This syllabus is based on a template distributed by the director of the undergraduate writing programs. I have personalized it, but the core is shared by all sections of Seminar in Thinking and Writing.
- Basic Course Information
- What is this class about?
- Where and when does it meet?
- How do I contact Dr. Jerz?
- About the Course
- What are the learning objectives?
- How does this course contribute to a liberal arts education?
- What kinds of assignments are involved?
- What are the assigned texts and required materials?
- Where is the detailed course outline?
- Course Policies
- What does Dr. Jerz expect of me in this class?
- What does Dr. Jerz promise in return…
- about assignments?
- about common courtesy?
- about communication?
- What are the assignment submission policies?
- What is the attendance/absence policy?
- What should I do if I have to miss class?
- How should I prepare for a planned absence?
- How should I recover from an emergency absence?
- What is the policy for making up missed work?
- What is the “Late Pass” extension policy?
- What is the policy for late work / extra credit?
- University Policies
- What is Seton Hill’s academic integrity policy?
- What is Seton Hill’s disability services statement?
- What is Seton Hill’s information literacy policy?
- What is Seton Hill’s policy on archiving?
- What is Seton Hill’s policy on placement in STW?
- What is the “Celebration of Writing” ?
1.1) What is “Seminar in Thinking and Writing” about?
From the Catalog:
Students will develop critical thinking skills in writing, reading, and speaking through the context of multiple points of view about cultural identities.
1.2) Where and when does it meet?
- Location: Admin 207
- MW, 2:15-3:30 PM
1.3) How do I contact Dr. Jerz?
2.1) What are the learning objectives?
Students will be able to:
- develop critical thinking skills in writing, reading and speaking through the context of multiple points of view about cultural identities
- recognize and employ a process-oriented approach to writing
- demonstrate proficiency in persuasive communication
- produce college-level, researched writing
- evaluate their own progress in written and oral communication
2.2) How does this course contribute to a liberal arts education?
Since classical times, a liberal arts education has been the set of skills that each individual needs to master in order to fully participate in a free, democratic society.
In ancient times, three of these skills were always taught first: grammar, logic and rhetoric (the ability to persuade), so that students would then be ready for more advanced study in specific subject areas (arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry).
In a similar way, a liberal arts education at Seton Hill University includes general courses that all students take, so that they will learn the basic skills that professors in every discipline agree students will need to develop in order to be ready for more advanced courses.
- Division/Program: Liberal Arts Core
- Major Prefix: LA
- Course Number/Level: 101
- Number of Credits: 3
- Course Description: Students will develop critical thinking skills in writing, reading, and speaking through the context of multiple points of view about cultural identities.
Whether you hope to use your writing skills every day after you graduate, or your future plans include as little writing as possible, I hope you’ll consider the effort you put into STW as investment that will not only prepare you for future courses, but also “fit you for that world in which you are destined to live” (as Elizabeth Ann Seton said).
According to Seton Hill’s catalog, when you graduate, you will have demonstrated a great number of skills. In the list that follows I have bolded those key skills that are central to the work we do in STW. I haveunderlined skills that we touch on in one or two activities, or that might apply to your work in STW, depending on choices that you make.
At the reception of a baccalaureate degree from Seton Hill University, a graduate will be able to demonstrate the following skills:
- Communication and Problem Solving
- Use the expressive arts as a mode of inquiry or expression.
- Demonstrate leadership, negotiation, relational, and consensus skills.
- Use technological skills to access information, organize knowledge, and communicate.
- Propose new solutions to current issues.
- Express arguments or main points clearly, in written and oral communication.
- Transfer knowledge and values into sound decision-making.
- Historical, Cultural, and Global Awareness
- Communicate in a second language at the intermediate level.
- Analyze the impact of history, geography, and socio-cultural dynamics on global interactions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
- Analyze current and historical events through thelens of spirituality and faith.
- Assess privilege and oppression from the perspective of culture, race, class, and gender.
- Multiple Modes of Inquiry
- Generate and analyze numerical and scientificdata.
- Locate and analyze expressive media to gain information or comprehend the significance of an issue or an event.
- Organize and manage resources in a creative way to achieve impact.
- Find, evaluate, and apply information.
- Interpret quantitative and qualitative information to present a logical argument based on supporting data.
- Self Reflection and Assessment
- Demonstrate ethical decision-making grounded in philosophical inquiry.
- Apply Catholic social teaching to the analysis of contemporary social issues.
- Recognize the value of diverse spiritual and religious perspectives.
- Integrate the practice of charity with justice.
- Exercise responsible freedom and civic engagement based on an informed value system.
Seton Hill University Learning Objectives (page 4 of the 2010-2012 catalog)
While this course is not designed to make you an expert in every skill that a liberal arts education offers, as you can see, this course plays an important role in laying a foundation, not just for upcoming courses, but a lifetime of intellectually engaged thinking and learning.
2.3) What kinds of assignments are involved?
I will calculate your grade on a basis of 1000 points. Thus, an assignment worth 10% of your grade is worth 100 points.
of Final Grade
|Essay 1 - Unit 1||Minimum 3 pages||Draft, peer reviewed in class||* (see below)|
|Revision of Essay 1||3-4 pages||Revision||10%|
|Essay 2 - Unit 2||Minimum 3 pages||Draft, peer reviewed in class||* (see below)|
|Revision of Essay 2||3-4 pages||Revision||15%|
|Research Paper 
At least one revision.
|All components count toward grade
(see below for list). Research paper will be taught in multiple stages, with students gradually building skills in a step-by-step fashion.
|Oral presentations ||Presentation #1: Informal, 2 minutes, gives students practice for Celebration of Writing
Presentation #2: Formal, 5 minutes, presentation of final research paper, video recorded and used for reflection in self assessment
|10% (combination of two presentations)|
In this essay, students make arguments about how their writing has improved,
|*Essay drafts and informal writing, including
in-class writing exercises.
 Research Skills:
- Practicing academic integrity
- Identifying a relevant topic
- Formulating a research question
- Finding, evaluating and incorporating appropriate sources (including scholarly publications)
- Writing a research thesis
- Proposing specific research
- Creating an annotated bibliography
- Prewriting, outlining and organizing
- Citing in a specific documentation style (Instructors have agreed that all sections will teach MLA style, and instructors may choose to add APA and other styles).
Instructors address the above skills through handouts, writing workshops, in-class exercises and demonstrations, personal conferences, and peer reviews. Instructors hold formal, individual, in-person conferences with each student as a part of the research paper process.
2.4) What are the assigned texts and required materials?
- Greene, Stuart and April Lidinsky. From Inquiry to Academic Writing. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011.
- Ruszkiewicz, John, Daniel Seward, Christy Friend, and Maxine Hairston, eds. SF Writer. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, 2010.
- Your iPad or your MacBook (whichever you prefer) for every class.
- For some classes, the assignment specifically involves using one or the other machine. (I’ll let you know about those classes in advance.)
2.5) Where is the detailed course outline?
You will find all deadlines and assignment descriptions on the course website, which includes the official course outline and syllabus. Point your web browser to:
That page has a list of current and upcoming assignments and activities.
A full course outline is available at
A syllabus is a contract. By enrolling in this course, you agree to read this syllabus so that you will know what I expect of you, and what you can expect of me.
3.1) What Are Students Expected to Do?
- attend each class
- complete all assignments on time
- consult with peers about material missed during absences (excused or unexcused)
- show good manners and common courtesy in interactions with peers and with me.
- contribute actively to a positive learning environment, by
- giving full attention to whoever has the floor in our classroom
- preparing adequately for and participating respectfully in class activities
- seeking out help when necessary (this means consulting any of the many resources available to help you succeed, such as this syllabus, the textbooks, my office hours, the writing center, the librarians, and counseling & tutoring services)
- building confidence by working carefully through each stage of a sequence of assignments, from short reflections to a researched term paper.
- read and comply with this syllabus
3.2) What does Dr. Jerz Promise in Return?
I promise my students that, as their instructor, I, too, will stick to the policies described in this syllabus. See below for details.
3.2.1) My Promises to Students about Assignments
- On the first day of classes, all assignment due dates will be posted on the course website. Details will be published posted a week before the assignment is due.
- I will be thorough, helpful, and fair when I evaluate your work.
- Balancing thoroughness with timeliness, I aim to return all submissions in about a week.
- You are always welcome to make an appointment if you’d like more feedback, or faster feedback.
- Longer assignments may require about 10 days. (I’ll let you know the schedule, so you’ll know when to expect feedback.)
- Late submissions go to the bottom of my grading stack. If it’s only a day or two late, I can probably return your paper along with everyone else’s; however, keeping you on track may require you to come in for face-to=face feedback.
- While respecting the official course outline for all published due dates, I reserve the right to make small changes. For instance, if Seton Hill suddenly finds itself in the national news, or a high-profile speaker comes to campus, I might adjust the syllabus to make use of the opportunity. In the event I make such an adjustment,
- I will clearly describe my expectations
- I will clearly explain how the assignment is intended to help you meet a specific learning goal
3.2.2) My Promises to Students about Common Courtesy
- When you speak in my office or in my classroom,
- I will honor you with my full attention.
- I will expect your peers to honor you with their full attention
- I will not multitask when I should be focusing my full attention on a learning activity.
- I will not email you when I am angry; nor will I let any other kind of inappropriate behavior (in the classroom or outside it) interfere with our academic relationship.
- If I have to cancel a class or appointment, I will notify you as soon as possible, and I will take the initiative in proposing an alternate arrangement.
- If you tell me you would prefer to handle a matter in person, rather than by email or phone, I will continue our discussion during an office visit.
- I expect all members of a learning community to practice ethical behavior, and to work out their differences respectfully (following policies stated in this syllabus, as well as behavior determined by good manners and common sense).
3.2.3) My Promises to Students about Communication
- I will make myself available for appointments during my posted office hours; if those times fill up, or the slots are not convenient for you, I will set up an appointment for another time.
- I will generally keep my office door open for walk-in visits, except when I am unavailable (which typically means I’ve already committed my time to somebody else, or I’m doing time-sensitive work like marking papers; when I’m busy, my door will be closed)
- Depending on the nature of the contact — let’s say you have a quick yes/no question, or you’re sharing a viral URL – I might fire off a quick response right away.
- Email is the best way to reach me.
- However, you should feel free to post a comment on the course blog, or leave a voicemail message, or post to my Facebook wall; as it happens, all those actions will trigger an email, so they’re all equally convenient for me.
- In general I will aim to respond by the end of the next working day. (If you haven’t heard from me by then, please resend your message.)
- If you contact me on a weekday morning, I may get your message before class, but may not be able to act on it until that afternoon or early the next day.
- If you email or call me late in the afternoon or during the evening, I will probably get the message before I go to bed, but I will save any nontrivial response for the next day.
- If an email arrives late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, I will probably read it while I’m getting ready for work or walking up from the parking lot; however, I may not be able to reply until after I’m finished with the day’s teaching.
- Like most people, I will respond most quickly to short, specific emails that don’t depend on attachments.
- Thus, instead of attaching a full draft and asking me what I think, I’d prefer that you paste a brief writing sample directly into the body of your email, asking a specific question such as, “Dr. Jerz, I’ve pasted below two versions of my research question. I think the second version does a better job narrowing the topic. Am I on the right track?”
- That’s the sort of message I can answer while walking in from the parking lot; in fact — and I hope this isn’t revealing too much about myself — I get a little jolt of professional joy when I get such a message from a student. It’s something like how I feel when I get a “Like” from a Facebook friend, so please don’t be shy about reaching out in this manner.
- If you email me an attachment, I am more likely to wait and read it during the next block of time I’ve set aside for prepping my classes.
- When I send an email, I will be clear and thorough.
- Messages that I initiate will have a meaningful subject line that helps you to determine the importance of the message.
- I will use your SHU-registered address, which can be set to forward wherever you prefer.
- If reading and writing email is not your thing, I would be happy to have a telephone conference, or email you a voice memo from my iPad, or use Twitter, or whatever.
3.3) What Are the Assignment Submission Policies?
Required Formats: The course syllabus clearly labels each assignment with a label such as “Upload in the requested format,” “Print and bring to class,” or “Do during class.” An assignment is not complete until it is submitted in the requested format.
Alternate Formats: If you have problems submitting it in the requested format, you may “stop the late clock” by submitting it to me in an alternate form (that is, you may hand me a printout of something I asked to be uploaded, or you may email something I asked to be printed), but your work remains incomplete until it arrives in the requested format.
3.4) What Is the Attendance/Absence Policy?
Seton Hill University recognizes that extra-curricular activities of all sorts are important components of a liberal arts education. At the same time, your instructors expect you to take an active role in reducing the impact of unavoidable absences.
- Students are expected to attend every class. (See SHU Catalog.)
- Students are responsible for all material collected, covered, and/or assigned during an absence — whether excused or unexcused.
- Students are permitted one unexcused absence for “free,” with no grade penalty.
- After the “free” absence, each additional unexcused absence lowers your final grade by 5 points. This absence penalty is applied after all grades are calculated — including the grade for class participation.
- When a student misses three consecutive classes, I will presume the student has withdrawn from the course, and report a final grade based on work completed. (You may submit a written request for reinstatement, along with a plan for catching up and staying on track.)
- Frequent late arrivals, early departures, inattentiveness, or lack of preparedness may add up to count as absences. (I will warn you when your partial attendance is about to accrue to an absence.)
3.4.1) What should I do if I have to miss class?
First, recognize that the course permits you one unexcused absence without penalty. (Note that you are still responsible for material due, covered, or assigned on that day; see the “Free Pass” section for my policy on due date extensions.)
Contact me directly, after you have done the following:
- Consulted the online syllabus to find out what is scheduled on the date(s) affected by your absence.
- Consulted a classmate for notes on what happened during class.
After you have informed yourself about what you missed, I will be happy to answer any specific questions, by e-mail or in person.
Note: It may not be possible to arrange make-up assignments for some due dates or time-sensitive in-class activities.
I welcome the chance to help you get caught up. Before you contact me, make sure you know exactly what work has been affected; consult the course syllabus and a classmate’s notes. After you’ve done that, we’ll both be ready to discuss the next step.
3.4.2) How should students prepare for a planned absence?
Those who miss class due to a scheduled activity must plan to complete all make-up assignments before the missed class. The planning process begins when you submit (by email) a completed “Absence Form” (available at http://jerz.setonhill.edu/teaching/Absence.doc“), a week before the missed class.
If there is insufficient time for us to agree upon an acceptable suggestion for making up missed work, or if an approved make-up assignment is late or unsatisfactory, then I may record the absence as unexcused.
3.4.3) How should students recover from an emergency absence?
In the event of extended absences due to prolonged illness, I am willing to be flexible. Submit a written explanation, with any documentation that you feel will help me decide in your favor. But see below: “Late Pass” Stress-relief Policy.
3.5) What is the policy for making up missed work?
Online assignments are due in the requested format, 20 minutes before class starts, on the given due date.
Printouts, when requested, are to be brought to class, and held until the end of class, at which time you are to submit them by placing them on the table in the front of the room as you leave. I may instead ask for them at some point during class.
Late work submitted before midnight on the due date receives a 1/3 letter grade penalty. (Thus, a B paper submitted at 10pm would drop to a B-).
Late work submitted after that loses a letter grade per day. (Thus, a B paper submitted at 1am the next day would drop to a C.)
No late work will be accepted one week after the due date. (Note that an F can be as high as a 59, and earning a 59 on an assignment is much better than not turning it in at all and earning a zero.)
No late or make-up work will be accepted after the last day of classes, unless you are using a “Late Pass” (see below).
3.6) What is the “Late Pass” Extension Policy?
For any reason, you may take a brief extension on any two assignments.
I’m offering “Late Passes” so that, if you fall ill or get swamped during a crunch time, you won’t have to jump through any hoops to get a doctor’s note, but you will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you can relieve the pressure a bit.
If you want to take a late pass for any reason at all, go ahead and use it.
There are, however, some important limits on this policy.
- For a single assignment you may click the following link before the deadline in order to claim a no-penalty, One-Day “Late Pass” for that assignment. (Clicking the link will generate an email. If the link does not work for you, you may also make the request via telephone call or via paper.)
- For a single assignment you may click the following link before the deadline in order to claim a no-penalty, Three-Day “Late Pass” for that assignment. (Clicking the link will generate an email. If the link does not work for you, you may also make the request via telephone call or via paper.)
- If you miss a deadline without requesting a late pass, or if you use up both of your passes, the regular late penalties will apply. (So think carefully before using a pass on an assignment worth just 2% or 5% of your grade.)
- You cannot change a one-day pass to a three-day pass, or combine them both to create a four-day pass.
- The “Late Pass” system is completely separate from the absence policy. I’ll still expect you in class on the day the assignment is due, even if you’ve given yourself a “Late Pass” extension.
- Late passes are for homework; they do not apply to in-class work of any kind (including oral presentations).
3.7) What is the policy for make-up work / extra credit?
Make-up Work: For some time-sensitive assignments, such as responding to readings before a class discussion, participating in peer-review workshops, or attending peer presentations, there are no possible replacement assignments. Otherwise, make-up assignments should be part of our discussion of your Absence Form (see above).
Extra Credit: I do not create or accept extra-credit assignments.
The best way to boost your grade is to complete a draft of a major paper a few days before the deadline, and schedule an office visit so that I can give you detailed, penalty-free feedback that will help you improve your work before I report your grade.
4.1) What is Seton Hill University’s Academic Integrity Policy?
Seton Hill University expects that all its students will practice academic honesty and ethical conduct. The University regards plagiarism, cheating on examinations, falsification of papers, non-sanctioned collaboration, and misuse of library material, computer material, or any other material, published or unpublished, as violations of academic honesty. Violators of the code may expect disciplinary sanctions, which are discussed in the Seton Hill University Catalog.
Any unreferenced use of the written or spoken material of another, or of previously submitted work of the student’s own, constitutes plagiarism. Paraphrasing the thoughts or written work of another without reference is also plagiarism. For additional information see “Academic Integrity Materials” in Griffin Gate and your textbook’s section on plagiarism. Any plagiarism on a draft will result in a zero as the final grade on that assignment. Any plagiarism on an informal essay will also result in a zero.
4.2) What is Seton Hill University’s Disability Services Policy?
If you have a disability that requires instructor consideration, please contact the Director of Disability Services at 724-838-4295. It is recommended that this be accomplished by the second week of class. If you need accommodations for successful participation in class activities prior to your appointment at the Disability Services Office, you should offer information in writing that includes suggestions for assistance in participating in and completing class assignments. It is not necessary to disclose the nature of your disability.
4.3) What is Seton Hill University’s Information Literacy Policy?
Seton Hill University defines information literate students as those who make intelligent choices when gathering information in support of a chosen topic. Students who develop information literacy skills will successfully:
- Select an appropriate topic
- Determine the parameters of the topic
- Locate and access relevant information
- Critically evaluate information
- Synthesize diverse types of information into a comprehensive and coherent work
- Understand economic, legal, and social issues related to the information
- Interact with faculty and staff in a manner conducive to developing acceptable research skills
4.4) What is Seton Hill University’s Archive Policy?
4.5) What is Seton Hill University’s Policy on Placement in STW?
Writing is essential—to communicate, to study, to thrive in SHU’s writing-intensive classes, and to create a successful future. Therefore, it is especially important that SHU students receive the writing instruction and assistance they need during the first year. To ensure the best possible course placement in the fall semester, instructors will ask students to self-evaluate their readiness for STW during the drop-add period. At the same time, instructors will monitor student progress for STW-level writing skills.
If either the instructor or the student believes that more writing assistance is needed, the student will be placed in Basic Composition, and will complete Basic Composition prior to STW. This placement is subject to review by the Director of Undergraduate Writing Programs and/or an ad-hoc committee of writing instructors. Students are not permitted to take Basic Composition and STW concurrently. Students must have passed Basic Composition with a C- or higher (or have placed out of Basic Composition) in order to take STW.
As an STW student, you will have the opportunity to share your research with an audience beyond the classroom near the end of the semester in theCelebration of Writing. At the event, your STW section will exhibit your research findings (either as individuals, in small groups, or as a whole class) for an audience of fellow SHU students, local high school students, faculty, and administrators.
Exhibitions may range from interactive games to videos, websites, scrapbooks, posters and so on.
This year’s Celebration of Writingwill take place on Wed. 11/16 from 3:30-5:30 in Cecilian Hall; at least 2-3 of your classmates must always be present at your STW section’s table(s) during the open exhibition hours.
(NOTE: If you have class or other obligations during this time, your instructor may assign you an alternative CW duty or assignment, such as creating a stand-alone video, setting up the class exhibit before it opens, or helping to clean up afterward.)