Kresge Core Course

Provost Ben Leeds Carson at Fall 2016 Core Plenary

Power and Representation

All entering frosh will be required to take a first-year “core course” titled College 1 (the specific name of your course will bear your college’s name). UCSC’s core courses are introductions to university discourse: critical thinking, contemplation of your process as a learner, engagement with others across difference, self-efficacy, and academic literacy. A primary purpose of these courses is to prepare you for the styles of reading, thinking, and engagement that you will encounter throughout the university experience. The courses also differ among the colleges, in that they are designed to build unique intellectual communities, bringing the first-year students together around distinctive themes and questions.

Our texts in Kresge 1—not just academic readings, but journalism, music, film & video, and other examples of our contemporary media culture—share a common intention: to explore and examine concepts of power available in social practices and institutions, and representation manifested in public discourse and the press. The course readings focus on ways that individuals and communities in the U.S. represent and constitute themselves through struggles for power and justice. The majority of our texts in this course are short essays on contemporary social justice problems, and on the interplay between representation—the ways that individuals are seen, heard, and understood in society—and power—how those representations determine our privileges, responsibilities, and capacity to pursue happiness in the world. Special emphasis is placed on activism, that is, on the question of how individuals and communities can intervene, take action, or advocate, for social justice.

Kresge 1 does not approach the question of social justice from a single discipline or field of expertise, in the way we might expect from a course in anthropology, politics, or legal studies. Instead, we approach these texts as an opportunity to practice and develop academic literacy. The problems raised in these texts are complex, and we do not aim to solve them, or even to learn about them comprehensively—those are challenges that we hope will deserve many years of your energy and collaboration. Instead, this course is about how we read and interpret texts, how we argue about those interpretations, apply arguments and interpretations to new situations ... in short, how academic knowledge is developed.

Preparing for Core

Core course seminars are limited to 26 students to provide an opportunity for students to work closely with each other and the instructor. Students will enroll in a specific core course section based on their satisfaction of two writing-related UCSC requirements: ELWR & C1. Students who have not satisfied both the ELWR and C1 requirements prior to enrolling at UC Santa Cruz will take Writing 2 after passing the core course, to finish their lower-division composition requirements and prepare for upper-division course work at the university. For more information on Core course placement and selection, please review: New Student Advising Guide - Core Course Selection.

Do you need some help brainstorming, reorganizing, or fine-tuning your writing? Please click here to learn more about the Westside Writing Center, and make an appointment here.


Last Year's Summer Assignment

— stay tuned! We'll be updating this soon! — feel free to read this as a preview of the kind of work you can expect to do. You'll hear from us via email when you can begin work on the summer 2018 assignment.


Eric Liu, “How to Get Power”, in We Humans, <Ideas.Ted.Com>. 28 March 2017.

Eric Liu, “Why Ordinary People Need to Understand Power” [video lecture], in TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. [Filmed 20 September 2013 at “TEDCity 2.0”, New York, NY.]

bell hooks, “Keeping Close to Home: Class and Education,” in Working-Class Women in the Academy: Laborers in the Knowledge Factory (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993), 100-110.

Janelle Monáe (composer, performer), and Alan Ferguson (director). “Q.U.E.E.N.”, feat. Erykah Badu [music video]. New York: Atlantic Records, 2013.

Janelle Monáe (composer, performer), and Wendy Morgan (director), “Tightrope” feat. Big Boi [music video]. New York: Big Boy Records / WMG, 2010.

Your tasks:

1. Take careful reading/viewing/listening notes on each text (you should have at least 2 pages of notes). Some tips to consider for note-taking:

  • As you read, keep a record of your engagement with each text: What seems important? Where do you have questions? Where do you see connections?

  • Download and print paper copies of “How to Get Power” and “Keeping Close to Home.” Make annotations directly on the printouts and also take separate reading notes, keeping track of particularly compelling passages, words or references you need to look up, and any questions you’d like to bring to class. Your notes should trace the main argument or point each text seems to be making.

  • When watching and listening to the lecture-video (“Why Ordinary People Need to Understand Power”), write down or paraphrase key points that Liu makes, and mark them with timecodes so you can return to listen again as needed.

  • For Janelle Monáe’s videos (“Q.U.E.E.N.” and “Tightrope”), take time to watch and listen at least twice to each.

    • In your first listening, focus on the lyrics, and how they are expressed—what words are emphasized? (The emphasis and expression can occur as a result of singers’ delivery, imagery, or other issues of performance.) What messages or assertions are important? What meanings can you draw from the lyrics that aren’t necessarily explicit?

    • In your second listening, consider focusing exclusively on what you hear. You may have noted, in your first listening, how Janelle Monáe and other singers’ choices affect the expression of the meanings of lyrics. This time, see if you can describe something about the melody—when does it change, and in what way? Do you notice changes in the accompaniment as well–the instruments, backing vocals, and other sounds? You may be feeling uncertain about describing musical experience, if you haven’t tried this before. If so, just trust your instincts and use whatever intuitive words you can find to help you remember specific moments in the recording.

    • If possible, come back a day or two later and watch/listen a third time, taking a step back and considering the music video as a whole expression. What new meanings emerge, now that you’re familiar with the different aspects of each song? As with the other texts, feel free to represent your sense of the songs’ expressions in whatever way seems intuitive.

After you’ve taken reading/viewing/listening notes on the individual texts...

    • Look for points of connection between the texts in this list.

    • Make note of personal examples and associations that give you a framework for understanding the texts.

    • As you review your notes, think about your understanding of our course theme of “power and representation.” Where do you see these ideas come up in each text?

    • Think about how each text’s genre (Ted Talk, music video, academic essay, popular essay) might affect that way it conveys its ideas.

Diligent note-taking is an important step in preparing for the work that instructors will expect of you in most classes at UCSC. In Kresge 80, you’ll be asked to arrive at your seminar and section meetings with ideas and questions ready to go, and we hope the guidelines above help you develop reading and preparation habits to meet those expectations.

2. Write a 2-4 page paper in response to the following prompt:

In “How to Get Power,” Eric Liu argues that storytelling is “the catalytic agent for changing the status quo,” and discusses community activist Marshall Ganz’s model of the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now. First, thoroughly explain Ganz’s model, using examples from Liu’s essay or from your own observations and experiences. Then, apply this model to either bell hooks’s “Keeping Close to Home” or Janelle Monáe’s “Q.U.E.E.N.” and “Tightrope.” What is the story of self and/or story of us that hooks or Monáe is telling? How might this story be seen as a larger political intervention (a story of now)?

Your written response should be 2-4 pages (typed, double-spaced, standard 12-point font) and should include direct reference to at least two of these texts. Your note-taking and written response should be completed in advance of the opening plenary on Wednesday, September 27. Bring your notes, your marked-up copies of hooks and Liu, and your written response paper to your first Core seminar meeting; your instructor will likely collect all three.