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SIC program expands due to increased applications

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The directors of the Student Initiated Courses (SIC) program increased the number of program coordinators and the overseeing faculty committee this year to address the rise in applications received so far.

SERENITY NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily

SIC– a student-led program that allows students, with a faculty adviser to create and teach their own courses for up to 20 students– will close applications for new courses proposals today. Program Director Ernestine Fu ’13 already expects more courses this year than last year.

“I would say that we want to keep the number of courses at 15 maximum, but we are not going to reject an application based on a quota,” Fu said. Last year the group received just below 50 applications.

Along with the rise in applications this year, a new change to the program requires student teachers to attend three workshops– instead of two– led by the Center for Teaching and Learning. The workshops provide students with professional training that helps them develop their courses, create a syllabus and develop public speaking skills.

“These are the same workshops that Stanford professors themselves have to go through, and so do course assistants and teaching assistants,” Fu said. “I think that it’s important.”

Although the faculty committee that selects and reviews the applications for SIC encouraged a mechanism for students to provide feedback at the end of each class session, Fu said such a system has not been established yet.

“There isn’t really a formal process for having student-initiated course leaders get together and actually collaborate with one another,” she said. “But it is required to have a faculty adviser, someone who’s on staff and teaches at Stanford, who they can work with to ensure that the class is going well.”

While Fu acknowledged the recommendation for an established feedback system, she also recognized that the current freedom provided by SIC is what attracts students, including her, to the program.

Before becoming program director, Fu initiated a course on entrepreneurship last winter called The Startup Workshop: Entrepreneurship through the Lens of Venture Capital, which allowed her students to interact with high-profile individuals such as Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger and Twitter.

Fu’s experience working at a venture capital firm motivated her to create a class where students could discuss current issues that startups were facing in a more intimate environment, as in introductory seminars.

A.J. Sugarman ’14, who taught The U.S. Military and International Security with Matthew Colford ’14, was also inspired to lead his course after seeing the value of the program. Both Sugarman and Colford took the class in their freshman year and offered to teach it the following year.

“I really felt that the SIC program offered a way to both address a gap in the Stanford curriculum– the dearth of courses covering the military– and to take advantage of a largely untapped resource, the military fellows at [the Hoover Institution] and [the Center for International Security and Cooperation],” Sugarman explained.

Faculty advisers also believe in the benefits of the program.

Jody Maxmin, associate professor of classics and art and art history, spoke highly of Beginner Ceramics, for which she has served as the faculty adviser since its inception in the spring of 2011. As a faculty adviser, she believes her role to be minimal and regards the student teachers as young colleagues.

“I am so deeply impressed and touched by the way these students, without any supervision… contributed heart and soul to teach pottery on campus,” she said. “These classes are taught by enthusiastic, smart undergraduates…It’s more than I thought would ever happen.”

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