Work Plan for English 015 Group Project

English 015

Dr. Jessica O’Hara

21 April 2014

Work Plan for English 015 Group Project

Group Members:

Nabeel Ahmad

Connor Dougherty

Lindsey Rae Evans

Dylan Johnson

James Miller

Nathasha Ramirez


Advocacy Project:  Petals for People (A “Pay-It-Forward” Campaign)


Goal:  The goal is to encourage the Penn State community to participate in an “Act of Kindness Day.”  On this day, people can perform random acts of kindness for others to raise awareness for the power of positive actions.  To do this, we will instruct site followers on how to create paper flower designs with inspirational messages to hand out on the day of the event.


Audience:  Penn State students and faculty


Deadline:  May 2nd



Creating the Website- Dylan Johnson

Responding to Questions- James Miller

Inviting Others to Group- Nabeel Ahmad

Photography- Connor Dougherty

Writing Stories about Random Acts of Kindness- Everyone

Flower Design Rubric- Lindsey Evans

Media (Pictures and Videos) – Nathasha Ramirez


Editing Buddies:

Nathasha Ramirez and Lindsey Rae Evans

James Miller and Dylan Johnson

Connor Dougherty and Nabeel Ahmad



Layout of Facebook Group- April 25th

Flower Design- April 25th

All Posts- April 30th

Finish Editing- May 1st

Petals for People- May 2nd


Draft 1: General Education Reform Recommendation

General Overview

As a current Penn State student as well as a Penn State dual-enrollment student in high school, I have noticed a growing need for a university-wide General Education Reform.  Although the current system- an exploration focused curriculum- plays to the university’s desire for “well-rounded” students, it fails to prepare students for their upcoming careers.  Students tend to take general education classes which fail to correlate with their desired majors, leaving very little practical application for the information in real life.  At the same time, many students graduating today fail to display the technical and communication skills required by employers in the modern competitive job market.  I therefore recommend that Penn State create a course curriculum with a key focus on skills-based courses and a sub-focus on exploration: a mandatory (not included in the General Education credit requirements) skills-based six-credit English 015 and CAS 100 year-long freshman experience, 15 credits of skills-based classes, and 15 credits of exploration-based classes.  Overall, this system equally balances Penn State’s wishes for universally educated students while at the same time gives students the training they need for life after college.

Mandatory English and Speech Course

            Over the past several decades, as technology has increased, communication skills have undergone the opposite trend.  According to BBC Capital, today’s employers “are finding that their young hires are awkward in their interpersonal interactions and ill-prepared to collaborate effectively with teammates and develop relationships with clients.”  This is an unfortunate statistic, for, according to another source- Forbes- “Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization” and “Ability to create and/or edit written reports” lie respectively in the fourth and ninth positions for the top ten most important skills employers look for in today’s prospective employees.  According to a recent study by the University of California, Los Angeles, one of the main reasons why students go to college today is to land a job.  The survey states that “The portion of incoming freshmen that cited ‘to be able to get a better job’ as a very important reason for attending college reached… 87.9 percent in 2012, an increase from 85.9 percent in 2011.”   Whether a student is driven by goals of wealth or discovery, communication skills are a necessity, and the introduction of such skills to students early in their college careers is vital.  To help ease the growing trend in fewer and fewer communication skills in coming generations, Penn State should include a mandatory year-long six-credit writing and speaking class within every freshman’s course schedule.  The class could be broken into semesters with one semester focusing on effective speech (CAS 100) and the other focusing on effective writing (English 015) with teachers switching sections halfway through the year.  To give students an early introduction to their majors and be most effective, the classes could be broken up by college.  For example, the effective writing section of the class could include an introduction to technical writing within the student’s prospective major while the effective speaking section could have a focus on communication of ideas between majors.  The incorporation of such a course is crucial for freshmen, for- specifically in the area of technical writing- many students cannot get into the courses critical for their entire college career until they are seniors, making the information utterly useless.  Furthermore, in order to introduce students to the development of skills in today’s economy, the speaking section of the class could incorporate proper conduct for modern forms of communication such as podcasts, webinars, and even interviewing processes such as elevator pitches.  Overall, the inclusion of such a course within all freshmen schedules would not only give students a brief view into their career paths, but also valuable life skills that can be applied to any situation.

Skills Importance and Implementation

Skill implementation, however, should not be limited to the teaching of effective writing and speech.  Multiple other skills-related fields of study exist, and Penn State should require students to dedicate 15 credits to the integration of such.  In a recent study by the International Data Corporation and commissioned by Microsoft Corporation, it was discovered that, along with communication skills, “integration and presentation skills (CIPs) are required for about 40 percent of all positions and make up 11 of the top 20 skills that are required by 39 percent of the fastest growing, highest paying positions.”  The study- which selected the top 20 skills demanded for high-paying jobs between 2013 and 2020 from a list of over 11,000- determined that three of the 20 demanded skills were Microsoft Office applications.  From Microsoft Word to PowerPoint, employers are looking for students who are able to show not only proficient, but even exceptional digital literacy.  To give students an edge upon entering the workforce, Penn State should provide its students with a broad range of computer-based skills classes.  Such classes could teach students the inner workings of broad applications such as Microsoft Publisher or Excel, or they could teach more specialized applications such as SolidWorks for engineers or even Adobe Photoshop for artists.  Also listed in the top demanded skills of the survey were expertise in “Problem Solving” and “Troubleshooting.”  With this in mind, skills-based courses could also teach students how to deal with common computer malfunctions and hardware repair, creating a perfectly rounded student able to adapt to any real-life situation.

Exploration Importance and Implementation

Despite the vital importance of skills within the Penn State course curriculum, however, the need for exploration still exists both to give students independence within their own curriculum as well as a broader understanding of the world.  As my own English professor, Dr. Jessica O’Hara, told my English 015 class, the knowledge taught to her in one of her own general education classes made the difference between whether or not she was hired (provide quote).  Overall, exploration classes allow students to develop a self-identity.  As with the case of my English professor, classes taken outside of major requirements can show individuality to employers and make the employee stand out from the crowd.  The remaining 15 credits of the 30 credit curriculum should, therefore, consist of exploration-based classes.  This is a sufficient number of credits for students to develop a broader understanding of different cultural and societal studies without overwhelming course schedules with non-vital information to a specific major.  Penn State’s own website lists its exploration goals as “[providing] a broad overview of the world in which we live,” “[increasing] understanding of the relationship between people of different cultures,” and “[widening] international perspective.”  With only 15 credits of exploration classes, students could do just that without compromising the more vital studies of their career paths.

Easy Integration

            Overall, this recommendation for General Education reform at Penn State would not be difficult to integrate into the course curriculum, for it is in actuality not too far off from Penn State’s current system.  According to Penn State’s University Bulletin, the first objective listed under “Components of General Education” is “Skills courses that help develop quantitative and communication skills.”  It seems logical, therefore, that making skills become the main focus of Penn State’s General Education reformation would actually coincide with the university’s own definition of General Education.  Furthermore, though new skills courses would have to be added to the curriculum, dropping the credit load from the current 45 credit requirement to only 30 (plus the six credits required for the mandatory English and Speech course) would actually free up space for teachers and allow them to adjust their schedules accordingly.  Finally, little to no change would be required to integrate the mandatory English and Speech class, for English 015 and CAS 100 teachers would keep their current classes- with minor course changes- and then simply switch sections halfway through the school year.  If Penn State is truly adamant about General Education reform, why not take the plunge one step at a time to create a period of evaluation for what works and what does not?

Opponents of the Idea

As with any recommendation, however, opposing viewpoints take shape.  One argument of opponents of this plan for General Education reform is that students may already know how to use applications such as Microsoft Office, making the course redundant and even non-educational.  However, though such classes may exist, the choice of which classes to take is ultimately up to the student.  Students who do not feel comfortable in their abilities with more basic applications can choose the areas in which they need help while students who feel confident with their knowledge can move onto more major-based software.  The program would be based on the students’ own abilities, thus allowing each individual to judge for him or herself which classes would provide the most benefit.  Another argument against the incorporation of skills-based courses is that with the fast-paced growth of technology, the skills students learn one year may be obsolete by the time they graduate.  However, if done properly, skills-based courses would not only teach students how to use current technology, but also how to adapt to that of the future.  Though the abilities learned in one class may be geared towards a particular program or application, the skills remain universally applicable.  By putting an emphasis on problem solving within technological media, Penn State could train students how to use the tools of the future today.  One final argument made by opponents is that a theme-based approach to General Education reform would provide a better avenue for students.  However, with 15 credits of free exploration classes, students can decide for themselves a general “theme” for their classes without being hindered by an obligation to take classes that fulfill those under a specific label.


As a whole, the benefits of a reformation of the Penn State General Education system outweigh the costs.  By creating a mandatory English and Speech class for freshmen, students can receive early exposure to and the ability to master the skills they will need throughout their careers.  15 credits of mandatory skills-based classes would give students an edge on the latest software trends while teaching them skills which can be applied to the future.  Furthermore, by limiting exploration credits to only 15, Penn State could give students a sufficient understanding of world cultures and societal views without taking away from major course studies.  With so many benefits to Penn State students as well as a fairly easy form of integration into the course curriculum, there is no doubt that this plan for General Education reform is the best course of action for providing the university’s greatest education thus far.

Fun Facts about Adam Levine!

For my last blog post of the semester, I thought it would be fun to share some of the interesting facts about Adam Levine which I have discovered throughout my band research.  Enjoy!

1.  After breaking his sternum during an intense workout, Adam turned to yoga for exercise and got hooked right away [1].  Now, Maroon 5 travels with its own personal instructor to unwind before going onstage [2].Adam Yoga

2.  Despite the massive amount of travelling the singer undergoes, his hatred of flying keeps him grounded as much as possible.  When travelling around the country, the band takes biodiesel-powered buses on tour [1].

3.  Adam loves golden retrievers!  His beloved Frankie Girl- for which he has a paw print tattooed on his right shoulder [3]- unfortunately passed away last year [4].  Recently, however, Adam introduced the world to his new puppy, Charlie [5].Charlie

4.  Despite his appearance in season 2 of American Horror Story, Adam hates the horror genre.  In an interview about his part in the television series, Adam expressed his fear saying “I’m never watching that show again!” [6]

5.  Adam was voted People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2013 [7]!

Sexiest Man Alive

6.  Adam is moving into business and has already opened a clothing line with Kmart [8], released fragrances for both men and women [9], and even released his own designer music gear with First Act [10].

7.  Back when Maroon 5 was still Kara’s Flowers, Adam and the band guest starred on Beverly Hills 90210.  Adam was 15-years-old [2]!Kara's Flowers 2

8.  This one is one of my favorites.  When Adam was in Kara’s Flowers, he worked as a waiter at Johnny Rockets [1]!

9.  After struggling with acne during his childhood, Adam has become the new face of Proactiv Skin Care [11].

10.  Adam has known Jake Gyllenhaal since kindergarten [3]!  The two have remained close friends to this day [2].Jake and Adam at Globes

11.  Adam has struggled with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder since his teenage years [2].  Now, he stars in a Public Service Announcement with the “Own It” campaign to raise awareness for the issue [12].

12.  Adam is ambidextrous.  He is predominantly left handed, but he plays his guitar with his right [2].Adam Guitar

13.  Adam actually used to be embarrassed to sing in public until his elementary school music teacher inspired him to perform [7].  He was so shy at his first gig that he played with his back turned to the audience [3]!

14.  222- for which Adam named his record label and has tattooed on his forearm- is the number on the door of Maroon 5’s very first studio to ever record in [3].222 tattoo

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog over the past several months, and I would like to thank you for all of the kind comments!  For fans of the band I will leave you with one last fact.  Maroon 5 has recently disclosed that they are in the works of creating a new album.  Though information is scarce, you can follow along on Twitter with #albuM5 to keep up to date!  Thank you again, and keep on listening!#albuM5



General Education Website Feedback (Copy of Comment)

This particular deliberation poll intrigued me greatly.  Similar to my deliberation group for English 015, the group shown here sees the positives for both Options 1 and 3 while completely disregarding Option 2.  However, unlike my group, this group ultimately decided that an exploration-based curriculum was the best course of action for General Education reform; in fact, the group did not see any need for reform at all.  Though I agree with the importance of exploration in a student’s college life to bolster individuality and create a diverse background of knowledge, I actually view skills as the more important focus of the two.  Although exploration classes create a more enjoyable college experience for students, I believe that skills-based classes provide greater payoff in the long-run by teaching students about communication and digital literacy- both key attributes which employers look for in potential workers.  Both exploration courses and skills courses provide well-rounded students, but, to me, skills courses make students more versatile in their own desired field of study and therefore show greater promise.  I completely agree with this group’s integration of both exploration and skills classes into a single curriculum.  However, I have taken the opposite approach in placing the importance of skills higher than that of exploration.  Overall, though, it is apparent that skills and exploration remain within the interest of students, while themes have fallen by the wayside in public opinion.

Stance for General Education Recommendation Report

After my group’s deliberation, I- along with the rest of my group- have decided that the best course of action for Penn State’s General Education reform would be to follow the guidelines laid out in Option 3 of the deliberation guide.  To review, Option 3 focuses mainly on implementing skills-related courses into Penn State’s current General Education curriculum.  Although, going into the deliberations, I agreed on the importance of skills, I had believed that a main focus on exploration (shown through Option 1) was the best option for creating Penn State’s desired well-rounded student.  Now, however, I believe that a mainly skills approach would not only reflect Penn State’s wishes for versatile students, but would also be the most beneficial to students in their careers.  Exploration is, of course, important for the individuality of student choices; students are, after all, paying for classes out of their own or their families’ pockets.  However, skills-based classes offer real world payoff and can be directly applied to any career field.

My recommendation for Penn State’s General Education reform would be to create a central focus on skills-based classes with a sub-focus on exploration.  I would change the 30 credit theme-focused template laid out on the General Education reform website to the following: 18 credits for skills-based classes, 12 credits for exploration-based classes, and have the idea for a combined  six credit English 015 and CAS 100 year-long freshman experience be mandatory (not included in the General Education credit requirements).  Specifically for the CAS 100 section of the combined course (which would be held during the student’s second semester), I would include an early introduction into technical writing to give students the skills they need to succeed in college before they are already seniors.  The 18 credits of skills-based classes could include basic computer communication classes, such as detailed usage of Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher which are essential in today’s integrated society.  They could also include more major-based courses such as usage of SolidWorks for engineers or Adobe Photoshop for photography students.  They could even include non-computer-based skill sets such as classes dealing with social behavior (such as effective translation of ideas between students in varying majors).  On a similar note, the exploration-based classes could also be more major focused.  For example, instead of taking a Freshman Seminar, incoming students could take a class specifically designed as an “Introduction to Major” course.   Each week students could learn about different fields of a specific field (such as fields in the College of Science) or even a wide range of topics from each college.  Overall, the decisions of which skills-based classes and exploration classes to take (with the exception of the Freshman Seminar replacement) would be up to the student, but the classes would have a more organized layout to help lead the student to the right career path.

Adam Turns Actor for 2014’s Begin Again!

For fellow Adam Levine fans who (like me) watched the season 2 premiere of FX’s American Horror Story simply to see Adam’s guest appearance, have no fear!  Adam’s acting career has just begun.  In the upcoming 2014 film Begin Again, Adam moves from television to film for what fans can only hope will be the beginning of a long line of movies starring the pop icon [1].

Begin Again, which was originally titled Can a Song Save Your Life, had its world premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival [2].  It is a romantic comedy starring Adam Levine, Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, and even Adam’s former costar from The Voice Cee Lo Green.  The movie follows the lives of two people who have had their worlds turned upside down.  The first main character of the movie is Gretta, played by Keira Knightley, who is the girlfriend of Dave (Adam Levine).  In the movie, college sweethearts and songwriting partners Dave and Gretta move to New York after Dave gets signed to a record-label.  However, soon after the move, Dave becomes obsessed with his fame and fortune, and he breaks up with Gretta, leaving her heartbroken [1].

Begin Again 2

Begin Again 5

The second main character of the film is Dan, played by Mark Ruffalo.  After Dan gets fired from his position as a record-label executive, his life follows a downward spiral [1, 3].  Broke and a budding alcoholic, Dan is on the edge of insanity [3].  One day, however, things change.  While Dan is yet sitting in a bar one night in the East Village, Gretta goes on stage to sing one of her songs.  Dan is immediately caught under the spell of her voice and realizes her potential.  The two decide to work together, and the remainder of the story is about the pair trying to make it together and fix their broken lives [1].

Begin Again 4

Although Adam plays the role of a rather undesirable person, it will no doubt be fun to see him outside of the music industry.  Plus, an added bonus is that fans could possibly be seeing much more of Adam in the future.  Despite the fact that Adam had no prior experience in acting, just weeks after he agreed to appear in American Horror Story he was selected for his role in Begin Again [4].  Even though the singer had not even filmed a scene for his first television debut, he landed a role in a movie starring two Oscar nominees (Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley) [2, 4].  Hopefully, this push for Adam to jump start an acting career will continue so that fans can enjoy his many talents.

Begin Again

Be sure to look for Begin Again in theaters July 4th [1]!