Simultaneously being involved on campus, earning academic credit, giving back to the community, and improving your leadership skills may sound like a massive feat. However, these elements are all combined with the Rutgers First-Year Interest Group Seminars (FIGS) program. One-credit courses taught by upper-class students to first-year students, FIGS help ease students’ transition to university while exploring a specific academic subject.
Peer instructors (PIs) don’t need prior teaching experience, nor do they need to be interested in a career in teaching to apply. Aside from receiving a stipend and 3 academic credits, former PIs have seen benefits beyond the tangible. While FIGS prep first-year students in becoming prepared for their upcoming four years of university, peer instructors are likewise being readied for their entry into the workforce. With the opportunity to be on the other side of the classroom, PIs can demonstrate their expertise in an academic area, further develop their leadership skills, and build a community among fellow students. 91.6% of surveyed peer instructors believe that the experience helped prepare them for the next steps in their career journey.
FIGS celebrated its 20th anniversary in the fall of 2019, after two decades of growth and expansion. It began with five sections but soon grew to encompass the School of Arts and Sciences, the Business School, and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Its evolution is characterized by its recent move to the Office of Career Exploration and Success (formerly University Career Services), with close to 50 sections offered in Fall 2019. First-year students can choose from a diverse range of courses from Music, Philosophy, and Psychology to Economics, Nutrition, and Cognitive Science, among many more.
The Program Director Lyn Krueger Baier praises the benefits she sees for both peer instructors and first-year students, “Not only do I get to witness the amazing journeys of the PIs as they step in front of a Rutgers classroom as instructors but I also see the ripple effect of their encouragement on thousands of first-year students.” As for that effect? 94.15% of surveyed FIGS students in fall 2018 agreed that the information taught could aid a first-year in transitioning to undergraduate life and becoming academically successful. Former Peer Instructor Janelle Raymundo says, “Getting in front of a classroom every week to teach a subject I’m passionate about has really helped me to be comfortable with being myself and trust in my abilities.”