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The Freshman Five

Over 25 staff, faculty and students met recently to talk about the Rebekah Nathan’s ethnographical book My Freshman Year, the CATL Book Club selection for Spring 2014. With discussions led by Professor Denise Bartell of the GPS program, participants talked about Nathan’s insights into the Freshman experience. While the discussion and the reading led to many considerations, here are were my top takeaways!

1. Courage

Just as heading off to your first year at college requires courage, the premise of the book – a faculty member immersing herself in residential student life for a year – is equally impressive. The author uses her year of sabbatical, not to leave campus behind, but to dive further into it. She participates in freshman activities, takes a full course load and moves into freshman dorms, all while diligently reporting her, and the more representative freshman’s, experiences.

2. Scheduling

Those who participated in our campus discussion particularly noted Nathan’s discussion on how and why students choose courses. The ‘revelation’ that students don’t just choose classes based on the course and instructor struck many participants. Understanding the many factors that go into a student’s schedule was one of the most important takeaways from the book.

3. International Students

This was one of the most discussed aspects of the book, as participants mulled over Nathan’s portrayal of foreign students’ perception of Americans and the US Higher Education system. One discussion was graced with international guests, some of whom took issue with the sweeping generalizations portrayed in the book but recognized that International Students do face a unique challenge integrating on campus

4. Racial Diversity

Nathan devoted a significant portion of her book discussing the inequalities present on her campus and this focus prompted some important discussions. The chapter that highlighted how students of color eat in the dining area particularly resonated with our campus as it struggles to welcome all students.

5. Why don’t students read?

My Freshman Year talks extensively about this perennial issue and the faculty that participated in the book club found this particularly interesting … but to learn more – you’ll have to read the book!

Available now from the CATL Library!

Joanne DolanJoanne Dolan
Instructional Design Coordinator, CATL

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