Center for Innovative and Engaged Learning Opportunities provides services, resources to freshman

Julio Alberto Cruz

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The Center for Innovative and Engaged Learning Opportunities (CIELO) at CSUN is a division of the undergraduate studies that bridges freshmen to the college experience, teaches students to work independently and improves faculty-teaching skills.

The three programs that run under CIELO that focus on freshmen education are: Academic First Year Experiences, Freshman Common Reading Program and the Freshman Seminar, commonly known as University 100.

Academic First Year Experiences and the Freshman Seminar are directed by Cheryl Spector, Ph.D. where she puts together 50 sections of the University 100 course for each semester and introduces a different novel every year for reading and writing classes to use.

“This year we will use a mystery novel by Mark Haddon, which will be introduced at the Freshman Convocation for Freshman Common Reading,” said Spector about the event she started four years ago.

The novel, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” will be introduced at the fourth annual Freshman Convocation, where upperclassmen are also welcome, Spector said.

“Last year we had Steve Lopez and that was great because he is local and a movie was done from his book,” Spector said. “Upperclassmen help introduce freshmen to the college life but most importantly, they welcome them in.”

Melissa Garcia, 21, psychology major said her common reading book in 2007 was The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

“It makes you want to read the books after you hear the authors,” Garcia said. “I still remember when Robert Kennedy, Jr. came a few years ago when I was a freshman.”

Within Academic First Year Experiences faculty are able to learn how to work with freshmen through workshops and seminars, Spector said.

“Freshmen generally don’t adjust quickly because they are coming out of high school so we prepare our faculty to work better with them,” Spector said. “We offer various strategies to coach freshmen and build bridges between high school and the university, helping them to move ahead.”

Another area in CIELO that helps strengthen faculty-teaching skills is through Faculty Development, which is directed by Kiren Dosanjh, J.D.

“Faculty Development seeks to promote effective teaching and learning practices,” Dosanjh said. “Through their (faculty) participation in learning communities, they model lifelong learning and demonstrate their commitment to excellence in teaching.”

The third area of CIELO is the Community Engagement where students develop awareness of civil issues and learn how to address social and economic issues through community work, Spector said.

Merri Whitelock, director of Community Engagement, said she organizes students to learn the values of civic engagement and community learning through different community work.

“Students here able to put their learning skills into action by doing internships and service learning,” Spector said. “Students go out to work in the communities, usually around CSUN, and experience a project base assignment.”

The latest assignment that students worked on was the CENSUS Bureau and the tax accountant experience, which they run on campus, Spector said.

“CIELO is the backbone of the university for students and faculty with the purpose of enhancing teaching and learning experiences,” Spector said. “We are behind the scenes of what happens on campus. We are nowhere to be seen but we are felt.”

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