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March 13th, 2018 8:16:59 am

Making Space for Dialogue: Cosmopolitan FYE as a Model for College First-Year Experiences

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A work in progress (written for the PPJ New Engaged Scholars program), this paper provides the framework for a college first-year program (designed by the composer) rooted in the philosophy of cosmopolitanism. Spanning across the entire academic year and composed of three strands, Cosmopolitan First-Year Experience emphasizes dialogue and local immersion as forms of practice in civic engagement.

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Making Space for Dialogue: Cosmopolitan FYE as a Model for College First-Year ExperiencesKatina FontesFor many young adults, college is a time of exploration and new experiences. It is often the first extended separation from family and community and a period of exposure to the unfamiliar. In meeting new people, college students must confront views and perspectives different from their own and this creates both a challenge and an opportunity for colleges. The challenge obvious, colleges have to accommodate and acclimate students from a variety of backgrounds. It is an opportunity to stimulate dialogue and the exchange of ideas with the purpose of developing understanding about the changing world. The opportunity, however, is often overshadowed by institutional goals such as student persistence and retention (Barefoot, 2000; Porter & Swing, 2006). Today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders and need adequate preparation for their future roles, including the ability to civilly engage in dialogue when confronted with multiple perspectives. Cosmopolitan First Year Experience (CFYE) takes advantage of this opportunity through a rethinking of the college First-Year Experience (FYE). Rooted in the philosophy of cosmopolitanism, CFYE aims to stimulate conversation about differing world views and experiences and root students in the local while simultaneously exploring their place in the global. CFYE is a three-pronged approach of faculty-led seminars, student-constructed service learning, and co-curricular activities and support programs. While CFYE borrows from many ideas, old and new the curricular design is my own and currently in the conceptual and design phase. After providing some background on cosmopolitanism and FYE, this paper introduces CFYE and its three components (seminars, service learning, and co-curriculars) with dialogue as the connecting thread. This connection is presented through a discussion of formal and informal tools for developing dialogue skills, such as maieutic (Socratic) seminars,1 experiential community opportunities, and salon style mixers.Cosmopolitanism as Philosophy and EducationThe philosophy of cosmopolitanism2 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. Kwame Anthony Appiah (2006), the contemporary scholar today most associated with cosmopolitan philosophy, argues that a new way of thinking and being 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. Appiah’s cosmopolitanism has two strands: 1) We have obligations to others beyond members of our family and community; and 2) “we take seriously the value not just of human life but of particular human lives, which means taking an interest in the practices and beliefs that lend them significance” (p. xv). Dialogue and discourse are essential in achieving the latter because, Appiah points out, the goal is not consensus—he is not advocating for one perspective or worldview—but rather a better understanding of differing views through conversation. In The Teacher and the World: A Study of Cosmopolitanism as Education David Hansen (2011) takes cosmopolitanism into the realm of education. The specificity of language used in the title and throughout his book is important to note; Hansen uses the term “as” instead of “in.”
2. Maieutic methods of instruction use the techniques of Socrates (469-399 B.C.E). to help an individual uncover underlying knowledge and flaws in reasoning. (Maieutic and Socratic instructional methods are often used interchangeably.) Different maieutic methods can be used by instructors. A teacher might ask questions, one after another, of one student as a way of uncovering what the student does and does not know or understand (this method has long been used in law school classrooms). In Socratic seminars (advocated for in this paper) a facilitator or group leader submits opening and guiding questions to a group to stimulate dialogue among students. This method is less probative and more inclusive of a larger group than the one-on-one method.
Making Space for Dialogue: Cosmopolitan FYE as a Model for College First-Year Experiences
Katina Fontes
He is advocating for cosmopolitanism in and of itself as the foundation for education rather than as an addition to a particular curriculum or pedagogy, through something he calls curriculum as cosmopolitan inheritance (Hansen, 2008, 2011). As an educational practice inheritance is distinct from socialization. Hansen notes that while socialization is a necessary human activity, it is rehearsed and practiced. We are socialized through direct instruction and what we are taught is predetermined through traditions and social expectations. Education as inheritance is ever changing and constantly in motion. It is also personal. The values, practices, and ideas students individually inherit are constantly adjusted in light of new ideas and evidence. For example, many students have been socialized to like and appreciate hip hop as a style of music. However, hip hop is also an inheritance with a rich history and complexity that can be analyzed within the context of language, dance, storytelling, art, and technology. The impact of hip hop on one’s view of the world will depend on the depth of the investigation. For some it is no more than entertainment, for others it provides a sociohistorical lens from which to view the world.Curriculum as cosmopolitan inheritance is also different from what Paolo Freire (2005) calls the “banking concept of education.” In banking, students are empty vessels that teachers fill with information and knowledge. Freire criticizes banking because it assumes the student knows nothing and is disconnected from praxis, i.e. the human practice of action and reflection. In the banking model, the knowledge of hip hop students bring into the classroom is of little value in the realm of what is traditionally considered “knowledge.” Yet, from hip hop students might learn many thing: modes of communication; stories about struggles for identity; forms of artistic expression; political points of view. They bring what knowledge they have gleaned from hip hop to the classroom and this presents an opportunity to build from that knowledge and reflect upon broader social, cultural, political, and philosophical ideas. Freire also focuses on the “unfinished” nature of humans and views this as a key component of education. “Women and men are capable of being educated only to the extent that they are capable of recognizing themselves as unfinished. Education does not make us educable. It is our awareness of being unfinished that makes us educable” (Freire, 1998, p. 58). In a similar fashion, curriculum as cosmopolitan inheritance assumes an ongoing unfinishedness to our learning, or to what Fazal Rizvi (2009) refers to as being “ constantly in a state of becoming” (p. 264). We are constantly taking the knowledge we have and reevaluating it in different contexts and when presented with new information. Cosmopolitanism as education also stands in sharp contrast to educational banking and socialization models because it does not assume a common cannon of cultural knowledge as a key component of human understanding. On this issue Hansen (2011) points to the changing nature of the human condition and the inevitability of change. “Humanity cannot predict its own next steps any more than it can anticipate nature’s sure-to-come evolutionary steps. Humanity cannot stop itself from changing and transforming, since the very endeavor to do that would itself constitute a mode of change” (p. 48). Cosmopolitanism as education accepts this unpredictability and willing
Making Space for Dialogue: Cosmopolitan FYE as a Model for College First-Year Experiences
Katina Fontes
ly takes on the challenges of education within this view.Ongoing debates about the roles of culture, heritage, and history in education are predicated on disagreements. However, cosmopolitanism presents us with a way in which to explore the complexity of all those things without a predetermined sense of what should stay and go in the curriculum. It allows for a sharing of knowledge by all involved in the educational practice—students, teachers, mentors—and creates the framework for a curriculum that emphasizes space for exploration and learning in our “unfinished” state of existence. Assuming those of us in higher education could agree on the benefits of cosmopolitanism as an overarching goal in college, three daunting questions must immediately follow: 1) How does one create a system of cosmopolitanism as education? 2) What does such a thing look like in higher education? 3) Where, in the typical college curriculum, might it be possible to infuse these ideas? I believe that college first-year experiences provide a starting point for practice in the ideas espoused by Hansen and Appiah. The following sections will explore FYE programming and outline a program design concept that takes the best of FYE goals and rethinks the programmatic focus within the framework of cosmopolitanism as education.College First-Year ProgrammingThe first year of college can prove a difficult transition for students. As Mary Stuart Hunter (2006) notes, “the first year of college is not ‘grade 13.’ Incoming students…enter a new culture” (p. 1). In an effort to ease the transition, more than 90% of four-year institutions and over 80% of two-year colleges (Skipper, 2017) have instituted a formalized First-Year Experience (FYE) programs.3 The roots of FYE extend back to 1888 when Boston College created what is believed to be the first freshman orientation class and in the decades that followed many other post-secondary institutions followed suit by creating programs and courses to help students adjust to their new environment and college life. Today FYE is defined in the following manner:
First-year seminars bring small groups of students together with faculty or staff on a regular basis and place strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies. First-year seminars also involve students with cutting-edge scholarship and with faculty members’ own research. (Kuh & O'Donnell, 2013, p. 49)
FYE can be designed in a variety of ways. Skipper (2017) highlights four common forms: extended orientation, academic seminar with uniform content, academic seminar with varied content, and hybrids (which combine a seminar with components of an extended orientation). The goals and learning outcomes of FYE programs vary from institution to institution, but current scholarship by Kuh and O’Donnell (2013) recognizes eight including practices that encourages “Diversity/Global Learning.” However, in her analysis of data from the 2012-2013 National Survey of First-Year Seminars on the eight HIPs, Skipper (2017) notes that while all the various forms of FYE “provide frameworks and structures that make specific effective educational practices more or less likely to occur” (p. 15), one weakness across the board was in “experiences with diversity.” This was an interesting finding because while 58.8% indicated an intentional incorporation of diversity and global learning experiences, only 4.7% and 3.3% indicated that diversity and global learning (respectively) were important FYE course goals. In regard to this finding, Skipper notes: “
3. Cosmopolitanism has ancient roots dating back to the 4th century B.C.E. Cynics. The Cynics, while most associated with an extreme commitment to virtue above all else (wealth, power, fame, sex, and other pleasures) are also credited with inventing the concept of cosmopolitanism. This credit comes from Diogenes (c.390-323 BCE) declaring himself a citizen of the world “rather than from a particular culture or polity” (Hansen, 2011, p. 7).
Making Space for Dialogue: Cosmopolitan FYE as a Model for College First-Year Experiences
Katina Fontes
This pattern—fairly consistent across all seminar types—may suggest that a focus on intercultural competence is a one-off for many seminars. There is recognition of its value without the structural support to encourage a sustained emphasis on this effective educational practice” (p. 15).Skipper’s conclusion is telling. The design and implementation of FYE requires faculty and administrators to balance many goals and outcomes—perhaps too many for any one course given the overall course load of both students and faculty (FYE courses can vary from one to three credits). There is also the question of institutional priority and resources provided for FYE programs (Barefoot, 2000). But given the rapidly changing world—a world increasingly more diverse and connected—are we doing students a disservice in not adequately preparing them, both morally and practically, for future interactions with individuals unlike themselves? In this vane, cosmopolitanism, because of its focus on dialogue, provides an opportunity for re-framing the FYE structure. Cosmopolitan FYE (CFYE)For many of us, especially those who attended college prior to the new millennium, experiences with formalized FYE are limited or non-existent. As an entering college student I participated in a two-day orientation program several weeks before the official start of my studies that in no way addressed the diverse world I was about to enter. College was my first exposure to multiculturalism on a grand scale. It was profoundly eye opening and my orientation did little to ease the transition. Orientations, then and now, often focus on registration and an introduction to campus resources. The proliferation of FYE programs on college campuses today is a positive step forward, but the data suggest weaknesses clearly remain, particularly in regard to providing spaces for authentic cross-cultural interactions and conversations (Skipper, 2017). Current FYE programs attempt to soften the shift from high school to college life but fall short on many fronts.CFYE is offered as a means of addressing the concerns of this transition and developing practices for open dialogue and community engagement. It assumes a complete rethinking and restructuring of the first year of college, and thus I acknowledge that what is proposed cannot easily take the place of a three-credit course. CFYE is composed of three, year-long, credit bearing strands:
  • Faculty led seminars to provide practice in dialogue and an exploration of the intercultural skills. Seminars also provide an ideal space for exploring essential philosophical questions that force a deeper thinking about our place in the larger world and universe. (3-4 credits per semester)
  • Student constructed service learning to promote community collaboration and conversation. Service learning projects in areas within and just beyond the school boundaries also provide opportunities for local immersion and promote community engagement as a continuous civic practice. (3-4 credits per semester)
  • Co-curricular programming for academic and social/emotional support. Additionally, the creation of co-curricular social programming provides opportunities for informal dialogue and interaction among faculty, students, and staff. (2-3 credits per semester)

  • What follows is an outline of these three components and a discussion of the role played by dialogue, formal and informal, within each. (A more detailed description of the program design, including mission, goals, objectives, and scope, may be found at
    Making Space for Dialogue: Cosmopolitan FYE as a Model for College First-Year Experiences
    Katina Fontes - Please note: This site is a work in progress and part of a course in which I am currently enrolled. Work will be completed and migrated to another, more appropriately named site within a few weeks.)The Role of Dialogue in FYEReferences
    Appiah, K. A. (2006). Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a world of strangers. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

    Barefoot, B. O. (2000). The first-year experience: Are we making it any better? About Campus, 4(6), 12.

    Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom : Ethics, democracy, and civic courage (P. Clarke, Trans.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Freire, P. (2005). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York, NY: Continuum.

    Hansen, D. T. (2008). Curriculum and the idea of a cosmopolitan inheritance. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 40(3), 289-312.

    Hansen, D. T. (2011). The teacher and the world: A study of cosmopolitanism as education (1st ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Hunter, M. S. (2006). Fostering student learning and success through first-year programs. Peer Review, 8(3), 4-7.

    Kuh, G. D., & O'Donnell, K. (2013). Ensuring quality and taking high-impact practices to scale. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities

    Porter, S. R., & Swing, R. a., L. (2006). Understanding how first-year seminars affect persistence. Research in Higher Education(1), 89. doi: 10.1007/s11162-005-8153-6

    Rizvi, F. (2009). Towards cosmopolitan learning. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 30(3), 253-268.

    Skipper, T. L. (2017). What makes the first-year seminar high impact? An exploration of effective educational practices. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First Year Experience & Students in Transition



    Fontes, Katina. "Making Space for Dialogue: Cosmopolitan FYE as a Model for College First-Year Experiences."


    Katina Fontes, 2018


    Kurt Milberger

    March 19, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Hi Katina,

    Making great progress developing this piece! The intro flows
    more smoothly from the assessment of the problem to your proposed solution, and
    the opening of the section on “Cosmopolitanism as Philosophy and Education”
    does a great job of providing the necessary background without getting bogged
    down in the theory. You’re also doing an excellent job, in the paragraphs of
    this section, defining your audience and speaking to/with them rather than at
    them, particularly in the final paragraph: “Assuming those of us in higher
    education could agree…” Here, though, I think the argument would be stronger if
    you replaced the rhetorical questions with the answers you will provide in the
    paper: “Those of us in higher education WILL agree when we see 1, 2, 3...”

    I really appreciate that the work is moving from your theory
    of CFYE into the practice as laid out on your website, but I have one lingering
    question about relevance, especially in the “Cosmopolitan FYE (CFYE) section.”
    Is there some way to avoid limiting your theoretical/abstract discussion of the
    program you’re proposing to the instance of it you’re designing/have designed?
    In other words, could you describe the components, requirements, advantages,
    etc. of CFYE without saying “It assumes a complete rethinking and restructuring
    of the first year of college, and thus I acknowledge that what is proposed cannot
    easily take the place of a three-credit course?” Without, that is, prescribing exactly your
    program ?

    From the point of a view of an administrator who already has
    a three-credit FYE course, for example, what is to be gained by engaging with the
    scholarship if that aspect of the course/program can’t be changed? In other
    words, can you emphasize the abstract values of CFYE by describing them, suggesting examples, exercises,
    or other ideas that might be useful in existing contexts, and then proposing that ideally we'd replace whole programs with the three-pronged approach?

    Some minor textual notes:

    Paragraph 1: Missing a verb here: “The challenge obvious,

    Footnotes 1 & 2: Number 1 is obviously blank, but the
    text of note number 2 belongs to number 1 and note 3 to number 2.

    Sophia Pavlos

    March 19, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Dear Katina,

    I am very impressed with the progress on this piece! Its coming along very nicely, and I'm looking forward to seeing how you develop in further. I second Kurt's comments, and would like to add some more general questions for you to consider as you elaborate on your thesis. 

    What kinds of institutional obstacles may hinder the kind of FYE program that you are proposing? Remember that universities and colleges have their own goals and decision making processes that may affect the resources that they are willing to provide for students. Institutional inertia is also a very real phenomena, and if you were to actually attempt to implement your proposed program, you would face a lot of backlash from individuals invested in keeping the status quo. It may be useful to pre-empt some of these positions, and explicitly articulate why this will be beneficial to the university as well as the student. 

    Also consider the current state of K-12 education, and how this education prepares students entering universities. Are they ready for new pedagogical styles like the ones you propose? Consider the practicality of innovative practices, and what students may need in order to successfully encounter cosmopolitanism. 

    Andrea Walsh
    March 19, 2018 at 1:28 pm


    Thank you for the opportunity to read this revised work-in-progress. It’s coming along excellently. I agree with Kurt that you’ve done a good job of revising your introduction, especially where this concerns organizing how you frame the topic for intellectual coherence as well as accessibility and relevance for your particular audience. The distinction between cosmopolitanism and education banking and socialization models has been nicely revised for clarity and succinctness. 

    Below are some suggestions, most of which relate to accessibility (as requested). 

    1. With Kurt, I suggest including some specific examples from your FYE course to help contextualize the values of CFYE. 

    2. Page 2, paragraph 3: You might add a sentence or two to clarify further the relevance of pointing out the “unfinished” nature of humans for the main intention of your paper. 

    3. Page 2, last paragraph: For accessibility, consider unpacking the phrase “a common canon of cultural knowledge” before turning over to Hansen’s remarks. 

    4. Page 3, last paragraph: I'd love to see a brief explanation of how you, perhaps with Skipper, define “diversity."

    5. The term “programmatic” requires brief unpacking, such as on page 3.

    6. Page 4: “There is also the question of institutional priority and resources provided for FYE programs.” This seems rather quickly introduced and left. I suggest adding a sentence or two to explain what you’re referring to specifically. Though this can be deduced, it may be helpful to readers if you tell exactly what you mean by "priority and resources" and what "the question" is. 
    Again, really good work, Katina. I enjoyed reading this and look forward to more.