COOL CLASSES: “Finding a Voice: Identity, Environment, and Intellectual Inquiry”

This intensive first-year writing seminar considers students’ fluid relationship to identities that they examine, explore, and take on through course materials.

Course name: “Finding a Voice: Identity, Environment, and Intellectual Inquiry”

Taught by: Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing and Oral Communication Specialist Nimisha Ladva

Says Ladva:

This class is listed as the “intensive” section of the first-year writing seminars that every Haverford student takes. I inherited the “intensive” course name and realize it might sound intimidating. But intensive to me means I’m intensely interested in my students’ success! It also means that this class is slightly smaller and that I have one-on-one meetings with every student multiple times in the semester.

[This class] offers students an opportunity to focus on improving their critical thinking, writing, speaking, and research skills—IN A FUN WAY! How do I make it fun? Research shows that students do better when they feel like they belong, when some of their social needs are met in the classroom, and when they believe that their commitment to class will make an impact on them and the world they will enter after college. I pick articles that are engaging and provide a variety of perspectives for students to consider. I change the articles and units to make sure the class stays fresh and relevant. For example, this semester we read articles on the pandemic and student online learning, we watched the film Black Panther, and we learned about the importance and limits of empathy. I may change these articles out next time I teach the course. I want students to leave the class knowing that they belong here at Haverford and are equipped to succeed here.

The semester is divided into three sections. First, we explore how social and cultural forces can impact student identity. Next, the student is considered more expansively as a “self” in relationship to an environment, where environment, too, is considered broadly (political/cultural/economic, etc.). This semester, the topic of inquiry in our environment section will be Black Panther and race in America. Lastly, students are asked to try out “being a (prospective) major” of their own choosing. As such, they will participate in the work of intellectual inquiry by contributing to an ongoing scholarly conversation in their prospective majors by completing a self-designed research project.

By the end of this course, students will have further developed their own voice as speakers, writers, and critical thinkers who can participate more fully in the work of intellectual inquiry required here at Haverford and in their lives beyond college. They will be aided by a classroom that is supportive, challenging, and, yes, fun!

I created this course to be the course I wish I had had when I was a first semester student in college. I am the first in my family to go to college. I entered not really knowing what I needed to do to succeed, even though I had been a good student in high school. My hope is to demystify the college experience, introduce my students to the pleasure of intellectual inquiry, and have them leave knowing that they belong.

Learn more about other seminars offered by the Writing Program

Cool Classes

A series highlighting interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford College experience.