USC Aiken Freshmen Learn How Education Changed one Immigrant's Life, Will Discuss Immigration Throughout the Fall
Critical Inquiry Class' Required Summer Reading Sets the Stage for Semester-Long Discussion
Aiken, SC (08/02/2018) — The issue of immigration is one discussed widely in America today. This summer, it's not only on the minds of incoming freshmen at the University of South Carolina Aiken, it's also in their hands, literally.
In preparation for their required Critical Inquiry class, which starts in the fall, new students must read Undocumented: A Dominican Boy's Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League, by Dan-el Padilla Peralta.
"We always try to choose books that will challenge our students to explore different viewpoints, provide a number of themes to discuss and explore, and serve as a jumping off point for finding, assessing, and ethically using academic resources to answer complex questions," said Dr. Michelle Vieyra, director of the USC Aiken Critical Inquiry program.
When the Class of 2022 arrives on the University of South Carolina Aiken August 22, immigration and how it impacts lives, particularly the life of an undocumented student from the Dominican Republic, will be part of an ongoing discussion on the issue of immigration throughout the semester. To facilitate the dialogue, the book's author will address the Class of 2022 during Freshmen Convocation.
"Immigration is one of the most prevalent topics in our upcoming elections, and it is important for citizens to have a much deeper understanding of this issue," Vieyra said.
In his thought-provoking autobiography, Padilla Peralta chronicles the struggles, challenges and opportunities he faced growing up in New York City after his family's visas expired. With his mother and brother in the Big Apple and his father back in Santo Domingo for most of his life, Padilla Peralta experienced homelessness, fear, shame, confusion and uncertainty.
Fortunately, a generous New Yorker saw the promise in Padilla Peralta and helped guide him through an educational journey that changed his life. The philanthropic friend of the Padilla Peralta family helped Dan-el get a scholarship to a prestigious prep school, which ultimately opened doors to Ivy-League schools.
In Undocumented, the author describes how, for years, he lived in two worlds. During the academic year, he spent the majority of his time with rich students who attended the same prep school. Other times, he hung out on the streets of New York with others who were just trying to survive. He shares the strategies he used to try to fit in with both segments of society, always with the threat of deportation looming.
It's an issue discussed at every level of society today, including university classrooms, which often include international students. Immigration, with its multi-faceted considerations, varied perspectives, and complex nuances is an issue that meets the criteria of the USC Aiken Critical Inquiry Program.
Vieyra stresses that the book is just a jumping off point for the class, providing themes students will explore throughout the year.
"Students will use these themes to come up with their own research questions and topics and will then be led through exercises and assignments to help them practice information literacy and communication skills," she added.
Every fall, members of a committee read up to five books, ultimately narrowing it down to one selection for the incoming freshmen.
"We look for books that are written for a general audience and offer a whole host of themes for students to explore and discuss," Vieyra said.
The committee of USC Aiken faculty staff and students chooses the book each year for the required class, which is designed to strengthen students' critical thinking and problem solving skills.
The university requires the CI class as an introduction to many skills students need to succeed in college and in future careers. These skills include civil discourse, source evaluation, oral and written communication, and critical thinking.
"We would like students to be willing to explore many sides of an issue, be able to find and evaluate sources of information, and be able to communicate arguments or ideas supported by credible evidence," said Vieyra.
"With so much unsupported opinion and biased information readily available on the web, it is important to have tools to sift through all of the noise and find sources of information that are credible. It is also important to be able to synthesize information obtained by multiple credible sources and be able to communicate that information to others. CI is an introduction to this process."