Freshman Class Makes Meaning of 9/11
Although for many the shock and pain of 9/11 still feels as fresh as if it happened yesterday, the 10th anniversary commemorations of the attacks this year signaled that the defining event of the millennial generation has entered history.
As an historical event, 9/11 has shaped the worldview and attitudes of all Americans, but particularly those who were children when the Twin Towers fell. Those children are today's college students and Professor Teresa Grettano of The University of Scranton's Department of English & Theatre felt it imperative that her students explore just how the searing events of 2001 still influence the world today.
Professor Grettano says, “As a native New Yorker, with family and friends who worked at the World Trade Center in different capacities, 9/11 has been a consistent aspect of my life for the past decade. On this 10th anniversary of the attacks, I wanted students to explore the ways in which we, as a culture, have come to understand the terrorist attacks of that day, as well as the ways those attacks have shaped how we understand ourselves and the world around us.”
As part of their analysis, students in Professor Grettano's freshman seminar class, Making Meaning of 9/11, are required to keep a “Life of the Mind” notebook in which they grapple with the ways they encounter 9/11 and its aftermath in their daily lives, analyzing news stories, movies, memorials and commemorations. Other assignments ask students to compose a personal narrative of their own 9/11 experiences, a rhetorical analysis of a photograph of 9/11, and an argument for an Ignatian response to an issue arising from the attacks.
Aris Rotella, a freshman political science major from Hawley, PA, said, “The fact that the University is offering this course is really quite unique. We had the chance to take a class that would both help us improve our writing, as well as better our understanding of this tragic event.”
Grettano explains that she designed the course assignments so that students would investigate their understandings of 9/11 and its aftermath through multiple sites, through the many ways we as a culture have made meaning and formed opinions about the event. She wanted “students to examine how they have come to know what 9/11 was and what it continues to mean in our daily lives.”
Tim O’Rourke, a freshman political science major from West Chester, PA said, “9/11 is something that not only affected the families of those directly involved. It has affected everyone. The attacks drastically changed our culture in various ways which we are able to highlight in our class discussions.”
The class will be enhanced by a visit to the 9/11 Memorial in November sponsored by Education for Justice, as well as a guest lecture to the university community on Nov. 17 by Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor of English at Brooklyn College who authored the book, How Does It Feel To Be a Problem? Being Young, Arab, and Muslim in America. The Office of Equity and Diversity, through its Diversity Initiatives Fund, has funded the lecture. Grettano explains she had her students read excerpts of Bayoumi’s book and invited him to campus in an effort for students to “encounter voices that typically aren’t heard in mainstream discourse about 9/11, and as a way to place their narratives next to their peers in order to gain a fuller perspective of the effects of that day.”
This special freshman seminar class comes along with several efforts by the University to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The University's President, Fr. Kevin Quinn, S.J., celebrated a special mass for faculty and staff and sent a message to the University community remembering "alumni, friends, and all those lost" on September 11, 2011. Fr. Rick Malloy, S.J., Vice President for University Ministries, preached at two masses for students on "Where was God on 9/11?" and "How can we be agents of reconciliation in a divided world?" The 2011-2012 theme of Education for Justice is “Finding Justice after 9/11.”
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