For select Trinity first-year students, the Guided Studies program provides a full-immersion liberal arts experience.
Jordyn Sims ’10 crossed the country from Los Altos, California, to be part of Trinity’s Guided Studies program
, an intensive exploration of Western civilization reserved for up to 25 highly motivated first-year students.
Created in 1979, the rigorous two-year curriculum features nine sequential courses—most are exclusive to Guided Studies students—examining the critical texts, influential thinkers, and transformational events of Western history. Guided Studies provides an innovative, interdisciplinary liberal arts experience in which history, literature, art, religion, and philosophy play equal roles in the unraveling and understanding of a culture.
For Sims, an English major with a minor in writing and rhetoric, one of the big draws of Guided Studies was a chance to fully immerse herself in the Classics. Soon after arriving at Trinity, she was reading Beowulf in Old English and traveling to New York City to watch Greek tragedies performed in their original tongue.
Sims bonded immediately with Professor Sheila Fisher, now the dean of the Guided Studies Program and Sims’ adviser. “She absolutely loves what she’s teaching,” says Sims. “I don’t know how many people are excited about Middle English, but she certainly is! I think that really inspired the rest of us to learn even more about it. I found that to be the case with every single professor I’ve had at Trinity.” Sims chose to study abroad
in London to continue her readings of medieval and Renaissance literature.
But Guided Studies is more than an exceptional academic experience; it’s a tight-knit intellectual and social community. Like all Trinity first-year programs, Guided Studies is a living and learning experience where classmates are assigned to the same residence hall. The close quarters make for great motivation, says Sims.
“You walk down the hallway and your friends are all doing the reading, and you naturally join in,” says Sims, whose study buddies became some of her best college friends.
Another plus, says Sims, is that the demanding coursework is more than balanced by a strong support network. In addition to a faculty adviser and a resident adviser, Guided Studies students are assigned an upperclass mentor. Sims enjoyed the Guided Studies community so much that she has returned as a mentor for the past two years. She guides students through their course selections, provides feedback on first drafts, and acts as a teaching assistant for first-year dean Margaret Lindsey, who teaches a Guided Studies course in European literature.
“As a mentor, I’m not there for just academic advice, but also for helping first-years adjust to college,” says Sims, who doesn’t live with students, but is only a phone call or e-mail away. “How do you make the washers work? Who do I contact to ask about a language placement test?”
Sims’s experience as both a student and mentor in the Guided Studies Program has motivated her to put her passion for literature to work in the Teach for America program, where she’ll spend the next two years teaching high school in the Washington, D.C. region.