The 21st-century syllabus is a substantial document! To make this more navigable I’m offering you two options for viewing the syllabus: the table of contents below and a screen-reader accessible Google Doc, which is available here and on blackboard. The Google doc as a table of contents on the second page.

Please look through the full list of topics and read those sections that are most pertinent to you.

Course Basics


Focused Inquiry is about asking questions. Good questions. Thoughtful questions. Probing questions. And all kinds of questions: What is the meaning of justice? What makes for a good citizen? Why is there a decline in the global birth rate? What is the cultural function of cosplay?

As the second part of a two-semester course sequence, UNIV 112 (Focused Inquiry II) continues to build the foundational skills essential for success in your chosen field of study at VCU and in your professional and civic life. We think about what makes a good question. We think hard about the meanings of the questions we ask and about what kinds of evidence might answer those questions, whichever way the evidence leads (critical thinking). We ask ethical questions—questions about what we should or should not do—and we contextualize our claims for people with different beliefs (ethical reasoning). We find credible evidence in reliable sources and critically interpret that evidence (information fluency). We analyze statistics in those sources, considering the meaning behind those numbers and how they help us understand and answer our questions (quantitative literacy). We work with others to formulate good questions, to seek answers, and to present our findings (collaborative work). And we present, individually and collectively, the answers to questions, both in writing and in speech and in a variety of contexts (written communication and spoken communication).

What we’ve just described are the seven core skills of Focused Inquiry:

  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Ethical Reasoning
  3. Information Fluency
  4. Quantitative Literacy­
  5. Collaborative Work
  6. Written Communication
  7. Spoken Communication

None of these skills can stand alone; they depend on one another. Thought without expression is inert. Evidence without data is guesswork. Evidence without responsibility is dangerous. And so on. Taken together, these seven skills are the foundation not only of academic work but also of the intellectual skepticism and rigor required of engaged and responsible people. That’s you!

Inclusive Classrooms

VCU and the University College value inclusive classrooms in which all participants collaborate to maintain an environment where we can think critically about a wide variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and identities. Inclusive classrooms promote a thoughtful exchange of ideas and insights and support the VCU Mission of developing “a climate of trust, honesty and integrity where all people are valued and differences are recognized as an asset.”

To this end:

  • Official documents may not reflect the name you would like to use in this classroom; I invite you to tell me your name and discuss with me any other related issues, such as what pronouns you use, etc.
  • If events either in class or outside of class are affecting your performance, please know I’m available to talk with you and can also support you in finding others, such as Student Counseling Services, who might be able to help.
  • If something was said in class (by anyone) that made you feel uncomfortable, I invite you to talk to me about it.
  • If you encounter barriers or lack of access to course materials or activities, including financial ones, I invite you to talk to me about them.
Required Course Materials

You are responsible for having access to all these materials.  Copies of course texts are available on reserve at Cabell Library.

  • Hayden McNeil Custom Reader: Space and Place: Focused Inquiry I&II, 2018-2019 Edition
  • Mieville – The City & the City
Core Assignments and Grading
Core Assignments:

Writing: As in UNIV 111, students will produce one core writing assignment during each of the three units of the course. Each piece of writing will be taken through a process of drafting, revision, and/or reflection, which may include preliminary drafts, guided revision, peer review, and critical self-assessment. Core writing assignments in each unit will grow out of and evidence the critical thinking and critical reading that occurs during the unit. When secondary research is involved, sources should be properly documented with in-text citations and a Works Cited or References page. In addition to the core writing assignments, students will also be expected to practice writing inside and outside of class through various class activities, which may include critical responses to assigned readings and ideas, peer review feedback, blog posts, and other class activities.

  • Unit I: Students will produce a multimodal composition that incorporates analysis or experiential narrative.
  • Unit II: Students will produce a piece of analytical writing that summarizes, analyzes, and synthesizes outside sources (1000 words minimum).
  • Unit III: Students will produce an Ethical Reasoning Argument (1250-1750 words)

Oral Communication: Each student will complete one formal (i.e. planned & rehearsed) individual presentation and one formal collaborative oral presentation. These presentations may be subject to specific parameters, such as time limits, use of audio/visual aids, delivery technique, etc. In addition to these two formal presentations, students will also regularly be asked to orally share their ideas, written work, summaries of readings or group discussions, and critical responses to readings, assignments, or class activities.


  • Group Presentation 15
  • Unit I Multimodal Project 15
  • Unit II Written Work 15
  • Individual Presentation 15
  • Unit III Written Work 20
  • Attendance 10
  • Participation 10
  • Total: 100 pts

Students must earn a C or better in UNIV 112 to exit the course. Students who do not earn a C or better must repeat the course. Grades will be posted on Blackboard; look on your Blackboard homepage, in the upper left corner, the box labeled “my grades.” Because assignments are submitted digitally I will check writing requirements using word count and not page length. Keep your papers the appropriate length. If you do not, know that no amount of font changing, margin adjusting, or letter re-spacing can help you. You are all encouraged to see me at any time to discuss your progress in class, but if you wish to discuss your grades do so in a timely manner. I can’t help you improve your grade the last week of the semester.

If work will be late, please see me. I will accept late work on a case-by-case basis only after a consultation.

Attendance Policy
  • UNIV 112 requires prepared, active participation during class sessions.
  • While attendance is mandatory, students should not expect to do well simply by attending.
  • Being absent from class does not relieve students of responsibility for completing all course work by the scheduled due dates.
  • 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 the classes will automatically fail. In a MWF class, this is 11 or more absences.
  • There are no “excused” or “unexcused” absences.

I keep and report daily attendance. . You will be counted absent if you miss more than half (25 minutes) of a class. You will receive an automated email each time you are absent. If you receive an email in error, please let me know immediately.

Late Work Policy

Work is due at the time and dates noted on our class daily schedule. Late work will be accepted on a case by case basis after a consultation with your faculty member. If a situation arises in which you know a paper will be late, please discuss this with me at least a week before the paper is due in order to have an extended due date considered. You will turn in most papers electronically either as posts to your class websites or as assignments in Blackboard. Occasionally, you will be asked to turn in a paper in more than one format (electronically to Blackboard, paper copy, for program assessment).

Policy on Electronic Devices in the Classroom

Our class will often use technology as part of regular classwork. Please note when laptops are required and have personal or library rental laptops on hand for class. Please notify your instructor if there is a pressing reason you require access to your phone during class, or if you require the use of assistive devices or technology for accessibility purposes.

Resources for Academic Success

The Office of Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity

The Office of Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity | 907 Floyd Ave., room 018 | (804) 828-2253

The mission of the VCU Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (SAEO) Office is to assist Virginia Commonwealth University in creating a learning environment where all students have equal access to every aspect of the University’s programs, services, and activities. They do this through partnerships with students, faculty, and staff to promote students’ independence and to ensure the recognition of students’ abilities, not disabilities.

Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity determines appropriate academic adjustments such as program and exam modifications, classroom accommodations, and auxiliary aids once students have self-identified themselves and completed the eligibility process.

Campus Learning Center

Campus Learning Center | Hibbs Hall, 1st Floor | 827-8108

The Campus Learning Center offers a variety of community learning opportunities to support your work in most 100 and 200 level courses.  You can receive one-on-one or group based learning support at no charge. Study skills assistance is also available.  Check out the CLC website for complete information.

Cabell Library

Cabell Library | Research & Instructional Services for UNIV 200

VCU Libraries are one of the largest research libraries in Virginia – with nearly two million volumes; almost 24,000 journal and other serial titles; more than 3.18 million microforms; film, video, sound, comic, manuscript and book art collections; and the largest health sciences library in Virginia. James Branch Cabell Library is the university’s center for study and research in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences.

Academic Advising

Academic Advising | Hibbs Hall, 1st Floor
827-8648 (UNIV)

The Office of Strategic Enrollment Management provides academic advising for all first-year students and for those who are not yet admitted into a professional school or academic program. Your advisor can help you find your way around the university, especially in helping you understand academic requirements and policies, choosing an appropriate program of study, and identifying educational and career goals.

The Writing Center

The Writing Center | Academic Learning Commons, 4th Floor, Room 4203 

The Writing Center offers support for currently enrolled VCU students and faculty. Services for students include one-on-one consultations and workshops on a wide variety of topics associated with academic writing, reading, and critical thinking. As you work on your writing assignments, you will benefit the most if you plan multiple visits to the Writing Center – for brainstorming and planning, for developing and organizing, and then for revising.

English Language Resources at the Writing Center provides specialized support to English Language Learners at VCU. This service encourages success by helping students develop their vocabulary and reading comprehension, fluency in composition, oral communication, and understanding of American academic rhetorical expectations.

Students are now able to schedule appointments online. They can do this via UCMe, or they can also click “Advising Appointments” in the VCU portal.

Focused Inquiry Learning Lounge (FILL)

The Focused Inquiry Learning Lounge | Harris Hall room 5116

The FILL is located in Harris Hall, room 5116. This is an open work space for any students currently taking UNIV courses. The FILL provides private, individual, and group work spaces, stationary and mobile whiteboards, two computers, a scanner, and a pay-to-print station. The FILL is open Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 7pm. Come join us!

Resources for Community Support

The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA)

The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs | Student Commons room 215

OMSA coordinates month-long celebrations such as Hispanic Heritage Month, LGBTQ History Month, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and more. Their programming also includes regularly intercultural dialogues, cultural excursions, a diversity film series, and discussion groups for men of color, women of color, and LGBTQIA students. Their second floor offices offer study and recreational space, and walk-in support for interested students.

First-Generation Fridays

First-Generation Fridays |  Hibbs Hall Room 201 |

The First-Gen Fridays program is an opportunity for first-generation college students to meet each other, faculty and staff from around the university. Mark your calendars and join us each month to network and learn about relevant opportunities and resources designed to enhance student success.

Resources for Trans and Non-Binary Students

Resources for Trans and Non-Binary Students

VCU has committed to meeting the needs of transgender and non-binary students. Students wishing to align University systems with their correct gender, name, and pronouns should consult the campus guide to gender and name use notification. While technological and structural restrictions do limit some VCU’s ability to accommodate name changes that are not legally-recognized, our classroom will accommodate the preferred names, genders, and pronouns of all students. If the name and pronoun in VCU’s data system do not match those you use in your daily life, please email Dr. Reed an update so that she can use the correct names and pronouns in class.

VCU maintains a gender-inclusive restroom map online here.

Rams in Recovery

Rams in Recovery | 815 S. Cathedral Place |

Rams in Recovery strives to create a supportive and confidential community, based in recovery from drugs and alcohol addiction or any other addictive behavior. They provide information about addiction, foster an environment where students can succeed academically and in their recovery, and help other students feel safe and understood. Their goal is to create an active community that celebrates all that recovery in college can be. The Recovery Clubhouse is open M-F from 8:30am to 5pm. Check out their resources for students in recovery Google Doc here!

Military Student Services

Military Student Services | 3rd Floor, Harris Hall | (804) 828-6563

Military Student Services helps veterans, active service members, spouses and dependents who receive military benefits successfully transition to VCU. VCU Students also have a campus Student Veterans’ Association that hosts regular events.

Active-duty and reserve military should know VCU’s policy on military short-term training or deployment: If military students receive orders for short-term training or for deployment/mobilization, 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 Student Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies.

Additional Policies

Important Links

Course documents, schedules, assignments, discussion forums, communication, and secure file storage in the Content System are available through the Blackboard learning management system. You are required to check Blackboard on a regular basis and are responsible for the consequences of not reading announcements, assignments, or other posts in a timely fashion. The library has computers with Internet connections available for student use. If you have technical difficulties with Blackboard, VCU email, or your computer, it is your responsibility to resolve those difficulties through the appropriate channels in a timely manner. The technology help desk can be reached at 828-2227 or online here.

Digital Technologies and Online Sharing

Increasing your digital fluency and developing an informed online presence are important aspects of your university experience. The Department of Focused Inquiry encourages the innovative use of a variety of technologies to enhance your learning. Rampages, a WordPress platform, has been specifically designed for housing VCU students’ online work. As a UNIV student, you will be expected to create your own Rampages site to house some of your coursework. Working in an online environment opens up tremendous learning and sharing possibilities; however, it also creates unique challenges especially regarding your privacy and intellectual property rights. It is therefore important for you to know your rights and responsibilities when learning, sharing, and posting academic work online.  

Visibility: Rampages allows you to control the visibility of your work (i.e. restricted to specific users, restricted to the VCU community, or publicly accessible). At a minimum, you must allow your instructor to view your work. Please consult with your instructor if you would like more information about restricting the visibility of your Rampages site.

Licensing compliance: Familiarize yourself with any user licensing agreements and applicable laws that may apply to the technologies you use. You should understand and comply with end-user licenses, platform policies, and applicable laws for any open-or protected-access sites that you use in support of your academic work. This includes sites such as Blackboard, YouTube, Google Drive, Slideshare, or any cloud storage you might use.

Intellectual Property Rights: You have intellectual property rights to the work you generate in support of your studies at VCU as described in the VCU Intellectual Property Policy. If a class project requires use of a site for which users must waive intellectual property rights, you have the right to utilize an alternate platform for posting or submission of your materials. Please consult with your instructor for more information.

Consent for Group Work: No group work may be posted online or used in any manner other than submission to the course instructor without the full consent of all group members.

VCU policies and regulations regarding the network and resources are also applicable.

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.

Class Registration Required for Attendance
Students may attend only those classes for which they have registered. Faculty may not add students to class rosters or Blackboard. Therefore, if students are attending a class for which they have not registered, they must stop attending.
Academic Integrity

Much academic work involves seeking out information and ideas from other sources and incorporating what you find into your own work. Be sure to provide credit whenever material is quoted directly, summarized, or paraphrased. In other words, provide credit not only for others’ language, but their ideas as well. This class will include instruction on how to maintain academic integrity and avoid plagiarism. Handing in the same work for credit in multiple classes is an honor offense. Consult with your instructor if you have questions.

Respect the work of others and in no way present it as your own. Read VCU’s honor system policy here.

Important Dates
You can view important dates for the semester in the academic calendar.
Managing Stress
Students may experience situations or challenges that can interfere with learning and interpersonal functioning including stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol and/or other drug use, concern for a friend or family member, loss, sleep difficulties, feeling hopeless or relationship problems.  There are numerous campus resources available to students including University Counseling Services (804-828-6200 MPC Campus, 804-828-3964 MCV Campus), University Student Health Services (MPC 804 828-8828, MCV Campus 804 828-9220) and the Wellness Resource Center (804-828-9355). 24 hour emergency mental health support is available by calling 828-1234 and asking to speak to the on-call therapist or utilizing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-784-2433).

Mandatory responsibility of faculty members to report incidents of sexual misconduct. It is important for students to know that all faculty members are mandated reporters of any incidents of sexual misconduct/violence (e.g., sexual assault, sexual exploitation and partner or relationship violence). This means that faculty cannot keep information about sexual misconduct/violence confidential if you share that information with them and they must report this information immediately to the university’s Title IX Coordinator. In addition, department chairs, deans, and other unit administrators are required to report incidents of sex or gender-based discrimination to the university’s Title IX Coordinator. Once a report is made, you will receive important information on your reporting options, on campus and off campus resources and remedial measures such as no-contact directives, residence modifications, and academic modifications. If you would prefer to speak with someone confidentially for support and to discuss your options for reporting, contact:

  • VCU’s Wellness Resource Center 804.828.9355 |
  • Greater Richmond Regional Hotline (Community program) – 804.612.6126  | 24-hour hotline
  • VCU’s Counseling Services    804-828-6200

For more information on how to help, please click here. The Policy on Sexual Misconduct/Violence and Sex/Gender Discrimination, can be found in the VCU policy library. For more information about the University’s Title IX process, please visit

Military Short Term Training or Deployment
If military students receive orders for short-term training or for deployment/mobilization, 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 Student Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies.
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 should be turned off while in the classroom. The Student Code of Conduct also prohibits the possession of or carrying of any weapon. For more information see
Student Email Policy
Email 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 email on a frequent and consistent basis in order to remain informed of university-related communications. The university recommends checking email daily. Students are responsible for the consequences of not reading, in a timely fashion, university-related communications sent to their official VCU student email 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 email address may include notification of university-related actions, including disciplinary action. Please read the policy in its entirety at the VCU Policy Library.
Student Financial Responsibility
Students assume the responsibility of full payment of tuition and fees generated from their registration and all charges for housing and dining services, and other applicable miscellaneous charges. Students are ultimately responsible for any unpaid balance on their account as a result of the University Financial Aid Office or their third party sponsor canceling or reducing their award(s).
Excused Absences for Students Representing the University
Students who represent the university (athletes and others) do not choose their schedules. Student athletes are required to attend games and/or meets. All student athletes should provide their schedules to their instructors at the beginning of the semester. The Intercollegiate Athletic Council strongly encourages faculty to treat missed classes or exams (because of a scheduling conflict) as excused absences and urges faculty to work with the students to make up the work or exam.
Students with Disabilities

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, require that VCU provide “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 register with the Disability Support Services Office on the Monroe Park Campus (828-2253) or the Division for Academic Success on the MCV campus (828-9782). Please also visit the Disability Support Services website and/or the Division for Academic Success website for additional information.

Once students have completed the DSS registration process, they should schedule a meeting with their instructor (s) and provide their instructor (s) with an official DSS accommodation letter. Accommodation letters will outline the required classroom accommodations. 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.

Withdrawal from Classes
Before withdrawing from 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 Floyd Avenue (Harris Hall) and/or contact your financial aid counselor regarding the impact on your financial aid.