Immersion courses allow deeper learning for students with multiple interests
When he graduated from high school in East Greenbush, N.Y., Benson Haley was looking for a university that allowed him to simultaneously pursue computer science as a profession and explore his passion for theater. Meanwhile, in Lake Ariel, Pa., Sinclaire Ogof wanted a university that could accommodate her two-pronged academic interests in public policy and climate change.
Both students are realizing their goals through RIT’s immersion program, which requires students to take a series of 200- and 300-level general education classes in an area outside their major.
While many colleges and universities require general education courses, RIT’s immersion requirement takes it a step further. Beyond the typical writing, math, science, social science, global studies, art, and ethics requirements, students are asked to fulfill an additional nine credits in a topic of interest. The intended result is to produce well-rounded students who have gained broader, more diverse perspectives.
Once called concentrations, this has been an RIT requirement for decades. The concept was strengthened, however, in 2012 when RIT revised its general education program and created immersions.
There are now 72 immersions available for students to choose from in topics varying from archeology to comic studies to geographic information systems. Each year, offerings are updated to keep up with current trends and the needs of students on campus. This year, RIT added seven new immersions.
Elizabeth Hane, faculty associate to the provost for general education, was on the committee that revamped the program. A key component, she said, is that a student’s major is not able to dictate the immersion they take. The choice is completely up to them.
“Immersions provide an opportunity for our students to have this broadening experience and enhance their education within an area they would not have had the opportunity to explore otherwise,” she said. “The whole general education experience is important, but I think immersions in particular are important because of the advanced nature of the courses and the fact that it’s three courses in a single topic area so students get a bit of depth.”
Haley, a first-year computer science major, decided to use the opportunity to pursue a personal passion.
“I was interested in computers from a pretty early age,” he said. “I’m one of the people who enjoys creating things more than just doing things. I think computer science is a good field for that. But, I’ve also always really enjoyed theater. It’s one of the reasons I’m here at RIT, because of theater arts being a thing.”
Last semester, Haley participated in RIT/NTID’s production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, which counted as one credit toward his theater arts immersion. This semester, he is taking a fundamentals of acting course.
Haley doesn’t necessarily plan to combine his major and immersion professionally. For him, it’s an opportunity to major in something professionally advantageous while pursuing a passion that is personally fulfilling.