The new First Year Experience class, “Strategy and Backgammon,” will
be hosting a backgammon tournament open to all students Thursday at 6:30
p.m. in Russell Union room 2047.
The tournament will be the students’ final, though it
will also serve to attract more students who are interested in the game.
The entry fee is $1 and the tournament is open to all students who have
at least played the game before and know how to properly use the
doubling cube. Door prizes will also be given to the contestants.
Freshman pre-nursing major Renae Masters took the
backgammon FYE class this semester and is currently in the process of
starting a backgammon club at GSU.
“We’re applying to the Student Government Association
and have to charter to the student organizations,” she said. “We have
three [students within the FYE class] who are really interested [in
joining the club] and we’re hoping to get some more to commit to it.”
During their first tournament, which was the students’
midterm, they attracted some attention from other backgammon players in
the GSU community.
“They were supposed to emulate a midterm and a final,
these two tournaments over there in the Russell Union, but they’re
attracting some attention by people that aren’t in the class, so we just
have to get more organized and get the word out that the club is
forming,” said Donald Berecz, the director for the fraud and forensic
studies in accounting and business and the professor of the “Strategy
and Backgammon” FYE class. “The intent of starting the club was to offer
two tournaments a semester - campus wide and in the community.”
Chris Caplinger, the director of first year experience,
said that the FYE class “Strategies and Backgammon” is a good example of
a course which contains its common student learning outcomes and yet
incorporates specific interests which can lead to the start of a club.
Each FYE course contains two parts, an extended
orientation and a thematic seminar. The seminar provides information to
students such as literacy, how to cite sources, how to avoid plagiarism
and to make sure they understand the consequences of plagiarism.
“Everyone covers those objectives, but it’s how they
cover those objectives that differ from class to class,” he said.
“Berecz covers it with backgammon.”
The thematic seminar teaches students certain learning
outcomes, which are things the students get out of the class, but
engages them in something they can enjoy.
“Students actively select courses that are going to
pique their interest and they can meet students who share similar
interests as well as a professor who shares a passion for it,” Caplinger
Each faculty member who is interested in teaching a FYE
class must submit a form on the FYE website indicating what topic or
theme they are interested in teaching to their class.
“I work with them to find what would appeal to students,
and then we offer those courses,” said Caplinger. “It’s not a guarantee
that, that specific theme would be offered.”
The number of FYE classes offered each year depends on
the number of freshmen who need to take the class.
Last fall there were 135 sections, there are 18 this
spring, and there will be 26 this summer. “Strategies and Backgammon,”
which was offered this spring will be offered again over the summer and
this fall for freshmen.
“The ‘Strategies and Backgammon’ class is a good example
of a class that still offers its core outcome, but is a demonstration
of how students with specific interests came together and not just
joined a club, but are working together to start a club,” he said. “This
is a good part of helping to integrate students into the university
Masters had not originally been interested in starting a
backgammon club at GSU prior to taking the class, as she had never
heard of the board game and initially hated it. However, she grew to
love the game throughout the semester. Also, even though the game’s
strategies are geared more toward business classes, she found a way for
it to relate to her as well.
“Along with learning how to play backgammon, I learned
the importance of short and long term decision making, predictions and
also changing strategy,” she said. “I was exposed to probability, risk
assessment, trend analysis, creativity, psychology and a little bit of
luck during this class; and I now know how to apply it not only to my
university life, but for the rest of my life.”
Each student in the class was required to not only buy
the board game, but also to download the free software and to play
against the computer. The members of the class also each found a
“backgammon buddy” to teach the game and to play against in order to
help them learn the game.
Backgammon taught Masters how to prepare for life in
general by simply teaching her strategies.
“It’s kind of more in general of life, how to choose my
plan, go for that plan, if I have to change it later on, that’s fine,
but take that action I need to take for that plan, and don’t second
guess it,” she said.
Berecz, who was really into playing backgammon in
college, wanted to bring it to GSU’s campus.
“I did see bridge in FYE and I’m sure there’s some chess
involvement on campus, and then backgammon is considered the third of
three strategies type board games or card games,” he said. “I guess I
was just bored and looking for something to do in the classroom and was
looking to get back into backgammon again.
“When I proposed the course we thought a student club could evolve
from this course very easily and we think that’s what’s going to
happen,” he said. “We don’t know how many other backgammon players are
out there at this university, we’re just trying to flush them out.”