Every other year I teach an "elective" class that is specifically for freshmen, on an interdisciplinary topic that combines my interests in science, history, and culture. Typically, 2-4 of these freshmen classes, which are distinct from the giant 100-level intro courses, are taught each term. I like all the classes that I teach, but this is one of my favorites.
Over the summer, I have been somewhat obsessively monitoring enrollment in my course. Because it is a freshman course, most of the enrolling occurs over the summer rather than in the spring as for other fall courses. A month ago, I was very pleased to see that my course was full. Every time I have taught the class, it has filled to the maximum number of students allowed, but every term the numbers and topics of these courses change, and there's always a chance that a more thrilling course will come along and capture enrollment.
My reasons for being curious about the enrollment are not entirely pure. My particular freshman class is always given lowest priority by the department administrative assistant in terms of time and classroom. In fact, this year (as well as 2 years ago), I wasn't even given a classroom in the department. The other 2 freshmen classes this term, both taught by senior male faculty, meet in classrooms in the department. One of these classes currently has 5 students enrolled and may not be taught, and the other has 8 students. I am not glad that the other courses have such low enrollment, but I may bring it to the attention of my chair (if he has not noticed on his own) that my course has filled yet again.
A similar situation happened 2 years ago. My course filled but a senior professor's attracted only 2 students and was canceled. The department chair at the time mused to several people, including me, about how strange he thought this was. He wanted to know what it was about my course that made students want to take it. Hmm. I don't know. Interesting topic, perhaps? He decided it was a random event with no obvious explanation, but it wasn't the first time my course filled and now it has happened again. Methinks there is too much data for the Random Hypothesis to be viable.
In any case, I have been working on my syllabus this week and getting excited about teaching this course again. I am not ready for summer to be over, but there is much to look forward to in the new term.
2 months ago