General Education 1300 (GNED 1300-21) - First Year Seminar

Views of Time

CLS 128
11:30-12:20 MWF, Fall 2008

Faculty Instructor:

Dr. Steven Bachrach, Semmes Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
office: 215D MEB, Department of Chemistry
phone: 999-7379
office hours: 9:00am - 10:00am MWF and by appointment

Peer Tutor:

Rachel Korkosz
office hours: TBA

Course web page:

Schedule of Readings

Mr Tompkins in Paperback by George Gamow
Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic

Purpose of the course:

First Year Seminar is designed to prepare first-year Trinity University students to evaluate materials, develop critical thinking skills, and further their communication skills, both in verbal and in written form. The different sections of GNED 1300 approach these goals from various perspectives and differing subjects, but all maintain a fundamental consistency in focus on student participation, student-led discussion, and multiple written assignments.

This class will explore a variety of topics introduced and developed by the authors of the books we will read and discuss. These topics will allow for a fairly wide-ranging discussion. While our major topic will be how we think of time, our discussions will range to other areas including history, epistemology, geometry, war, novels, etc. Please do not lose sight of the main goal - development of critical thinking and communication skills that will be applicable to all aspects of your scholastic and professional careers.


There are four assigned books (listed above) for this course. These books can be purchased at the campus bookstore or at many other bookstores in San Antonio or online. The Gamow book can be accessed from any campus computer at this link.

In addition, there is one recommended book for those of you interested in learning a bit more about relativity:

One, Two Three … Infinity by George Gamow

We will be reading a significant portion (most likely all) of each of the required books. Students will be asked to uncover other articles and books of interest and report and comment on these during class. As other resources are discovered, I will add them to the class web site.


You will be evaluated on two factors, oral and written communication. The oral component will be worth 40% of the grade and will be evaluated based on your participation in class and your class discussion leadership. The written component will be based on four essays (40%) and a final report (20%). Attendance at all class sessions is mandatory.

Students are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the day's topic(s). This means that all relevant materials have been read and understood prior to class. Be sure to regularly check the course web page since additional recommended resources will be made available throughout the semester. (In fact, student input of additional relevant sites is encouraged and sought after.) Class participation in the classroom discussions will constitute half of the oral component of your grade (in other words, 20% of your overall grade). Class participation means actively partaking in the discussions, asking questions, coherently arguing your opinion, and politely but vigorously objecting to some opinions, defending others. I expect all students to feel free to make any comments the wish, without insult or fear. Honest discussion and argument will require all of us to respect each other. Your grade is not dependent on your opinion coinciding with mine! (I may, in fact, take contrary positions in class simply to stimulate discussions within certain areas.) If you have not talked in class for a period or two, be sure to make a strong effort to assert yourself in the next class.

Each student will lead the class discussion for one class period. This involves having thoroughly read the pertinent materials and developed a list of questions and comments to launch the day's class discussions. I am particularly interested in the students displaying a unique and personal approach towards their discussion leadership. I encourage each of you to think of using other media (the internet, movies, music, etc) as part of the discussion. We will develop a schedule for the student-led discussions in the second week of class. Each student will meet with Dr. Bachrach a few days prior to the class they will lead to discuss the topics they plan to cover in class. The remaining portion of your oral grade (20% of your class grade) will be judged on your ability to lead the class discussion. We will have open dates so any student who wishes a second opportunity to lead the discussion, for example if you performed poorly, can repeat as class leader. The schedule of the discussion leaders will be posted on the class web site as soon as possible.

The four short essays (each worth 10% of the total grade) will be assigned about every 3-4 weeks during the semester. The dates and topics of each essay will be announced in class about 2 weeks prior to their due date. The essays will be evaluated predominantly on the basis of the quality of your ideas and how well you argue the issues. A final long report (8-10 pages) will be due the last day of class. This report will be a research project related to some issue raised in the books and we will discuss potential topics later in the semester.

All essays and reports must be written in grammatically correct English. While this course is not an introduction to rhetoric or writing techniques, poorly written prose dramatically reduces the impact and quality of an argument. If you are unsure of a grammatical rule or spelling, please consult appropriate resources, like a dictionary, a writing style guide, the Peer Tutor, the Writing Center (in the library) or Dr. Bachrach. Essays must have an introduction, a body where the major arguments are made, and a conclusion. References must be cited completely and correctly, following a consistent format and style. Your long report must cite at least 10 references and some of the essays will likely also require citations. At least half of your references must come from resources found somewhere besides the Internet.

All papers must be your own original work. Be aware of what constitutes plagiarism and theft of intellectual property and be sure to understand Trinity University's rules on academic integrity. Understand the difference between properly citing someone else's work and stealing it. I take the issue of intellectual property extremely seriously. Plagiarism and all violations of the Honor Code will be treated following the procedures of the University Honor Code policy.

All students in this class fall under the University Honor Code. Students who are under the Honor Code are required to pledge all written work that is submitted for a grade: “On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized assistance on this work” and their signature.  The pledge may be abbreviated “pledged” with a signature.

All essays and reports are to be written individually and pledged. There is no group work in the class.


Attendance in the class is mandatory. Since a sizable portion of your grade is based on your participation in the discussions, any absence makes it impossible to participate and therefore diminishes your performance. Furthermore, the success of this class is predicated upon active participation by all students. Therefore, for every three unexcused absences your course grade will be reduced by one full letter grade. Excused absences will be granted solely at the discretion of Dr. Bachrach.

Peer Tutor:

The peer tutor (Rachel Korkosz) is an additional resource for you within this class. She is available for assistance with any aspect of the coursework. My experience in past first-year seminars is that students do not utilize the peer tutor enough. I strongly urge each of you to discuss your papers – their topics, the arguments you wish to make, and the actual writing – with Rachel throughout the semester. Rachel is a fine writer and can offer terrific guidance in crafting your essays. While Rachel will not be responsible for the grading in the class, she and I will discuss your papers and their grades so that she will know exactly what is/was expected on each and can offer assistance in meeting those expectations and improving your performance.


Discussion Resources:

Student discussion leader schedule

Sep 22 Sep 24
Stephen Sissons
Sep 26
Derek Leader
Sep 29
Connor Miller
Oct 1
Hillary Moore
Oct 3
Oct 6 Oct 8
Kerry Seitz
Oct 10
Justin O'Day
Oct 13
Karen MacPherson
Oct 15 Oct 17
Oct 20 Oct 22
Anupama Mehrotra
Oct 24
Jessica Reyes
Oct 27
Stephen Sissons
Oct 29
Shree Panda
Oct 31
Nathan Tinker
Nov 3 Nov 5
Brant Konetchy
Nov 7
Nov 10 Nov 12
Rachel Korkosz
Nov 14
Nov 17 Nov 19
Lauren Adams
Nov 21
Nov 24 Nov 26
Nov 28
Dec 1
Stephen Sissons
Dec 3
J. J. Lubinski
Dec 5