Post Classifieds

The First Year Seminar Symposium

By Nick Pulliam
On December 7, 2018


The First Year Seminar Symposium was held on December 5 in ALLWell North. The event is designed to allow first year students to present their solutions to ‘Wicked Problems,’ issues our society is facing which don’t have clear-cut solutions to them.

The seminar is part of the newly implemented Clusters Initiative. Each class is made up of around fifty students, who break into groups and set out to solve their Wicked Problem. Dr. Brandon Haas, a member of the First Year Seminar Steering Committee, explained that the students “[D]id research and came up with proposals about how to address their problem. Some people were out in the community, partnering and actually addressing it. Maybe collecting for a charity of some sort. Some of our groups did things that dealt with civil engagement and happiness, and it was really a way for them to think about, ‘How can I get more engaged in a more authentic way?’”

The event was well attended, with the entire Field House in ALLWell North being filled with the student’s posters. The topics students presented were incredibly varied.

Jordyn Carpenter and Ollie Brewster created a poster which explored gender equity at PSU and how certain policies may affect the transgender community on campus.

Jordyn spoke about the Q, an inclusive space for LGBTQ+ students on campus. “We wanted to figure out how inclusive it was and how many people were accepted into it. Like how big it was and the different demographics associated with that,” she said. “And then also, we wanted to figure out, is there any support group for trans students on campus? And if there’s not, how could we maybe implement that?”

Jordyn and Ollie also worked with ResLife to learn more about the student application process. As it is now, students can apply as a non-binary student. Ollie explained that “We talked to [ResLife] and we’re hoping in the future that they’re going to change it so that you can pick your gender identity and also the gender identity of the person you want to live with.”

The two students are also starting a trans support group next semester. “It’s run by us through PSU Pride. It’ll be on a different day than PSU Pride, but we’ll still have the support of eBoard members,” Ollie said.


Another poster was about propaganda in the United States. Dan McNeilly and Sean Backstrom researched Operation Northwoods, which was a plan by the Department of Defense to attack U.S. ships and citizens on the Cuban border, so that they could then blame the Cuban Government. When JFK heard about the plan in 1962, he immediately shut it down.

To make the poster, they looked at all the documents pertaining to the operation that were released by the government in 1997 and 2001 and presented the most relevant information. 

According to Dan, the big takeaway from their poster is, “Should we really trust the government as fully as we do? Because if they say one thing, should we follow that directly? Or should we think about it and take it from another perspective?”


The posters are meant to give first-year students an opportunity to do work that has an impact. Marlin Collingwood, the Marketing, Communications, & Creative Services Director, said, “They really talk about how they were able to use the First Year Seminar to begin that idea of working together as teams across disciplines and really apply critical thinking to a problem.”

This is the second iteration of the First Year Seminar Symposium and everyone should expect it to return in the future.


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