Course Description and Objectives

Narratives of Identity, the first course in New Century College’s (NCC) Cornerstone Learning Communities, explores how individual and cultural identities are shaped and communicated. Encounters with seminal literary works in a variety of genres and media provide the socio-historical context for our study of identity as well as offer students an opportunity to analyze, write, and discuss the aesthetic, cultural, and political aspects of literature.  Course activities are enriched by field trips, guest presenters, and innovative projects. The learning community addresses key concepts through sustained engagement with questions such as: What is identity? How does literature inform our understanding and expression of identity? What are the socio-historical, cultural and political influences on identity?  The course conveys 3 credits each in oral communication and literature.


Our major goals for this learning community are to:

1.     Deepen awareness and strengthen understanding of identity and its relationship to narrative.

2.     Gain experience in examining identity through composing arguments and critiquing narratives in a variety of genres.

3.     Analyze the ways specific literary devices contribute to the meaning of a text

4.     Identify and evaluate the contribution of the social, political, historical, and cultural contexts in which a literary text is produced.

5.     Improve oral and written communication skills.


Competency Development and Student Learning Outcomes

  • Students will gain fluency in critical thinking and effective communication (writing, speaking, and listening) through analyzing and composing texts.  More specifically, students will think creatively and critically using reason and experience to form considered judgments and to synthesize ideas from multiple sources and diverse ways of knowing.
  • Students will appreciate valuing as they consider various constructions of identity and gain a more informed understanding of various local communities and the value of multiple perspectives in civic life.  Students will also be able to articulate, support, and apply their own values through reflective practice while appreciating the diverse values of others.
  • Students will gain experience with group collaboration as they work together, prepare group presentations, and engage in peer teaching in the writing and revision process.




Alexie, Sherman. 2007.  Flight.  New York:  Grove.

Cohen, Samuel. 2011.  50 Essays:  A Portable Anthology.  New York:  Bedford.

Colombo, Gary, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle.  2010.  Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. New York:  Bedford.

Hacker, Diana and Nancy Sommers.  2011.  A Writer’s Reference (Seventh Edition). New York:  Bedford.

Skloot, Rebecca.  2011.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York:  Broadway Paperbacks.

Yang, Gene L.  2006. American Born Chinese. New York:  Square Fish.


Assigned Readings—Additional readings will be assigned throughout the course and you will need to print off and bring to class hard copies of readings you are assigned.

Metro Fare—You are responsible for metro fare for all field trips.



Points Letter Points Letter Points Letter Points Letter
98 — 100 A+ 87 — 89 B+ 77 —79 C+ 60 —69 D
94 — 97 A 84 — 86 B 74 — 76 C <  60 F
90 — 93 A- 80 — 83 B- 70— 73 C-


Point Distribution

Digital Story                                                                                                       15

Writing and Participation                                                                                    30

Response Paper on the Holocaust Museum (5 pts)

Wiki Journal Writing  (15 pts)

Group Discussion/In-Class Writing and Activities (10 pts)

Conference                                                                                                         20

Group abstract (5 pts)

Presentation (15 pts)

Considering Lenses Paper                                                                                  15

Critical Analysis Paper                                                                                         20

Total Points 100


Participation and Attendance: Important responsibilities come with participation in this learning community including: completing readings and assignments on time, actively engaging course materials, coming to class regularly and on time, and listening attentively to comments made in class.  Membership in this community also entails representing New Century College and George Mason University well during your experiential-learning work. Unexcused absences will adversely affect your final grade.  An absence is excused when due to serious illness, religious observance, participation in University activities at the request of University authorities, or compelling circumstances beyond your control.  To claim an excused absence, you must provide a signed letter by a person in a position to make an authoritative determination as to the validity of the cause of the absence within three calendar days of your return from that absence.  In cases where you know you will be missing class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.  You are responsible for all announcements, assignments, materials and date changes covered or made in class while you are absent.


Diversity Statement: New Century College, an intentionally inclusive community, promotes and maintains an equitable and just work and learning environment. We welcome and value individuals and their differences including race, economic status, gender expression and identity, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, first language, religion or irreligion, age and disability.


Policy for Late and Missing Assignments: You are responsible for completing assignments on time (defined as turning in all assignments in person at the beginning of class). Assignments submitted late will lose one letter grade for each day they are past due, including Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Due dates are clearly indicated throughout the syllabus.  Assignments may only be made up if failure to attend class and/or complete required assignments was for an excused absence.  (See section above on participation & attendance). In-class activities and field trips may not be made up for any reason, excused or unexcused.  Throughout the course, you will have the option of a single Life Happens (turn in any assignment one day late without penalty) and a single Do-Over (re-do any assignment for an improved grade).


Email Policy: In compliance with a University-wide initiative, NCC faculty and staff will correspond electronically with students only through their GMU assigned email accounts.  No assignments will be accepted via email unless specifically requested.  Please check your email account regularly for updates and important announcements.


Academic Honesty and Collaboration: George Mason University has an Honor Code with clear guidelines regarding academic integrity: 1) all work submitted must be your own; 2) when using the work or ideas of others, including fellow students, give full credit through accurate citations; and 3) when in doubt about citation rules or assignment guidelines, ask me for clarification.  No grade is important enough to justify academic misconduct.  If you feel unusual pressure or anxiety about your grade in this course, please let me know.  GMU provides a range of services to help with test anxiety, writing and study skills, personal issues, and other concerns.


Using someone else’s words or ideas without giving them credit is plagiarism!  If you quote directly from any text, you MUST use the exact words (including punctuation) just as the words, phrases, and sentences appear in the original text.  You must also follow proper citation rules to indicate that you are quoting directly from a text (e.g. Quotation marks, quote indentation, source identification).  If you paraphrase ideas, that is, convey the author’s ideas in your own words, you must still cite the source, using an established citation format. The re-use of papers, presentations, and other materials from one course in another course is not appropriate.  We expect that submitted work has been prepared for this class only.


Format for Assignments:  All papers must be stapled, typed, double spaced on 8.5” x 11” paper using 12 point font with 1” margins. Papers and speeches must be documented properly according to a citation manual (e.g. The Chicago Manual of Style, APA, MLA).  Keep a copy of all assignments. Failure to follow assignment guidelines may result in a grade deduction.


Counseling Services: (703-993-2380; SUB I, Room 364) provides individual and group sessions for personal development and assistance with a range of emotional and relational issues.  In addition, the Learning Services Program (703-993-2999) offers academic skill-building workshops as well as a tutor referral service.

Office of Disability Services: (703-993-2474; SUB I, Room 222) assists students with learning or physical conditions affecting learning. If you qualify for accommodation, the ODS staff will provide a form to give to your instructor at the beginning of every course.


Student Technology Assistance and Resources (STAR) Center: Johnson Center 229; 993-8990;


Writing Center: (703-993-1200; Robinson A 114, main office; Enterprise 076, satellite office) provides, at no charge, tutors who can help you develop ideas and revise papers.

The Writing Center is also available online at


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