Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) faculty member Dr. Ken Fuchsman has been involved in the BGS program in just about every capacity. He began teaching ‘American History’, ‘Western European History’, and ‘Foundations of Education’ as an adjunct faculty at the UConn Torrington campus in fall 1977. By 1986, he was working as a part-time Bachelor of General Studies counselor while continuing to teach. When the Torrington campus needed a full time BGS counselor due to an increase in enrollments, Dr. Fuchsman was the logical choice. He became a full-time BGS counselor at the Torrington campus in 1990.
In 2000, Dr Fuchsman was appointed Director of the BGS program at all six UConn campuses. He administered the program for six years before returning to teaching full time. The catalyst for that return was ‘GS 4278 – Integrating General Studies’, a BGS capstone course he developed and began teaching face-to-face in fall 2003.
“I developed ‘Integrating General Studies’ as a way for BGS students to fulfill the capstone requirement,” he said. “The capstone course integrates learning from a variety of academic disciplines, which the student then applies to a final project.”
Since that initial class, Dr. Fuchsman has been introducing different topics to fulfill the integrative capstone requirement. Students can enroll in ‘Integrating General Studies – Family’; and beginning in fall 2012, ‘Integrating General Studies – The Nature of Being Human.’
“‘Integrating General Studies – Family’ is a mixture of academic investigation and the student’s reflection on their own lives,” he said. “Family is a topic they can relate to and that’s what gets them engaged. In ‘The Nature of Being Human’ course, we’ll talk about human nature, family, war, literature, as well as technology and science and how that has changed human existence. We’ll read Dostoyevsky’s ‘Notes from the Underground’, as well as ‘Theories of Human Nature’, a book written from a philosophical perspective by UConn Philosophy Professor Joel J. Kupperman.”
Dr. Fuchsman teaches ‘Integrating General Studies’ classes both online and in the traditional classroom setting, and sees advantages to both methods of delivery.
“Online students are more willing to be open then they would be in a face-to-face classroom, and because they have to submit their thoughts in writing for the discussion periods, there’s a lot of forethought in their postings,” he observed. “But you also get a group atmosphere in a face-to-face class that you don’t get online.”
Dr. Fuchsman finds the teaching role the most rewarding, and especially enjoys adult students who have returned to school to finish their degrees.
One of his favorite students was Sherman McGrew who enrolled in the BGS program in his early 30s after being out of school for more than a decade. “He worked full time as a police officer, went to school full time, and directed and starred in a production of Macbeth to raise money for the Torrington campus,” said Dr. Fuchsman.
Earning his UConn BGS degree gave McGrew the confidence to continue his education; he went on to earn a Master’s degree in Forensic Science at the University of New Haven and a law degree at the UConn School of Law.
“Sherman was the type of person who doesn’t function well unless he’s doing more than one human being can handle,” explained Dr. Fuchsman. “He became a captain in the Waterbury Police Department, an attorney with a solo practice, and a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army Reserve who served on two combat tours in Iraq.”
McGrew credits the BGS program with giving him a second chance, and Dr. Fuchsman sees that same dynamic in other BGS students.
“Because it’s a second chance, many students take to school as a returning adult in ways they didn’t when they were a traditional student,” he says. “They’ve been around the block so they can bring their experience to the classroom in different ways, and many have high expectations for themselves so they’re willing to work hard to reach their goals.”