Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Intensive Freshman Seminars offer big experience in little time

August 16, 2013

IFS 2013

Anyone walking though the Indiana Memorial Union east lounge Thursday afternoon might have thought they stepped back in time. Intensive Freshman Seminars students from “The Struggle for Civil Rights: Reacting to the Past” class gathered to sign up incoming students for the March on Washington set to take place August 28, 1963. 

Professor Alex Lichtenstein explained that his IFS class was “reacting to the past” using a simulation game that placed them in the midst of the civil rights movement of 1963. In two weeks, his students read historical accounts to prepare for their roles, conducted the simulation, and interviewed one student’s grandmother who grew up in the midst of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.

“They felt freed to speak,” Professor Lichtenstein said of his students participating in their simulation roles. The class drew comparisons between history and current events as they relate to civil rights issues. The recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act, the Trayvon Martin case and the upcoming March on Washington were all topics of discussion.

When asked how the issues of 1963 relate to the issues of today, Freshman Sidney Harris said, “The voting issue is a big deal.”

“There is still a lot of racism,” Freshman Alejandra Aguilar Perez said. “We would like to see it end once and for all.”

Intensive Freshman Seminars allow students to get a head start on their fall semester, packing most of a three credit course into just two weeks.  Students select a course, move into campus housing and begin their college experience before the rest of their freshman class arrives on campus.

“I’ve done more in the past two weeks than in high school,” Freshman Tom Smyth said, explaining the intensity of the course work. “It was awesome.”

Smyth was part of a class titled “This is Your Brain on Media: How TV, Computer Games and Radio Capture Your Attention and Play with Your Emotions.” His group conducted research in the media lab to determine the effect of music on subjects’ perceptions of horror movies.

The students examined attention and emotion by measuring the skin conductance levels and the zygomatic and corrugator muscle responses of their subjects.

“I really want to empower them. To get them in the lab is really important,” said Professor Rob Potter, who also directs the Institute for Communication Research. During his two-week IFS class, he taught his students about the scientific approach to research and helped them become comfortable around the lab. “The students came up with a hypothesis, found the media stimulation and the measured response to media in the lab,” Professor Potter said.

Intensive Freshman Seminars is a two-week intensive program that includes courses on popular culture, sports, biology, philosophy and more. Taught by some of the university’s top faculty, IFS allows students an early academic experience as they enter their freshman year. More information about IFS is available at

IFS is a program of the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Indiana University Bloomington. OVPUE supports a broad range of activities that promote innovation and enrichment in the curriculum and leads campus-wide programs and initiatives in support of outstanding academic experiences for all undergraduates. For more information, visit

Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Maxwell Hall 100 | 750 E. Kirkwood Ave. | Bloomington, IN 47405 | Phone: (812) 855-8783