Leaving behind your hometown, friends and family to attend college can be a daunting task for any high school student. In the case of Diana Garcia-Varo ’23, when she decided to attend Syracuse University and study both psychology in the…
First-Year Seminar and Shared Competencies Help Students Chart a Course
Luke Elliott ’25 is a first-year student who chose Syracuse University with two interests in mind: communications and international relations. He’s already an intern at HillCom, learning about public relations, communications planning and graphic design. Even with a strong sense of what he wants to accomplish in his time at the University, he’s glad that he learned about the Shared Competencies early in his college career.
“I heard about it during Welcome Week and then again in my First-Year Seminar. It’s a little bit overwhelming at first to think about the skills we’re supposed to learn in the next four years. But when we really started talking about it and we went in depth on each of them, I understood that it’s not that you’re starting with nothing. You have some of these skills and you can hone in on the others as you move through your time at Syracuse,” he says.
The Shared Competencies are six shared educational goals that characterize the skills every Syracuse undergraduate student should have by the time they graduate. They help students communicate what they have learned, provide pathways for academic development and integrate different aspects of a Syracuse University education. Not limited to courses, the Shared Competencies can also be achieved through co-curricular activities, leadership and volunteer opportunities. First-Year Seminar students watched a video presentation and discussed their academic goals.
The First-Year Seminar (FYS) instructor for Elliott’s section, Brooke Tyszka G’03 says learning about the Shared Competencies early in their academic career benefits students. “As an advisor, I’m trying to have conversations with students about what they really want to achieve in their time at Syracuse. Sometimes they don’t think about it until they no longer have time to achieve their goal.”
“In FYS, there was more time to talk about what the Shared Competencies mean, to go in depth and to show students how they give them a way to talk about their skill development when they talk to potential employers, to really tell their own story about what they have learned,” Tyszka adds.
Elliott says the conversation helped him think differently about scientific inquiry and research skills. “I never thought about it before but scientific inquiry doesn’t mean just STEM fields,” he says. “It can be any problem where you have questions, you do research and use evidence to figure it out.”
Elliott feels he has great skills in some areas and needs to focus on others. “For example, I find technology super interesting, but it’s not something that I have ever been great at,” he says. I felt like technological agility meant being able to code, and I’ve never been good at it.” By thinking about the full definition of information literacy and technological agility, Elliott has been able to consciously identify the skills that he needs to excel in the fields he is interested in.
“Looking at the impact of technology on communications and thinking about the things I am doing in my classes right now, I recognize where I can gain skills that will help me prepare for the kind of career I want. I like that it’s integrated,” adds Elliott. “No matter what you do, the Shared Competencies are part of the clubs you’re in, the extracurriculars you choose.”
Tyszka hopes that students will use the Shared Competencies to explore all of the opportunities that the University offers to undergraduates. “It gives them the language to talk about how they are developing these skills,” she says. “I hope that talking about the Shared Competencies in FYS spurs them to learn about all we have to offer and take advantage of those experiences.”
Tyszka adds, “I find that it’s an honor to be a person helping first year students transition to college, to be another trusted adult who can help them navigate the opportunities in front of them. I feel lucky to be able to do it. It’s the best part of the job.”