaction than the Discover New York program.

The Discover New York course was added to the core curriculum in Fall 2004 and is a noble idea set up by the University to introduce incoming freshmen, regardless of where they are from, to the nearby city. This way, all students could familiarize themselves with the city and all that it has to offer. While introducing freshmen to the exciting atmosphere of New York City, the cultural epicenter of the nation, the nature of the course remains essentially academic.

Professors from different disciplines of academia bring into their respective classrooms their expertise in various areas, including immigration; social identity as regards to ethnicity, religion, and economic status and how they interplay with one another; environment; and culture.

Discover New York gives students the opportunity to visit places which they have learned in the classroom and that have contributed significantly in the cultural development of the city. This way, the University aims at making its students well-informed and conscious of their surrounding.

Despite its importance, Discover New York has not been generally well-received by students. Some question its necessity, while others feel that they did not learn anything about the subject matter of the course. But just like any course, DNY’s success heavily depends upon the professor’s delivery. This is an even bigger problem with DNY, however, since each professor who teaches the course creates his own curriculum for the students based on his own expertise. This results in hit-or-miss classes; some can be informative and entertaining, while others miss the mark altogether.

Even though the Discover New York program has a lot of potential, there is still need for improvement. There are plans to revamp the course so students will be required to attend four workshops throughout the semester during Common Hour that will focus on mission development, student wellness, academic support, and career development. The University should be commended for looking for ways to improve the course, but perhaps more sweeping changes will be necessary, such as a uniform curriculum. Only time will tell whether these workshops will enable DNY to help students acclimate themselves to their new surroundings any better than before.