The Good Food Revolution and the First Year Seminar



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The Good Food Revolution and the First Year Seminar

Chris Corley and Ginny Walters


The Honors Program at Minnesota State Mankato

christopher.corley@mnsu.edu; giovanna.walters@mnsu.edu



The Office of New Student and Family Programs recommends that FYEX instructors include the Common Read in their FYEX 100 classes. This year’s text is Will Allen’s The Good Food Revolution. Powerful themes of food access, poverty, and race are woven into Allen’s autobiography. As always, this year’s Common Read addresses important issues of coming of age, citizenship and service, and intercultural understanding.


  1. Purchase and read the book over the summer in light of FYEX Course Goals and Learning Outcomes

    • Think of yourself as the students’ first model of what it means to be an educated, critical thinker, member of a university community, and citizen for first-year students.

      1. Goals: To promote further development of student success skills, such as reading, writing, and speaking; help students gain intellectual confidence; build in the expectation of academic success; and to provide assistance in making the transition to the University.

      2. Student Learning Outcomes:

        1. Experience higher personal expectations of his/her ability to meaningfully participate in academic life.

        2. Define and give examples of critical thinking (“analyzing or evaluating information… in order to work through a problem or decision”).

        3. Interact with other students regarding academic matters.

        4. Affirm that careful thinking is an important aspect of the educational process.

        5. Make a comfortable transition to college life.


  2. Prepare students to read (or re-read) the book

    • Ask them to create a timeline of what they believe to be the most important events in Will Allen’s life. How did his childhood and family life, for example, help to shape his views of the world? This exercise encourages students to read the first few chapters and allows some common ground instructors and students can use to discuss the book.

    • Ask students to find a professional review of The Good Food Revolution. Use the model of one found in The Los Angeles Times, by Mary MacVean: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/13/entertainment/la-et-book-20120613


  1. Link whole book, or even specific sections of it, to your recommended topics for the course and/or themes from Keys to Success (if you use it).

    • Example ideas:

      1. First Weeks of Semester

        1. Transition to college

          • Compare transition to MSU with Allen’s transition to the University of Miami; relate his eventual success with the importance of persistence in one’s own life

        2. Values, Goals, and Stress

          • Allen encounters threats, racism, and the possibility of failure (several times) while at university. He faces obstacles while trying to land in the NBA. How do we maintain focus on our own goals and values?

      2. Academic Success in the University: Reading and Studying

        1. General Education and the well-rounded student: link to advising meetings

          • How would you describe Allen’s career path, and how did his life and education shape it?

          • Can you think of courses/subjects that will not be your major focus of studies, but that might enhance your professional skills and self-awareness? How will they do so?

        2. Research Resources: Link to library tour/reference page assignment

          • Link tour to focused research agenda (i.e. not merely a general tour) where students search for information related to the Great Migration of African Americans, or information about poverty and/or access to grocery stores in American cities.

        3. Diversity Matters: Link to cultural diversity event/culture night.

          • What is “culture”? What is your culture?

          • How did Allen adapt to diverse geographic and cultural environments?

          • Was Allen culturally competent? Why or why not?

          • What does cultural competence mean in your own field of interest/prospective profession? Why would it be significant?

          • Can you identify similarities and differences between your own cultural characteristics and those demonstrated in a university culture night?


  2. Link course syllabus and activities with Common Read-related events

    • Examples:

      1. Campus Involvement: All FYEX 100 students are encouraged to attend at least 3 campus activities/events. Here are some you can integrate into your course.

        1. Erika Allen (Will Allen’s daughter) lecture (November 10th, CSU at 7:00).

        2. Informal book group discussions hosted by honors students in October. All staff can invite honors students to attend your FYEX classes to discuss the book.

        3. Many other activities, including faculty panels, trips to the Farmers’ Market, and service projects, are currently being organized for the Fall. Look to the Common Read website for more information.

      2. Service Project: Learning Community students are required to create/participate in a service project during the fall semester.

        1. One could link the project to several available services on behalf of food access for Minnesotans.

Other Instructor Resources:

    • Common Read Website: http://www.mnsu.edu/learningcommunities/commonread.html

    • Growing Power: http://www.growingpower.org/about/

    • C-Span Book Discussion: http://www.c-span.org/video/?306190-1/book-discussion-good-food-revolution


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