Fall 2016 Natura Learning Community

UCOR 101 C 

Section 06: T/TH 1:40-2:55 Fisher Hall 705

Section 02: T/TH 9:25-10:40 Libermann Hall 313

Instructor: Dr. Gregory D. Specter
Office: College Hall 632
Email: specterg@duq.edu
Twitter: @gregspecter
Office Hours: Office Hours: T: 11:00-12:00; TH: 11:00-1:00; and by appointment

UCOR 101 Natura

Humans aren’t alone in their ability to communicate. However, the ability of humans to write and speak using language represents an important difference between us and the rest of the natural world. The ability to write and to speak allows us (perhaps even demands us) to give voice to the environmental plight affecting animals, plants, and every facet of the natural world. In contemplating the nature, our ability to communicate, especially through writing and the rhetorical choices we make, provides a powerful way of understanding our conception of the natural world around us. Through writing and reading (both words and the world around us) we can come to a better understanding of plants, animals, and the active forces, both natural and manmade, affecting our world. As our world experiences drastic and often dire change, our ability to understand nature through the written word and the spoken word has become increasingly important. Our course will aid us in understanding the natural world around us rhetorically, while providing the skills necessary for entering, and succeeding in, the complex world of academic writing.

The Natura Learning Community

As a course in the NATURA learning community, [course name] will explore the relationship between [discipline] and humanity’s relationship to the rest of nature. We will explore the psycho-spiritual trauma of losing our conscious relational contact with Earth’s beings and presences, as well as the potential for renewed understandings of non-human nature to lead to the mutual flourishing of humankind and the rest of nature. This is the “great work” of our time. Exploring these issues in multi-dimensional ways will reveal the potential for psychology and theology to reinterpret the human condition and enable us to cultivate compassion for the Earth and all those who inhabit it.

UCOR 101 Course Description and Learning Outcomes (Click for Details)

Required Texts and Recommended Texts

Michael P. Branch. ed. Reading the Roots. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2004.

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. New York: W. W. Norton, 2014.

Catherine Prendergast. Can I Use I? Because I Hate, Hate, Hate College Writing. Out of Pocket Press, 2015.

In addition to the required texts, the following items are recommended: a notebook for low stakes writing assignments, a folder to keep course materials, a flash drive to save work, access to an online file hosting service in order to back up your work. Additionally, it is recommended that you have access to a style guide that can provide information about the writing process, common issues that writers face, and basic information about MLA formatting.

Heinz History Center

Our class is partnering with the Heinz History Center in order to work with archival collections from local organizations. Working with archival materials will provide an opportunity to work with various primary sources. We will work together with our community partners to develop a research project and complete a public-facing piece of writing. The opportunity of working with these primary source collections will provide the opportunity to share what you learn with a larger audience. Throughout our time together we will explore the intricacies of conducting original research with primary sources. The assignments that we complete in class will represent the significant focus of our time together. We will work on the related steps of these assignments together in approaching this assignment and focus on developing the writing and analytical tools and skills needed to complete this assignment successfully. This assignment will require visiting an offsite archive and will provide experience in developing and implementing a long-term research project over the course of a semester.



Quizzes / In Class Writing / Attendance: 10%

A variety of in-class assignments & activities meant to measure student engagement

Image Analysis: 15%

A 3 page paper that analyses a primary source image

Primary Source Analysis: 15%

A 3 to 4 page paper that analyses a written primary source document

Project Proposal: 10%

A 2 page document describing the topic and the writers approach to the Local History project

Local History Project Progress Report: 10%

A 2 page pager that provides an update on the work accomplished and challenges faced in working on the Local History Project

Local History Project: 30%

A project equivalent to 5 to 7 written pages that is based off of archival research

Reflection: 10%

A brief 2 page reflection on the experience of researching and writing the Local History Project

Grade Scale

A 93-100%; A- 90-92%; B+ 88-89%; B 83-87%; B-; 80-82%; C+ 78-79%; C 70-77%; D 60-69%; F 0-59%


Students may miss no more than 6 TTH or 9 MWF classes—excused or unexcused—and pass the class. (The only exception to this rule—that is, the only absences that do not count as absences—are absences incurred as a result of participation in a varsity sport or university-sanctioned activity. However, students who will miss a significant number of classes because of such activity are not entitled to any special consideration and must turn in work on time.) Attendance will be taken every class period. While there is no penalty for the allotted absences described above, class participants will be held to the standard of automatic failure if they exceed the number of absences. Class participants are expected to arrive on time. We will do several activities and low stakes writings in class and these cannot be made up in the event of an absence. Please contact me if there is a major issue affecting your attendance or your ability to do well in our class.

Technology Policy

Feel free to use cell phones, tablets, and computers in class as portals to content related to our class. Technology can be a powerful tool for learning. Together we will do our best to make the most of this power. We will use these tools to facilitate our thinking, writing, and learning. If we have questions we will use these tools to find answers. Please be aware that technology can be a distraction to our own work and the work of others. Make sure that your devices are running muted or turned to silent.


Our time together will consist of a lot of discussion and interaction with each other. Participation is an important part of ensuring success as a learning, thinker, and writer. Much of our writing and thinking instruction will be practiced through discussion and personal interaction. We will model best practices for writing and thinking by doing so through discussion. Participation can mean different things for students with different styles of learning. Recognizing that learning occurs in different ways and at different times, participation will not be assigned a formal grade, but it is understood that its importance will pay off in other ways, especially with our major writing assignments.

Schedule of Readings and Assignments

Please note I reserve the right to change the schedule, assignments, and syllabus at any time based on the needs of our class. It is your responsibility to make sure you know about any changes in the syllabus if you miss class.

UCOR 101 Syllabus Common Statements and Notices