Course Syllabus

LINK TO SYLLABUS (Document includes live links to numerous documents, such as the Honors Policy, the Fall 2014 calendar, etc).  On your first reading of the syllabus, please read the original document to access these links.

Food for Thought Syllabus 2014

For easy access throughout the semester, the syllabus content is posted below as well:

Food For Thought

University 211-003

TU TH 12:30 – 1:45

                  Instructor: Bonnie Boaz                       


Office Location: Harris 5107

Office Phone: 804 827-8227

Office Hours: W 1 – 3 pm

Class Location: Academic Learning Commons 4110

 Course Description

Food is universal; all humans must eat to survive. Yet, food isn’t just fuel for our bodies; our human relationship with food has shaped the course of history. For example, we define historical development using changes in food as a marker of civilization (hunter/gathers vs. agricultural societies), integrate food into religious rituals (communion), use food to mark rites of passage (the wedding cake), and eat in historically and culturally specific ways. This course will examine food from a variety of disciplines, using a range of analytical lenses such as psychology, sociology, economics, public policy, gender and African American Studies, nutrition, science, marketing, and ethics. Specifically, students will explore:

o   the multi-disciplinary dimensions of food

o   the personal dimensions of food

o   the production, distribution, and consumption of food in the US

o   food’s role in shaping national policies

o   media and food industry’s roles in influencing the availability and public attitudes about food

o   food as a source of conflict and social justice

o   food-related social problems, including food security and scarcity, the impact of a globalized, industrialized agriculture and meat industry on local food communities, farmers, consumers and the environment.

o   and finally, food as a venue for creative and personal expression

Student Learning Objectives

Critical Thinking:

Critical thinking requires that we examine our assumptions and evaluate how our assumptions impact our own views. It requires that we approach subjects with a healthy skepticism and willingness to reflect and reconsider alternate perspectives. Food — a ubiquitous, yet frequently unexamined mainstay of physical, social, family and religious life — provides an opportunity for sustained and intense inquiry. Students will have an opportunity to examine and critique the arguments offered by scholars and experts on food, as well as explore their own assumptions and develop their own arguments about food. Critical thinking will be developed through reading, writing and class discussions about readings, and the collaborative work required in a sustained food justice projects.

Ethical and Social Responsibility:

The course will allow students to consider food’s relationship to power, issues of scarcity and waste, ideological dimensions of the world food economy, and food as a human rights issue, while critically questioning their own values and assumptions about the ethics of food. Students will evaluate the ethics surrounding US food policies, the industrial meat and processed food industries, food marketing, and a number of food issues they may confront, ranging from food and gender, the future of food, and food as a construct of race, culture, and class. The ethics surrounding food will be experienced first-hand in student contact with local food communities.

Writing Proficiency:

This course asks students to approach their exploration of food through intelligent, insightful blog writing, and to adjust their writing to varying audiences, purposes, and situations. Multiple blogging assignments will require that students develop their writing skills while analyzing and reflecting on course readings, exposure to local food communities, and material located through Internet research. In addition, students will collaborate on emails that communicate with their local food communities and one another, as well as a Work Plan that they submit to their community partners. All students will keep a blog, where they will write daily and document their creative and research processes for their collaborative project. The final project will involve a written narrative and synthesis essay on their work in the course and with selected partners.

Writing for Real Clients:

Students will work in small groups to provide digital media and volunteer services to one of the following local partners:

ReEstablish Richmond


VCU Student Food Pantry (Rampantry)


Peter Paul Development Center


More information about this real-life writing and volunteer component of the course will be provided in class.


Discussion and participation: While there may be times when I give mini-lectures, for the most part students should expect to spend class actively engaged in discussion of course material with classmates, and working with assigned community partners to create, design, and implement digital media for them. Because student groups will be working on a variety of tasks required by their partners, the classroom space will be one that fosters collaborative brainstorming, mapping of ideas, and experimentation with digital media. The class ethos must be one of open, curious, and supportive engagement. This environment depends on each student’s prepared and active participation.

The class will develop its own protocols for communicating with group members and addressing problems in groups should they occur. Once these protocols are in place, students are expected to follow them. All protocols will be posted on the homepage of the class blog, and will be strictly enforced.

Communication with Instructor: If you are having any problems or concerns about the class, please make an appointment to see me. Your perspective is important to me and will help me shape class assignments and moderate discussions. Please communicate any other special needs or concerns with me immediately (see University Policies on students with disabilities, student athletes, religious observances, etc).


Readings: The reading load in the course is fairly substantial, ranging from book chapters, scholarly articles, and a range of internet research you must locate and integrate into your project. Assigned readings should be completed by the day under which they are listed on the Daily Syllabus. If I suspect a large percentage of the class has not read a particular reading, I may give an impromptu reading quiz on the material.

Links to all required readings will be placed on the class blog.

Blogs:  All students will keep individual blogs. These blogs will be created through VCU’s RamPages so that everyone has access to all blogs. Students will be required to read one another’s blogs and cross-link to classmate’s blogs. Blogs will provide a space for student reflection on course readings, as well as creative work with service learning partners.

The blog space is a place for critical inquiry and creative representations of your work in class. It should showcase student writing, thinking, and experimentation with digital media. In this way, some blog posts may be more successful than others, but hopefully students should demonstrate competence and a strong writing voice as they continue to blog throughout the semester.

Community Partner Project: In the first weeks of the course students will self-select a community partner from the three options listed above. All community partners are local and can be reached by bus or foot. I will explain the partnerships more fully in class.

Students’ work with partners will be driven by client needs. All clients have expressed a need for some digital media creation for their web pages or social media sites. Additionally, clients may have other needs, ranging from volunteering in rooftop gardens, stocking the Rampantry, or developing food activities / curriculum for children.

Students will have flexibility in terms of how they creatively represent their work with partners. Since students will be blogging about this work separately, there will be numerous perspectives on some of the same experiences, and this is always interesting. During class, students will explore and experiment with various digital media, both to learn how to use it for the work they may do with their clients, but also for posting to their own blogs.

Groups will be required to develop a Professional Work Plan after meeting with their partners and share the work plan with their service partner and instructor. All group members are required to attend the first meeting with their partners. To make this easier, I will allow groups to schedule meetings during our class time so that everyone is available. Follow-up meetings can be more flexible, depending on client needs. Since we will have access to digital media in the classroom, you can schedule online client meetings using Google Hangout or Skype.

Throughout the semester, students will share their work with the larger class at intervals, so that we can crowd source ideas and problem solving. While students may be working with different clients, the digital media ideas that each group develops can be shared and re-imagined in countless ways by their fellow groups. Crowd sourcing will make jobs easier, and will foster the spirit of collaboration necessary for successful projects.

Exams: There will be a midterm and a final exam. These exams will include multiple choice, short answer, and short essay questions, and will be based on readings, class discussions, films, and community partner work.

Course grades will be computed as follows:

Participation: to include Group Feedback, Service Partner feedback, Reading Quizzes and Blog posts on readings,  Class Participation and Showcase Leaders: 20%

Final Project to include Work Plan, Ongoing Blog, Volunteer Work, and Narrative & Synthesis Essay written for the web: 50%

Midterm and Final Exams: 15% each (30%)

Classroom Policies

Use of technology in class: Our class has been selected to meet in one of the most digitally rich learning environments on campus (Academic Learning Center, Room 4110). This course is highly dependent on digital media work. Therefore, you should have reliable access to a laptop computer at all times. If you do not own a personal laptop computer, please see me right away.

On group days, technology is crucial to the work students will do in class. Laptops and tablets will be encouraged during most class sessions. Technology should be used to directly facilitate your work in class only, and should not disrupt respectful listening and feedback.

Submission of online work: VCU students have the opportunity to narrate, curate, and share the story of their learning and achievements with the world. Universities such as Penn State, the University of Oklahoma, Emory University, and the University of Mary Washington have offered this opportunity to their students with great success, and we anticipate VCU’s experience will be just as beneficial.

While we encourage you to participate in the full experience of “connected learning,” we also want you to know that you have rights and responsibilities when posting course work online:

  • As part of this course, students must create blogs that will be retained on platforms accessible online.  The recommended platform, Rampages, allows students to control the visibility of their work (i.e., restricted to specific users, restricted to the VCU community, or publicly accessible). At a minimum, students must allow their instructor and classmates to view their work.  Please consult with your instructor if you would like more information on restricting the visibility of your portfolio.
  • Students must be in compliance with the end user licenses, platform policies, and applicable laws for any open- or protected-access sites that they choose to use in support of their work for VCU. This includes sites such as Blackboard, YouTube, Google Drive, Slideshare, or any cloud storage students choose to use. Please familiarize yourself with any user licensing agreements and applicable laws that may apply.
  • Students have intellectual property rights to work they generate in support of their studies at VCU as described in the VCU Intellectual Property Policy. If a class project offers use of a site that requires users to waive intellectual property rights to posted content, students may utilize an alternate platform for posting or submission of their materials.  Please consult with your instructor for more information.
  • Students are responsible for the work they share online or in any manner.  No group work may be posted online or used in any manner other than submission to the course instructor without full consent of all group members.
  • VCU policies and regulations regarding the network and resources are also applicable.

Blackboard & Computer Access: Course readings, schedules, assignments, supplemental lectures, communications, and individual blogs are accessed through Rampages. Blackboard will be used for grade posts and emails (and occasional readings I am not able to post on the blog). You are required to check Blackboard and our course Rampages blog on a regular basis and are responsible for the consequences of not reading announcements, assignments, or other posts in a timely fashion.

If you lose access to your personal computer (it crashes, you lose it, etc), the library has computers, and you are expected to use them as a back-up for any computer problems. Thus, computer excuses for missed work are unacceptable. If you have technical difficulties with Blackboard, VCU email, Rampages, or your computer, it is your responsibility to resolve these issues through the technology help desk at 828-2227 or

Academic freedom: You have the right to express your options, to question and discuss materials presented in class, to hold political beliefs, and to express these beliefs when appropriate, without feeling censored and without worrying about how your opinions will reflect in your grade. With these rights come obligations. You are obliged to listen to the opinions of others (so long as they are respectfully stated) and you have the responsibility to keep an open mind and consider positions in light of credible new information.

Attendance: Attendance in our course is mandatory, and absences should be kept to 4 or below if students wish to receive an A in the course. Being absent from class does not relieve students of responsibility for completing all homework by the scheduled due dates.

Students missing 4 or less classes may make up work missed during an absence (reading quiz, mid-term). Should a student miss a quiz or mid-term, (s)he must schedule to make up the quiz/test during my office hours no later than 48 hours after the missed exam. If a student misses this deadline, (s)he will receive a 0 for the test grade. Once a student misses more than 4 classes, (s)he may not make up missed work.

The instructor has the right to lower a student’s final course grade as the sole result of his or her repeated absences and tardiness. Students who miss more than 25% of our classes (8 or more absences), will automatically FAIL the course. This is a University College policy, and no exceptions will be made.

Additionally, groups have the right to design protocols that may include penalties for absences in group meetings or volunteer work. We will design and post these protocols during class. All group-designed protocols will be enforced by the instructor.

University Policies

E-mail Policy

Electronic mail or “e-mail” is considered an official method for communication at VCU because it delivers information in a convenient, timely, cost effective and environmentally aware manner. Students are expected to check their official VCU e-mail on a frequent and consistent basis in order to remain informed of university-related communications. The university recommends checking e-mail daily. Students are responsible for the consequences of not reading, in a timely fashion, university-related communications sent to their official VCU student e-mail account. This policy ensures that all students have access to this important form of communication. It ensures students can be reached through a standardized channel by faculty and other staff of the university as needed. Mail sent to the VCU e-mail address may include notification of university-related actions, including disciplinary action. Please read the policy in its entirety:

VCU Honor System: Upholding Academic Integrity

The VCU Honor System policy describes the responsibilities of students, faculty, and administration in upholding academic integrity, while at the same time respecting the rights of individuals to the due process offered by administrative hearings and appeals. According to this policy, “Members of the academic community are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity.” In addition, “All members of the VCU community are presumed to have an understanding of the VCU Honor System and are required to

  • Agree to be bound by the Honor System policy and its procedures;
  • Report suspicion or knowledge of possible violations of the Honor System;
  • Support an environment that reflects a commitment to academic integrity;
  • Answer truthfully when called upon to do so regarding Honor System cases, and,
  • Maintain confidentiality regarding specific information in Honor System cases.”

View the Honor System in its entirety. More information can also be found on the Division of Student Affairs website.

In this class, because coursework will be at times collaborative, particular issues of integrity arise. You should not copy or print another student’s work without permission. Any material (this includes IDEAS and LANGUAGE) from another source must be credited, whether that material is quoted directly, summarized, or paraphrased. In other words, you should respect the work of others and in no way present it as your own.

Student Conduct in the Classroom

According to the Faculty Guide to Student Conduct in Instructional Settings, “The university is a community of learners. Students, as well as faculty, have a responsibility for creating and maintaining an environment that supports effective instruction. In order for faculty members (including graduate teaching assistants) to provide and students to receive effective instruction in classrooms, laboratories, studios, online courses, and other learning areas, the university expects students to conduct themselves in an orderly and cooperative manner.” Among other things, cell phones and beepers should be turned off while in the classroom. Also, the university Rules and Procedures prohibit anyone from having “in his possession any firearm, other weapon, or explosive, regardless of whether a license to possess the same has been issued, without the written authorization of the President of the university…” For more information, visit the VCU Insider online.

Students with Disabilities

SECTION 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended require that VCU provides “academic adjustments” or “reasonable accommodations” to any student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. To receive accommodations, students must request them by contacting the Disability Support Services Office on the Monroe Park Campus (828-2253) or the Division for Academic Success on the MCV campus (828-9782). More information is available at Disability Support Services or the Division for Academic Success.

Any student who has a disability that requires an academic accommodation should schedule a meeting with the instructor at the student’s earliest convenience. Additionally, if coursework requires the student to work in a lab environment, the student should advise the instructor or a department chairperson of any concerns that the student may have regarding safety issues related to a disability. Students should follow this procedure for all courses in the academic semester.

Statement on Military Short-Term Training or Deployment

If military students receive orders for short-term training or deployment, they should inform and present their orders to Military Student Services and to their professor(s). For further information on policies and procedures contact Military Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies.

Excused Absences for Students Representing the University

All student athletes should provide their schedule to the instructor at the beginning of the semester.

Campus Emergency information

What to Know and Do to Be Prepared for Emergencies at VCU

  • Sign up to receive VCU text messaging alerts. Keep your information up-to-date. Within the classroom, the professor will keep his or her phone on to receive any emergency transmissions.
  • Know the safe evacuation route from each of your classrooms. Emergency evacuation routes are posted in on-campus classrooms.
  • Listen for and follow instructions from VCU or other designated authorities. Within the classroom, follow your professor’s instructions.
  • Know where to go for additional emergency information.
  • Know the emergency phone number for the VCU Police (828-1234). Report suspicious activities and objects.
  • Keep your permanent address and emergency contact information current in eServices.

Withdrawal from Classes

Please do not withdraw from Univ 211 without talking to me first. Often students panic when they get behind, and their first impulse is to drop a class, when, in fact, they can meet with me and we can work together to get a student back on track. Before withdrawing from any classes, students should consult their instructor as well as other appropriate university offices.  Withdrawing from classes may negatively impact a student’s financial aid award and his or her semester charges. To discuss financial aid and the student bill, visit the Student Services Center at 1015 Harris Hall or contact a financial aid counselor at

VCU Mobile

The VCU Mobile application is a valuable tool to get the latest VCU information on the go. The application contains helpful information including the VCU directory, events, course schedules, campus maps, athletics and general VCU news, emergency information, library resources, Blackboard and more. To download the application on your smartphone or for more information, please visit

Important Dates
View important dates for the Fall 2014semester.





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