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Postsecondary Teaching & Learning
206 Burton Hall
178 Pillsbury Dr. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Voice: 612-626-8705

PsTL First Year Inquiry (PsTL 1525W)

In this writing-intensive, multidisciplinary class, students explore the question “how can one person make a difference?” in a variety of ways: by reading the common book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, and discussing the book in person with the author; by examining social issues that reach beyond the classroom; and by reading and writing in a variety of forms. The course structure alternates small class meetings with large team-taught classes and events. All students will create a collaborative project using the iPad. The course supports the development of critical skills for communicating effectively and engaging multiple forms of diversity.

Fall 2012 FYI Descriptions

Sections 1-5: "Are We Free?": Freedom, Democracy and Incarceration in the U.S.: In this section we explore the themes of freedom and imprisonment in history and literature. Specifically, we ask: How does the criminal justice system shape the racialized landscape of the United States? To what extent is the U.S. really "the land of the free"? In order to answer these questions, students will read accounts of well-known "prisoners" like Henry David Thoreau and Malcolm X, alongside accounts of Japanese Americans interned during World War II and Arab Americans held without charge under the Patriot Act. Class assignments will include quizzes, essays, and a collaborative iPad project. Students will be asked to respond critically to questions of race, justice and freedom that emerge in class readings, activities and discussions.

You will read about the history of immigration in the U.S., historical patterns of finding and developing community in multicultural settings, as well as the global conflicts that cause refugees to seek asylum. Novels, memoirs, poetry, drama, community histories, and nonfiction from Hmong, Somali, Pakistani, and Dominican Americans will deepen our understanding of immigrants’ stories and inspire us to share our own. Students who complete this course will be better prepared to participate in their communities as global citizens. To further this goal, we will collaborate with Heritage Middle School in St. Paul in our discussion of this year’s Common Book, Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference.

Sections 6-10: Living the Dream: Exploring Identity, Community, and Social Equality: Who is living the dream? If it is the American dream, who has access to this dream and who is designing what we collectively imagine as the dream? Using an interdisciplinary approach comprised of the arts, humanities, and the social sciences, we will engage in discussions and activities that explore issues and concepts related to personal and collective identities, social inequalities, and the value of community and place. Students will further investigate issues of social inequality in the Twin Cities through a service learning opportunity (approximately 10 hours). Students will also use their iPads to create video projects using digital narratives.

Using contemporary and historical materials from the social sciences, humanities and theatre arts, we will explore the complexity of critical moments. Our primary texts will include the Paul Rusesabagina autobiography, An Ordinary Man – on which the film, Hotel Rwanda is based, the Spike Lee documentary film, When The Levees Broke, and this year’s Common Book, Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference.

Sections 11-14: The Dynamic Duo of Double Identity: In this section, we will consider the dual nature of identity. What happens when we feel closely connected to two different worlds? What challenges do we face? Engaging in dialogue with others is another powerful influence on our identities. We will explore the nature of double identities and dialogue through readings from literature and the sociology of language. Class activities will include discussions, small group activities, a video assignment using the iPad, and learning experiences outside the classroom.

We will explore critical moments in our own narratives and in the lives of persons and characters in three historic events: the struggle for social justice and dignity in Iran following the Revolution during the 1980’s, in New Orleans in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, and in Rwanda in 1993 when genocide occurred. This exploration will examine what forces create these personal, historic, social, political and artistic turning points in the lives of individuals, communities, countries and the world. Using contemporary and historical materials from the social sciences, humanities and theatre arts, we will explore the complexity of critical moments. The capstone project will be a portfolio of smaller projects: an essay telling your own story using biographical objects, other narrative writing, This I Believe essays and small theatrical performances. No previous training or experience in theatre arts is required.

Sections 15-18: Making a Difference in the Lives of Young People: How are individuals and communities addressing challenges that youth face in the Twin Cities? Who volunteers? Who benefits? Who is served? What can we, as individual students and as members of the University community, add to this mix? Students will complete 20 hours of service at a local organization that supports youth development. This experience is the foundation for examining issues and experiences related to service, youth and communities from multiple angles (literary, historical, social, cultural). We will explore key concepts, such as difference, privilege, equality, and social change. Students will use their iPads as a tool to reflect, write, and research in relation to their service site.

How do changes in our surroundings affect our sense of who we are and where we belong?  In this class we will examine the ways that migration and the resulting shifts in demographics affect our ideas about home, family, community, and difference. We will use the Twin Cities and Clarkston, Georgia (the setting of our 2011 common book Outcasts United) as focal points as we explore the immigrant experience from a range of perspectives (historical, sociological, literary). Over the course of the semester students will use their CEHD-issued iPad 2 to create photo journals representing central concepts and themes that emerge from this examination of the relationships between changing spaces, places and identities.

Sections 19-23: Stories as game changers: Critical moments in narratives: Psychologist M. Mairs argued that “We live in and through stories. They hold us together and keep us apart.” In this course we will explore the critical moments in our own stories and in the lives of persons in three distinct events. Primary texts will include The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang; the Spike Lee documentary film: When the Levees Broke, this year’s Common Book, The Other Wes Moore. Using contemporary and historical materials from the social sciences and humanities, we will explore the complexity of critical moments. This section invites you to apply what we learn from these narratives to your own story and to make meaning of your own journey. Students will create a collaborative project using the iPad.

How does food bring people together? How is food production and safety regulated by the government? In this course, team taught by a biologist, a social scientist, and a lawyer, we’ll examine food through a variety of perspectives to come to a better understanding of its impact on our world. Using writing, discussion, and oral and video presentations, we’ll consider the following question: How can you, either individually or working with others, make a difference by educating yourself and others about where food comes from and how to make informed choices about what you eat? At the end of the semester, students will work in small groups to present a final Capstone Project on a food-related subject. Resources used in the course will include recent films such as Food, Inc., articles on current food-related topics, and the book In Defense of Food. Students will also read Outcasts United, the Common Book for all sections of the First Year Inquiry course, to explore the relationship of food to family and community.


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Last modified on 4/25/2012