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]

Sanders, Matthew L. Becoming a Learning: Realizing the Opportunity of Education 3rd ed. Macmillan Learning, 2022. [entire text is embedded in course eBook]

University Studies. US101US First Year Seminar: Exploring Place & Identity (2022-2023).  McNeill, 2021. [eBook only]

NOTE:  The US 101US First Year Seminar: Exploring Place & Identity eBook 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 eBook is purchased through MSU’s Bookstore online, which uses for digital textbook access.  Go to MSU Bookstore's Redshelf Link and search for: First Year Seminar: Exploring Place & Identity (exact punctuation is necessary) to purchase.

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.

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



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 eBook]

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

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

“Escape the Echo Chamber” by T Chi Nguyen [D2L Link]

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?

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

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

Hinton, The Sun Does Shine [book]

Saslow, Rising Out of Hatred [book]

"Activating Lived Experience to Create Social Change,” TED Talk by Sunny Dhadley [D2L link]

“I've lived as a man & a woman -- here's what I learned,” TED Talk by Paula Stone Williams [D2L link]

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

"Voices Unheard," Video by Native Hope [D2L Link]

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


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 eBook]

Revisit Rosalie Fish’s TED Talk “Running for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women” [D2L link]

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

Plato’s Apology [course eBook]

Plato’s Crito [course eBook]

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 eBook]


*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.