UNIV 111 Syllabus

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UNIV 111 Focused Inquiry I:  Fall 2016

 Instructor: Dr. Katie Logan

Email: kmlogan@vcu.edu

Office Location: Harris 5169

Office Hours: 3:00-4:30 p.m., MW, and by appointment

Class Sections

 UNIV 111 085 (20360) / MWF 11:00 a.m. / Oliver 2122

UNIV 111 109 (20373) / MWF 1:00 p.m. / Oliver 4068

UNIV 111 036 (20339) /  MWF 2:00 p.m. / Harris 3133

 Course Goals

As the first part of a two-semester course sequence, UNIV 111 will help you build the skills essential for successful university work. Designed to mirror the thinking and writing challenges that students encounter as they move through their undergraduate programs, UNIV 111 will lay the foundation for each of the skill areas of the VCU Core Curriculum.

  • Critical Thinking: think critically about texts, ideas, and the elements of argument
  • Writing Proficiency: create formal and informal pieces of writing in a variety of genres, including reflective, narrative, summary, analytical, and argumentative
  • Collaborative Learning: work with peers on group assignments, projects, and classroom activities
  • Oral Communication: build communication skills essential for academic work and life through active participation in whole class and small group discussions as well as formal presentations
  • Information Fluency: critically read and respond to texts
  • Ethical and Civic Responsibility: Explore principles of ethical and civic responsibility and analyze ethical problems and viewpoints
  • Quantitative Literacy: recognize how quantitative information may be used as evidence

The course material provides you with opportunities to learn the skills and practice the strategies that will enhance your subsequent academic performance in all disciplines, as well as facilitate professional success and lifelong learning.  UNIV 111 applies the notion of the “spiral curriculum” in that you will repeat activities that allow you to revisit analytical concepts and practices, building upon these until you have grasped and internalized the steps of the analytical process.   Each “level” of this “spiral curriculum” will be more complex and involved, so that you will sharpen your thinking as you move through the course.

Specifically, the UNIV 111 curriculum hones your ability to summarize, interpret, analyze, evaluate, and infer based on appropriate evidence.  By the end of the course, you will be equipped to generate substantive critical responses, both written and oral, based on evidence, facts, logical conclusions, and reasons, rather than on personal assumptions or unreflective assertions.

The course is divided into three related units. The units are:

  • Experience/Culture/Text
  • Text/Context
  • Context/Argument

Each unit provides a set of framing questions to begin discussion and utilizes a series of readings and activities designed to raise more questions and present intellectual problems. You will engage with these questions and problems through reading, writing, and classroom discussion.  Discussion is also emphasized through online discussion participation, formal individual essay response and peer review, and collaborative presentation projects.  Each assignment is designed to promote careful examination, encouraging you to look beneath the surface, to engage complexity and to entertain multiple perspectives, as well as to identify and acknowledge biases and assumptions.

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: True Stories: Focused Inquiry, 2016-2017 Edition
  • Stevenson – Just Mercy (2016-2017 VCU Common Book)
  • VCU email account, Blackboard account, Rampage account and reliable daily access to those accounts.

Core Assignments

Writing: Students will produce one core writing assignment during each of the three units. 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 should grow out of and evidence the critical thinking and reading that occurs during the unit. Secondary research should be fully 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 through various class activities; these may include discussion boards, blogs, journals, written responses inside and outside of class, peer review, and other class activities.

  • Unit I: A reflective and/or experiential narrative that may incorporate observational evidence (3 pages or 750-1000 words).
  • Unit II:  A piece of writing that puts textual materials (at least one of which is a written text) in conversation and engages in summary, evaluation, and analysis (4-5 pages or 1000-1250 words)
  • Unit III: A piece of writing that makes a claim and that incorporates multiple outside texts (4-6 pages or 1000-1500 words)

 Oral Communication: Each student will complete one formal collaborative oral presentation and one individual formal oral presentation. Students will also frequently be asked to share ideas, writing, summaries of group discussions, and responses to assignments or class activities with the rest of the class.

 Class Participation and Collaborative Work: Students will work collaboratively with their classmates throughout the semester on a variety of activities both in and out of class which may include oral presentations, peer review, discussion board topics, and other unit assignments.

 Course Grading

Weight of course components in final grade:

  • Core Assignments (core writing assignments and oral presentations): 60%
  • Other Course Work (can include process work for core assignments): 20%
  • Class Attendance and Active Class Participation: 20%

Students must earn a D or better in UNIV 111 to enter UNIV 112. 

 Course Policies

 Focused Inquiry Program Attendance Policy

UNIV 111 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 receive an automated email each time you are absent.  This email is also sent to your advisor. If you receive an email in error, please let me know immediately.
Policy on Electronic Devices

Because this class aims to foster discussion and a collaborative learning environment. I strongly encourage you to minimize your dependence on electronics during class. Cell phone and laptop use can create significant distractions in an active-learning class such as ours. On most class days, you will be engaged in doing and discussing things rather than taking notes or looking things up. Therefore, unless they are needed for an activity or reading, please leave your laptops in their cases. Turn off and put away your cell phones before entering the classroom. (I understand that there are occasional times when students need to be reached by cell phone– for instance, if you have a job that requires you to be on-call or you are a parent with a sick child. If this is the case, please notify me as you enter the room at the start of class.)

Paper Acceptance Policy

 Papers are due by the beginning of class on the due date.  Each paper should include a writer’s memo.  Instructions for writer’s memos will appear on Rampages. Writer’s memos are important to the quality of the feedback I am able to give: they allow me to get an idea of your intentions and concerns.  Late papers will lose half a letter grade for each day they are late (including weekends); if you submit an A- paper due Friday on Saturday morning, for example, the highest grade it can receive is a B+.  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 (note that I will only grant extensions in rare circumstances). You will be able to submit one revised written assignment throughout the semester; we will discuss details for revision in class.

You will turn in most papers electronically as assignments in Blackboard and they will be time-stamped by Blackboard.  Occasionally, you will be asked to turn in a paper in more than one format (electronically to Blackboard, paper copy, for program assessment).  Papers submitted via email will not be accepted, nor will paper copies be accepted in lieu of submission to Blackboard.

Required format for written assignments (including homework)

Written assignments should conform to the following specifications. You may need to adjust their software settings to adhere to these requirements:

  • Times New Roman or Arial, 12 point
  • Margins: 1 inch, left and right, top and bottom
  • Justification: left margin only
  • Line spacing: double-spaced.
  • Print: dark, and on one side of the page
  • Graphics: in an appendix only
  • Documentation: MLA or APA style

 Important Sites

Blackboard – http://blackboard.vcu.edu

Rampages – http://rampages.us

Focused Inquiry – http://focusedinquiry.vcu.edu

ALICE, our online writing commons – http://rampages.us/alice

VCU Common Book Program – http://commonbook.vcu.edu


 Course documents, schedules, assignments, discussion forums, communication, and secure file storage in the Content System are available through the Blackboard learning management system or through your VCU portal. You are required to check Blackboard on a regular basis and are completely 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 Learning and 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 course work.

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.

University Policies

 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.

 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, ethics and integrity at all times.” In addition, “To support a commitment to the Honor System, all members of the VCU community are required to:

  • Adhere to the Honor System policy and its procedures;
  • Report any suspicion or knowledge of possible violations of the Honor System;
  • Answer truthfully when called upon to do so regarding Honor System matters;
  • Maintain appropriate confidentiality regarding related to Honor System matters.”

More information can be found at in the VCU policy library.

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.

The process-oriented nature of this course demands that original work be submitted for every assignment. In this spirit, submitting an assignment in this course implies that the work is original to the course. Therefore, submitting the same work for credit in this course completed for another will be regarded as academic misconduct and subject to action under the University’s honor code. If you wish to build upon prior work, please consult your instructor first.

 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, myoptions@vcu.edu, thewell.vcu.edu
  • Greater Richmond Regional Hotline (Community program) 804.612.6126, a 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 equity.vcu.edu.

 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 http://register.dls.virginia.gov/details.aspx?id=3436.

 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).

 Students representing the university – excused absences

All student athletes should provide their schedules to their instructors at the beginning of the semester.

 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.

Make a Commitment to Community Learning

Your learning here at VCU is not limited to what goes on in your classrooms; in fact, part of a full and rich college experience is tapping into as many different kinds of learning as possible. Learning happens as a result of being exposed to different ideas and different experiences, both in the classroom and beyond, in the larger University community. It often takes other peoples’ perspectives and opinions to spark in us new and deeper ways of seeing something. Think, for example, when you listen to other people in class or in general conversation, how many times you have said to yourself, “Gee.  I never thought of it that way before.”  Thus, we learn and think through social exchange. Be a social learner while you are here. There are a number of social learning communities that should be of particular interest to you as a first-year student.

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 & Focused Inquiry Guides

Research & Instructional Services for UNIV 111 and UNIV 112

 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

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 

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. 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.

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.

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 white boards, 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!

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. For the 2016-2017 school year they will be hosting open discussion spaces on our Common Book, Just Mercy.

Overview of the Course Schedule

 Unit I (weeks 1-5)

 Experience/Culture/Text: Unit I engages students in integrating to the university and the community and exploring the theme of true stories through discussion, personal reflection, observation, active/critical reading, and formal and informal writing.

The first part of this unit focuses on reflective and critical thinking, so that you are given the opportunity to reflect on your new goals and challenges as university students as well as your personal evolution as a person/student/citizen.  Readings will be used to foster points of discussion.  You will practice critical reading and writing strategies. The second part of this unit focuses on our theme through critical reading, reflective writing, and analysis.

 Inquiry Questions:  What does it mean to be a community of learners? What is active listening? What is the value of reflection? What does it mean to think critically?  What does it mean to read critically?  How can we discern the unstated assumptions rooted beneath any author’s/speaker’s claim or line of reasoning? How can one use one’s careful observations, interviews, and/or survey methods as evidence to support larger claims? 

 Core Assignments:

  • Writing: A reflective and/or experiential narrative that may incorporate observational evidence (3 pages or 750-1000 words).
  • A Diagnostic Essay due the first full week of class

Unit II (weeks 6-10)

 Text/Context: Unit II engages students in conversing with texts in order to recognize the limits of individual knowledge/experience and the value of others’ knowledge/experience.

Students will demonstrate critical reading skills (e.g. annotate texts, summarize ideas, classify information as relevant or irrelevant, organize information, and prioritize information etc.); generate relevant questions (including those about numerical or statistical data); consider multiple perspectives; identify and analyze arguments; identify and critique assumptions; evaluate evidence; assess their own values, recognize ethical issues and identify the contexts of ethical problems; and acknowledge alternate viewpoints and/or values.

This unit asks you to examine and make connections between personal evolution and larger notions of true stories (as presented through culture, other texts, etc.). Such study again asks you to hold, and negotiate between multiple perspectives, and builds by asking you to explore textual analysis as a primary method of academic work.  This unit asks you to develop multiple ideas on a single point found within the texts, and to pose more specific questions on this point. In addition, the assignments in this unit ask you to differentiate between observation- and text-based analysis, to critically analyze texts, and to develop substantive claims and evidence.

 Inquiry Questions: What does “close reading” mean, and how do we know when we’re doing it?  How does placing a topic within a specific context lead to greater critical inquiry?

 Core Assignments:

  • Writing: A piece of writing that puts textual materials (at least one of which is a written text) in conversation and engages in summary, evaluation, and analysis (4-5 pages or 1000-1250 words)
  • One Collaborative Presentation

Unit III (weeks 11-16): 

 Context/Argument: Unit III engages students in the research process and asks them to formulate and support a claim based on evidence. Building on the focus of previous units, you will be asked to investigate multiple perspectives and engage with those perspectives ethically and critically. Finally, you will take a position by making a claim and supporting that claim with research-based evidence.

In this Unit, students will analyze arguments and evaluate evidence and then formulate a cogent argument, including moral judgments, as a product of critical reflection.

Inquiry Questions: How do we make use of research and ethical reasoning to illuminate and investigate our own views in addition to the views of others in a democratic way?  How do we formulate a claim based on evidence?

Core Assignments:

  • Writing: A piece of writing that makes a claim and that incorporates multiple outside texts (4-6 pages or 1000-1500 words)
  • One Individual Presentation

UNIV 111 Calendar: Fall 2016


Monday Wednesday Friday
August 25
Unit I Begins




The 26th is the last day to add/drop classes.

Sept 2

Diagnostic Essay Due

University closed
7 9

Deadline for students to provide advance written notification to observe religious holidays.

12 14 16
19 21 23
26 28 30 Unit 1 Paper and Memo Due
Oct 3
Unit II Begins
5 7
10 12 14

Participation Portfolios Due


Deadline for registering to vote in Virginia; see http://elections.virginia.gov


Midterm Evaluations


Reading Day – University closed

24 26 28

Last Day for Unit One Re-writes


(Nov. 1 is the final day to request an absentee ballot for the presidential election)

Nov 2

Unit 2 Paper and memo due

Unit III begins


This is the last day to withdraw from class with a “W.”  Consult with your academic advisor before dropping a class.


(Nov. 8th is Election Day; remember to vote!)

9 11
14 16 18
21 23 25 University Closed
28 30 Dec 2
5 7 9
Unit 3 Paper and memo due
Last day of class


FI with Dr. Logan

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