USC Aiken's Inquiry Course Critical to First Year
Aiken, SC (08/22/2018) — The University of South Carolina Aiken welcomed the Class of 2022 during Freshman Convocation, which marked the first academic ceremony for the incoming students.
The ceremony was also the first event in this semester's Critical Inquiry class. The university requires the CI class as an introduction to many skills students need to succeed in college and in their future careers. These skills include civil discourse, source evaluation, oral and written communication, and critical thinking.
Dr. Daren Timmons, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, explained how critical thinking will serve the students throughout their collegiate experiences and beyond, even in their careers.
"[As part of the Critical Inquiry course], you will develop and hone critical thinking skills, which will truly be critical when you transition from the classroom to the board room," he told the freshmen.
He outlined some of these must-have life-skills: reasoning, evaluating, problem solving, decision making, analyzing, and articulating a position.
"These skills will be the very ones employers will want on their teams; communities will need from responsible, engaged citizens in their neighborhoods; and children must have from caring families as they face life's challenges and enjoy life's blessings," he said.
As students develop these attributes, the university will challenge them to challenge themselves, including their beliefs, long-held opinions, and positions they have fervently held, according to the chancellor of USC Aiken.
"It is part of the process of becoming a self-reliant thinker. It is essential to forming an identity, and it requires that we become more cognizant of our own perspectives, prejudices, and bias and aware of how those shape our worldview, opinions, and judgment," Dr. Sandra Jordan told the Class of 2022.
"As you move through your college curriculum, you will most likely engage in deeply felt and potentially sensitive dialogue.
"That's the very heart of a collegiate experience: to question, to explore, to discover and to hone the skills that allow us to be a more self-reliant and sharper thinker. Those skills help us examine the implications and consequences of our beliefs; help us suspend judgement while we consider multiple perspectives; teach us to look at issues through multiple lens, not just from the emotional, me-centric lens of our childhood; and lead us to re-evaluate a point of view in light of new information."
The Freshman Convocation guest speaker, Dr. Dan-el Padilla Peralta, author of Undocumented: A Dominican Boy's Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League, gave the Class of 2022 tangible examples of how powerful action driven by critical thinking can be. Freshmen were required to read his book in advance of the first day of classes.
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, the author experienced homelessness, fear, shame, confusion and uncertainty.
"Immigration is a critical discussion our entire country is having today," Brandon Eberl, president of the Student Government Association, told the freshmen.
"The lessons Mr. Padilla Peralta learned throughout the life-long journey that took him from homelessness to prestigious prep schools to the Ivy League are ones we can benefit from as we participate in this important discussion."
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.
Dr. Michelle Vieyra, director of the USC Aiken Critical Inquiry program, 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 said.