“My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student” (2005, nonfiction) was written by Rebekah Nathan. Actually, this is the author’s pseudonym. A professor of anthropology at a large state university, the author was struggling to understand why some students didn’t participate in class discussions, didn’t complete the assigned reading, and didn’t seek out assistance during her office hours. Drawing on her fieldwork experience, she decided to go “underground.” She took a sabbatical from her job and applied to her own university as a freshman, on the merits of her high school transcript. After being accepted, she moved into a residence hall, took classes, and got involved in student life. Her new and very different interactions with students enabled her to better understand the lives of college freshmen as well as the challenges they face.
The staff of my office, the Office of Academic Support at a private four-year university, read this book and discussed it over a series of four weeks. This item contains the discussion questions we used for each of the four weeks, as well as a timeline indicating the chapters and number of pages. I have also included an alternative timeline that spans just three weeks. The questions are intended to promote reflective discussion, encouraging higher education professionals to consider how the experiences of students at the author’s university compare to their institution and their students.
Although this item is intended for educators, the questions could be adapted for use by students who read the book.