John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

An Obvious Opportunity and Suggestion

The purpose of this blog is to make a suggestion about a very obvious opportunity: the need to integrate what we do in first-year seminars this fall with something about the ecological, economic, human, and political disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.

While there is much that is unclear, one thing is certain: this matter will NOT be behind us by the opening of the school year and we are faced with unprecedented opportunities for teachable moments this coming fall. If ever there was an external, overbearing topic that every entering college student should be considering and trying to develop some new ways of understanding, studying, researching– this is it.

This also gives us the opportunity, recognizing that there are many different types of first-year seminars, to make one bold fell swoop of a move to finally make every such course have compelling academic content.

Be thinking in advance not only what you can have students read and discuss, but who are the members of your faculty whose disciplinary expertise would lend themselves to be called upon as guest commentators, discussants.

We are faced here with a real game changer, and as Rahm Emanuel has so famously reminded us: “a crisis is a terrible opportunity to waste.”

-John N. Gardner

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