CSU reacts: Does CSU emphasize grades over learning?

Nick Botkin

An array of texbooks line a table, ranging from sociology to chemistry.
Colorado State students have varied opinions on whether the university emphasizes learning or intellectual development (Collegian File Photo).

When one thinks of the university experience, images of stress and transcripts might come to mind. Others might think of vigorous debates with instructors about worldviews and philosophy.

So what kind of academic atmosphere does Colorado State emphasize? Is it numbers or dissemination of ideas?


David Rasmussen, a junior natural resource management major, thinks CSU places a premium on intellectual development.

“It is not so much they want you memorize information,” Rasmussen said, “but they want you to comprehend.”

 Rasmussen said his concentration is standardized to some degree.

“Science is science,” Rasmussen said.

 However, Rasmussen added that a strong intellectual atmosphere is still important in science.

“There are still innovations that can progress us,” Rasmussen said.

 Rasmussen also praised programs such as Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement, that stimulate intellectual development outside the classroom.

“They want to get you out there and not sitting in a classroom memorizing books,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen says that students walk away with something beyond grades.

“You are understanding the world better and things better,” Rasmussen said.


Autumn Raethka is a freshman English major, with an emphasis in creative writing. She called the intellectual ambiance on campus, “very relaxed.”

“A lot of room for exploring,” Raethka said. “There is a lot of encouragement to go outside class.”

 While Raethka thinks grades are important, she also said they have a different purpose in her major.

 “There is not necessarily an emphasis on how well you know the material,” Raethka said. Raethka added that grades measure in-class participation and engagement.

 Emily Mason, a senior biology major, said that CSU strikes a balance.

“I think that grades are important,” Mason said, “but they do a good job to make sure you are learning.”

Mason said the particular environment is also contingent on specific classes.

“Each class is a little different and it is based on the teachers’ styles,” Mason said.

TJ Hall is a freshman English major, with an emphasis in creative writing.

“There is a pretty hearty balance of grade and intellect,” Hall said. The university offers a strong support system for students with lower grades.

 Some students think there is room for improvement.

“I want my classes to be applicable to what I do,” said Christina Stretch, a junior wildlife biology major. wildlife biology major. “As an undergraduate, not all are.”

“I want my classes to be applicable to what I do. As an undergraduate, not all are.”

-Christina Stretch, a junior

Other students have noticed particular differences in academic emphasis between programs.

“My friends in the sciences have had a hard time with the grade-intellect dichotomy,” said Hall, adding that science-based programs are less subjective.

 Hall enjoys the use of the check plus-check minus system in her creative writing classes. She thinks applying the method to other disciplines would be helpful, noting that there is “less pressure to do it perfectly.”

Hall also thinks personal mindset is vital to a strong intellectual atmosphere.

Hall said, “having a more open mind for subjectivity makes for a learning environment.” 

 Fun fact:

  • Colorado State offers over 250 programs, 50-plus minors and a plethora of advising tracks.

Collegian reporter Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @dudesosad