Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, associate professor of food studies in Falk College, was interviewed for the Syracuse.com story “Why aren’t NY farm workers in the Covid-19 vaccine line?” Minkoff-Zern, an expert on the intersections of food and social justice, comments on the…
Pilot program in academic writing to be taught to freshmen in connection with humanities postdoctoral program at SU
Pilot program in academic writing to be taught to freshmen in connection with humanities postdoctoral program at SUAugust 15, 2006Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
What is the meaning of life? Twenty first-year SU students will find out this fall when they take Self, Sacrifice and the Meaning of Life, a new interdisciplinary course being offered as part of the First Year Seminar, a unique two-year pilot program in academic writing, designed to enhance the first-year experience.
This month, incoming first-year students in The College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) will have the opportunity to be the first to participate in the program, which will consist of 10 courses taught by nine postdoctoral fellows who are part of a new humanities postdoctoral program at SU and a new community arts relations coordinator. Open to 20 students per class, the seminars will fulfill the first semester writing requirement for A&S students. The program features a wide variety of three-credit courses, designed to provide students with an in-depth writing experience supported by an academic context. Students may choose to take one of the new seminars or the existing first-year writing course.
“The First Year Seminars enable Syracuse University to show leadership in the interdisciplinary teaching of the humanities and social sciences,” says Cathryn R. Newton, dean of The College of Arts and Sciences. “The skills and knowledge gained from these seminars help students reach a university-level mastery of the most fundamental skills needed to explore the world and for effective communication and expression. First Year Seminars are vital to the success of a liberal education at Syracuse.”
“One of the challenges being discussed in higher education is improving the first-year experience,” says Susan Wadley, associate dean in The College and Ford Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies. “We now have an office in the Division of Student Affairs devoted to that transition. But we are also responding to student academic concerns. Because our student body is becoming increasingly competitive, we need to keep up with their needs with more rigorous and demanding courses.”
According to Wadley, various schools around the country have experimented with first-year curricula, and one success is a similar program at Duke University, which, like the new A&S First Year Seminars, integrates first-year writing with interdisciplinary studies. A&S is also conducting a review of the first-year quantitative skills courses. By continually refining and updating curricula, A&S strives to meet new expectations of both students and faculty.
Increasingly common at U.S. colleges and universities, greater attention to interdisciplinary studies illustrates a significant trend in liberal education. More and more employers are demanding writing skills relevant to their professional areas. They also require workers who can solve problems through critical thinking, creativity, analysis and objectivity. Such skills are central to interdisciplinary programs. Additionally, this approach is vital as the world becomes more interconnected through advances in communication technology.
To teach the courses, A&S has appointed 10 faculty members from various interdisciplinary backgrounds for the First Year Seminar Program. Each will teach two courses per semester, conduct research, write, advise one of their classes, and receive ongoing training. They will be members of their home departments during the period of their teaching at SU.
The instructors and their seminars are:
Alicia De Nicola (Ph.D., anthropology, Syracuse University) — Indigenous Cultures, Human Rights and the Environment. How do we understand and interact with nature and our environment? How do images, cultural representations and social values influence popular ideologies and political regulation of the environment? This course considers the complexities of the environment through the lens of indigenous cultures and human rights by looking closely at how meaning, understanding and policy are interlinked.
Dylan Dodd (Ph.D., philosophy, University of California, Santa Barbara) — Reasoning in Science. Long ago, David Hume argued that scientific reasoning isn’t rational. After discussing his argument(s), students will look at contemporary responses to them. All the while, they will be considering the question: How do we reason in science?
Brian Finnegan (Ph.D., American studies, George Washington University) — Wall Street and Main Street: A Cultural History of American Business. Is Wal-Mart evil? Is Starbucks good? Why do CEOs make so much? What does Dilbert mean? Students will use novels, films, essays and business texts to examine the social and cultural meaning of U.S. corporate capitalism, from the robber barons to Donald Trump’s The Apprentice.
Karen Hall (Ph.D. English, Syracuse University) — The Adventure Story: From Robinson Crusoe to “The Incredibles.” This course will analyze the adventure story as an advertisement for first, colonialism and later, imperialism. Students will read and write about, as well as experience the seduction and the deceit of this entertaining genre.
Jenna Loyd (Ph.D., geography, University of California, Berkeley) — Whose City?: Social Justice & Everyday Life. Everyday life in contemporary U.S. cities is shaped by struggles over the meanings of democracy, justice, freedom and inclusion. In this seminar, students will examine these values by focusing on issues of homelessness, public space, segregation and young people’s access to the city.
Daniel Prosterman (Ph.D., history, New York University) — The Culture of Fear in Cold War America. Reviewing a diverse collection of evidence — including comic books, movies and government propaganda — students will examine the Cold War’s influence in American society and, more broadly, consider the domestic nature of so-called “foreign” conflicts.
William Robert (Ph.D., religious studies, University of California, Santa Barbara) — Self, Sacrifice, and the Meaning of Life. What is the meaning of life? This course explores answers to this question by considering what it means to be self and to make a sacrifice — and how the two (self and sacrifice) are intertwined.
Judy Rohrer (Ph.D., political science, University of Hawaii) — Finding “Real Natives”: Native American and Native Hawaiian Struggles with Identity Construction. This course explores issues of identity construction and contestation for indigenous peoples of the continental United States and Hawaii. Students will examine how native peoples contest discourses that seek to box them into strictly legal, biological or cultural categories.
Vincent Stephens (Ph.D., American studies, University of Maryland, College Park) — Between Country and Nation: Exploring Contemporary American Citizenship. A variety of media and literatures will be used to examine how post-World War II political and social movements continually redefine America and to explore the changing meaning of citizenship in a globalized society.
Lisa Grady Willis (M.P.S., Africana studies, Cornell University) — Taking the Journey Home. Are “home” and “homeland” inextricably linked? This seminar introduces students to the concept of “home” as not only a physical space, but as a state of mind, a function of community and an ever-evolving reality, within the black experience. Students will examine and re-examine their own definitions of home and community while reflecting on the insights of such renowned writers as Maya Angelou, Essex Hemphill, bell hooks, Jamaica Kincaid and August Wilson, as well as various film, documentary and broadcast excerpts.
For more information on the humanities postdoctoral program, contact Susan Wadley at (315) 443-1011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.