Gatepost survey finds seniors happy with major department professors, courses: Improvement needed in gen ed courses, diversity issues

By Abby Saggio, Staff Writer

By Mackenzie Berube, Staff Writer

By Thomas Maye, Staff Writer

In a survey distributed by The Gatepost, seniors reported they were happy overall with their experiences at FSU and pleased with the education they received in their major departments. 

However, the survey found that close to a majority of seniors – 45% – wanted more diversity-related events, programming, and courses, including within the general education system. 

Forty-eight percent also said they wanted to see more social opportunities available on campus. Commuters especially believed there were not enough social opportunities at FSU.

The survey was distributed to 100 seniors from April 12 to April 26. 

Of the 100 respondents, 52% were residents, 48% were commuters, and 24% were transfer students. 

Seventy-six percent of survey respondents were women, and 24% were men. None disclosed having a nonbinary gender identity. 

Survey respondents satisfied with their major departments

Of the seniors surveyed, 83% said they were satisfied with the education they received in their majors. 

Matthew Alvarez, a communications arts major, said the classes in his department were “thought-provoking and understanding in a very humane way. I say that because I looked at them more as people than as lecturers I needed to sit still for (between 1-2 hours). They excelled in professionalism and showed deep compassion for their teaching.”

An anonymous communication arts student said, “Everybody is supportive of the creative ideas and [knows] how to help the students execute those ideas,” and that the faculty helped him find job opportunities in the field. 

An anonymous psychology major said all the professors they had in the Psychology Department were passionate and willing to take the time to help students. 

An anonymous biology major praised the wildlife concentration in the department, saying they appreciated having a program that focused on wildlife that was not in the Western Massachusetts area, as “it was [a] pretty niche” area of study. 

Several English students said they were happy with the tight-knit community in the department. 

An anonymous English major said, “The professors are very passionate about what they teach. They are invested in your research and they push you to do things you never thought you could do. Also, once you get into upper-level classes, the English major feels like a big family.”

Another anonymous English major said they were happy with the education they received and “love the close-knit group and the support the English department gives us.”

An anonymous marketing/management major said she developed connections with her professors and peers “that have helped me [not only] career-wise, but also personally. It makes learning easier when you’re happy with the environment.”

History major Sam DiMatteo said, “My department is simply phenomenal. They care deeply about their students and work to challenge us while also not leaving us out to dry. I’ve never felt so at home within a department.”  

An anonymous studio art major said he believes he was taught well and “was able to get my money’s worth in regards to classes.” 

An anonymous health and wellness major said the professors in the department “have been a great support system” and provided skills and resources to help students succeed in their field.

An anonymous geography major said the department was “absolutely wonderful,” but it can be difficult to fulfill major requirements due to the fact that classes are offered at limited times because of the small number of professors.

Seniors divided on general education model

Seniors who expressed strong opinions about the general education system were evenly divided. About 35% found the model effective, and 35% found it ineffective. 

Many students not only encouraged more classes on topics related to diversity, but said classes dedicated to social issues should be added to the general education model.

History major Sam DiMatteo said the general education system “could benefit from some sort of diversity requirement that is fulfilled either within or outside of the designated requirements we already have. Whether you take Social Problems, World Regional Geography, Slavery, Race, and Rights, etc., they all offer a more social and global perspective that I believe is essential to creating well-rounded people.”

An anonymous political science major said, “More diversity and inclusion goals need to be incorporated, and there needs to be more consistency among domains” in the general education model.

An anonymous English major said she would like to see classes that focused on non-Western cultures. She also thought there should be “more classes like personal finance that are applicable to real life.” 

Many students believed fewer general education classes should be required. 

An anonymous fashion design and retailing major said while she was satisfied with her education at FSU as a whole, “There are classes that I do not believe are necessary for the general education model.”

One anonymous English major said, “There should be fewer [requirements] so that students can focus on their major and add more minors/concentrations in things that interest them.”

An anonymous biology major said, “There is a lot of overlap between types of classes within each gen ed domain.”

A few students said they would like more options for classes listed in their DegreeWorks audit.

An anonymous health and wellness major said the model “can be improved by offering more sections for courses each semester for registration.” 

An anonymous English major suggested “more flexibility in DegreeWorks and more class selections” as a way to improve the general education model.  

Another anonymous English major said, “While DegreeWorks is a great resource for students, there have been multiple occasions where I or an individual I know has had trouble with registering for classes that fit the requirements, because DegreeWorks says the class qualifies, but when registering, it doesn’t note that it qualifies under the specific domain.”

Some seniors said they did not like taking classes for general education that did not relate to their major.

An anonymous criminology major believes the general education model is not effective and asked, “Why do I have to take an art course if it has no relation to what I want to study? … It [the general education model] desperately needs an update.” 

One anonymous communication arts major said he did not agree with the current model and believes it is “a waste for everyone, except for the majors in that class and the professor teaching it.”

An anonymous fashion design and retailing major said they did not like taking two science courses, as they “wouldn’t need as much science knowledge” in their field. “I feel like just one science class would be sufficient and I could use the extra gen ed for something I was interested in that relates to my major.”

Other students said their general education classes sometimes carried a heavier workload than a few of their major requirement courses.

English major Amanda Landry said she appreciates the general education program and how it immersed her in classes outside of her field, but “definitely didn’t like that my gen eds normally had more work than my major classes, and that was really frustrating when I wanted to focus on my English classes.”

One anonymous communication arts major said, “Some of the professors are passionate about the general education department [courses] they teach. However, I also feel like some of them do not understand that some of the students are more immersed in their major, not gen eds.” The survey respondent encouraged professors to be less strict in their grading of these courses.

Fashion design and retailing major and honors student Lauren Paolini, The Gatepost’s copy editor, said the model is effective overall. However, she added that “my honors classes limited the gen-ed courses I could take. There were some courses I wanted to take, but I couldn’t because they weren’t offered as honors and I had to plan ahead.”

Psychology major Lexi Dello Iacono said she understands why people dislike the current model, but she enjoyed learning about other topics outside her major.

“I learned a lot of material that I probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. These did not contribute to my psychology knowledge, per se, but I think what I learned was and is still useful to some extent,” she said. 

Commuters want increased social opportunities

Many seniors experienced a tight-knit community at Framingham State.  

Psychology major and resident Lucas Quintero said, “I love being a resident. It’s such a small community, so it is very easy to get to know people and feel like you’re involved in a larger part.” To improve the social environment, he said, “I would say provide more to do on the weekends – a lot of people go home.”

Similarly, an anonymous English major said, “The social environment can be improved by opening all dining services (Dunkin’, Red Barn, [the] snack bar, [and the] juice bar) on the weekends and extending Sandella’s hours of operation on weekends. It would attract more students to stay on campus and not make it a ghost town.”

However, commuters in the survey frequently voiced frustrations, believing there were not enough events offered or places dedicated to meeting friends on campus. 

“As a commuter, I found absolutely no reason to stay on campus, outside of the school acting as a place to meet with friends after class since it was easily accessible. Other than that, there are no real fun recreational areas,” said communication arts major Matthew Alvarez. 

An anonymous English major said, “Commuter students were like their own tribe because we shared similar struggles and frustrations.”

Some survey respondents suggested FSU should “add more rooms or areas dedicated to social engagement” similar to the game room, but for “different interests.”

Evan Lee, a political science major and news editor of The Gatepost, said, “After renovations a few years ago, a substantial amount of seating once available to commuters was absorbed into the Main Dining Hall, which is mostly used by residents.” 

Lizzy Stocks, an English major and former Gatepost Opinions Editor, stated she experienced being both a resident and commuter during her time at FSU. Describing her experience as a commuter, she said, “The social environment on campus was dreadfully dull due to a lack of common grounds for students to simply hang out.” 

Other suggestions offered by seniors to improve campus life included allowing consumption of alcohol on campus, improving the price and locations for parking, and offering better food in the dining halls.

Seniors valued extracurriculars but faced scheduling conflicts

Eighty-five percent of the survey respondents indicated they had participated in extracurricular activities. 

The seniors surveyed found that extracurricular activities were an especially important aspect of social experiences on campus.

In fact, many students said extracurriculars not only enhanced the social environment on campus, but served as a make-or-break part of the college experience.

“I have been on the FSU dance team all four years of college, and it was the best decision I made,” Rose Piz, a studio art major, said. “Through this team, I have made so many incredible friends and memories, and I could not imagine my college career without this team.” 

An anonymous English and Elementary Education major agreed, saying, “The dance team was a great way for me to meet new friends and get up and move a little instead of being in my dorm all day.”

Communication Arts major Marielle Sciore added that when it comes to extracurriculars, “It made my college experience. Honestly, I might have transferred again if it wasn’t for Hilltop and the friends I made there.”

English major Lizzy Stocks said, “I wrote for The Gatepost for 2.5 years where I found my passion for column writing, but more importantly, met my lifelong friends. The best part about being a Ram was definitely having the pleasure to meet so many new people while writing for The Gatepost.”

English major Sara Senesac, The Gatepost’s sports editor, said, “My experience on The Gatepost has changed my life.”

An anonymous accounting major said they loved “advocating for students and seeing change happen on campus” through their participation in SGA, citing the club as “the best part” of their time as a student at FSU. 

The biggest barrier to extracurricular participation, by far, was finding the time to attend. Many commuters said they could not make the time to attend, and several students who did not participate in clubs found that their work schedules were incompatible with the late times clubs meet.

English major Julia Beauregard said it was difficult to “attend social events unless they occurred during the school day” because she is a mother of small children. 

An anonymous English major said, “I briefly attended Onyx meetings, but they were too late at night for me as a commuter.” 

Seniors call for more work on diversity

Along with extracurriculars, commuters and residents alike valued events on campus for improving the social environment – and overwhelmingly said the University could do more work promoting diversity-related events and speakers in particular.

History major Sam DiMatteo said the Center for Inclusive Excellence has “done great things this year with building event schedules out of certain months of the year, such as Black History Month, and to continue to build up these events that celebrate diversity would be phenomenal.”

English major and The Gatepost’s Arts and Features editor Robert Johnson Jr. said he wishes to see more events at the CIE with diversity groups and clubs on campus, citing their great importance to student life. “Pride Alliance gave me a space to be who I really am, and that’s why I speak so highly of the organization, even with their ups-and-downs.”

A few people criticized FSU administrators’ overall efforts with regard to diversity, believing them to be ingenuine. 

“Honestly, stop the constant bombardment of materials touting inclusivity,” an anonymous biology major said. “Coming from the administration, it seems very fake and try-hard. Support BSU, ASA, B2B, IGNITE, M.I.S.S., LUNA and other student-run organizations rather than try to prove their inclusiveness as an administration.”

An anonymous marketing major said the administration needs to “understand that right now, they’re not really that welcoming. That they need to improve and be willing to accept that. From then on, to just keep asking questions. Have faculty talk to students more, [and] have professors try to get to know their students.” 

An anonymous English major said the administration needs to “actually figure out the problems, instead of never actually catching anyone,” referring to the fact that no perpetrator who committed a racial hate crime on campus in recent years was apprehended.

Despite these criticisms from many survey respondents, a large number of seniors believe that the environment of diversity and inclusion on campus has improved during their time at FSU. 

“From what I have seen, I feel as if the representation of underrepresented groups [has] gotten a lot better,” an anonymous geography major said. “I think representation of underrepresented groups has become more paramount since the racial incidents from two years ago, and it’s great to see the student population rise up against [them].”

An anonymous communication arts major said, “I think FSU has improved a lot in terms of having a more diverse student body compared to when I first attended back in 2007.”

Some students said they wanted to see a wider range of representation in diversity-related events.

Studio art major Rose Piz said she would like to see the administration “have a meeting once a month or something for each underrepresented group. As an Asian on campus, it’s hard to find a strong community, especially when the coronavirus first broke out. We need more events to support the underrepresented groups!” 

Amanda Landry, an English major, said, “As someone not in an underrepresented group, I believe that the campus is trying to be more welcoming, but … I ultimately would like to see racial/ethnic (and by that I also mean Asian, Indian, Muslim, Latinx, and so on, not just African American) and LGBTQ topics throughout the curriculum and in all classes.”

Besides offering more diversity-related events, required courses teaching about different cultures was the most common suggestion for how campus could be more welcoming to people from diverse groups.

A communication arts major said, “I think they should include more options for education and extracurricular activities to make those [underrepresented] groups feel welcome.”

An anonymous criminology major said the administration “needs to train people and bring more people to work at the school who are from those underrepresented groups.”

An anonymous English major said the school should “add classes that confront racism head-on and make every person take one of those classes as a requirement. If you can force people to take math, then why can’t you make them take classes to enlighten them?”

Seniors stress importance of finding a mentor 

Seniors said finding mentors was an important aspect of their education. 

Senior English majors were especially effusive about identifying and thanking mentors, including Rachel Trousdale, Kelly Matthews, Desmond McCarthy, Kristen Abbott Bennett, Thomas Grove, Claudia Springer, Lisa Eck, and Alexander Hartwiger. 

Evan Lee, a political science major, said, “Specific professors I’d like to highlight are Desmond McCarthy and Liz Banks from journalism. The classes I had with both of them, along with their help at The Gatepost, have been crucial in making me the journalist I am today.

Lee added, “From political science, I’ve had at least one class with Dave Smailes every semester since he joined the University in 2017. I appreciate the way he tries to engage class, even over the more mundane topics of the major. His lectures are more like open discussions where everyone is encouraged to participate and voice their views, which I think is very important in political science.”

An anonymous marketing major said, “Francesca Cerutti-Harris at Alumni House has been extremely helpful to me throughout my senior year, whether internship-related or not.” 

An anonymous geography major said, “Jennifer Hyde from the international [studies] office and Emily Abel from Career Services have been my two greatest mentors this past year and a half. I could not have done it without their help!”

Lexi Dello Iacono, a psychology major, praised psychology professors Deborah McMakin and Phoebe Lin. “They have all taught me different, important academic and personal skills that I will use for the rest of my life and academic career.”

An anonymous communication arts major said, “Niall Stephens was the best advisor and communications professor for me. He helped me with anything and everything I needed.”

Communication arts major Marielle Sciore said Sarah Cole was her favorite mentor. “She’s literally the most amazing person ever.”

Mentors who are not faculty members were celebrated by survey respondents as well, including Ben Trapanick, director of new student and family program; A.J. Brent, assistant director and orientation coordinator of new student and family programs; and Richard Casali, the athletic department’s equipment and operations manager and volleyball coach.

Seniors said mentors often helped them find both on-campus and off-campus internships. 

Internships considered invaluable – for those able to find one

While many students found their internships to be an essential part of building their resumes, 40% of respondents said they never found one while at FSU.

Though students did not list specific reasons why they were unable to find an internship, many detailed the experience of watching their internships get cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to English major Julia Beauregard, the pandemic “has made it impossible for me to finish my internship on campus [or] enable me to meet with my supervising professor for my independent study. I miss my friends and I am sad about graduation being postponed. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to a place I’ve called home for the last six years.”

Likewise, an anonymous geography major said, “I lost my entire senior spring semester. My job abruptly ended. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends or my professors. My internship has been suspended for the time being. I was ripped away from all of my mentors and a structured life, and it’s been hard for me lately.”

Seniors in some academic departments, such as English and communication arts, appeared to be more successful in finding internships. 

These were often on-campus opportunities. In fact, 16 of the survey respondents indicated they had undertaken at least one on-campus internship, which included positions at the curriculum library, Career Services, the history department, the English department, the Alumni House, the Christa McAuliffe Center, and the Office of Marketing and Communications.

Students said their on-campus internship experiences were positive.

For instance, English major Amanda Landry said her experience at the curriculum library “was definitely a success, especially since it gave me experience in a part of librarianship I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. This helped me solidify my choice in going to grad school for librarianship.”

English major Lizzy Stocks undertook an internship with the FSU Marketing and Communications Department. She said, “I was the publications intern for Dan Magazu and my experience was successful.” 

English major Sara Senesac said she enjoyed her social media internship with the English department. “I love it and it has been successful so far,” she said. 

An anonymous English major “worked with Dr. Kristen Bennett on Rams Write through the library. It is a library guide to help students with writing. I am still doing it but so far, it has been successful.”

An anonymous communication arts major called her experience at Career Services “absolutely lovely. They were so helpful even with everything going on and I’m really grateful I had this opportunity.”  

Many fashion design and retailing majors found internships off-campus at places including TJX, Bella Bridesmaids, and figure skating apparel company Frieda B. 

Lauren Paolini, a fashion design and retailing major who interned at Bella Bridesmaids, said, “it was a positive and successful experience, but COVID-19 cut it short.”

Some psychology majors interned at Voices against Violence, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending domestic violence. 

Psychology major Lexi Dello Iacono said, “VAV is a local sexual assault and domestic violence agency committed to helping survivors of abuse. I was an Outreach and Prevention Intern, focused on spreading awareness and educating people about these topics. I loved my experience and time there and learned so much from my colleagues and supervisor. I’d love to work at an organization like this after graduating.”

Other interesting internships senior survey respondents completed included a position working for the Pawtucket Red Sox, undertaking marketing and publicity for the Weston Drama Workshop, and assisting the Worcester District Attorney’s Office. 

A handful of seniors said the places where they interned have offered full-time jobs once they graduate, including positions with the Town of Natick and the Framingham Department of Children and Families.

COVID-19 disrupts students’ lives

While many students enjoyed the education they received during their time at FSU, watching their senior year come to a screeching halt and transferring to an all-virtual format has been difficult for many.

An anonymous psychology major said, “It’s really impacted my senior year – I lost the chance to have an induction ceremony for Psi Chi, the uncertainty of a graduation ceremony hurts, and my entire senior year was flipped upside down because of this.”

Psychology major Lexi Dello Iacono said she will be unable to present her honors thesis at the UMass Research Conference and be recognized at the annual Honors Program Dinner. “This is not how I expected my college experience to end and I’m extremely saddened by it,” she said.

Students recounted missing some extracurricular events that have been cancelled, such as Dance Team shows and The Hilltop Players’ Senior Show.

The move to virtual learning took a toll on portfolios and projects that rely on the supplies in labs and studios on campus.

A communication arts major said he was “on a roll” with his senior portfolio in integrated media before the pandemic, and had about five more episodes to film, but can now only make one more episode for his project via Zoom.

An anonymous fashion design and retailing major said it has been difficult to finish their portfolio “because it’s not the same sewing and working from home as it is in the labs. My equipment isn’t as nice and the space is more crowded at my house.”

Studio art majors faced a similar challenge in transitioning from creating artwork in a studio, to attempting to work at home, where there is less space and no access to specialized equipment.

Many fashion students were disappointed that the fashion show was cancelled.

Fashion design and retailing major Sammi Young said that now, there’s “no fashion show, no portfolio day, and my lab classes now all have to be done from home, and it scares me I may not finish my portfolio.”

Several students described having difficulties with the online curriculum due to not having in-person help on campus from professors.

English major Brenna Marquis said online classes were “poorly crafted” overall, adding professors are assigning “too much work.

“This subject makes me really emotional and I wish there was a way FSU could make it right, but I really don’t know if there is a way,” she said.

One anonymous geography major, referring to classwork, said, “I don’t even know how to do it, [and] I can’t easily talk to my professor in person. … It’s been hard.”

Some seniors have faced serious mental health repercussions due to the sudden end to their senior year on campus.

An English major said their mental health has “taken a nosedive.” Besides being separated from their friends and professors, they said, “My internship and my on-campus job – my two reliable forms of payment – got removed from right under my feet, and I’m very depressed about that, honestly. There were so many things I wanted to do, and all of it got taken away like that.” 

Meredith R. Purba, an English major, said, “This is a traumatic experience and while I have always been prepared to expect the unexpected, other people were not. My heart aches for not just myself, but for my fellow seniors experiencing all of these feelings. They need to know that they are not alone and that their voices will be heard.”

An anonymous health and wellness major said, “It is very devastating to not be able to live on campus and [instead] have a complete abrupt end to all activities and student life on campus.”

Nevertheless, students still felt immensely grateful for their education overall and expressed their love for the Framingham State community. 

Lauren Paolini, fashion design and retailing major, commended the counseling center and “the people who work every day to make this university a better place for students.”

An anonymous political science major said, “The best part about being a student at FSU was meeting all of my friends that I know are lifelong.”  

Psychology major Lexi Dello Iacono said, “I always felt like FSU was my home away from home and that I always had someone to go to, no matter if it was a friend, professor, or faculty. I will truly miss being a part of the FSU community after I graduate.” 

English major Brenna Marquis said she mourns “making lifelong memories with friends, walking the campus, eating in the cafeteria, going to parties and reliving it the next morning … [I’m] missing all the little things,” she said.

English major Robert Johnson Jr. said, “I’m proud to be a Ram. Sure, Framingham State has a few things to be desired, but at the end of the day, being on campus and getting to know the MetroWest area has been one of the greatest experiences in my life.”

[Editor’s note: Survey participants were not required to provide their name. Those listed anonymously did not provide their name.]
[Editor’s note: Lizzy Stocks, Lauren Paolini, Sara Senesac, Evan Lee, and Robert Johnson Jr. are staff members of The Gatepost. Desmond McCarthy and Liz Banks are advisors of The Gatepost.]