Freshmen explore St. Louis via faculty-led field trips

‘St. Louis by the Dozen’ program coordinated through the First Year Center

A new program coordinated through the First Year Center encourages faculty members to share outside interests as a way of introducing freshmen to the city of St. Louis.

As part of “St. Louis by the Dozen,” faculty members lead groups of 12 in an off-campus weekend adventure.

So far, students have attended a St. Louis Cardinals game with Henry Schvey, PhD, professor of drama in the Performing Arts Department in Art & Sciences; visited Cahokia Mounds with John E. Kelly, PhD, senior lecturer in anthropology in Arts & Sciences; and went on a bike tour with Mitchell S. Sommers, PhD, professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences.

The events are free for students; the First Year Center funds the activity and provides transportation as needed. Student response has been very favorable and all three programs filled quickly.

Danielle Bristow, director of First Year Programs, says she hopes to offer trips throughout the year as a way for first-year students to “escape the Wash U bubble,” connect in a more personal way with faculty and explore the many things St. Louis has to offer.

This more structured effort was conceived and organized by Paul Roth, a junior communications design major and the community relations chair for the First Year Center Executive Board. Bristow challenged Roth to think about ways to get students more engaged in their extended community. (In the past, the First Year Center promoted off-campus weekend events that were within reach of MetroLink or bus transportation.)

Sid Hastings

Mitch Sommers’ bike tour included a stop at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis on Lindell Boulevard to view its mosaic artwork.

Roth began talking with campus programming representatives at other higher educational institutions, adapting ideas to fit the WUSTL campus and landed on the concept of faculty-led small groups.

“Even if we didn’t have the entire freshman class venturing off campus together,” Roth says, “we thought it would still be incredibly valuable to those 12 students who were able to participate.

“When talking to these institutions, we thought it was very cool how they incorporated the faculty and used it as an opportunity to strengthen the community between the faculty and student body,” Roth says.

St. Louis by the Dozen builds on programs such as Lunch by the Dozen, which gives freshmen the chance to have lunch in groups of 12 with faculty who teach large first-year classes. The lunches are held throughout the semester in the First Year Center. Students say they appreciate the chance to get to know professors in a relaxed setting.

Bristow says faculty members can choose a St. Louis by the Dozen destination based on their personal interests.

“We say to them, ‘Do what you like to do, and take students with you.’ It’s completely up to the faculty member,” she says.

Because lecturer Kelly teaches a seminar on Cahokia Mounds, Roth asked if he might consider taking a group of freshmen to the site. Kelly met the students at the South 40 clock tower and transported them via passenger van, courtesy of the First Year Center. After touring the interpretive center and climbing Monks Mound, the group enjoyed lunch at a nearby restaurant.

Sommers, an avid cyclist, met students on a Saturday morning in front of the Women’s Building to chart out a two-hour bike tour. “I’m hoping students learn a few things about St. Louis, and maybe I’ll slip in a few suggestions about how to adjust to the more rigorous academic requirements of Washington University,” Sommers said prior to the tour.

Courtesy photo

Pre-med student Jennifer Hua of Atlanta enjoys her very first baseball game with Charlie Beard, an Arts & Sciences student from Clayton, Mo.

Schvey is a huge Cardinals fan — so much so that when he was teaching in the Netherlands during the 1982 World Series and wanted to know the score, he first tried calling his in-laws, then the U.S. Embassy and then finally (in a state of panic) random 314 area code numbers until he got someone on the line. When Roth approached him about St. Louis by the Dozen, Schvey immediately knew where he would take the students.

“It’s the signature event in St. Louis,” Schvey says. “It’s a spectacle unlike anything else … the colors, the pageantry. I decided it would be a wonderful thing for the students to think about the game as a performance and then have them review it. Their ‘performance reviews’ were remarkably perceptive and articulate and showed how much they got out of the experience.”

Standing near the Stan Musial statue, Schvey gave a quick briefing on the history of the team, telling them how many pennants the Cardinals have won and highlighting some of the team’s major luminaries. During the game, Schvey says he tried to move around and circulate among the students. “The Cardinals are just a terrific entrée to the St. Louis scene. I think it was a fantastic bonding experience for the kids,” he says.

Any faculty member interested in guiding a St. Louis by the Dozen field trip should contact the First Year Center at (314) 935-5040 for more details.