First Year Seminar Common Reading on
INFOCUS: War, Peace Building & the Just Society

As our common reading, Kevin Powers’ The Yellow Birds (Back Bay Books, 2013) will serve as a shared starting point for your college career. This assignment is designed to help you read and experience this novel more mindfully. We encourage you to keep a journal as you read. Some questions that you might want to keep in mind as you read and respond to in your journal might include:

  • What are your initial reactions to what you are reading?
  • What stands out for you?
  • Is there anything you find difficult to follow or understand?
  • What questions are raised for you about what you are reading?
  • Why do you think Kevin Powers chose to write about this in the form of a novel?

After completing the novel, you can choose one of the two following essay prompts. Your essay should be four pages long. Please submit your best work. To that end, don’t turn in your first draft. Write your essay, then walk away from it for a day or so, and go back and correct errors, polish, and revise. Please feel free to include quotations from the novel and from the article linked below, and use internal citations to reference your work.


Assignment 1:

Essay Option A

Think about a friend, neighbor, or family member you know who has served in some branch of the military. Write about a half page about what you know about his/her story. When if ever have you heard this person talk about their experience? How much do you know? If you had the opportunity to ask this person more about his/her experience, what would you ask? What would you like to know? Lastly, compare this personal experience with that of one of the characters in the novel. Write about another 2.5 to 3 pages. How are these experiences similar, and how different?

Essay Option B

For this option we will ask you also to read a recent newpaper article about “moral injury”; this term explains the deep wounds to moral conscience that are experienced by many military service members. Researchers of moral injury tell us that these same internal wounds leave very long-lasting and profound disturbances, and are linked to rising numbers of incidences of suicide, substance abuse, criminal behaviors, feelings of guilt, isolation, numbness, and more. Read about “moral injury” by following this link: Then choose a passage from Yellow Birds that you think exemplifies the reality of moral injury. Discuss this connection and what you make of it. Write four pages.

Finally, we ask you to pose two questions that you would like to ask Kevin Powers. A number of these questions will be selected to be posed to Powers during his visit with us during Orientation Weekend.

Email your essay and questions to your FYS professor by August 15, 2014.


Assignment 2:

First-Year Seminar Summer Assignment: Letter to Your FYS Instructor (Due August 15)

Dear Student:

The transition from high school to college is an exciting period, full of high hopes and energetic eagerness, but also tinged with concern and uncertainty. As with most significant transitions, investing some focused time in deliberate consideration of one’s goals, assumptions, and expectations can help make the path smoother and the journey more successful. With this in mind and with your arrival at Moravian drawing nearer, please reflect on the following prompts:

  • What does a college education mean to you?
  • What do you expect to derive from your college education/experience?
  • How will college be different from high school? What kinds of support do you anticipate needing for the transition?
  • Assess your skills and talents as a student (e.g., skills and talents such as your willingness to learn/be challenged; interest in improving your skills; reading comprehension; level of comfort and experience with drafting and revising in the writing process; critical thinking, reading, writing, speaking, and listening; goal setting/project management; and self-discipline, perseverance, and passion).
  • How many hours each week do you expect to devote outside of class to activities related to your academic success, such as studying, writing, reading, lab work, rehearsing, etc.?


FYS instructor emails:

For those of you in Spring 2015 term FYS sections, you are still required to complete the assignments listed above and submit them to your advisor by August 15.  You will be discussing the assignments and the book over orientation.  Please email your assignment to 

If you are not certain which of these sections you are in, please check AMOS to see who your advisor is, or contact Dean Carol Traupman-Carr at or 610-861-1348.