Incoming freshmen at Rutgers University have the option of taking a one-credit class called a Byrne Seminar. Byrne seminars are designed to help freshmen make friends and get acclimated to academic life at Rutgers. They are only open to first-year students and each seminar is capped at 20 students so a small class size is guaranteed. They are a great way to get to know a professor one-on-one when so many other first-year classes are huge lectures.
Each Byrne seminar is graded pass/fail. To put it simply, you either show up and pass or don’t show up and fail. For this reason, a Byrne seminar can not help or hurt your GPA. Your Byrne seminar should be a class you take because you want to take it. If you don’t want to take it, then don’t stay in it because you might find yourself tempted not to attend.
My advice to all incoming first-year students: explore the variety of Byrne seminars! Do not disregard them because Rutgers really offers such a WIDE variety of FUN topics. The seminar options also change from the fall to the spring so if nothing interests you in the fall, you should still check them out in the spring!
During my fall semester, I decided I wanted to take something quirky and fun. I chose a Byrne Seminar called “The Secret Life of Birds” and I CAN’T SAY ENOUGH GOOD THINGS ABOUT IT. I’m convinced it is the BEST Byrne seminar Rutgers has to offer. We literally met in the woods and birdwatched every Monday!
Mourning doves. Herring gulls. Eastern wood pewee. Migrating hawks. We saw it all! My favorite memory from the seminar was learning how to pish. (Pishing is when you make bird-sounds that bring the birds to you!)
During my second semester, I decided that I wanted to take something more serious and academically focused. I chose to register for an ARESTY Byrne seminar. The Aresty seminars serve as a way for freshman to get involved in undergraduate research. My Byrne was called “The Psychology of Reasoning” and revolved around how young kids reason just as well as college students.
Throughout the semester, we learned about our professor’s research and were shown the process of creating posters for the Undergraduate Research Symposium which we eventually got to present at.
Whether you choose to take something quirky or something serious, the Byrne Seminars have the potential to be a great experience. They are EASY classes and they allow you to explore your interests, meet new people, and do something cool.
My advice to all incoming first-years is to open the list of Byrne seminars, read through ALL OF THEM, and pick one the one that you think you’ll like the best. If you get put into one that you didn’t ask for, GO TO THE FIRST CLASS BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO DROP IT. I’ll be honest, I went into Birdwatching with the expectation that I’d drop it but I’M SO GLAD I DIDN’T because looking back, it was probably the best class I’ll ever get to take in college.