Course Syllabus

The Purpose, Culture, and Experience of Higher Education in America

 English 1H: Critical Thinking & Writing I-Honors || Fall 2018

Dr. Julia Voss

Contact Info:

Class Meeting Times:
T/Th, 10:20-12:00

O'Connor 110

Office Hours: 
T: 12:00-1:00 pm
W: 3:30-4:30 pm

St. Joseph Hall 203

This course functions as an introduction to college writing and to thinking critically about higher education in the United States, a topic hotly debated in popular and academic circles by government officials, researchers, parents, and students. The major writing assignments in this class will ask you to

    • examine how various arguments for the purpose of higher education are represented at Santa Clara
    • analyze public discourse about an aspect of college discussed in popular media
    • design a partner-based research project inspired CTW1 content to study an aspect of higher education at SCU during CTW2

    This topic will span CTW1 and 2 and serve as the focus of our approach to writing as a critical, systematic way to understand the college experience. The learning objectives of this course center around critical thinking and writing, which you will develop through reading, discussion, writing, peer review, and revision. You will craft persuasive and expository prose informed by our readings, in-class material, and discussions on rhetoric, research, and writing, and use their arguments as jumping-off points for projects that apply and speak back to their ideas. Over the two courses, your work will incorporate both written text and other media, providing the opportunity to practice analyzing and creating with multimedia. In addition to thematic readings, we will spend considerable time in both courses learning about, practicing, and polishing your composing skills.

    Learning Goals:

    • Critical Thinking: The ability to identify, reflect upon, evaluate, integrate, and apply different types of information and knowledge to form independent judgments
    • Complexity: An approach to understanding the world that appreciates ambiguity and nuance as well as clarity and precision
    • Communication: Interacting effectively with different audiences, especially through writing, speech, and a second language.

    Learning Objectives:

    1. Read and analyze texts for audience, speaker/writer, purpose, message, and context
    2. Compose rhetorically effective nonfiction texts for different audiences in different modes of presentation
    3. Compose texts that resist overly simplistic binary thinking by engaging various perspectives about topics and/or texts
    4. Use writing processes as tools for learning and discovery

    Course Texts, Devices, and Communication

    Course Texts

    Devices & Materials for Class

    • Bring a laptop or tablet computer to class every day. We will use these devices for in-class activities, to refer to readings, and for in-class writing & peer feedback
    • Bring to class the readings, pieces of writing, and other materials indicated on the course schedule for that day.


    • I'll communicate with you outside of class via your SCU email address. Please check your email between classes for course-related messages. 

    Assignments/Grade Breakdown

    Assignments will be graded using rubrics to calculate percentages (rounded to the nearest whole number), which will be converted into letter grades, following SCU standard grade conversions: grade scale

    Learning Goals & Tracking (10%)

    You'll set learning goals relating to writing, research, and critical thinking for this class and check in on them weekly, noting what progress you've made on those goals and altering them as your knowledge in these areas increases. (Learning Goal: critical thinking; Learning Objective: 4)

    The View from Here: Mission & Purpose of College at SCU (25%)

    To apply our early readings on the mission and purpose of higher education, you'll critically analyze and synthesize SCU-issued materials to identify how SCU defines the purpose of college and how this compares to the arguments made by other scholars/thinkers. (Learning Goals: critical thinking, complexity; Learning Objectives: 1 & 3)

    Analysis of Public Discourse on a College Issue (40%)

    Using a higher education issue/concept addressed in our readings, you'll research its recent coverage in popular media from different perspectives, using what you've learned to determine what's really going on currently with this issue. (Learning Goals: critical thinking, complexity; Learning Objectives: 1, 3, 4)

    Preparing for CTW2 Independent Research Project (25%)

    To prepare for the partner research project you'll work on in CTW2, during the last 2 weeks of CTW1 you'll develop an original Research Project Proposal and draft the materials you'll need to actually carry out this research (Research Ethics Documents and Research Instruments). (Learning Goals: critical thinking, complexity, communication; Learning Objectives: 2, 3, 4)


    Office Hours: To delve deeper into topics we discuss in class, prepare for assignments, get additional feedback on drafts, check your progress in the course, or anything else related to this class or your SCU experience, I strongly recommend that you meet with me outside of class, either during office hours or by scheduling a time to meet. This is a valuable way to get the most out of CTW, prepare effectively for assignments, and benefit from the mentoring opportunities provided by SCU's focus on student learning. 

    HUB Writing Center: In addition to writing exercises and peer review workshops that are part of this course, SCU's HUB Writing Center offers additional support for writing assignments including the ones in CTW. I encourage you to use their services, which follow the model of peer review and feedback used for in-class writing workshops.

    Accessibility: Everyone is entitled to equal access to learning resources in this class. Please discuss your needs with me face-to-face or via email so that I can arrange accommodations. I am also happy to work with the the Office of Disabilities Resources to ensure your success in this class. Students who are pregnant or parenting are also entitled to accommodations--please discuss your needs with me.

    Cowell Center: To support SCU students' mental and physical health, the Cowell Center provides on-campus medical and psychological services. If you're facing health issues, having trouble managing workload or your life, etc., contact the Cowell Center to set up an appointment. 

    Undocumented and Recent-generation Resources: Many members of our community—students, faculty, and staff—are either undocumented, first-generation, or are affected by these issues. SCU's LEAD Program serves as a clearinghouse of information, resources, and advising on issues relating to documentation.

    Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct (Title IX): Santa Clara University upholds a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct. If you (or someone you know) have experienced discrimination or harassment, including sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, or stalking, I encourage you to tell someone promptly. For more information, please consult the University’s Gender-Based Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Policy at or contact the University's EEO and Title IX Coordinator, Belinda Guthrie, at 408-554-3043/ Reports may also be submitted online through the Office of Student Life or anonymously through EthicsPoint

    Course Policies

    Technology Use: You will bring in your own laptop/tablet computer for use in class each day. In addition to technology-mediated activities I assign, I invite you to use your devices productively during class for other purposes, for example, finding relevant online material during class discussions or pulling up notes during in-class writing activities. However, because of the wealth of activities devices make possible they can be major distraction if not used thoughtfully. This is especially problematic because irrelevant screen content distracts not only you, but also those sitting behind you who can what's on your screen. Because of its damaging effects on our classroom community, if digital distraction is a persistent problem, I will ask you to leave class.

    Attendance & Participation: Attendance and participation are important for the success of this class as a whole and for your individual development as a thinker and writer. In-class activities including small/large group discussion, analysis/research/writing activities, peer review, etc. are designed to provide practice and feedback for the assignments on which you'll be graded. These activities include a variety of formats, inviting you to participate in ways that are familiar and unfamiliar to you. If you have commitments (such as religious observation, university athletics, or family responsibilities) or complications (such as mental and physical health issues) that interfere with either your attendance or participation in this class, please let me know and we will negotiate them in order to support your success as an individual thinker and writer and to benefit the class as a learning community.

    Conduct: This class is an intellectual community created by the contributions of each member of the class. This entails both active participation and refraining from negative participation: intellectual exploration and spirited debate are welcome; personal attacks are not. Treat yourself and your classmates as serious thinkers and writers, keeping in mind that we spend 20 weeks together in CTW.

    Academic Integrity: From the SCU Undergraduate Bulletin: “The University is committed to academic excellence and integrity. Students are expected to do their own work and to cite any sources they use. A student who is guilty of a dishonest act in an examination, paper, or other work required for a course, or who assists others in such an act, may, at the discretion of the instructor, receive a grade of “F” for the course.” We will cover source use and citation throughout CTW. The bottom line is that the work you turn in must be your own. In addition to the fact that passing off someone else's ideas or writing as your own is illegal (constituting fraud and possibly theft), if you don't do the work yourself you won't learn the necessary skills to do well in CTW or other courses throughout your college career. We will discuss information use and intellectual property throughout CTW.

    Assignment Submission: Unless otherwise specified, you will turn in assignments as digital files to Camino, and I will return them to you there with grades and feedback. Some assignments will have particular submission instructions—i.e. to submit your work to a Google Drive folder, submit your work as a Google Doc, enable editing permissions, etc. Make sure to follow these general submission instructions and any instructions specific to individual assignments to receive credit for the assignment.

    Pay attention to file format: Camino cannot read some file formats, particularly .pages files. I recommend submitting your work in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format, or as Google Doc.

    Late Work: Assignments must be turned in on time. I will only accept late assignments if you have made prior arrangements with me, at which time we will discuss grading penalties. Contact me in advance to discuss any deadline issues. 

    Mandatory Reporting Disclosure: While I want you to feel comfortable coming to me with issues you may be struggling with or concerns you may be having, please be aware that there are some reporting requirements that are part of my job at Santa Clara University. For example, if you inform me of an issue of harassment, sexual violence, or discrimination, I will keep the information as private as I can, but I am required to bring it to the attention of the institution’s EEO and Title IX Coordinator. If you inform me that you are struggling with an issue that may be resulting in, or caused by, traumatic or unusual stress, I will likely inform the campus Student Care Team (SCU CARE).

    If you would like to to request assistance directly from the Student Care Team, contact them at If you would like to talk to the Office of EEO and Title IX directly, they can be reached at 408-554-3043/ Reports may be submitted online through or anonymously through Ethicspoint: Additionally, you can report incidents or complaints to Campus Safety Services and local law enforcement. For confidential support, contact the Counseling and Psychological Services office (CAPS), the YWCA, or a member of the clergy.

    Finally, please be aware that if, for some reason, our interaction involves a disruptive behavior, a concern about your safety or the safety of others, or potential violation of University policy, I will inform the Office of Student Life. This is to keep OSL apprised of incidents of concern, and to ensure that students can receive or stay connected to the academic support and student wellness services they need.

    CONGRATULATIONS -- You made it all the way to the end of the syllabus! Enjoy this cat video: 

    Course Summary:

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