What do you value?: A Question of Higher Education and Food

“What do you value?” As I was reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma for the second time to help me select course topics for the semester it struck me that any discussion of the text will push readers to consider this question from a variety on angles. What kinds of foods do we want to put into our bodies? What are we willing to sacrifice for economic gain or convenience? Is it important to know from where your food comes and the ramifications of those details? Is a second story porch in a chicken coop a meaningful add to their lives or your meal? As the countdown to the semester continues I’m increasingly excited to engage in these types of discussions and debates with my class.

This week, however, I’ve spent thinking about what the students will value in their college education. Because this is a First Year Experience (FYE) course I’ve built the skeleton of the class around transferable academic skills and engagement with the university. This includes writing workshops, undergraduate grant application support, participation in campus academic events, public speaking, and (of course) talking about the book. Together this content accounts for about 70% of the course lessons. What about the other 30%? Students will use Poll Everywhere to vote on the remaining course content and to actively shape each of their assignments as individuals so that our community’s experiences and every assignment the students complete will give them the opportunity to explore topics of relevance to them.

Design Your Own Course Options

(Students will democratically select at least one from each category on the first day of class.)

Guest Experts Instructor-Led Content Hands-on Learning
Natural Resources and the Environment Intersectionality (Race, Class, Gender) and the Politics of Food Thomas J. Dodd Research Center
Nutrition at College War and Food UConn’s Spring Valley Farm (Off Campus Trip)
Food and Illness Food and Labor, Human Relationships to Food UConn Cows – Campus Agriculture
Fuel, Science, and the Environment Food Security and Human Rights The Art and Economics of Food Presentation
Climate Change and Food Literature and Food Policy Film Screening of The Botany of Desire (120 minutes)

In my Blackboard course introduction learning module I told my students that “What do you value?” will be the guiding question for UNIV 1820, UConn Reads this semester. Yes, the topics in The Omnivore’s Dilemma will drive the class. But the underlying, hopefully lasting, conversation will be about what they value for their lives in and beyond college. Whatever they feel would add value to their academic journey, it is my wish that they will all leave with excitement and tools that will get them there.

My question for readers this week is looking back, what do you value most from your college education, and what did you need to make it possible? One of the main reasons I teach this course is because for me the life-changing part of my Bachelor’s Degree was undergraduate research. None of that work would have been possible without grants funded by the University of North Carolina, Wilmington’s English Department and Honors Program, especially the contributions of donor Charles Green III, and the guidance of my Professors Dr. Keith Newlin and Dr. Christopher Gould. So I close this week’s post by thanking them for seeing value in what I could achieve and for making it possible for me to pay it forward.

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