Freshman Clusters (and why you should take one)

Disclaimer: This description of the Freshman Cluster program may seem overly cheery as I liked my cluster as much as anyone can like a cluster. Like I was in the 99th percentile of cluster-liking. And you might, too!

The Freshman Cluster. The bombest class I have taken so far at UCLA (well, technically it was three classes, and I have only been at UCLA one year so far. But still, it beat out seven other courses. No offense Chicano Studies!). If you are not familiar with the Cluster, here is the lowdown:

  • year-long course
  • you stay with the same lecture class for Fall and Winter quarters and then break out into seminars
  • designed to help transition Freshman into college-level work
  • 6 units a class, so more work than a typical general education (GE) course
  • oh yeah, in three quarters you get rid of four GE requirements
  • and you satisfy your writing 2 requirement during the Spring quarter seminar
  • and to top it off, all of it counts for honors credit, sweet!

There are a variety of Cluster topics to choose from, all of which are available here. The topics range from interracial dynamics to the global environment to sex (which was mine!). And each topic is taught from a multi-disciplinary perspective, which basically means several professors from different subject areas come together to thoroughly teach one topic. For example, my Cluster was titled, “Sex: from Biology to Gendered Society.”

I had four professors: one biologist, one human geneticist, one evolutionary psychologist, and a sociologist. Fall quarter was dedicated mostly to the biology of sexual development and Winter dealt more with sociological concepts of gay identity, gender inequality, and more. It was really great because I was exposed to four disciplines, and they all worked together to give me a complex understanding of sex and gender. While taking a sociology class about gender dynamics may be interesting, the evolutionary explanations offered by ev. psychology give the sociology necessary context. All very cool stuff, really.

And all of the other classes are very similar! A team of professors teach together to give you, the student, a crazy in-depth explanation on something you (hopefully) find interesting.

In addition to the all the credits and stellar subject material, the cluster is a good way to also:

  1. gain research experience
  2. meet new friends

The research experience varies Cluster to Cluster. I know that in some Clusters, the research is heavily focused on going to the library and doing research for a lengthy paper. My Cluster focused less on going and finding and then citing others’ research; instead, we learned a lot about the process professors and other academics have to go through to do their own research. We read through many research presentations and reviews. Either way, you will recieve a valuable lesson in some sort of research and probably have an opportunity to do your own.

Finally, the Cluster is a great place to make friends! It was the only class that I consistently had people to sit next to in lecture and talk to after class. Most of the time in college, you make your friends in the dorms or groups on campus, but because you are with the same people for the entire year, you become more comfortable with them, and there are more opportunities to make friends. In Fall quarter, I actually met one of my best friends at UCLA just by complimenting her hair before lecture one day.

Seriously, I recommend the Cluster to every incoming Freshman. It helps you with your credits and requirements; it’s fun; it’s SO interesting; you will have something to bond with other Freshman about. If you have any questions, please comment!