Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge First-Year Seminar: Equitable Access and Success in Higher Education: A Case Study of Carnegie Mellon University

Course Number: 66-140

With the Supreme Court poised to rule on affirmative action, the challenge of equitable access to higher education is back in the public spotlight. Carnegie Mellon, as a university that brings together students from a wide variety of backgrounds, serves as a case study for exploring the challenges and opportunities for achieving equitable access and success in higher education. The array of social identities (e.g., race, gender, national origin, etc.) represented on campus creates an environment where students can engage with a diversity of ideas and experiences. However, this same diversity can also present challenges when students are viewed as “equal” (i.e., all the same) rather than as unique individuals with a diverse set of needs and assets (i.e., equity). Using archival materials, students will explore the history of Carnegie Mellon University from its founding to present day, with attention to the composition of its student body, its approach(es) to equitable access (e.g., admission policies), and students’ experiences at the university. Through historical and linguistic analyses, students will examine how language about social identities and equitable access changed over time and how those changes may have impacted student experiences and success at CMU. The historical and linguistic focus of this course will be enhanced via guest speakers involved with initiatives related to equitable access and success at CMU as well as via class materials from other disciplines (e.g., educational psychology). During class meetings and guest speaker sessions, students will be expected to engage with ideas and with each other through discussion. Outside of class, students will complete a variety of course assignments, including readings, written assignments, reflections, and a collaborative project.

Academic Year: 2023-2024
Semester(s): Spring