Honors Introduction to College Life

April 27, 2010

I entered the classroom with the conviction that it was crucial for me and every other student to be an active participant, not a passive consumer…education as the practice of freedom…. education that connects the will to know with the will to become. Learning is a place where paradise can be created. –bell hooks

Required Texts:

  1. Achieving Excellence: How to Reach and Then Exceed Your Goals for College and Life by Jeffrey Buller, Ph.D. (available for free on Blackboard!)
  2. Various handouts

Course Description & Objectives:
The purpose of this course is to help develop academic and social skills in first year students that can lead to a more successful college career through the following objectives:

  • Assist you in your transition to Florida Atlantic University
  • Assist you in developing and/or improving essential academic skills
  • Assist you in making connections with your new community
  • Assist you in becoming oriented to campus resources and facilities
  • Assist you in your goal setting and short and long-term planning
  • Assist you in developing analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Assist you in exploring career and academic goals
  • Assist you in improving your written and oral communication skills

Classroom Environment:
Discrimination, harassment, or intimidation will not be tolerated. Everyone has the right to her or his own opinion, but should also remember that others also have the right to a classroom free from hostility, ridicule, or embarrassment, and an atmosphere conducive to learning. Every student is expected to participate in a responsible and mature manner that enhances education. Any conduct that disrupts the learning process may lead to disciplinary action.

Expectations & Philosophy of Teaching/Learning:
Students are expected to actively participate in the class. I see my role in this process as that of a facilitator. I will introduce ideas and concepts and lead the discussion or introduce the activity, and occasionally, I may lecture, but students are required to do more than show up for class—you are expected to listen, ask questions, and offer insights. In doing so, we will learn from each other, as well as from the assigned readings. I expect and challenge you to keep an open mind and to think critically about the diverse viewpoints, ideas, and concepts discussed throughout the class.

What You May Expect From Me:
For my part, I will do my best to engage students in the material and make the subject matter understandable, and I will strive to create a safe environment for honest discussion. You may expect me to be prepared, to lead discussion, to be available for help, to meet with you at your request, to carefully review your work and to be fair in grading. I use a variety of tools and resources in teaching, including films, guest speakers, and the Internet. The best way to reach me outside of class is by e-mail.

Course Requirements:

Who Am I, Where Have I Been, Why Am I Here, and Where Am I Going?—Create a homepage on Blackboard addressing these questions. Include a photo and your three favorite websites. You will present your page to the group in class on August 27. 5%

Participation/Attendance— This class is discussion-based. As such, your attendance is crucial. Failure to participate will have a negative impact on your grade in the course. Students are required to prepare for and attend all class meetings. Attendance will be taken. As a matter of justice, adjusting the grades of students who fail to attend class is warranted in virtue of their having done comparatively less of the objective work of the course. Reading assignments should be read prior to class. Participation in class discussions indicates proper preparation. For information about excusable absences please see below. 20%

Campus Connections—Campus life is rich with opportunities for you to attend cultural and social events. Often these events are free or at very little cost. The research on student success has demonstrated that students who become involved with their campus have an enriched academic experience, have a higher rate of retention, and express greater satisfaction with their higher-education experience. They tend to perform better academically, develop a large group of social contacts, and broaden their cultural interests. This assignment introduces you to organizations and activities available on campus that can provide you with an enriched experience. You will report on THREE campus connections that you’ve made throughout the semester. Further details will be provided in a separate handout. 20%

Reading Responses—The ultimate goal of this course is to help you thrive in college. Through the textbook and class discussions you will be introduced to strategies for success and encouraged to seriously reflect on them and incorporate them into your life. Answering the discussion questions at the end of each chapter of our textbook will help in this direction. The purpose of this requirement is threefold. First, it will ensure that you complete the reading in a timely fashion and approach the work in a thoughtful and critical way. Second, it will give you practice in written communication. Third, the reflection will support your participation in more stimulating discussions in class. We will use your responses as a springboard for our discussions; you should bring your responses to class and be prepared to read aloud if asked. Responses are due at the beginning of class. See separate handout for further details. 20%

Group Treasure Hunt/Map—In small groups, you will explore the FAU campus. This assignment will help familiarize you with people, places, offices, departments and buildings on campus. The goal is for you to gain awareness of the resources and services at your disposal for college success. 10%

Academic Service Learning Project— You will engage in a service project that is relevant to the course. This assignment is designed to enrich the learning experience and meet aforementioned course objectives through hands-on activity, and to teach civic responsibility. This requirement includes 10 hours of service, a written reflection paper, and an oral presentation. You will also complete a Volunteer & Academic Service-Learning Log to earn a service learning designation on your transcript. Further details will be provided in class and in separate handouts (below). 20%

Self-Evaluation—Write a paper evaluating your work in this course. Questions to address will be provided in advance. 5%


Academic Service-Learning Project Guidelines

Academic Service Learning Project (20%)

Enhanced Academic Learning
Students will spend a minimum of 10 hours over the course of the semester on an academic service-learning project. This activity will address a need in our community, involve a connection between the campus and the world around it, challenge students to be civically engaged, and involve structured student reflection. The project will support the following of our course objectives:

  • Assist you in your transition to Florida Atlantic University
  • Assist you in making connections with your new community
  • Assist you in becoming oriented to campus resources and facilities
  • Assist you in your goal setting and short and long-term planning
  • Assist you in developing analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Assist you in exploring career and academic goals
  • Assist you in improving your written and oral communication skills

Relevant and Meaningful Service in the Community
Keeping the above objectives in mind, each student will select an FAU partner agency through the Weppner Center for Civic Engagement & Service. (A list of opportunities and options will be provided.) With such a broad range of possible projects and/or partners, the academic service-learning project can work for any schedule or limitation(s) you might have. No student is required to participate in a service placement to which s/he has a religious, moral, or political objection. If such an objection does arise, the student will contact the instructor immediately to arrange an alternative placement site.

Purposeful Civic Learning
Academic service-learning is not simply volunteer work. In addition to serving the community, your project should assist you in exploring career goals, becoming oriented to the University and local community, and in developing important life skills.

Reflection on Service Experience and Application of Class Concepts
Critical reflection on experience is an important component of intellectual growth. You will spend time reflecting on your service-learning experience through class discussions, a final reflective and critical essay, and an oral presentation to the class While there is a 10-hour minimum for service to pass the course, your service-learning efforts will be the core of much of the learning in this course. Therefore your grade for service-learning will come from the tangible class-related projects (i.e. paper and presentation) that come out of it rather than simply from completion of the hour minimum.

Academic Service-Learning Requirement includes:

  • Minimum of 10 hours spent on service at one agency over the course of the semester. You’ll be surprised how easy the hour requirement is to meet, especially if you plan early.
  • Reflection on your service through:
    • a time log;
    • a 3-5 page final reflection paper that connects your activities to course material and objectives;
    • an oral presentation in class.
  • Documentation or “proof” of your work (e.g. photographs, contact information, samples of your work, etc.)

Academic Service-Learning Reflection Paper Guidelines

SLS Academic Service-Learning Project Reflection

Critical reflection on experience is an important component of intellectual growth. Take notes as you go on your participation in the academic service-learning project. When the project is complete, write a reflection paper.

Your paper should include:

  • Project Summary
    • A discussion of your community agency
    • Goals (what you hoped to accomplish or establish a foundation for in the future)
    • What your project entailed
    • The process itself (activities, pitfalls, successes)
  • Connection and Reflection
    • A discussion of how your work connects to course objectives, discussions, texts, and subject matter
    • A discussion of what you learned from the process and how the project affected you.
    • A discussion of how you think it contributed to the public good.
  • Proof
    • Include a contact (name and phone number and/or email address)
    • Include documentation to demonstrate the work you completed (e.g. pictures, final product, etc.).
    • Attach the Academic Service-Learning Log.
  • Letter Grade. Grade yourself and explain the grade based on the following criteria:
    • How much effort you put in
    • How much you learned
    • How meaningful the act may be or become for others

Further details:

  • Your paper must be well-developed and well-organized, and you should observe the conventions of correct writing (i.e. complete sentences, spell checking, and proofreading, etc.), since these details reflect an author’s commitment to and respect for good scholarship. Preparation details can affect your grade.
  • The purpose of this paper is to articulate your experience(s) and the actual process of and reflection on your actions, which is probably varied and involves ups, downs, barriers, and successes. Discuss the project process as such, including original plans, changes of plans, and other related issues.
  • Offer a clear description of what your project consisted of: purpose, activity or activities, outcome(s), and the role of your project in the future. What brought you to the agency you chose? Why did you choose the particular issue? Do you plan to continue working with/on the issue(s) in the future? In what capacity?
  • Keep anything you acquire as a result of your service-learning and attach it to your paper. Take pictures if you can—it’s a great way to document your activities

**Perhaps the most important part of this paper is reflection and connection to course content—what did you learn from your experience? How do you think you and/or others benefited from your service? How did your service connect to the objectives of the class? Be specific.
**You must explicitly link your academic service-learning experiences/work to course content, especially course objectives. You may also wish to draw from specific texts, quotes, passages, reading assignments (which may also include assigned websites). You should develop these connections and spend some time making them clear.

Academic Service-Learning Presentation Guidelines

Academic Service-Learning Project Presentation Guidelines:

  • Students representing each agency selected (be it an individual or team) will make a 10- minute presentation in class about the experience they had with the agency. This can serve as an opportunity to promote your agency. Consider yourselves ambassadors for the cause and think of your audience for this assignment as potential volunteers or even donors of time/funds!
  • Suggestions: Use materials gathered during your individual reflection papers, specifically, anything that relates to promoting the cause/agency.
  • Your presentation should include:
    • A summary about your community agency – the mission, goals, and current status of it.
    • What was your (your group’s) specific role in the agency?
    • Why should others become interested/involved in the agency?
    • Are there other similar agencies competing for similar resources (time/donations)? If so, how is the agency you worked with addressing these concerns?


School: Florida Atlantic University
Professor: Shereen Siddiqui
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