Theme:  Place & Identity

PREREQUISITE: First year students (fewer than 30 credits) only. This is a multi-disciplinary course, presented in seminar format and draws from the disciplines of psychology, sociology, history, literature, geography, and philosophy, and encourages students to explore issues critical to their academic goals and objectives. The course emphasizes verbal communication, critical thinking, intellectual development, and academic choices. Fulfills university seminar requirement of the core curriculum. This course cannot be repeated.


Common Read, TBD  

Long Soldier, Layli. Whereas. Picador, 2019. [Print and eBook]

University Studies. US101US First-Year Seminar: Exploring Place & Identity Readings and Resources Course Packet (2021-2022).  McNeill, 2021. [eBook only]

Westover, Tara. Educated: A Memoir. Random House, 2018. [Print and eBook]

NOTE:  The course packet is a REQUIRED text for this course.  It includes most of the required readings, assignments, activities, grading rubrics and course resources.  Other texts can be purchased at the MSU Bookstore.  Some course readings are linked from Brightspace D2L course content to library and other online resources. The course packet is available as an eBook through MSU’s Bookstore.  The course packet is purchased as a digital eBook through the MSU Bookstore online.  MSU uses for digital textbook access. 

In this inquiry-based course we will examine questions of place, education, identity, and justice. Classical and contemporary philosophy will offer a guide to navigate issues of justice with through various lenses of understanding to investigate the questions that run through all course readings. In order to get the most out of the experience, we ask students to:

  • Ask meaningful questions, of themselves and their peers.
  • Be willing to learn from what challenges them.
  • Engage with the material and their peers.

Overview of Guiding Questions & Readings for Each Unit



Guiding Questions



Exploring Place: Transition to College

What does it mean to “transition to college”?

How does “place” shape my identity?

Why is it important to encounter and explore multiple points of view?

Becoming a Learner by Matthew Sanders [course packet]

“Wellness in College” by G. McCutchen and E. Riney [course packet]

“Time Management” by G. McCutchen and E. Riney [course packet]

2 Exploring Identity: Diversity Awareness

What is “identity” and how does it relate to diversity and inclusion?  

What is “diversity” and why is it important?

Why is research and evaluating sources important for analyzing issues?

“Dangers of a Single Story,” TED Talk by Chimimanda Adichie [D2L link]

Educated by Tara Westover [book]

Whereas by Layli Long Soldier [book]

Articles related to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls/People (MMIWG), [D2L links]

“Running for Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women,” TED Talk by Rosalie Fish [D2L link]

“Successful Skills for Diversity: An Open Mind” by Matthews, Lyon, and Sanseviro [course packet]


Exploring Justice:

Social Responsibility

Why is it important to engage with social issues from multiple points of view?

What does it mean to use “textual support” when making claims?

Do I have a responsibility to society – locally, nationally, globally?If yes, what? If not, why not?

Revisit “Successful Skills for Diversity: An Open Mind” by Matthews, Lyon, and Sanseviro [course packet]

Revisit Rosalie Fish’s TED Talk “Running for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women”

“Doing the Right Thing” by Michael Sandel [course packet]

Plato’s Apology [course packet]

Plato’s Crito [course packet]

Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. [D2L link]


Reflecting on

Place & Identity

What does “critical thinking” mean for me?

What have I learned my first semester in college?

How do I fit into my new community?

Revisit Becoming a Learner by Matthew Sanders [course packet]


*This reading list is provided to give a substantial overview of the main readings for the course. Additional or alternative readings may be added at the discretion of the program and/or individual section instructors. 

US101US First Year Seminar

Exploring Place & Identity

Course Points & Assignment Breakdown



Instructor Specific Assignments




Engaged Participation


Short Writes Portfolio


Mid-Semester Meeting with Instructor




UNIT 1: Exploring Place: Transition to College


Field Guide to Me - Oral Presentation


Field Guide to Me - Outline


UNIT 2: Exploring Identity: Diversity Awareness


Leading Seminar Discussion


Making Connections Across Texts - Essay Workshop


Making Connections Across Texts - Essay


UNIT 3: Exploring Justice: Social Responsibility


Justice, Ethics & Morality Research Project


  • Team Topic Exploration Workshopping 


  • Individual Annotated Bibliography 


  • Team Presentation Storyboard 


  • Team Oral Presentation 


UNIT 4: Reflecting on Place & Identity


Final for Course: Reflection Essay




Total Points for Course:



A    532-575

B+   498-514

C+    440-457

D+    383-399

A-   515-531

B     475-497

C      417-439

D      360-382


B-    458-474

C-     400-416

D-     343-359




F           0-342


The calculation of final grades is based on the total accumulated points a student has earned against the total available points in the course. Instructors post grades in D2L throughout the semester. Final grades below a “C-” do not satisfy the Core University Seminar (US) requirement.  Some programs require students to earn a grade higher than a “C-.”

There is no extra credit available in this course.  This course cannot be repeated.