What Our First Year Students Can Teach Us

Not very many people know that Trinity’s Class of 2023 completed their first college research assignment before they even stepped foot on campus.

As part of Trinity’s Reading TUgether program, all first year students received a copy of the 2019 Reading TUgether book, On Immunity: An Innoculation, by Eula Biss. First-years, along with current students, staff, faculty, and alumni were all invited to read the book and hear Biss speak on Wednesday, August 21st, at 7pm in Laurie Auditorium.

After reading the book, first-year students dug deeper through a short, online assignment. They were asked to select, analyze, research, and reflect on one of the book’s many themes, ranging from the concept of herd immunity to disease in global perspective, motherhood, citizenship, the role of fear in forming belief, the definition of “natural,” and more.  Before doing so, they told us how they had felt about doing research in the past:

Wordl Cloud of Student's Feelings about Research


In a short research practices survey, they admitted, too, that the process of refining a topic and selecting the best sources for further research can be challenging.

That said, if their work in Reading TUgether is any indication, with more supported practice in their courses, they will be well on their way to becoming thoughtful researchers and critical thinkers.

I was especially impressed by their insightful questions, as asking good questions is a key skill in any reading and research practice:

“In a society where we have lost control of privacy, environmental changes, pollutants that we cannot see, etc., are we now more inclined to control what we put into our bodies?”

“I suggest we begin to embrace the grey in our otherwise black-and-white thinking, as it may be critical to resolving some of our most controversial discussions. This is no easy task, and along with our increasing adoption of ideological extremes, invites the question: how can we encourage individuals to abandon their psychological predilection to seek simplicity through the categorization of our world, and instead adopt its complex nuances?”

“It would be interesting to learn what other “natural” things may be better for us individually but not necessarily be better for the planet or a community.”

“I would love to hear the author elaborate on her opinion of the financial influence on technological innovation, and how that is actively affecting the progression of humanity.”

“I want to further understand the complexity of the ethics behind when and where individual agency should be sacrificed for the collective good, perhaps through the lenses of different cultural contexts.”

“I wonder how the recent developments in synthetically grown organs would affect Biss’s assessment of the boundaries between our bodies as some tissues and organs are now able to be produced in a laboratory rather than transplanted from one body to another. Has recent developments in medical technology increased or decreased our reliance on the other for individual health as people become less dependent on the tangible components of others for their own well-being but are more reliant on the knowledge of others?”

“The idea of the community is essential to Biss’s book, but in order to fully grasp the concept of community immunity one must ask what exactly constitutes a community? Can a community be as small as a family, or as large as a country? Is immunity a global issue?”

“Is social equality and unity really the key to positively impacting public health?”

“Would people’s point of view change if they were to live through an outbreak of measles or various diseases? Would seeing the full, detrimental effects of a disease cause an individual to use what power they have to protect themselves and their society?”

“How do humanitarian causes coexist with capitalism, and to what extent do their goals end up overlapping? How do we determine when a cause is truly humanitarian, or is only masquerading as such while in truth being a ploy to create capital?”

Finally, as On Immunity is a story of what it means to be a community and belong to each other, students also shared an image that represents the gifts they bring to Trinity as our newest community members.  Click the image below to scroll through the final image gallery for a fun way to meet our newest Trinity Tigers.


Reading TuGether Image Gallery 2019


All of us who work at Trinity do what we do to help students start—and finish–strong. What the Reading TUgether assignment showed me is that our students are coming with gifts to share and strengths to build on. This is not to say that there’s not more hard work and learning ahead—only that our newest students are up to the challenge.

Welcome to Trinity, Class of 2023!