Freshman Seminar – Integrative Studies

Course Description
Since the publication of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ book, On Death & Dying, there has been an explosion of interest in the subject of death and of death education. Such interest is quite healthy because dealing with death and dying allows us to grow and know more about ourselves as human beings. When we have been honest with ourselves as finite beings and have confronted the human reality of death, we may learn to live and help others to live fuller and more meaningful lives. The study of death and dying permits us to learn not only about a “far country” called death, but to know more about our present home which is life.

The purpose of this course is to introduce the student to the subject of thanatology: the study of death & dying. Under this general heading the classroom and reading experiences will be geared to these subtopics:

  1. The reality and definition of death
  2. The grief process
  3. Care of the dying and the dead
  4. The religious and ethical dimensions of death & dying

The subtopics will be the vehicles by which the student will strengthen his/her skills in writing, reading for comprehension, research, critical thinking, and oral communication.

Course Requirements

  1. Participation – regular class attendance as well as active involvement in the discussion and other activities of the seminar is expected and required. More than three unexcused absences can result in one’s final grade being lowered one letter. The student is also responsible for material covered should he or she be absent from class on a given day.
  2. Reading – the following textbooks are required reading. On days when a particular book is being discussed, the student is urged to bring his/her copy to class.
    1. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death & Dying
    2. Sharyn McCrumb, She Walks These Hills
    3. William Phipps, Death: Confronting the Reality
  3. Each student will need to also purchase the new writer’s reference text (sorry, I don’t have the title or author handy at the moment; will announce these details in class).
  4. Papers – there will be a number of required written pieces for this course, ranging in length from a single page to a ten page maximum. These writings will focus on a particular topic or theme, will be submitted and evaluated on a regular basis, and returned to the student with the grade earned. The papers need to be prepared with a concern for both content and style and with the goal of increasing one’s skill in written communication.
  5. Tests – a midterm and final will be given on the readings, lectures, videos, etc. associated with the course’s content.

Final grades will be determined by the instructor’s evaluation of each student’s performance in the following areas: Writings = 50%; Tests = 50%.

All grades will be done by letter and percentage: A = 100-90, B = 89-80, C = 79-70, D 69-60, below 60 = F.


Approximate & Tentative Course Schedule (subject to modification)

Week 1: (Jan. 4-8) Course Introduction — Death as Human Reality
Readings: Phipps, Chap. 1-3
Kubler-Ross, Chap. 1, 11
Writings: One page narrative essay entitled: “My thoughts and feelings when ______ died.” Due: Monday, Jan. I I

Week 2: (Jan. I 1- 15) Death as Human Reality
Readings: Phipps, Chap. 4
Kubler-Ross, Chap. III, IV, V
McCrumb, Prologue – Chap. 9

Week 3: (Jan. 18-22) The Grief Process/Care of the Dying
Readings: Phipps, Chap. 4
Kubler-Ross, Chap. (V), VI, VII, VII
McCrumb, Chap. 9- 18
Writings:Write a two to four page analysis on McCrumb’s book in which you address the influence of death & dying in this author’s work. Due: Monday, Jan. 25

Week 4: (Jan. 25-29) The Grief Process (continued)
Readings: Phipps, Chap. 8
Kubler-Ross, Chap. (VII), VII, IX

Week 5: (Feb. 1-5) Death & Religious Hope
Readings: Phipps, Chap. 6, 9
Articles/readings on closed reserve in Library
Writings: Begin research paper/project, see week 6 below for more details.
**Midterm: Friday, Feb. 5**

Week 6: (Feb. 8-12) Death & Religious Hope
Readings: Phipps, Chap. 9, Appendices (pp. 209-217) Articles/readings on closed reserve in Library
Writings: Begin research of an issue in or related to death & dying. The issue may be an ethical issue, an issue you’ve encountered in your reading, or an issue of your own choosing. Your choice needs to be approved by the instructor! You will present this material in a brief (5-7 minute) oral presentation in class, beginning week 8. Due: Monday, Feb. 22.

Week 7: (Feb. 15-19) Death & Religious Hope/Ethical Issues in D&D
Readings: Phipps, Chap. 5, 6 (4)
Writings: Continue research project/paper

Week 8: (Feb. 22-26) Oral Presentations on Research
Writings: mini-research paper (complete with endnotes, works cited page, etc.) on an ethical issue, an issue found in reading or of your own choosing. Length: 5-7 pages. Due: Monday, Feb. 22.

Week 9: (March 1-5) Complete Oral Presentations/Lectures on Ethical Issues

Week 10: (March 8-12) Course Wrap-up, Funeral & Burial Practices, Values Clarification.
Writings: “How I Now View Life in the Face of Death. ” This essay is
is a summary statement of your views and values in relation to death & dying. Please base your paper on course material: substantiate and illustrate your views with evidence from lectures, class discussion, readings and your own reflections and insights made during the past ten weeks. Due: Wednesday, March 10.

“Final Exam” – at the scheduled hour during the week of March 15.

Service Learning Option/Extra Credit
In taking the service learning option, one serves as a volunteer in a local nursing home (i.e., Mann Nursing Home). Once you sign up for this option, you will need to attend one of two possible orientation sessions. The orientation sessions are scheduled currently for: Monday, January 11 at 6:00 p.m. and Wednesday, January 13 at 2:30 p.m. Both sessions will be at Mann. You will then begin your service in the third week of the quarter and continue to serve for a minimum of one (1) hour per week through week 10 of the quarter.

Student Coordinator and Senior, Katie Pierce, will visit class this Wednesday to offer a few more details about this experience. You can also sign up to volunteer during ORO Day this Thursday, between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. in the Campus Center.

One’s service as a volunteer needs to be coupled with reflection on the content of the course. In brief, one needs to use the real life experience gleaned from the nursing home as a way of making the course material come alive; at the very least, of being able to make connections with topics covered in On Death & Dying. To assist one in making these connections, the student will need to keep a journal of each day’s service experience. A handout will be provided which will offer insight about keeping a journal for this service option.

At the end of the quarter, the student will use the volunteer experience and reflection in the journal to write his/her final paper, the summary statement entitled, How I Now View Life in the Face of Death. A good demonstration of not only dedicated volunteer service, but of using that experience to connect with topics covered in the course, will result in a double grade for this paper. That is, you have the opportunity to receive one grade on the writing and another grade for the service rendered (hint: good, loyal, committed service will most likely result in an “A” for the second grade on this paper).

If you have any questions, please see Monty.

To register to serve as a volunteer, please call Monty, stop by the table for Mann Nursing Home during ORO Day or call Katie Pierce at the Service Learning Office.