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One Community > Learning at Knox

First-Year Preceptorial


Knox College

Office of Student Development

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999


309-341-7077 (fax)


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First-Year Preceptorial is the first step in a journey of intellectual discovery.

We often speak of education as a journey.  After all, you will be travelling to Knox for your education, physically reorienting yourself to begin the next stage in your intellectual development. But your education will look like a journey in many other ways too. You will be full of anticipation before you begin. Over the years, you will embark on activities you have planned but will benefit just as much, or even more, from unexpected twists and turns. Eventually, this journey will come to a conclusion, at least, a provisional conclusion, as you prepare for your next journey in life. And, in all likelihood, you will look back on your college years and decide that getting there was not "half the fun," as they say. The fun was in the intellectual encounters, engagements, dialogues, and experiences you had during the journey.

First-Year Preceptorial (or FP, as everyone calls it) is designed to invite these encounters, initiate these dialogues, and develop the habits of inquiry, communication, and judgment vital for success at Knox and beyond. And forget about majors or disciplines; we don't travel as history majors or chemistry majors. FP classes are taught by professors from all academic programs with a variety of areas of interest and expertise. FP takes on "big questions": what is love? how do we communicate? how do we see each other? how do we live sustainably on this planet? what does it mean to act and to lead?

FP explores these questions from multiple and diverse perspectives.  You will be asked to read and think critically, cultivate oral and written communication skills, be open to the unexpected and unpredictable, and practice academic integrity in your work.  FP will be your first step on this journey, but its focus will be on skills and talents you will need throughout your time here.

All first-year students will take FP. You choose your FP course preferences when you choose your fall course preferences. Sign up for FP and course preferences on your student portal.

Preceptorial Summer Reading

Before you arrive on campus, we would like you to read and give some thought to a few essays that consider the experiences of others who have been on journeys like yours. During orientation, you will have an opportunity to discuss both essays with a small group of other first-year students and a member of our faculty.

First Reading
Your first reading was a speech presented on the Knox campus earlier this summer. It is the Commencement address presented to the 2014 graduating class.  The speaker is Natasha Tretheway, the 19th Poet Laureate of the U.S. (The Poet Laureate is essentially the nation's top poet, selected by the Librarian of Congress.)  As you will read -- and as you can also hear in the video -- Professor Tretheway's college experience was not the easiest of journeys.  She speaks of personal challenges but also to the common challenge we face in our intellectual journeys: making sense of our travels and our choices to ourselves. It is a quintessential Knox value that each student will chart her/his own path through Knox.  You will have to write the narrative of your own journey, but FP will help. FP will be your introduction to a Knox education, but the success of that education will come as you use the tools of FP to describe that journey.

Read and watch Natasha Tretheway's speech.

We urge you to both read and watch Professor Tretheway's address.  It will connect you with the just graduated class of 2014, and it will start you on your journey here.

Second Reading
Our second summer reading addresses another important theme for your Knox education: community. Community is, in many ways, the flip side of your journey. As travelers, almost every first-year student will arrive as a stranger to everyone else. Out of the unease of strangeness, however, we will forge a community of learners. What will you choose to do in college? What will be your contribution to the Knox community?  

Our second summer reading will help you think about these questions. Its author is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The selection examines her experiences as a member of her campus community and is only a small piece of her autobiography about becoming a judge, My Beloved World (Knopf, 2013).  The full autobiography describes her childhood years at some length; we focus on her college years.

Read chapter 17 of My Beloved World. (This material is copyrighted, so you will need your user name and password to access the chapter.)

Watch Justice Sotomayor discuss her reasons for writing this book.  If you would like to read more, you can also find her book in most libraries and bookstores.

As you read this selection, we invite you think about how you will be confronting some of the same decisions she did.

  • Where will you direct your energies?
  • What will you study?
  • Which organizations will you join?
  • How will you engage with the wider world?

Sotomayor brings her own perspective to the community.  After all, we don't create a community by imposing a single view of the world on everyone in it. We expect that all members will bring their separate and unique perspectives.

  • What are Justice Sotomayor's perspectives?
  • What do you think yours are?

Sotomayor's entrance into Princeton would have been nearly impossible just a few years earlier. Women were excluded, and the chances of a Puerto Rican, first-generation student gaining admission were quite low in any case.

  • How does the culture of her campus affect her?
  • How does she see herself in this college setting, especially as a member of a previously excluded group?
  • How does she think others view her?
  • Why does she join the organizations that she does?

These questions do not exhaust everything in her essay.  She raises a number of complex issues. You may identify issues and questions that are important to you.  Please bring these with you to Knox. During orientation, you will have an opportunity to discuss both the Tretheway and the Sotomayor essays with a small group of other first-year students and a member of our faculty.

Academic Honesty and the Intellectual Community

During Preceptorial, you'll learn what it means to be part of an intellectual community that practices academic integrity. Veritas (or truth) -- the College's motto -- is the foundation for life and learning at Knox as embodied by our Honor Code. Academic integrity is the broader sense of intellectual truthfulness -- carefully considering all sides of an issue, giving credit where credit is due, and being an active participant in scholarly discussion.

Preceptorial teaches you how to objectively analyze and discuss competing explanations and contradictory beliefs, how to question or affirm a viewpoint, when to be persuaded by a new idea, and how to interact in good faith with those whose opinions differ from your own.

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