The Freshman Forum is a year-long, highly selective program of incoming freshman, organized by the Office of Student Affairs at The University of Alabama. Freshman Forum’s main purposes are to enhance the leadership skills of its members and to promote a culture of campus engagement among all freshmen. During the year, Forum participants are provided with substantial community service opportunities and are expected to develop new initiatives to engage additional freshmen in campus life.
During the 2006-07 academic year, the Ethics & Social Responsibility team directed by CESR was one of four UA Freshman Forum four teams.
The Ethics & Social Responsibility team is be exposed to, participates in, and collaborates with various CESR initiatives available to UA students and to the community as a whole. The overarching purpose is to assist students in developing a distinctive definition of moral and civic maturity. By exposing them to the realities of injustice in not only the local community, but also the state, nation, and world, students will come to recognize the common threads connecting cultures and individuals across the globe, develop a broader sense of empathy, and gain awareness of the obligations they have to society - especially to those most vulnerable members of society.
Components of program
The Freshman Forum Ethics & Social Responsibility team of students participate in the following CESR initiatives:
- Documenting Justice: In the fall, students in Freshman Forum screen and discuss several documentary films studied by students in CESR’s Documenting Justice course. In the spring, Forum students attend the final screening of the seven short documentary films created and produced by Documenting Justice students, all focused on topics of justice and injustice in Alabama. A screening of a film examining the brutalities experienced by children in Uganda will supplement this unit, broadening the discussion of justice to world community.
- FocusFirst: After being trained to conduct vision screenings through the local nonprofit FocusFirst, students participate in a minimum of two screenings in nearby communities. This volunteer project is incorporated into a larger unit about national healthcare and community outreach, which will use films and handouts as a basis for discussion.
- Moral Forum: Freshman Forum students are introduced to CESR’s Moral Forum Initiative in the fall by attending one lecture within a series hosted by the Philosophy Department and the Department of Communication & Information Studies. Forum students discuss the moral dilemma involved in the annual Moral Forum resolution and participate in mock debate discussions to further their understanding of the purpose of Moral Forum. In October, Forum students assist with the annual Moral Forum Tournament.
- Tuscaloosa Pre-K Initiative: Forum students participate in a unit focusing on the development of a visionary collaboration between the City of Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama. The Pre-K Initiative partnership aims to engage city school system administrators and educators, plus UA faculty, staff, and students, to offer the best health and education services possible for academically at-risk children and their families. Films, handouts, and speakers are utilized to address current research regarding brain development, attachment theory, and early childhood education.
- Tuscaloosa Academic Enrichment: Using research-based approaches and models of effective practice, Tuscaloosa Academic Enrichment strives to ensure that academically at-risk, incoming Tuscaloosa high school freshmen have access to high-quality learning opportunities during the summer months. Participating UA students receive training (and academic credit) during a three-week interim course during May and then participate as instructors of academically at-risk freshmen during June. Freshman Forum students learn about the importance of remedial educational programming and examine successful and failed efforts across the country. This unit serves as an open call for students to participate in the program in Summer 2007.
- Speak the Truth: Students will address the importance of communication ethics through a series of materials and performances by students of UA’s nationally ranked speech team during the fall semester. These units will carry over to early February, when Forum students attend Speak the Truth, a campus-wide event co-sponsored by Creative Campus, which features performances by the speech team.
- Nonprofit Enrichment Team (NET): CESR staff provide an introduction to the NET course, including the tasks accomplished by the multidisciplinary team of students during Spring 2006. Staff also discuss empirical knowledge about nonprofit development and management. Current nonprofit opportunities for students with various disciplinary skill sets are reviewed, and Forum students volunteer for at least two local nonprofit organizations. Speakers, handouts, and other materials about volunteerism are incorporated into this unit. In the spring, students in the current NET course give presentations about their nonprofit work to the entire Freshman Forum.
- SaveFirst: In the fall, Freshman Forum students learn about the SaveFirst Initiative, which provides free tax-preparation services and financial literacy seminars on saving and investments to low-income individuals. During this unit, students are challenged to consider socioeconomic issues facing low-income individuals; how tax policy is used to support working, low-income families and alleviate poverty; and current Alabama statistics and policies that demonstrate the problems of predatory lending in our state. During January and February, some students are trained and IRS-certified to prepare tax returns for low-income families, working directly in the Tuscaloosa community to provide this critical service.
Incoming freshmen interested in participating can apply for the 2008-09 academic year at the beginning of the Fall semester. If you’d like to find out more, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 348-6490. You can also find out more about the program on UA's Freshman Forum website.