Cornerstone Lays First-Year Foundation
Professor David Quigley provides a
tour of Boston to all of his Cornerstone students, including Nora Kennedy ’11 and Chandler Frost ’11.
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Since it was established 10 years ago, Boston College’s Cornerstone Program has more than accomplished its goal to foster stronger bonds between first-year students in the College of Arts & Sciences and their faculty advisors—it’s created a foundational experience.
Evolving from one course in 1998, the program now boasts five distinct offerings designed to thoughtfully introduce students to college life and academic inquiry. In each, professors also serve as students’ academic advisors, forging a connection that’s difficult to duplicate. Nearly one-third of A&S freshmen now choose to participate in the program.
“When you teach your student advisees, you get to know them personally,” stresses Professor David Quigley. “You can then provide better academic advice, but also direct them to various service, internship, or fellowship opportunities.”
One of the most popular Cornerstone courses is the one-credit “Freshman Topic Seminar,” which invites students to explore their advisor’s research interests. Quigley’s offering, “Boston 101: The City in History and Literature,” provides a multidisciplinary perspective on the city’s past and present-day culture. Classes, which are purposely kept small, also include the one-credit “Cornerstone Advisement Seminar” and “The Courage to Know,” a three-credit course that encourages students to discuss diversity and spirituality issues, among others.
“Cornerstone’s popularity stems from its impact upon student formation,” explains Director Clare Dunsford, who notes that Boston College is one of only a handful of institutions nationwide to offer such a diverse range of courses in its first-year program. “Cornerstone helps students adjust to college life, because it gets them thinking about their lives, their interests, and their potential vocations.” She says many such classroom discussions extend beyond campus, when professors take their students into the city for dinner or to attend cultural events—all supported through a special cocurricular budget.
Since 2006, the Academic Advising Center has greatly enhanced the first-year experience by ensuring that all A&S freshmen receive an advisor in their potential field of study. Nonetheless, Dunsford says the extra classroom attention Cornerstone provides will continue to make it a desirable option.
“Students are able to make a unique personal connection to a faculty member in that crucial first year,” she says. “They become anchored, which lets them more ambitiously pursue their academic goals.”