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FYS: Geography of Brockton
Syllabus 2008

James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Geography
Bridgewater State College

This is the public version of the syllabus for my First Year Seminar: Geography of Brockton. Students should refer to details in Moodle for the most current information. For general resources, please go to the main Geography of Brockton page.

Geography 199-002: Geography of Brockton
James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Department of Geography
Fall 2008 / Monday 1:50p – 4:30p
Science 304
Version: August 22, 2008

This course is a First-Year Seminar. It also meets the social and behavioral science requirement of the Core Curriculum.
With the consent of one's advisor, this course can be counted toward a minor in geography, but it may not be counted toward the B.S. or B.A. major in geography.
This syllabus is long and detailed. You need to know everything in it.

Welcome to College!

You are embarking on what should be a challenging and rewarding academic experience, the First Year Seminar (FYS). After lengthy debate, the BSC faculty decided to require such seminars of all students, beginning in the Fall of 2006.

The goals of the FYS are:
Because this is still a new course format, and because students in this course will be able to help shape the direction of learning in the course, some of the details described in the syllabus may be subject to change. Any changes will be made in writing, with a revised version of this syllabus to be posted on Blackboard.

How to Communicate with Me

I make myself available to students in a variety of ways, so that you may discuss any questions or concerns you may have about this course, the discipline of geography, or careers in geography. I try to be in my office most mornings and certainly by appointment. I am generally not in my office later than 2:30 p.m.

Office: Conant Science 310
Office phone: (508) 531-2118
Home phone: (508) 279-0914 (most afternoons until about 8:00 pm)

When using e-mail, please include GEOG199 at the start of subject line. Please use your free and easy Bridgewater e-mail account, so that I can tell who you are.

If you have any special circumstances - such as academic probation, language difficulties, learning disabilities, or sports eligibility concerns - please arrange to meet me during the first week of the course to discuss how your needs can be addressed. Ten minutes before the final is not the time to tell the professor, "I'll get cut from the team if I don't get a B+ in this course!"

All students are required to read the "essential" documents on my Not-the-13th-Grade web site. These documents address such questions as "How will I be graded?" "How should I study?" "How should papers be formatted?" and "What does this professor expect from students?"

What is Geography, Anyway?

Geography is not the practice of learning capitals and the names of rivers. In fact, some geography professors are not very good at such things!

Rather, geography is a mode of inquiry -- an unusual discipline that defies the traditional categories of human or physical science. Almost any subject may be studied by geographers, with the unifying theme being an approach that emphasizes the importance of spatial relationships. Whatever the topic, geographers approach it with three questions in mind:

Where is it?  ~~ Why is it there?  ~~  So what?

In this course, these questions and other tools of geography will be used to explore a specific place -- the City of Brockton and its surrounding area. Geographers are habituated to working across disciplinary boundaries, so this course will also borrow from disciplines as diverse as geology and sociology.

Class Resources

This course does not have a single textbook. Rather, students will work with periodicals, maps, and web sites, with the help of the professor and librarians.

Other articles or web sites will be provided either as paper copies distributed in class or -- more often -- as links in Blackboard.

Students will need to use libraries, including those in the City of Brockton and perhaps other local areas.

Students will be required to visit sites in Brockton as part of their own research, and will be strongly encouraged to visit Brockton on at least one group outing.

Class Requirements

Computing: Students in this course need a notebook computer, and should plan to bring it to class as needed. See note below regarding appropriate use. Students are required to use their BSC e-mail accounts, and will be required to access the internet on a regular basis.

Short Papers: Short papers will be assigned on a weekly basis throughout the semester. Some paper assignments will be based on assigned readings, but other assignments will arise from the collective inquiry pursued by the class. Details, including due dates, will be posted in Moodle. Short papers should be one to two pages in length, and should adhere to the ridiculously detailed standards of formatting on my writing page. Late papers may receive half credit, seriously late papers (more than two days, or more than two late papers) may receive no credit, at the professor's sole discretion.

Research projects: Two semester-long research projects will be assigned early in the semester, for longer-term work. One project will focus on mapping historical changes in a particular location in Brockton (such as a city block). The other will focus on documenting the student's cultural experience somewhere in the city. A significant portion of class time will be spent developing these projects, with students doing extensive work on them between classes. Students will present the results as of the mapping project as research posters at the college's Mid-Year Research Symposium. Funding for minor expenses related to this research is available on a competitive basis.

Exams are drawn from assigned reading, class discussions, and writing assignments. They do not include multiple-choice questions, and they require some serious preparation. The exams may require students to prepare or evaluate maps during the exam time.

Make-up exams are not given. See "Missed Exam Procedures" in the Course Documents on Blackboard for instructions in the case of genuine emergencies.

Students with unreliable cars or flaky roommates should have a backup plan for getting to school, escpecially on exam days.

The final exam cannot be missed. Students experiencing truly dire emergencies will need to contact the professor immediately, to avoid earning a grade of "F" in the class.

Class participation is expected and essential. This means devoting about ten to twelve hours per week to the class, and arriving ready to participate in the class discussion. My standards page includes criteria for assessing participation. You will receive participation grades three times during the course of the semester. It is advisable to learn the names and contact information of several classmates early in the semester.

Regular attendance is essential to success in college generally, and certainly in this course. Nobody has ever earned a good grade in this course without attending regularly. Poor attendance will result in a lower participation grade, a lack of preparedness for exams, confusion about course requirements, and - in some circumstances - involuntary withdrawal from the course.

Extra credit is available in this course, either by identifying specific items for improvement on the professor's web sites or by attending on-campus extra-curricular activities. All extra-credit submissions must be made through the online forms on the Not-the-13th-Grade page. All decisions regarding extra credit are at the sole discretion of the professor.


IMPORTANT: Grading policies and expectations are fully described on the standards and assumptions pages available on my web site. Failure to complete all course requirements may result in a grade of "F," regardless of the percentage grade calculation. Note: the lower cutoff for a passing grade in this course is 65, not 60. Other expectations are detailed on my "Not the 13th Grade " web site.

A course grade is determined on the basis of the course requirements, using an accumulation of points as detailed below. This allows students to estimate their current standing at any point in the semester by using BlackBoard to compare total points earned with total points possible.

Short papers 50 points each
Research projects papers 200 points each (including pro forma grade on draft)
100 points
Final Exam 100 points
Participation 50 points each of three times
Extra Credit Limited to 100 points

Diversity: A college education in which one's previously-held assumptions are never challenged is not worthwhile. In this course, students are welcome and encouraged to participate regardless of race or ethnic background, age, religion, political persuasion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, learning disability or physical handicap. This means that although open and vigorous class discussion is expected, I will insist that all comments are respectful of people of various backgrounds. See the BSC Student Handbook for more information. Please contact me with any concerns or needed accomodation.

Academic Honesty: The pursuit of knowledge requires free, open, and honest discourse. Integrity is a key component of this. Any idea represented as one's own must be one's own. Ideas from other sources must be attributed fully. The expectation of academic honesty extends to all assignments and exams in this course, including on-line work. Infractions are subject to disciplinary action, as described in the Student Handbook. At a minimum, a grade of zero may be assigned to any work that is found to be the result of plagiarism or cheating, including copying from online sources without proper attribution. FAILURE OF THE COURSE can result from cheating, even on a "minor" assignment. All incidents of academic dishonesty are reported to the Vice President for Academic Affairs. It is not pretty. Do not do it.

Notebook Use: Notebook computers are to be used in class for academic purposes only. (They may, of course, be used outside of class for other purposes, within the college's usage guidelines.) Students are to refrain from activities or images that would serve to distract themselves, classmates, or the instructor. Class time is valuable; it is not the time for IM, checking sports scores, or emailing Mom and Dad.

Cell Phones: These should be silenced in all cases, and turned off entirely in most cases.

Back to the Environmental Geography page.
Back to the main Geography of Brockton page.