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FFYS 197ENGL9, Fall 2019

A Semester in the Life:
Writing Your Way into College

University of Massachusetts Amherst

  • INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming, PhD
  • CLASS MEETINGS: W 1:25 - 2:15 pm, South College W219
  • OFFICE: South College W351
  • OFFICE HOURS: W 2:30 - 4:00 pm, Th 1:15 - 2:15 pm, & gladly by appt.
  • PHONE: 545-2972 (o)
  • EMAIL:

  •  Description  |  Assignments  |  Grades  |  Calendar  


    A Semester in the Life: Writing Your Way into College is a Faculty First Year Seminar (FFYS), sponsored by the University and meant to ensure that all entering first-year students take at least one low-enrollment, low-stakes course, focused as much on the transition to college as on any particular content. As part of the FYS program, this course is one-credit, graded P/F, and meets only once per week. For more information on the First Year Seminar program at UMass Amherst, click here.

    Although this FFYS has a theme that differentiates it from other FYSs, it shares common content with the other courses in the program, namely: Goal #1: Enhancing Engagement: Ensure students are well informed about the wide array of opportunities and campus resources that will assist them and enhance their college experience; Goal #2: Building Connections: Foster students’ understanding of the transition from high school to being part of a college community and the core values and community standards defining what it means to be a member of the UMass Amherst community; and Goal #3: Self-Guided Learning: Introduce students to the importance of utilizing mindful time management, targeted study strategies, and intentional planning to achieve high academic achievement and pathways to success.

    The particular focus of this FFYS is writing. As any journal-keeper or blogger knows, writing can be a good way to work through major changes in your life. And starting college is a major change! For most of you, you’ll be leaving home for the first time in your lives, moving into a dorm with hundreds of strangers, and beginning a phase of your education that will be more dependent on your own initiative than anything you’ve experienced before. In this course, you’ll use writing to work your way through your first semester at UMass Amherst: analyzing, interrogating, and communicating your experience for yourself and others. You’ll not only produce a non-fiction record of your first semester here; you’ll get a good introduction to the intellectual and creative life of college itself. We’ll also use writing here to build community, to get to know one another, to think and talk together about the transition to college, to work through the issues you’ll be collectively facing.

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    Work in the course will include:

    Reading and discussion. Reading is important for writers: as inspiration, as model, as material to center group reflection and discussion. We’ll do some reading every week.

    Writing. The main work of the class will be your own writing. The goal is to do as much writing as we can, as frequently as we can, in as many different conditions as we can. Writing is hard work; but regular practice, along with feedback from supportive others, is the best way to improve. Your writing for this course will be organized in the following three categories:

    1. journaling: short, informal, low-stakes writing, for you alone (mostly) – to record your observations and thoughts and work out your ideas. I’d like you to write at least two entries per week, each one around one-half page, about 100-200 words. If you can write longer and more frequently – even better! We’ll talk about topics in class: the important thing is to be regularly observing, exploring, and reflecting on your first semester in college – and writing those thoughts down, without excessive attention to grammar, form, or other readers.
    2. blogging: a bit longer, a bit more formal, a bit higher-stakes, and now with readers in mind – a place to take an idea generated in your journal and shape it into a brief essay that others will find interesting, entertaining, or provocative. I’d like you to bring to class (or post to Moodle) one such essay per week: about 2-3 pp long, typed, DS.
    3. composing: medium-length papers that have been extensively revised and carefully proofread. At two moments in the semester, weeks 5 & 10, I’d like you to take one of your brief essays and expand on it, shaping it into a longer piece (4-6 pp, typed, DS) that represents work you’d be willing to share with an audience beyond our class.

    Obligations to our writing community. We’ll do much of our writing and reading together; and we’ll be sharing our work often in class. Your active and sympathetic participation in our classroom community will be important. See below for expectations about attendance.

    Final portfolio. At the end of the course, in lieu of a final exam, you will turn in a final portfolio with a selection of your work from the semester, along with a reflective introduction in which you talk in general about your writing for this class.

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    Course Policies and Grades

    Please read the following policies carefully and let me know if you have questions about any of them.

    Attendance:  Regular attendance in this class is important and thus required. If you must miss class for an unavoidable, legitimate reason – serious illness, death in the family, religious observance, etc. – let me know as soon as possible, and remember that you are responsible for any missed work. Having more than one unexcused absence could affect your final grade. Coming to class excessively and/or repeatedly late, or turning in work late, may also result in penalties. For campus-wide expectations about attendance, see the University’s Academic Regulations 2019-20 here.

    Classroom Civility and Respect. “The University of Massachusetts Amherst strives to create an environment of academic freedom that fosters the personal and intellectual development of all community members. In order to do this, the University protects the rights of all students, faculty and staff to explore new ideas and to express their views. While the principle of academic freedom protects the expression and exploration of new ideas, it does not protect conduct that is unlawful and disruptive. The University preserves a high standard for members of the community in terms of mutual respect and civility.” For more, click here. For the University's diversity resources, go here.

    Academic Honesty Statement. “Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent.” For more information, click here.

    Accommodation Statement. “The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements. For more information, consult the Disability Services website here.”

    For SACL’s Single Stop Resources, click here; for the Student Success website, click here.

    Your final grade will be based on the following formula:

    Journaling (occasional checks)


    Blogging (10 brief essays)


    Composing (2 papers)


    Semester portfolio 25%



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    Calendar (tentative)

    day topics and assignments
    1 W 09/04 introduction to class
    2 W 09/11 brief essay 1 due
    3 W 09/18 brief essay 2 due
          Mon., Sept. 16, is last day to add or drop the course with no record
    4 W 09/25 brief essay 3 due
    5 W 10/02 paper 1 due
    6 W 10/09 brief essay 4 due
    7 W 10/16 brief essay 5 due
    8 W 10/23 brief essay 6 due
    9 W 10/30 brief essay 7 due
          mid-semester: Tues., Oct. 29 is the last day to drop with a "W"
    10 W 11/06 paper 2 due
    11 W 11/13 No class: Monday schedule followed
    12 W 11/20 brief essay 8 due
    13 W 11/27 no class: Thanksgiving!
    14 W 12/04 brief essay 9 due
    15 W 12/11 last day of class; brief essay 10 due
    16 W 12/18 semester portfolio due

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