CMNS 205

Communication, Culture, and Community

Spring 2009


Dr. Daniel Makagon                                                              

Office: SAC 596      Office Hours: Thursday 1:00-2:00

Phone: (773) 325-7376


home page:


Course Objectives


This course examines relationships among culture, communication, institutions, and public and private life. We will explore the various ways in which people gather to form community, the role of public space in community and public life, and the challenges people face as they try to come together. Second, we will critically examine questions of commitment and participation; place and identity; and issues of class, gender, race, and ethnicity as they are inflected in various dimensions of contemporary community conflict and cohesiveness. Finally, the course will provide a context where students can experientially explore the practical, ethical, and moral problems that arise in contemporary community life through service learning.


CMNS 205 fulfills the Junior Year Experiential Learning Requirement. The experiential learning requirement engages students in the first-hand discovery of knowledge through observation and participation in activities in an unpredictable setting, usually (but not exclusively) off-campus. Students are asked to reflect on what they have learned about themselves, others, and a larger social context given the connection between course content and their experience. To do this, they may have contact with a community, an international setting, a workforce environment, or take on a role in the classroom or laboratory that is substantively different than that of student, such as model the professional behavior of a researcher or teacher.


You are required to complete 25 hours of volunteer work (which will include some training and some on-site orientation) during the quarter. If you do not complete those hours then you have not completed the course (i.e., you will receive an “F” in the class). Our service project will consist of creating a bicycle library program in Humboldt Park. Each class member will work with a small group of classmates and a community liaison on a particular aspect of this program.


Required Texts


All course readings are available on-line at



Course Assignments


Class participation                                                                               10%

Reading Journal                                                                                  30%

Group Project Materials                                                                      30%

Final Essay (4-6 pages)                                                                       30%


You are required to complete the reading assignments before you attend class. This will lead to more fruitful discussion.


Each member of the class will keep a Reading Journal. For each assigned reading day, you will write an entry focusing on your reflections about the article. In general, these entries should (A) review the key points made in the assigned essay and (B) analyze those issues via discussion of particular themes/contexts/problems that you had not thought about prior to reading the piece, disputes you have with the author(s), and/or general comments about the text(s) relative to our class.


All of the journal entries should be at least two (2) pages in length (typed and double-spaced) and should be written in essay form rather than as a collection of random thoughts or free-floating sentences/bullet points. Always keep your journal up to date and bring it to each class meeting (i.e., the journal entry would be due the same day the reading is assigned). I may collect them at any time during the semester. If you do not have your journal, you will not receive credit for your journal at that time.


I will grade your journal each time it is collected, and factor that grade (5% of your Reading Journal Grade each time) toward your total grade. If you do not turn in a journal until the end of the term, or the journal is very incomplete when you do submit it during these initial collection days, there will be no way to earn an “A” for this portion of your grade. At the end of the term I will assign an overall grade for your journal, which will consider improvement made throughout the term. Your complete and final journal is due in class May 28th.


Our service project this quarter will consist of creating a bicycle lending library program in Humboldt Park. Each group will be responsible for a particular portion of this project and will submit materials throughout the term, culminating in a group presentation of your contributions to the project. A breakdown of these individual assignments and due dates can be found on a separate writing hand out located in the folder where you access course reading materials. Due dates are listed in the course schedule below. Each group member will also submit a final evaluation for all group members.


NOTE: Each group has the right to kick out a non-participating member. Any member kicked out of their group automatically will fail the class since this is JYEL course, which requires service work to complete the class (and 60% of the grade is based on knowledge gained from service work). The group should exercise every means possible for getting the group member to do his/her part. In the event that the individual still does not participate, the group should speak with me before kicking out the member.


The Final Essay should serve as a think piece on volunteer service and community life more generally. This assignment asks you to write an analysis that grows from your engagement with the course materials and project. The objective of this paper is to assess relationships among volunteer work, community, and public life. In general, you should develop a thesis that considers these questions: a) “What have I learned about community?” b) “What is the value of community participation on the public and private level?” and c) “How does volunteerism help shape community and public life?” This paper requires you provide more than a description of your experiences. You need to write an essay that establishes a claim about the relationship between service work and community life. This assignment is truly a final in that it asks you to stay within the texts to ground your claims rather than asking you to do outside research. This paper is due June 9th by 1:00PM.


Participation grades are factored by considering how often you participate in class discussion and how that discussion advances our overall learning (i.e., I will consider how your questions help us understand difficult passages in course readings, how your contributions further discussion rather than hinder discussion, how your comments foster lively debate, how your participation grows from an engagement with the reading and college experience rather than functioning to advance an autobiographical tale only). These grades are also factored based on your contributions to our course project, which will be assessed through my evaluation of your work and through peer evaluations of your work (i.e., each student will assess all members of their group at the end of the term). In short, I consider quantity and quality of participation. If you miss very few classes and your participation level is excellent, you can expect an “A” for this portion of your grade. If you miss very few classes and your participation level is above average (i.e., you participate every other class rather than every class session or you participate heavily in your group project but rarely in class discussion), you can expect a “B” for this portion of your grade. If you miss very few classes and your participation level is average, you can expect a “C” for this portion of your grade. This grade will also be assigned for students who attend every class but do not participate in discussion, who refrain from asking questions, and/or do average work with their group’s contribution to our class project. If you miss the most possible classes you can miss without failing the class and your participation level is average, you can expect a “D” for this portion of your grade.


Course Policies


Attendance and Active Participation are expected and required.


Promptness is expected as a general rule. If you are consistently late to class, your grade will be negatively affected.


You are allowed one (1) unexcused absence in this class and three absences total if at least two of those absences are excused. An excused absence is documented in terms of medical illness/emergency, family illness/emergency, required by a court of law, a religious holiday, or university business. If you miss more than three class sessions, or if you have more than one unexcused absence, you will receive an "F' in the class (even if the absences are excused). Missing this many class sessions (20% of the term) undermines the integrity of the classroom experience. If you miss this much class because of illness or a family emergency, you should meet with the Dean of Students to discuss withdrawal options.


All assignments are due on assigned days. There will be NO MAKE UPS. Documented illnesses or documented emergencies are the only exception to this policy. Changes in work schedules, personal celebrations (e.g., birthdays), or vacations are NOT considered to be legitimate reasons for missing assignment deadlines or class meetings. If you miss a quiz and have documentation for your absence then you will take the quiz on the next date you attend class.


Students with disabilities should provide me with documentation from the Office of Students with Disabilities.


Cellular Phones: If you have a cellular phone, turn it off or set it to vibrate, and keep it in your backpack or purse. All cell phones must be put away during the class session. I will confiscate cellular phones for the remainder of the class session if you are sending or reading text messages or using your phone to check email/surf the Internet.


Please make sure my e-mail address is listed on your approved list if you are using a commercial e-mail provider.




I have often found that plagiarism becomes tempting if students are feeling pressured. Remember, when in doubt quote. If you are quoting someone else in your presentation, you need to clearly identify the information as a quote and the source. Similarly, when paraphrasing, you should clearly identify your source. If you are quoting somebody directly in your paper then you need to list the information within quotation marks and cite a page number. If you are paraphrasing then you need to cite the person and a page number. Never copy and paste entire documents into your paper and do not quote others to the point where your ideas become indistinguishable from your source's ideas. There is no reason to plagiarize given the resources available to you (e.g., opportunities to meet with me; coaches in the writing center; my handout on writing for the class; and DePaul’s policy on academic integrity, which can be found at If you do plagiarize, you will automatically receive a grade of “F” in this class. Moreover, the Academic Affairs office will be contacted.


Grade Scale:

93-100 A, 90-92 A-, 88-89 B+, 83-87 B, 80-82 B-, 78-79 C+, 73-77 C, 70-72 C-, 60-69 D, 0-59 F