Times Square is the destination for a sociology seminar on beauty.

370 Drew newcomers learn, explore, bond and nosh in NYC.

September 2015 – The 370 first-year students who took on New York City as part of Drew’s new First-Year Experience program traveled many different paths.

Alex Stein toured the Financial District and a finance museum, Emily Hubbard saw a matinee of Fun Home on Broadway and Mimi Kagabo photographed billboards in Times Square. Each student had a common goal, though: learn from the city and apply it in the classroom.

Drew has long forged connections with the city via internships and semester programs, the first of which, at the United Nations, dates back to 1962. Until this year, however, those experiences were primarily for juniors and seniors. Recognizing that gap, President MaryAnn Baenninger used funds from a New President’s Grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to re-conceptualize the University’s First-Year Experience, which now includes professors and students engaging New York City in ways related to their seminar courses.

The goal, explained Debra Liebowitz, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, is to engage students in the possibilities of studying and working in the city, which Drew sees as an extension of the classroom. A train from Drew’s campus in Madison, New Jersey to New York takes just an hour.

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Students from two seminars congregate at the 9/11 Memorial.

“We really value and have a tremendous number of experiential education opportunities at Drew and this is way to get students using the city as a laboratory for learning in their first semester,” Liebowitz added.

The first-year trip also has a social benefit: students get to know their peers and professors in informal settings, with each class, for example, eating a meal together in New York.

Stein and Hubbard shared a 9:30 a.m. NJ Transit train into the city, though their classes took them in different directions once they arrived. Stein headed to the Financial District with his class on economic markets and Hubbard walked a few blocks north to the Theatre District with her New York Voices classmates. En route, she jotted down New York scenes for blog related to the trip.

Hubbard’s professor, Hannah Wells, chose Fun Home because her students had read the original book in class and the play itself features a pivotal scene about New York. Wells’ seminar focuses on literature written in and about the city.

Wells’ class was among several that focused on Midtown Manhattan. Fourteen students in Kesha Moore’s seminar, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Social Construction of Attractiveness, spent an hour photographing beauty in Times Square. The resulting images—including giant billboards, the Naked Cowboy and a man with facial tattoos—were uploaded to a class Instagram account for students to share and comment on.

President Baenninger eats lunch with students in Chinatown.

Hailey Stine, for one, was surprised by how frequently certain themes emerged, such as men in ads being depicted as stronger athletes than women. As a player on the women’s basketball team, she obviously feels differently. A classmate, Tony Colbert, meanwhile, noted the streams of people on the sidewalks of 7th Avenue, particularly compared to the small town atmosphere of Madison.

Reflecting on the trip later, Moore, an associate professor of sociology, said students were already thinking critically about advertising based on their own research. “For whatever reason, it’s not until you get out of the classroom that they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I never looked at it this way,'” Moore said. “So, anything that gets students applying the concepts in ‘real life’ is advantageous. And that allows them to learn it more deeply.”

Similarly, Political Science Professor Phil Mundo said his students’ walking tour on the history of City Hall sparked conversations about the legacy of Rudolph Giuliani and whet their appetite for learning more about political leaders. More broadly, Mundo, whose seminar is called simply, The Politician, hopes that students will see the trip as a seminal, early moment—both academically and socially—in their years at Drew. “It has a chance of becoming a tradition,” Mundo added, “and I think that would be a really nice thing.”

Different experiences for different seminars.

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Professor Trevor Weston’s class on Music and Meaning toured the Metropolitan Museum on the Upper East Side.

The professors in the 23 seminar classes that participated in the first daylong trip to New York City for first-year students designed different experiences connected to what they’re teaching in class. Here’s a closer look at seven.

Seminar: International Literatures of Difference

Professor: Elizabeth Kimball

Experience: Explore El Barrio in East Harlem, walking the streets and touring El Museo del Barrio.

Seminar: Finding America in the Plantation: Food, Music and Popular Culture

Professor: Allan Dawson

Experience: Visit a national park in lower Manhattan that features a burial ground for African-Americans.

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World-class sculpture is an hour from campus.

Seminars: Global Peacekeeping and Leadership, Forty Studies That Changed Psychology

Professors: Jonathan Golden, Patrick Dolan

Experience: Visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum downtown.

Seminars: Seeing Shakespeare, Shakespeare: Whodunnit?

Professors: Kim Rhodes, Jim Bazewicz

Experience: Attend a matinee of Something Rotten at the St. James Theater on Broadway.

Seminar: From Hollywood to Cannes via Ouagadougou: Culture and Politics at Major Film Festivals

Professor: Marie-Pascale Pieretti

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Hard to beat the views from the Met’s rooftop.

Experience: Attend the New York Film Festival on the Upper West Side.

Seminar: Bubbles, Panics and the Definition of Insanity

Professor: GianDomenico Sarolli

Experience: Tour Wall Street and visit the Museum of American Finance.

Seminar: Music and Meaning

Professor: Trevor Weston

Experience: View the historic instruments collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side.