Praying for an A?

The School of Theology at Seton Hall gave out the most A’s in the Fall 2009 semester, with A’s accounting for 48.6 percent of all grades in the school, a grade matrix released by the registrar showed.

The College of Education and Human Services gave out the second highest amount of A’s, with A’s accounting for 45.4 percent of grades, while the School of Health and Medical Sciences gave out the third most amount of A’s, with 41.9 percent.

The School of Health and Medical Sciences gave the smallest number of failing grades, with zero failures recorded for the fall ’09 semester.

The School of Theology also posted low failure rates, as .72 percent of the grades were F’s, and 1.4 percent of the grades given out by the School of Nursing were F’s.

The College of Arts and Sciences gave out the most failing grades, as 3.8% of the grades were F’s this semester.

Monsignor Joseph Chapel, associate dean of the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, attributed the students’ success in theology classes to their overall work ethic at Seton Hall.

“48 percent of our school of theology undergrads are also on the Dean’s list,” Chapel said.

“Of those on Dean’s List, 56 percent have overall GPA of A- or better…Therefore, our School of Theology students’ percentage of ‘A’ grades…is consistent with their overall performance in their courses in general, most of which are outside the school of theology.”

Though the school of theology gave out the highest percentage of A’s, junior Catholic theology major, Ben Emmel, said that he found the classes within his major to be most difficult, even with two minors in Latin and music.

“There is a higher pressure on theology majors to perform well in their major studies,” Emmel said. “This is because the majority of theology students are seminarians—studying for the priesthood—and so there is a high expectation that priests have proficiency in theology.”

Emmel added that, unlike with some other majors, theology students have had experience with their major before coming to Seton Hall.

“People don’t start studying theology with no knowledge—years of church attendance and religious classes prepare one to a certain degree,” Emmel said, adding that theology students likely put the most effort into their theology courses.

Sophomore Henry Surgent, a double major in education and history, also feels that the department of education gives out a lot of A’s because students work harder in those classes.

“(Education students) know that this is what they really want to do, they really want to teach, so they really want that ‘A’, and work really hard to get it,” Surgent said.

He added that close bonds and networks may help students in education classes get higher grades.

“We’re all really close friends…there’s no drama between any of the education majors, so we work together a lot, and other students will tell you, ‘Oh, this teacher wants you to write like this,’ or ‘she teaches like that.'”

Additionally, Surgent said that the college of education and human services might give out more A’s due to the profession for which the professors are training the teachers.

“It’s not about getting the answer right, it’s about finding your own answer,” Sturgent said, explaining that there is no one correct way to teach.

According to Dr. Joseph DePierro, dean of the college of education and human services, the high percentage of A’s might be due, in part, to the school’s grade requirements to stay in the program.

“Students who fall below a ‘B’ average, or a 2.75 GPA, are dismissed from the college of education and human services and enter other colleges on campus,” DePierro said.

DePierro said that he found that many education and human services students also performed well in their other undergraduate courses and tended to have strong career focus because of the requirements necessary to become a teacher.

“In addition to maintaining a high GPA, they also need to pass rigorous state and national tests in senior year in the various areas they teach such as math, science, social studies, English, etc. This causes them to be very focused on academics and maintaining high grades,” DePierro said.

Dr. Theresa Bartolotta, associate dean, division of health sciences in the school of health and medical sciences, also attributes the students’ high levels of success to their dedication and studiousness.

“About 90 percent of our school is graduate students, and the undergraduate members of the school were all accepted to the dual-degree program,” Barolotta said.

Bartolotta explained that Seton Hall freshmen applicants can also apply to the dual-degree program, where they spend three years working on their undergraduate major, (usually biology or some type of social behavioral science,) and their senior year taking some graduate classes which fulfill both their undergraduate degree requirements as well as the beginning classes for their graduate studies program, such as occupational therapy or athletic training.

“In order to stay in the program, the students must achieve at least a 3.0 GPA each semester,” Bartolotta said.

Bartolotta feels that the high level of A’s, besides being indicative of the students’ work ethic, can also be attributed to the small number of undergraduate students taking classes in the school of health and medical sciences, as only seniors would be in those classes.

“I think the 3.0 standard is not difficult if the classes and the work is taken seriously,” sophomore biology major Theresa DiFabrizio said. DiFabrizio was accepted to the dual-degree program when she was accepted to Seton Hall and is planning to study to become a physician’s assistant.

“I think it is very fair because it gives people the opportunity to rethink their profession. It also ensures that the people who want to be there are there,” DiFabrizio said.

In addition to making sense of the high percentage of A’s, the small number of students coupled with the 3.0 GPA policy also goes a long way towards explaining why no F’s were given out by the college in the fall semester.

The college of nursing also has a strict grade requirement policy, which contributes to the low failure percentage in nursing classes, according to Dr. Linda Ulak, associate dean for student affairs and learning outcome assessment in the college of nursing.

“Nursing students have to get a C or better in their nursing classes before they can move on to the next class,” Ulak said, adding that there is a two-strike policy, so a student who fails a nursing class can choose to re-take it, pass and move on, but they may only do this twice before they are removed from the program.

“Unfortunately, many students who get frustrated or can’t handle the program are removed or leave before they even take a nursing class,” Ulak said, explaining that before taking any nursing classes, students must take and pass anatomy and physiology I and II, classes offered by the college of arts and sciences.

“I feel that the nursing faculty usually grades fairly and honestly, but they also hold their students to a very high standard,” sophomore Martha Makay, a nursing major, said.

“The majority of my nursing classes are very challenging, because they have to be. In nursing, if you do not know something you should, you are putting people’s lives at risk,” Mackay said.

While all of the colleges at Seton Hall had low percentages of failures in their classes, (the Stillman school of business, for example, recorded 2.2 percent of their grades last semester as F’s, while the Whitehead school of diplomacy recorded F’s as 2.1 percent of all their grades,) the college of arts and sciences had the most failures with 3.8 percent of grades recorded being F’s.

According to Dr. Joseph Marbach, dean of the college of arts and sciences, analysis shows that the majority of the failures came from the college’s introductory courses.

“One could speculate that the higher number of failing grades may be due to a lack of student interest in the subject, since these are generally courses outside the student’s major,” Marbach said.

“It could also be that these courses are populated by first year students, who are still learning what it takes to be successful in college and have not mastered the study habits required,” he added.

Marbach also said that each school has a different focus, which might attribute to the varying percentages of A’s and F’s given out in the fall semester. Some schools, according to Marbach, tend to focus on pre-professional training. An education from the college of arts and sciences, according to Marbach is a lot less narrow.

“Our focus on liberal education indicates a concern for life beyond the narrow confines of one’s profession,” Marbach said.

Caitlin Carroll can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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