On the Wall and Off the Wall:
Using Public Occasions to Engage First Year Students
in the Culture of the Campus

Russell A. Hunt
Department of English, St. Thomas University

As reported in the proceedings of the 1999 AAU Teaching Showcase, the "Truth in Society" section of St. Thomas' interdisciplinary first year Aquinas Programme has, since its inception in 1994, used a strategy which we call "Occasions" to help involve first year students in choosing and writing about campus events such as poetry readings, concerts, drama productions, symposia and lectures. The public writing and response which is an integral part of this process has been mediated both by a web-based electronic discussion program and by means of a set of cork bulletin boards on the wall in the classroom.

In this presentation, I will explain how "Occasions" work and consider some of the implications of the two modes of exchange, considering examples of student writing and anecdotes from participation. Advantages and disadvantages of paper-based and electronic media will be explored, as well as implications of such participation for students' attitudes toward the campus, toward academic culture, and toward their other academic activities.

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