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Events to focus on working, inequality and the status of the American dream in the 21st Century

The documentary Inequality for All will be presented at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, in room BE5 of Marshall University’s Memorial Student Center on the Huntington campus. The documentary focuses on former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s mission to raise awareness of the widening economic gap in the United States.

The special viewing of the documentary is the result of a unique collaboration between two different university classes: a First-Year Seminar paired with a course in an academic discipline to form a learning community. The core group of students in these linked courses have the opportunity to examine common themes from the perspective of a course designed for first-year students as well as a course in a specific academic discipline.

One week after the documentary, students from both classes, Dr. Donna Sullivan’s Sociology 200 and Professor Jennifer Sias’s FYS 100, will host a town hall discussion at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, in Memorial Student Center BE5.  Featuring a panel of professors from different disciplines as well as students, the town hall discussion will focus on the issues of work, inequality and the status of the American Dream in the 21st Century, themes that the paired courses are examining.

A year in the making, the collaboration was designed to study high-impact practices (HIPs), at Marshall University.  HIPs are defined as practices that have a high impact on student success and retention and include first-year seminars, learning communities, writing across the curriculum, service learning and internships.

A team of faculty led by Dr. Mary Beth Reynolds, Associate Vice President for Assessment and Quality Initiatives, participated in the American Association of Colleges and Universities’ 2014 Institute on High Impact Practices and Student Success at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.  The team developed a plan to combine two high impact practices, specifically FYS and a learning community.

The collaboration between Sullivan and Sias is one of three pairings of classes that also include classes taught by Dr. Peggy Proudfoot-Harman (FYS), Dr. Damien Arthur (Political Science), Dr. Harold Blanco (FYS) and Dr. Kristi Fondren (Sociology).  Each pair of professors worked together in the spring 2015 semester and during the summer to develop a common theme and complementary activities and assignments.

Sullivan’s and Sias’s theme focuses on the use of storytelling to examine the American Dream and the role work plays in this quintessentially American ideal.  The two professors determined that a public presentation of the documentary followed by a town-hall-style discussion a week later would serve as co-curricular activities that could benefit both classes and the university community at large.

The documentary and town hall discussion are open to the public.  For more information about the documentary, see