My Freshman Year Book Club

My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student

by Rebekah NathanMy Freshman Year book cover

Penguin Books, ISBN-10: 0143037471

When a cultural anthropologist enrolls in college as a new freshman, she experiences college life the way her students do, from orientation to living in the dorms, eating in the dining halls and beyond. The author shares her new perspectives in an eye-opening account that questions our assumptions and may challenge our views of ourselves, our students and our work.

Each month of the 2015–2016 academic year, a one-hour book club will meet to discuss a relevant chapter of My Freshman Year.  All Student Affairs personnel are invited. In addition, a select panel of SA members will be invited to share their thoughts on specific chapters.

Participants must acquire their own books. Prices on sites such as Amazon run from $1.68 used to $12.00 new; $10.75 for Kindle.

To participate, contact Mike Ruwe: ext. 2-4194 or


Date Location Chapter Panel
W, Sep 16, 1 p.m. DE Conference Room (DE 1017) 1. Welcome to Any U Transition Programs, Campus Activities & Involvement Center
W, Oct 21, 1 p.m. UNCW Student Media Center (FUU 1049) 2. Life in the Dorms

Housing & Residence Life;

Office of Student Leadership & Engagement
M, Nov 16, 10 a.m. Topsail Island Room (FSC 2019) 3. Community and Diversity

Office of Diversity & Inclusion;

DOSA Diversity Committee;

Disability Resource Center
January TBD 4. As Others See Us

Counseling Center;

International Programs

February TBD 5. Academically Speaking

University Learning Center;

University Testing Services
March TBD 6. The Art of College Management

Office of the Dean of Students;

University College

April TBD 7. Lessons from My Year as a Freshman

Office of the Vice Chancellor;

DOSA Directors


2015–2016 Hawk Topics

Hawk Topics are one-hour discussions of issues of compelling interest to student-affairs professionals. Each discussion is informed by a short reading gleaned from academic journals or the popular press. Discussions are open to all.

Mental Health on Campus

11 a.m., Tuesday, Feb 16, 2015, location TBA

Rates of anxiety and depression among American college students have soared in the last decade, and many more students than in the past come to campus already on medication for such illnesses. The number of students with suicidal thoughts has risen as well. Overwhelmed by demand for mental-health care, colleges face conflicts in choosing how to respond. Join the PDC as we discuss the trend and how it manifests at UNCW. Our discussion will be informed in part by the article "An Epidemic of Anguish" (Chronicle of Higher Education, 31 Aug 2015).

Topic TBA

11 a.m., Tuesday, 12 April 2016, location TBA

The PDC invites suggestions for future Hawk Topics and trainings. Send suggestions to Barbie Cowan at 910-962-2196 or by email.


Past Events

2015 - 2016

Should College Be Treated as a Commodity?

11 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 10, Azalea Coast Room (FUU 2001)diploma

Pick up any newspaper, and you're likely to see a front-page article on college: It costs too much, spawns too much debt, is or isn't worth it. With college replacing high school as the required ticket for a career, college is now a favorite target of policymakers and pundits, and its value too often goes undefined.

Join the PDC for a conversation about whether return on financial investment, and the assumptions underlying that notion, is the most useful motivation for a college education. The short Washington Post editorial, "College Is Not a Commodity: Stop Treating It Like One" (9 June 2015) will springboard the discussion.


2014–2015 Hawk Topics

Managing Student Employment students at amphitheater

Striking a productive balance between experiential learning (on-the-job training) and strong job performance can be a challenge, especially when serving an off-campus constituency. This discussion raised questions and explored best practices for hiring and training students while balancing expectations and ensuring the primacy of the educational experience. Our background reading was "How to Make Students' Campus Jobs More Meaningful" (Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 Sep. 2014).

Resistance to Organizational Change

Silos, office politics, market realities, unclear metrics or objectives can all conspire to make lasting organizational change difficult or impossible. This discussion explored obstacles to lasting institutional change and how to overcome them; what prevents some organizations from realizing the innovation, reformation of outmoded practices or adaptations that keep organizations relevant and vital. The article, "Why Creating Organizational Change Is So Hard" ( provided the basis for discussion.

2013–2014 Hawk Topics

WTF: Connecting with First-Year Students

Mike Ruwe (University Learning Center) led a discussion of the challenges and rewards of working with First-Year students such as the story of the first “UNI 101” class in the United States; ideas about motivating students; “Guyland,” sociologist Michael Kimmel’s approach to assisting male students; and other ideas that Mike gleaned from the recent National Resource Center’s First-Year Experience conference.

Student Affairs Case Law

Holly Taylor, formerly of the Office of the Dean of Students, addressed pertinent court cases from 2013 regarding freedom of expression, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fourth Amendment (search & seizure), Title IX, and other topics.

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