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.


Hinton, Anthony Ray. The Sun Does Shine.  St. Martin’s Griffin, 2019. [available in print and eBook]

Saslow, Eli. Rising out of hatred: The awakening of a former white nationalist. Anchor, 2018. [available in print and eBook]

University Studies. US101US First Year Seminar: Exploring Place & Identity (2024-2025).  McNeill, 2021. [eBook only]

NOTE:  The US 101US First Year Seminar: Exploring Place & Identity eBook is a REQUIRED text for this course. It is embedded in the course D2L and purchased through the Inclusive Access program (students have automatic access to the book via a link in D2L and pay for the book through their student account).  It includes most of the required readings, assignments, activities, grading rubrics and course resources. The other two required texts can be purchased at the MSU Bookstore or via your preferred vendor. Additional course readings are posted on the course D2L.

In this inquiry-based course we will examine questions of place, education, identity, and social justice. We will navigate issues of social justice 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.

This course implements activities and events in the curriculum and expects students to be curious and proactive as learners. Attendance is mandatory and students are required to be in class every day that class meets, including the weeks adjacent to holidays or breaks as well as the finals week of classes. Students are asked to make sure parents do not schedule trips during required class meeting times as it will impact attendance and participation grades.

Overview of Guiding Questions & Readings for Each Unit



Guiding Questions

Unit Assignment



Exploring Place:

My Transition to College

What does it mean to “transition to college”?

What are my goals for college, and how can I achieve them?

How does “place” shape my identity?

Field Guide to Me

“Creating Goals”, K. Smith & D. Rode [eBook]

Becoming a Learner, 1-3, Matthew Sanders [eBook]

“Managing Your Time”, K. Smith & D. Rode [eBook]

Imposter Syndrome [D2L]

“Wellness in College”, G. McCutchen & E. Riney [eBook]

Making mistakes and Self-Advocacy [D2L]

“Navigating Western Landscapes”, Wyckoff [D2L]


See Course Reading Calendar on D2L for additional readings.


Exploring Identity:

Why is it Important to Explore Multiple Viewpoints?

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

What is “diversity” and why is it important?

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

Leading Seminar Discussion and Short Write Portfolio Analysis


“Successful Skills for Diversity: An Open Mind”, Matthews et al. [eBook]

“10 Ways to have a Better Conversation”, Headlee [D2L]

“Escape the Echo Chamber”, Nguyen [D2L]

Rising out of Hatred by Eli Saslow [book]

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

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

Articles related to LGBTQ Voices, [D2L]

“Letter from Birmingham Jail”, MLK [D2L]

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton [book]


See Course Reading Calendar on D2L for additional readings.


Exploring Justice:

Social Justice and Responsibility

Why is research and evaluating sources important for analyzing issues?

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?

Exploring Issues of Justice Research Project


“Doing the Right Thing” by Michael Sandel [eBook]

Strategies for Successful Research [eBook]

US 101 Library Modules [D2L]


Reflecting on

Place & Identity

What does “critical thinking” mean for me?

What have I learned my first semester in college?

How will I use what I have learned going forward in college and in life?

How do I fit into my new community?

Final Reflection Essay and Share Out

Becoming a Learner, 4-5, Matthew Sanders [eBook]


*The readings listed in the last column are provided to give an overview of the main readings for the course. Additional or alternative readings may be added at the discretion of the program directors.