“Living in the world of poverty, life gets hard as one, two, three. The family goes through every hell,” these are the beginning lyrics of a song performed by theatre professor John Binkley’s University 100 class. The audio of the song was one of several multimedia projects posted on Moodle as part of the 2011 Freshman Celebration.
The song, “On the Run,” was written by the students and inspired by the Freshman Common Reading Program book “The Glass Castle.” The book is a memoir by Jeannette Walls, a journalist who overcame a dysfunctional childhood to become a success. Walls was CSUN’s Freshman Convocation speaker this fall.
Binkley’s class was one of 56 projects, including 29 virtual presentations, submitted for this annual freshman exhibition at California State University, Northridge in the Grand Salon on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. First-year freshmen enrolled in University 100 are asked to submit projects as part of the culmination of their work during the semester. Cheryl Spector, director of the Academic First Year Experiences program, which hosts the Freshman Celebration, said the freshman event is “modeled” after the graduate studies research symposium.
“This is an opportunity to say, ‘hey you have arrived, your work is significant,’” Spector said.
The Academic First Year Experiences program aims to pull together various freshman-learning programs to enhance the experience of students at Cal State Northridge. About 900 people attended the celebration which included students, faculty, staff, and administrators.
Professors Sharron Kollmeyer and Wendy Snyder’s linked class combined and created an exhibit called “Representing Our Dreams for CSUN.” The project was inspired by Walls’ book and an episode of a 1988 PBS documentary about mythology scholar Joseph Campbell. The episode, titled “The Hero’s Adventure,” examines the concept of the hero in cultures throughout the world. The class produced “glasses” that include each student’s dreams for the years ahead at CSUN along with dragons/demons that must be overcome.
Another exhibit by professor Omar Gonzalez’s class showcased a vibrant altar depicting the death of an Aztec god. The project, titled “Huitzilopochtli,” focused on the adventurer Christopher Columbus and the actions that led to the fall of the Aztec culture. A life-size cardboard cut out with the face of Columbus was next to the altar with a depiction of the Spaniards landing on Tenochtitlan and a doll being sacrificed atop a miniature temple.
Two students from professor Ellyn Gersh Lerner’s U100 class performed a “stomp.” Each student used a large container and trash can as drums, creating a vibrant sound. She said the celebration helps to inspire freshman students.
“They get a picture of how vast it is to create a project based on a topic,” Lerner said. “For some of them it is inspirational and informative where they say ‘wow, this is the type of work that people might do at the university level and it is not a research paper.’”