First Year Seminar: Communications and Culture in Main South
First Year students in Education Professor Sarah Michaels seminar "Communications and Culture in Main South" aren't just learning communication theories—they are putting them to work in their new neighborhood. Part of each week, Professor Michaels spends class time introducing her first year seminar students to well-known communications theoreticians. "My first year seminar introduces freshman to the same concepts and theories that are introduced in my Comm 101, Introduction to Communication and Culture course, which is open to freshman through seniors," explain Michaels. "We cover the important thinkers, but also look at how different means of communication and their meanings and signs are used effectively or not throughout culture.
Teams of active learners
What makes the first year seminar unique is that it also incorporates a field component. In addition to the in-class lectures and discussions, Professor Michaels' students are required to work on a field project within the neighborhood, to help put communications theories into practice.
Once a week Professor Michaels' first year seminar students teamed up with local high school students from Main South's University Park Campus School (UPCS) to develop content for the community Web site www.mainsouthspeaks.com. The site, initially developed by fifth-year communications and culture graduate student Tim Dzurilla as his senior thesis, is a site about and for the Main South community.
"When I saw Tim's site I thought that it would be a terrific tool for the first year students to put their communications work to work and to introduce them to their new neighborhood," said Michaels.
Together, the Clark and UPCS students worked in teams developing and writing different content areas of the www.mainsouthspeaks.com site. And since the site is continuously being evaluated and updated to meet the needs of the Main South community, Professor Michaels plans to continue using it for her future first-year seminar students.