Background and Context

The Learning Community

All students registered for this learning community (LC-11) will take Biology 110 (Environmental Biology), taught by Donald Stearns, Ph.D., Department of Biological Sciences; and English 110 (Literature and the Environment), taught by Kim Worthy, Ph.D., Department of English and Director of the Writing Center. These two courses have been shaped together around the theme expressed in the learning community's title. They are designed to focus from biological and literary perspectives on present, real, global, environmental issues that, if untreated, threaten human survival. You should consider this entire learning community an educational package of high relevance to your understanding of a world that you must live in, a world that for the first time in history demands a reconsideration of the human condition with respect to the environment.

In addition to these two courses, all LC-11 students will take RFT(W) for LC-11 (Reflective Tutorial), combining Section K1 (Dr. Stearns) with Section K2 (Dr. Worthy). The Reflective Tutorial focuses on development of college-level communication skills through writing, discussions, and presentations stemming from issues raised in the learning community.

You will also be required to complete an experiential component. As part of this, you will become actively involved during this semester in environmental issues facing Toms River, New Jersey. Other community service activities will also be required. Your field observations/activities will become part of the discussions and writings generated in the Reflective Tutorial.

Where is the Learning Community Taught?


Mission

Wagner College prepares students for life, as well as for careers, by emphasizing scholarship, achievement, leadership, and citizenship. Wagner offers a comprehensive educational program that is anchored in the liberal arts, experiential and co-curricular learning, interculturalism, interdisciplinary studies, and service to society, and that is cultivated by a faculty dedicated to promoting individual expression, reflective practice, and integrative learning.

The Wagner Plan

Wagner, a small residential college, is strongly committed to undergraduate education, an education that emphasizes the classical and a contemporary liberal arts curriculum; an education, moreover, that integrates a variety of disciplines with a challenging core of foundation courses. The liberal arts core prepares students for careers in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts as well as in business, education, law, and the health professions. The core promotes inquiry, critical thinking and analytical skills, heightens cultural awareness, emphasizes writing and computer skills, and fosters individual expression and intellectual independence. It serves as a bridge to the student's major, broadens the student's perspectives; and brings students and faculty into a dialogue with the larger intellectual and professional communities inside and outside the College.

Wagner is strongly committed to pragmatic liberal education, a plan of education that provides undergraduates from the beginning of college life with an intellectually rich and varied academic experience. This plan is fueled by a distinguished faculty dedicated to scholarly pursuits as well as to excellence in teaching.

The Wagner Plan provides methodologies and pathways for intellectual inquiry. The courses in natural science enable students to gain a sound understanding of scientific inquiry, a mode of inquiry that includes quantitative and analytical research methods and technology as well as the mathematical mode of expression used to explain natural phenomena. The courses in social sciences foster a clear understanding of the nature of the individual and society, the dynamics of societies, their issues and values as well as the ways sociocultural values and beliefs influence the behavior of individuals and groups. Intercultural courses facilitate an understanding and appreciation of a wide range of peoples, ethnicities, and customs, their cultural origins and values, diversity, the social structures within cultures, and the interconnections among cultures in the global community. Sensitivity to the human condition is stimulated through study, analysis and creative expression in literature as well as in the visual and performing arts. The courses in the humanities explore not only historical, literary, and philosophical contexts for the study of Western and non-Western intellectual traditions, but also the role of ethical, spiritual, and religious principles in those traditions. Knowledge of these principles assists students in making significant choices and forming ethical values, and they impart a sense of social responsibility within a changing world of diverse cultures and peoples.

The Wagner Plan's novel approach emphasizes both traditionally structured modes of learning and experiential learning ("field-based" learning, or "learning by doing"). Students participate in at least three learning communities, of which two include field work, research and/or an internship in an organization, usually in New York City or the surrounding area. The first-year learning community includes a field-based experience that is thematically linked to two introductory, liberal arts courses and a Reflective Tutorial. The fourth-year learning community, which is in the student's major, consists of a capstone course in the discipline, a substantial internship or research experience, and a major paper or presentation in the senior Reflective Tutorial. The second-year learning community, which consists of two thematically linked disciplinary courses, serves as an important bridge between the first and fourth year learning communities. The three learning communities individually and collectively challenge
students to relate academic learning to the wider world, to social issues, and to their own individual experiences.

Committed to the ideals of the Wagner Plan, the Division of Graduate Studies offers select, high-quality graduate programs designed to prepare students for advancement and leadership in their professions. The graduate programs are committed to providing a student-centered learning environment that emphasizes applied experience, intellectual discourse, and critical reflection. The graduate programs also link theory with practice.

Wagner seeks to create a culturally and socially diverse community for its students, faculty, and staff. Its academic enrichment programs, student organizations, and athletic programs bring the College's diverse community into conversations with each other as well as with the larger intellectual and cultural communities of Staten Island and the greater metropolitan New York area. These conversations are enabled by close interaction among faculty, students, and staff on the College's idyllic residential campus.

Wagner College, in sum, provides a multifaceted liberal education in a distinctive educational setting in which students are prepared for life as well as for careers within the global community.

Institutional Goals

It is the intent of Wagner College to promote in students:

- knowledge and modes of inquiry,

- recognition of cultural diversity and the importance of values,

- leadership,

- citizenship, and

- creativity.

General Education Program Goals

The General Education Program at Wagner College promotes in students:

- critical thinking skills that enable them to analyze information and develop approaches that are new to them and lead to a better understanding of their world;

- an appreciation of different modes of inquiry that aid in the continuing search for knowledge, understanding, and truth;

- competence in the skills of listening, speaking, and writing, to promote effective communication and self-expression;

- competence in scientific reasoning and quantitative analysis;

- an ability to understand the relationship between the individual and the world, based on a knowledge of history and sociocultural dynamics;

- competency in "learning by doing," where ideas and field-based experiences are related, reflected in writing and discussion, and applied in ways that improve their world;

- an appreciation of and sensitivity to the arts;

- recognition of the values that shape moral, ethical and spiritual judgments, including an

- understanding of the importance of these principles in their personal and social life;

- familiarity with the individual's own culture and other cultures in a global context; and

- knowledge in depth and skill in a scholarly discipline.

WHAT IS THE LEARNING COMMUNITY'S ROLE IN THE
UNDERGRADUATE CURRICULUM?

In the general education program

As part of the Wagner Plan, all first-year students must complete a learning community during their first semester at Wagner College. As part of the First-Year Program, this learning community fulfills this general education requirement. Before graduation, all Wagner undergraduates, regardless of major, must successfully complete at least two courses in different science disciplines; at least one of those courses must include a laboratory component. The science course in this learning community (Environmental Biology) fulfills part of this general education requirement. Wagner undergraduates are also required to successfully complete at least three courses in the humanities. The English literature course in this learning community (Literature and the Environment) fulfills part of this general education requirement. Finally, all Wagner undergraduates must successfully
complete at least two writing-intensive courses. The third course in this learning community (Reflective Tutorial) is designated as a writing-intensive course and thus helps fulfill this general education requirement.

Other requirements fulfilled

This learning community was specifically designed for nonscience majors to meet some general education requirements. It therefore does not fulfill other requirements.

HOW DOES THE LEARNING COMMUNITY ADVANCE OR
ENGAGE INSTITUTION WIDE INITIATIVES OR
OBJECTIVES?

Undergraduate learning goals for the baccalaureate

There are 10 undergraduate learning goals that stem from the mission statement of Wagner College. The Environmental Biology course addresses the following four learning goals:

(1) critical thinking skills that enable students to analyze information and develop approaches that are new to them and lead to a better understanding of their world

(2) an appreciation of different modes of inquiry that aid in the continuing search for knowledge, understanding, and truth

(3) competence in scientific reasoning and quantitative analysis

(4) recognition of the values that shape moral, ethical and spiritual judgments, including an understanding of the importance of these principles in personal and social life

The Literature and the Environment course addresses the following three learning goals:

(1) an appreciation of different modes of inquiry that aid in the continuing search for knowledge, understanding, and truth

(2) competence in the skills of listening, speaking, and writing, to promote effective communication and self-expression

(3) recognition of the values that shape moral, ethical and spiritual judgments, including an understanding of the importance of these principles in personal and social life

The Reflective Tutorial course addresses the following four learning goals:

(1) critical thinking skills that enable students to analyze information and develop approaches that are new to them and lead to a better understanding of their world

(2) competency I "learning by doing," where ideas and field-based experiences are related, reflected in writing and discussion, and applied in ways that improve their world

(3) an appreciation of different modes of inquiry that aid in the continuing search for knowledge, understanding, and truth

(4) competence in the skills of listening, speaking, and writing, to promote effective communication and self-expression

Taken together, this learning community addresses six of the 10 student learning goals. How does it advance institutional initiatives?

The Wagner Plan is an institutional initiative that uses the learning community approach, combined with experiential learning, to approach the General Education Program student learning goals. The Reflective Tutorial course is the first writing-intensive course the first-year undergraduates take. Two students are randomly selected from each of approximately 40 Reflective Tutorial sections to participate in the Writing Assessment Project. Copies of their formal writing in this course and in all other courses during their years at Wagner College are collected and evaluated annually using a rubric designed to assess longitudinal development of college-level writing skills.