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Pre-Course Assignment

Hello Dragons,

In just three weeks, we begin our adventure together in El Paso! In order to better prepare for our semester, we instructors have put together a few tasks for everyone to complete before program. The idea of this assignment is to get us actively thinking about program themes and about each other. Try not to think of it as just “pre-course homework,” but as an early opportunity to make the most of our semester together. If everyone puts some thought into these themes, it will set a positive tone of learning and engagement for the entire course.

Assignment #1: Post an introduction on the Yak Board.

Now that we instructors have written a little bit about ourselves, we want to hear from you all. Tell us about yourself. To make it interesting, we suggest introducing yourself without telling us where you are from, where you go to school, your major life achievements, or where you have traveled. There’ll be plenty of time to learn these details about each other when we meet in El Paso. Here are some guiding questions instead:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you care about?
  • What role does this course play in your life?
  • What is something that you are eager to learn or experience in the Southwest?
  • What is one thing you love to do?

Please include a photo too. We look forward to reading!

Assignment #2: Talk with one of your instructors on the phone!

Please be on the lookout for emails from your instructors to arrange a time to chat with you over the coming weeks. We are excited to hear your voices, get to know each other a little better, and give each of you a space to voice questions and concerns before program start.

Assignment #3: Read and reflect! 

By now, each of you should have received a copy of The Rediscovery of North America by Barry Lopez in the mail. Please read it before our course. In this super short book, Lopez asks us to reconceptualize our relationship to the land, to get to know it intimately and honestly. Before we dive into our learning in the Southwest, we want to ask each of you to explore the land you are living on now. Learn its history. What native communities live there, both historically and today? How do you relate to the land? What watershed are you a part of? What challenges does the ecosystem face? Keeping the text in mind, what does or would it mean for you to truly make this place your home? Journal on these topics. During our orientation together, we will give each of you some time to share this with the group. We look forward to learning with you all!

Assignment #4: Listen!

We would also like you to listen to the Radiolab podcast series  Border Trilogy. It is a compelling series of stories that will give us some background on US policy along the southern border. Come with a couple questions that this series sparks for you.

Assignment #5: Research on your own!

We have prepared lots of materials for us to read during the course but sadly, we won’t have time to read everything. So, start now! In your Course Preparation Manual (CPM) there are great book and film recommendations. Find something that’s interesting to you and dive in. Semesters are always more rewarding when students arrive already engaged in our region and topics.

Thanks for reading and digging into this first assignment. We look forward to speaking with all of you soon!


The Instructors: Colleen, Atieno, and Jesse