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January 31st, 2018 6:27:22 pm

Cosmopolitan FYE: Making Space for Dialogue

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Proposal submitted for PPJ New Engaged Scholars Digital Pilot Program

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COSMOPOLITAN FYE: MAKING SPACE FOR DIALOGUEKatina FontesLesley UniversityFor many young adults, college is a time of exploration and new experiences. For some it is the first extended separation from family and community. As such, college students are in some ways suddenly confronted with the task of interacting with individuals different from themselves. Those differences might be small—students coming from communities within the same state or region—to larger in scale—students coming from different parts of the world with completely different socio-political and cultural systems. These differences, as well as differences in experience and worldview, create a challenge—colleges must accommodate and acclimate students from a variety of backgrounds and this is not an easy task. However, an opportunity also exists, the beginning of college is the perfect time to stimulate dialogue and the exchange of ideas with the purpose of developing understanding about the changing world. Cosmopolitan First Year Experience (CFYE) provides a philosophical foundation for this goal.Though ancient in its roots (dating back to the 4th century B.C.E. Cynics), the philosophy of cosmopolitanism is today most associated with the scholarly work of Kwame Anthony Appiah.1 It is a rejection of the idea that people belong to only one community with a common culture and a mutually agreed upon view of ethics and morality. Appiah argues that a new way of thinking is essential because we now live in a global and connected world, a world in which contact with people unlike ourselves is a given; technology and a rapidly growing population force us to think beyond our community. Dialogue lies at the heart of contemporary cosmopolitan philosophy. In his convergence of cosmopolitanism and education David Hansen highlights discussion and dialogue as key components of cosmopolitanism as education, periodically referencing Socrates and his approach to knowledge acquisition.2 Similarly, Appiah’s “primacy of practice” in conversation across boundaries encourages the act of engaging in discussion with individuals holding vastly different worldviews.3 Furthermore, this engagement in conversation or discussion does not have to end in agreement. It is assumed that mere practice in the act of dialogue has value. This paper will introduce a rethinking of formalized college First-Year Experience (FYE) programs with CFYE as the start of a larger, fuller college experience and as a way of learning about diverse ways of thinking and being.4 CFYE places an emphasis on seminars taught through maieutic (Socratic) methods and on knowledge obtained through deep discussions sparked by big questions. A modern twist on concepts of knowledge acquisition from the classical world, CFYE is a call to limit didactic instruction and, instead, emphasize dialogue, the two-way exchange of ideas, as a method for moving away from the inflammatory, debate-style interactions that dominate discussions in contemporary American society. Bibliography
Appiah, Kwame A. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006.

Hansen, David T. The Teacher and the World: A Study of Cosmopolitanism as Education. New York: Routledge, 2011.



Fontes, Katina. "Cosmopolitan FYE: Making Space for Dialogue." Proposal, Public Philosophy Journal New Engaged Scholars Digital Pilot Program, 2018.




Andrea Walsh
February 01, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Thank you for sharing your project proposal, Katina, and welcome to the program!

To the PPJ Community: A student in Lesley University's Individually Designed Ph.D. in Educational Studies program, Katina Fontes is one of the applicants selected to participate in our New Engaged Scholars Digital Pilot Program (kicking off on February 7th!). Over the next several months, Katina and the rest of the cohort will frequently share parts of their projects on the Current. We would be so pleased to see community members engage with the projects, especially by offering formative feedback. 

Sophia Pavlos

February 07, 2018 at 9:48 am

Welcome to the program, Katina! I'm looking forward to seeing how your proposal develops. 

Kurt Milberger

February 20, 2018 at 11:02 am

normal">Hi Katina,

normal">I think your take on FYE and the potential for CFYE is right on.
Interested to see which direction your paper goes. On one hand, I can imagine a
set of “policy” suggestions, where you describe an ideal program. On the other,
it would be compelling to have an account what a CFYE course looks like, how
does it differ from a traditional FYE course? I think it will be important to
ground this thinking in how the FYE experience currently exists: Do any
colleges/universities already have programs that work this way? Are there any
existing attempts to make FYE programs “the start of a larger, fuller college
experience and as a way of learning about diverse ways of thinking and being?” If
so, what do they miss and how could they be improved? Lots of opportunities for
thinking about the public audience for this work, too. Will you address
administrators? Faculty members? Students themselves? Parents? An exciting and relevant
proposal! Welcome to the program!


Katina Fontes

February 22, 2018 at 12:26 am

Kurt - Thank you for the feedback. I am in the process of designing a comprehensive CFYE program that includes seminars guided by Socratic instructional methods, student constructed service learning, and co-curricular programming - the latter two of which are not specifically addressed in this proposal. (I am on the fence about whether to write a paper that addresses all three of these components or focus specifically on seminar dialogue guided by the philosophy of cosmopolitanism.) And yes, the history of and current trends in FYE programs will be included in my paper. As far as audiences go, students are at the core of this paper, and certainly administrators and faculty are a target audience. I had not considered parents, but will give it some thought.

Jacqueline Alvarez
February 21, 2018 at 2:47 pm


What a great project. Thinking about first year students and acclimating them and submersing them into a diverse community through dialogue rather than debate is a collaborative endeavor that will benefit first year students for sure. I am sorry for taking so long on the link for the book on experiential learning but here it is! ;

Katina Fontes

February 21, 2018 at 11:50 pm

Jacki - Thanks for the comment and book link! The book looks amazing. It had me at the Peter Singer foreword, but so many of the articles sound relevant to my research. I may need to invest in a personal copy.


February 21, 2018 at 7:37 pm

Hi Katina,

Really interesting stuff here. When you mention FYS, all I can think of is a one year program where students will familiarize themselves with the tools (especially online portals) needed to be considered knowledgeable about the institution they attend, the systems they will be required to navigate as they progress (advising, registration, etc), sprinkle in some history about the institution, and maybe a common read that will give their cohort some sort of theme. Beyond that, though, I feel like students are made to fend for themselves, to go on their own way rather than to continue through on some more unified tract that connects them with the rest of their peers. Even if this type of program were to continue for four years, it wouldn't really be developing them into the ideal type of global citizens you describe. When it comes to a philosophy of cosmopolitanism, then, I think you hit the nail on the head, where there is a need to develop these young students into something more than just competent consumers at an institution, paying for a degree and not really interacting with students outside their major unless forced to in a core class they may not have any interest in. Unless they engage in a truly shared curriculum, where they are as responsible for the flow of their classes and learning as their professors are, then we aren't doing them any favors. Again, solid proposal 

Kathleen Fitzpatrick

March 02, 2018 at 8:09 am

Hi Katina. I am very interested to see how this develops! There are some interesting connections, I think, to Claire's project on dialogue between the university and the public, as both Appiah's cosmopolitianism and the public engagement Claire seeks demand a focus on conversation. I look forward to reading more.