AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 2, Number 3. August   2018                                   Pp. 13-30

Bringing Literature to Life: Strategies for Supporting Arab and American Student Success in a First-Year Foundations Course

Division of Global Cultures
Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, USA

Coordinator, FYF Program
Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, USA

Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences
Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, USA

 Director of Community Engagement, Student Affairs
Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, USA


Abstract PDF

First-year courses for entering university students are vital to supporting their success and fostering lasting connections between them and their academic environments.  To that end, four First-Year Foundations (FYF) instructors from one small private university in northeastern United States selected a common read to use with their diverse classes, including five classes with large numbers of students from Arab countries.  The team worked together to bring literature to life for these first-year students by selecting an intergenerational novel about life in Palestine entitled A Curious Land: Stories from Home, then bringing the award-winning author Susan Muaddi Darraj to campus to meet the students and discuss her novel in both formal and informal settings.  The challenges involved in accomplishing this task are shared in this paper, as are the successful results.  Sample study guides developed by the FYF academic team are also shared for those instructors who wish to use the same book for their own students, or who might find a model of this method of bringing literature to life useful in planning their own instructional activities.

Cite as:

Morrison, G. Z., Balester, M., Maierean, A., & Valkenburg, M. B. (2018). Bringing Literature to Life: Strategies for Supporting Arab and American Student Success in a First-Year Foundations Course. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies, 2 (3).


Gina Zanolini Morrison is an Associate Professor of Global Cultures with a PhD in Human
Development and teaching certificates in guidance counseling, communications, and ESL. A
recent Fulbright Specialist in Malaysia, she has conducted studies in Southeast Asia on global
education, plural modernities, and working women. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0061-390X

Marcia Balester is the Coordinator of First-Year Foundations at Wilkes University. With an EdD
in Professional Studies in Education, an MEd in ESL, and 19 years as a public schoolteacher, she
has worked with faculty to build a sound, flexible, and academically rigorous FYF program on
high impact practices. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1747-1592

Megan Boone Valkenburg is the Civic Engagement Coordinator at Wilkes University. Holding
an MS in College Counseling, she works with students, faculty, staff, and community members to
build alliances through diverse interests. Her DEd research examines the effect of short-term
service experiences on student growth and development. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0195-8571

Andreea Maierean, Assistant Professor of Political Science and the Coordinator of International
Studies at Wilkes University, completed her degrees in Romania, Italy, Hungary, and Austria. Dr.
Maierean’s research and teaching include post-communist transitions to democracy, transitional
justice, and environmental policy. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1524-9007