August 26, 2002

Spotlight On: Writing Seminars Move to North

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For some incoming freshmen, the morning commute from North Campus to class will be replaced by a quick walk down the hall.

In its second year, the North Campus Initiative includes plans to hold freshman writing seminars in dorms to foster a living and learning

environment for first-year students.

Required for all freshmen, writing seminars allow students to choose from over 100 topics in which to focus and hone their writing skills.

“The idea behind holding first-year writing seminars on North Campus is to help develop an intellectually engaging North Campus community for first-year students by developing academic activities in the residences and community centers,” said Katherine K. Gottschalk, the Walter C. Teagle Director of First-Year Writing Seminars at the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines.

Last year, nine seminars were held on North Campus. The success of that program has led to a projected 19 classes being held in the Mews, Court and Balch residence halls, Robert Purcell Community Center and the Townhouse Community Center.

“The students [last year] seemed to like the experience,” said Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice-president for student and academic services. “They just had to roll out of bed.”

Such an option would seem welcome to many students who would otherwise trudge down to Central Campus every morning, often in the bitter Ithaca cold.

“That would be most excellent,” said Brendan Ahern ’05, who took a writing seminar each semester last year. However, he added, “classes on North would only be good if they were your first class . because you wouldn’t want to walk back [uphill] at midday and go right to class in your dorm.”

Murphy said that all writing seminars held on North Campus will be either in the morning or evening, the times when students are most likely to be in their dorms.

According to Gottschalk, all writing seminar instructors teaching on North Campus will receive six meal passes for breakfast or dinner, “enabling them to share meals and informal conversation with their students before their classes meet,” she said.

Prof. Jacquelyn Clinton, classics, is teaching a seminar this fall in Robert Purcell titled “An Overview of Greek and Roman Myths.” Clinton previously taught in Robert Purcell in spring 1998 before the community center was renovated.

“I didn’t get any grumps or complaints [from the students in ’98],” she said. “They disobeyed the rules and came in with coffee and bagels!”

Also, she added, the class was in “the nicest, most comfortable room I’ve ever taught in [with] carpeted floor and upholstered chairs.”

Although there was the possibility of also holding writing seminars in program houses on North Campus, according to Donald H. King, director of community development for Campus Life, “they just don’t have any available space.”

LeNorman J. Strong, assistant vice-president for student and academic services, submitted Ujamaa Residential College and the Latino Living Center for consideration. He said that security concerns have prevented any seminars from being held in program houses this fall.

“[There] were and still exist both a commitment and plans to make program-house spaces available for the teaching of freshman writing

seminars,” Strong said.

He explained that the problem is a lack of “secure public corridors” which separate the public spaces from the residential areas of dormitories. While the new Court and Mews residence halls are zoned in this way, he said, program houses are not. These issues are currently being addressed.

Strong added that other classes are sometimes held in program houses, but only with special security arrangements.

Murphy noted a seminar room in Ujamaa built last year that may be available or use.

“I [am] truly overwhelmed by the commitment to diversity and inclusiveness that I both heard about and that I observed as I spoke with those responsible for collaborating on this project,” Strong said.

Archived article by Andy Guess