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Incoming freshmen gathered for a quick preview of Penn academic life yesterday.

These short, one-time sessions with Penn faculty -- known as proseminars -- are designed to "give entering freshmen the chance to be exposed to faculty and senior staff in a small group setting," according to Anita Gelburd, proseminar coordinator and assistant to the deputy provost.

This year, 53 faculty members volunteered to facilitate 41 proseminars. Topics ranged from "Penn Traditions: Building Our Community" to "The Gayborhood: A Walking Tour of Queer Philadelphia."

Of the 1,308 available spots, approximately 981 were filled, said College senior and New Student Orientation student coordinator Matt Scafidi.

Generally, proseminars require no preparation on the part of the student.

Faculty volunteers were asked to begin planning for their session in May. In July, freshmen received information about the proseminars and were able to register online using the add/drop feature of the Penn InTouch Web site.

College freshman Carrie Alexander said she went to a proseminar titled "Research and the University," but that it was mandatory for her as a University Scholar.

"It was helpful," Alexander said, adding that she was able to hear the research ideas of her peers and learn more about the University Scholars program.

Wharton freshman Ernest Baskin went to a seminar titled "Telling Lies for Pleasure and Profit."

He called the experience a "really cool general knowledge course about literary theory," but said that he did not feel any less nervous about the first day of classes.

College freshman Lauren Zarzar said that she really enjoyed her seminar, entitled "On the Ethics of Belief."

The class "spent time talking about religion, which is not something you often get to experience in a classroom setting," she said.

College freshman Megan Brindle was closed out of her first-choice seminar. However, she said that she was glad that she attended her second choice, as it was enjoyable.

According to Scafidi, registration for about half of the proseminars reached full capacity.

Other students decided not to participate in the proseminar program. College freshman Esther Polgar said that, when she did not get the information in the mail, she thought it was too late to sign up.

"I talked to people, and they didn't go. Also, I was busy with lacrosse," she said.

Proseminars are sponsored by the Office of the Provost and have been offered as part of NSO since 2001.

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