Tell us about your Signature Course.
Considering the media as a point of reference, the first-year students are encouraged to learn, engage, and critically examine how social reality is constructed, how it unfolds, and by what means our opinions are shaped and processed. We explore the link between the content and images presented in the media and the way we communicate, socialize, interact, and think about others and ourselves. Through visual media, participant observation, weekly workshops, oral presentations, and writings, the students de-construct and analyze specific cultural content that is relevant to their world. The students are challenged to explore by what means the media frames and constructs meaning, perceptions, and conveys messages about their lives and the society. Weekly workshops are the hallmark of the class for they’re utilized to cultivate teamwork and collaborative discussions. Each week, the students examine one of the following issues: media and social construction of opinions, what’s behind the mean world syndrome, wireless culture and its addiction, relationships and consumption, commodification of childhood/adolescence, marketing gender, idealization of beauty and spoiled identity. Towards the end the semester, the course switches to a more constructive, unifying, and peaceful social discourse that challenge human objectification and commodification projected by the media conglomerates. What we see, what we believe teaches the ability to know how what we believe is due to what we see and hear. Moreover, the best way to grasp our own beliefs and strive for the truth is to examine the process more critically with a new perspective.
What is your favorite part about teaching a Signature Course?
Beyond the academic rewards, I especially cherish the idea that this course will strive to enlighten the students to develop better skills to more clearly understand the many facets of the media representation of the social reality and its ulterior motives. I appreciate the opportunity to give students a solid foundation to be successful academically, but to also be able to view the world with a more critical eye to seek out the truth. Students assert that this class is an “eye-opening” journey because it relates to their lives in a very constructive and tangible way. The course reflects on the students’ personal and social situations, with the objective to examine how connected these situations are to the students’ lives. By understanding the political and social-psychological processes that shape behavior, students are challenged to have greater awareness, become more sensitive to the human-related issues, and to be intellectually more inquisitive and mature. This awareness of course, may extend beyond university life. The students’ reflective assessments indicate that the course is highly valued and they refer to it as not only ‘informing’ but ‘transforming’. Knowing that the students find the course transforming is the reward.
What is your best piece of advice for first-year students?
The key focus of the Signature Course program is to offer an opportunity to the freshman students to explore new interests and engage in learning, writing, and to be equipped with critical thinking. The students are encouraged to use campus resources and participate in the University Lecture Series. My advice: do not take these resources for granted. The intimate aspect of the structure of the courses presents students with a unique opportunity to have an enhanced interaction with faculty and their peers. This offers great benefits because it can help students with writing letters, receiving nominations for awards and new programs, research projects, course material understanding, mentoring, etc. My general advice to the first-year students is to lead a life based on compassion, love and kindness to themselves and others.