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COR 1203.015 Freshman Seminar: Zen and College Life

Sample Syllabi Only
Syllabus – Fall 2009

“To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self.”
12th-C. Japanese Zen teacher Eihei Dogen, translated by Hee-Jin Kim

Office Location:
Office Phone:
Office Hours: T 11:00 a.m.–12:00 nn., W 4:15–5:15 p.m., and by appointment

Peer Leader:
Office Hours:

Required Texts

Suskind, Ron. "A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League." New York: Broadway, 2005, 1998. ISBN: 0-7679-0126-6.

Loy, David. "Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution." Boston: Wisdom, 2008. ISBN: 0-86171-558-6.

Selected writings downloadable from Blackboard.

Recommended E-books (accessible via

Keown, Damien. "Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction." New York: Oxford UP, 1996. (A copy of the book in print form is also available at the library.)

Smith, Huston, and Philip Novak. "Buddhism: A Concise Introduction." Pymble & New York: PerfectBound, 2003.

Course Description

Offered under UTSA’s Learning Communities initiative, this three-credit seminar provides students with a platform for intellectual exploration, fundamental academic training, community participation, and peer rapport at the beginning of their college careers. Weaving Zen Buddhist vantages into the aforementioned aspects, this course brings fresh perspectives to students in understanding human beings and human relationships, and ultimately in understanding themselves.

Course Objectives

1. To assist freshmen in their transition to college by engaging them in critical reflection, familiarizing them with university facilities and services, and providing advice on campus life.

2. To introduce basic Zen concepts and perspective with relevance to college life.

3. To provide fundamental training in collegiate-level learning, critical, research, and presentation skills.

Course Goals

On completion of the course, students are expected to demonstrate:

1. substantial personal and intellectual growth as freshmen,

2. a basic understanding on Zen Buddhism and the ability to apply the knowledge to everyday life,

3. a growing foundation in collegiate-level learning, critical, research, and presentation skills, and

4. active participation in class, university, and local communities.

Class Policy

1. Observe Scholastic Integrity: Scholastic integrity is of utmost importance in the academic community. Everyone does his/her own work to achieve educational and personal developments. No plagiarism, collusion, or other forms of scholastic dishonesty will be tolerated in this course.

According to the Student Code of Conduct, “‘Plagiarism’ includes, but is not limited to, the appropriation, buying, receiving as a gift, or obtaining by any means another’s work and the submission of it as one’s own academic work offered for credit” while  “‘Collusion’ includes, but is not limited to, the unauthorized collaboration with another person in preparing academic assignments offered for credit or collaboration with another person to commit a violation of any section of the rules on scholastic dishonesty.” Scholastic dishonesty will result in automatic failure in the course and possible dismissal by UTSA. See Section 203 of the Code for UTSA’s policy on scholastic dishonesty.

2. Classroom Etiquette: Be a considerate class participant. Arrive on time. Turn off all electronic devices before class begins, including mobile phones, pagers, PDAs, laptops, and others. As the class requires all students’ constant and active engagement, please refrain from using laptops. Bring your own textbooks and handouts. Be attentive and participate in class.

“As members of the University community, students share in the obligation to maintain a classroom environment that is conducive to learning. Accordingly, students are prohibited from engaging in any behavior that obstructs, disrupts, or interferes with any class. Inappropriate behavior in the classroom may result, at a minimum, in a request to leave class. Such behavior also violates the Student Code of Conduct and may result in disciplinary action.” (Source: Student Judicial Affairs, UTSA) 

3. Absence Policy: Each student can have one excused absence and one unexcused absence not reflected in his/her grade during the semester. For each subsequent absence, whether excused or unexcused, 1.25% will be deducted from the 10% attendance grade.

Excused absences include sicknesses with doctor’s notes, mandatory attendances at University functions with documentation, and other documented emergencies. All other absences fall into the “unexcused” category. Notify me of foreseeable absences beforehand and emergencies asap via email or on Blackboard.

Occasional late arrivals in class can be excused; however, habitual tardiness will lead to a deduction in the attendance grade.

Each repeated failure in bringing readings and handouts for the day will be treated as an unexcused absence.

4. Late Policy for Assignments: All assignments are expected to be turned in on time. If you experience difficulties in meeting deadlines, let me know asap–not on the due date or the evening before–and we can arrange an extension. However, if a student displays habitual procrastination, no extension will be given. Any late submissions without extension will result in the deduction of 1/3 of a letter grade or 3 points in a 100–point scale for each calendar day.

5. Format of Written Assignments: Unless otherwise specified, type all take–home written assignments and follow MLA formatting and documentation styles. MLA formatting: 12–point Times New Roman, doubled–spaced, one–inch margin on all sides. Put your last name and page number on the right side of the header. MLA documentation: see Blackboard. All written assignments should at least reach the minimum word limit. Failing to do so will lead to a grade deduction.

6. Achieve Progress: You are expected to learn from your work and improve as the course proceeds. I am more than happy to discuss your work in this class and answer any questions during office hours, by appointment, on Blackboard, and via email.

Services for Disabilities: This course provides accommodation for students with disabilities who are registered with the Office of Disability Services and receive an accommodation letter from the Office.

Grading Policy
Attendance 10%
Participation 10%
Summer Reading Project 5%
Essay on A Hope in the Unseen 5%
Dialectic Journals & Worksheets 15%
Group Presentation 10%
Prof. Interview, Out-of-class Events, & Service Learning 10%
Mid-term Exam 10%
Research Report & Paper 15%
Final Exam 10%
Total 100%


1. Attendance (10%): See page 2 for absence policy.

2. Participation (10%): In every class, I expect you to contribute to constructive discussion while respecting other people’s views. Always read the texts to be discussed and come prepared, and participate actively in all class activities. Grades for in-class assignments and possible pop quizzes will also be incorporated.

3. Summer Reading Project (5%): Evaluation will be based on originality, creativity, comprehensiveness in material coverage, depth of analysis and explication, organization, appropriate use of examples, and mechanics. Hard-copy submission.

4. Essay on A Hope in the Unseen (5%): Evaluation will be based on originality, comprehensiveness in material coverage, depth of critical analysis and explication, organization, appropriate use of examples, and mechanics. Hard-copy and Blackboard submissions.

5. Dialectic Journals & Worksheets (15%):  You will turn in a one-page, informal dialectic journal (DJ) at the beginning of every week for the topics and readings to be covered in that week unless otherwise specified in the course outline. See separate instructions on the journal. Occasionally, worksheets will be assigned. Hard-copy submission at the beginning of class.

6. Group Presentation (10%): You will work with three or four other students and give a 15- to 20-minute oral and, preferably, multimodal presentation on a topic relevant to Zen Buddhism. The presentations will be evaluated by the instructor, the peer leader, and other students based on organization, collaborative efforts, factual accuracy, critical thinking, originality, and creativity. Missed presentations, whether individually or as a group, cannot be made up for.

7. Professor Interview, Out-of-class Events, & Service Learning (10%): The grade comprises one appointment with a professor from the courses you are taking, three out-of-class UTSA events, particularly those sponsored by the Learning Communities, and one service-learning activity.

8. Mid-term Exam (10%): A take-home exam containing short-answer questions and short essays.

9. Research Report & Paper (15%): You will integrate the knowledge and skills learned in this class in writing a 1,500- to 2,000-word research paper (approximately 5 to 7 pages excluding works cited page) toward the end of the semester, using the research report as preparation. Details will be provided in the guidelines on Blackboard. Hard-copy and Blackboard submissions.

10. Final Exam (10%): A 2.5-hour exam comprising multiple-choice questions and one essay.


Final Grade Distribution
A 90% – 100%
B 80% – 89%
C 70% – 79%
D 60% – 69%
F 59% and below

Course Outline (subject to changes)

The pages from Suskind’s A Hope in the Unseen as listed below are meant to be the focal passages for class discussion—you are expected to have read the book, cover to cover, before the semester begins. Texts/handouts/guidelines with an asterisk (*) are to be printed via Blackboard.

Week 1
Date Topic Texts for class discussion (to be read before class) Assignment due
8/27 Introduction    
Week 2
9/1 Challenges in college *“It’s up to you.” Suskind ch.5 (115-23), ch.10 (237-43), ch.12 (293-303), ch.14 (336-37). DJ1
9/3 Spirituality: faith in our time
Intro. to Zen: overview
*Excerpt from Zen Keys.
*“Appearance and Reality.”
Suskind ch.12 (287-89), ch.14 (346-51).
Week 3
9/8 Intro. to Zen: history & culture
P Library tour
*Excerpt from Zen for Beginners.  
9/10 Spirituality: divine & mundane Loy. “Introduction” (1-13).
*Excerpt from Living Buddha, Living Christ.
Suskind ch.6 (148-53), ch.14 (334-35).
Summer Reading Proj.
Week 4
9/15 Sense of self: the making of a personal identity Suskind ch.1 (all), ch.2 (all), ch.5 (135-38). DJ 2
9/17 Sense of self: ego’s tricks & emotion
$ What is plagiarism?
Loy. “The Suffering of Self” (15-23).
*Excerpt from Anger.
Suskind ch.8 (all).
Week 5
9/22 Sense of self: liminality (neither here nor there) & interdependnce
Briefing on presentation topics
Loy. “How to Drive Your Karma?” (53-63).
Suskind ch.4 (all), ch.10 (249-57), ch.14 (338-44).
* Guidelines for Presentation.
DJ 3
9/24 P Health Center tour -  
Week 6
9/29 study skills presentation    
10/1 Living in the present moment: time in Zen perspective
** possible meditation practice
Loy. “Trapped in Time” (37-43), “Consciousness Commodified: The Attention-Deficit Society” (85-102).
*Excerpt from Peace Is Every Step.
Hope Essay 1st draft
Week 7
10/6 Sense of self: fame & shame
Group presentation discussion
Loy. “The Great Seduction” (31-36).
Suskind ch.11 (all).  
10/8 Desire: what do we want & why do we want it? *Excerpt from Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume.
Suskind ch.3 (50-59).
Week 8
10/13 Money matters: how much is money worth? Loy. “Lack of Money” (25-30).
Suskind ch.9 (all).
Hope Essay final draft
10/15 Money matters: managing personal finance
Group presentation discussion
*Worksheet on the website.
Personal Finance Worksheet
Week 9
10/20 Group presentations    
10/22 Group presentations    
Week 10
10/27 Language: what do words do? Loy. “The Second Buddha” (45-52). DJ 4
10/29 Briefing on Research Report & Paper
$ “Your Space or Mine?” presentation
*Guidelines for Research Report & Paper.  
Week 11
11/3 Interpersonal relationship: friends & foes Suskind ch.7 (all), ch.13 (all). DJ 5
11/5 Interpersonal relationship: compassion & generosity *“She Who Hears the Cries of the World.” Research Report
Week 12
11/10 Interpersonal relationship: what is there in love? Loy. “What’s Wrong with Sex?” (65-77).
Suskind ch.6 (144-57), ch.13 (313-20), ch.14 (352-61).
11/12 War: battle between good & evil Loy. “Why We Love War?” (127-38). Research P. thesis & outline
Week 13
11/17 IDEA Survey
Feedback for Research Paper thesis & outline
  DJ 6
11/19 Guest speaker (possible videoconference w/ Dr. Loy)    
Week 14
11/24 Corporation: collective karma Loy. “The Three Poisons, Institutionalized.” (87-94). Research P. 1st draft
11/28 NO CLASS—Thanksgiving Holiday.
Week 15
12/1 The environment: where is nature? Loy. “Healing Ecology” (103-11), “The Karma of Food” (113-26).  
12/3 Course review Loy. “Notes for a Buddhist Revolution” 139-52). Research P. final draft


FINAL EXAM - December 10 (Thursday), 7:30–10:00 a.m.