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ACADEME BLOG

When I returned to teaching more than a dozen years ago, I taught a great deal of developmental writing. At that time, the City University of New York (CUNY) used an entrance exam for First Year Composition (FYC) placement whose prompt instructed students to write a persuasive letter, generally addressed to either school (often college) or community officials. I quickly realized that a major problem for many of the students was lack of knowledge of how the institutions they were addressing work–particularly college. A “dean,” for them, was someone you were sent to when you were in trouble. A “provost” was unheard of and the students had only the fuzziest idea of what a college “president” might do.

It wasn’t the students’ fault that they didn’t know these things. Few came from families with any experience of college and many were immigrants. My college tried to address this, creating an “Introduction…

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