My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student / Edition 1

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Overview

After more than fifteen years of teaching, Rebekah Nathan, a professor of anthropology at a large state university, realized that she no longer understood the behavior and attitudes of her students. Fewer and fewer participated in class discussion, tackled the assigned reading, or came to discuss problems during office hours. And she realized from conversations with her colleagues that they, too, were perplexed: Why were students today so different and so hard to teach? Were they, in fact, more likely to cheat, ruder, and less motivated? Did they care at all about their education, besides their grades? 

Nathan decided to put her wealth of experience in overseas ethnographic fieldwork to use closer to home and apply to her own university. Accepted on the strength of her high school transcript, she took a sabbatical and enrolled as a freshman for the academic year. She immersed herself in student life, moving into the dorms and taking on a full course load. She ate in the student cafeteria, joined student clubs, and played regular pick-up games of volleyball and tag football (sports at which the athletic fifty-something-year-old could hold  her own). Nathan had resolved that, if asked, she would not lie about her identity; she found that her classmates, if they were curious about why she was attending college at her age, never questioned her about her personal life. 

Based on her interviews and conversations with fellow classmates, her interactions with professors and with other university employees and offices, and her careful day-to-day observations, My Freshman Year provides a compelling account of college life that should be read by students, parents, professors, university administrators, and anyone else concerned about the state of higher education in America today. Placing her own experiences and those of her classmates into a broader context drawn from national surveys of college life, Nathan finds that today's students face new challenges to which academic institutions have not adapted. At the end of her freshman year, she has an affection and respect for students as a whole that she had previously reserved only for certain individuals. Being a student, she discovers, is hard work. But she also identifies fundamental misperceptions, misunderstandings, and mistakes on both sides of the educational divide that negatively affect the college experience. 

By focusing on the actual experiences of students, My Freshman Year offers a refreshing alternative to the frequently divisive debates surrounding the political, economic, and cultural significance of higher education-as well as a novel perspective from which to look at the achievements and difficulties confronting America's colleges and universities in the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In her mid-fifties, the author (Rebekah Nathan is a pseudonym) registered as a freshman and moved into a dorm, concealing her identity as an anthropology professor on leave from the very same state university (identified as "Any U"). Her intent: to use her expertise in ethnographic fieldwork to better understand today's undergraduates. Only a few administrators were in on her project. Nathan undertook both participant-observer research and formal data collection via interviews. She always identified herself as a researcher and found it remarkable that students did not probe her further, as she had a strict policy of "tell if they ask." Her research brought forth three defining aspects of student life-choice, individualism, and materialism-and found that university efforts to build community among the freshmen were largely unsuccessful. In addition, the author learned why many students find cheating an acceptable response to managing tight schedules and gained insights into the nature of the informal conversations students have about their professors and courses. In the end, she offers a good understanding of the current generation of college students and the broader culture from which they have emerged. Recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Jean Caspers, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"It's anthropology at its best: accessible, illuminating, contextual." —The Christian Science Monitor

"My Freshman Year... is an insightful, riveting look at college life and American values." —The Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801443978
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 9/9/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,218,184
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebekah Nathan is a pseudonym for Cathy Small. She has been a professor of anthropology at Northern Arizona University for fifteen years.

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Table of Contents

1. Welcome to "AnyU"

2. Life in the Dorms

3. Community and Diversity

4. As Others See Us

5. Academically Speaking…

6. The Art of College Management

7. Lessons from My Year as a Freshman

Afterword: Ethics and Ethnography
Notes
References
Index

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