Summer 2013 Assignments for Incoming FYS Students

Dear Students:

This summer, in preparation for your matriculation at Moravian College in the Fall 2013 term, you are required to read The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010 (ISBN 978-1-60819-341-7)).  Your first class at Moravian will involve discussing the book with your First-Year Seminar class and instructors over orientation week (attendance is mandatory, even for commuting students).  In preparation for these activities, you are to complete all three assignments listed below.

Welcome to Moravian! We hope you’re enjoying your summer and we look forward to seeing you in August.

Dean Carol Traupman-Carr, on behalf of the First-Year Seminar Committee


Assignment 1:

  1. Think about your own health status and how healthy you think you are.  If you had to rate your health as “Excellent,” “Good,” “Fair,” or “Poor,” what rating would you choose?
  2. Now think about the summer reading, The Spirit Level:  Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger (2008) by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.  After you’ve read the book, reflect on the following:
    • In general, how well do you sleep? 
    • How much physical activity do you engage in on a weekly basis?
    • What are your height and your weight?  Plug your height and your weight into the body mass index (BMI) calculator on the following website:
    • Are you underweight? Overweight? Obese?
    • Are you currently diagnosed with any chronic physical or mental illnesses?  Do you regularly take any prescription medications?
    • How stressed do you generally feel?
    • Think about where you live – your neighborhood.  How well do you know your neighbors?  Do you feel you have people you could count on to help you when you are faced with adversity?  Do you feel that there is a sense of community where you live, and that people generally trust each other?
  3. Now examine your original self-health rating before you engaged in this self-reflection – would you now rate your health differently?  What do you think constitutes a healthy state of being?  If you say you are healthy, what does that mean?

    You need not share your specific results of assignments 1-3 with anyone!
  4. Go to the Healthy People 2020 website at  Go to the tab “About Healthy People” to briefly orient yourself to the vision, mission, goals, and proprietorship of this website.   After you’ve done this, go to the far right tab at the top of the screen, and click on “Leading Health Indicators.”  After you have read the contents of this page, go to the left side of this screen and click on “Social Determinants” and review the information on these pages, which are titled “Overview and Impact,” “Life Stages and Determinants,” and “Latest Data”.
  5. After you have completed these assignments, write a short paper that summarizes what you may have learned being sure to draw both upon information collected from the book, The Spirit Level and from the Healthy People 2020 website.  What is health and what factors affect health?  How can a society promote health among its members?  What insights about health, society, and social determinants of health might you have gleaned from these exercises?  Did reading The Spirit Level impact how you conceptualize healthy individuals and healthy societies?  Is health just a physical state of being, or a combination of physical, mental and communal health?  The length of this paper will be approximately 3 to 4 pages, double-spaced.  You must submit this paper to your FYS instructor as an email attachment no later than August 15.

Assignment 2:

In addition, to help structure your reading and better guide your preparation and participation in discussions of The Spirit Level further, prepare notes for yourself (to bring to campus with you in August) in response to the following questions:

  1. The authors of The Spirit Level point out a striking observation of modern society—“for the first time in history, the poor are—on average—fatter than the rich” (5). Think about all the reasons why this is true in the United States given our systems of production and consumption (the kind of work we do, the kind of foods we eat, where we shop, how we spend our leisure time, etc.).   What are the many factors that lead to this seemingly counter-intuitive result? 
  2. Wilkinson and Pickett note that people will often skimp on spending on food costs in order to purchase items that will “present oneself creditably in society without the shame and stigma of apparent poverty” (25).  For example, people with few funds will spend money on cell phones and clothes so as not to appear poor.  Drawing on your own observations of your friends, neighbors, family members, strangers, etc., do you conclude that people spend a lot of time and attention on how they present themselves in public? 
  3. Consider the various theories Wilkinson and Pickett offer to explain the rising rates of depression in the US.  Why would the authors argue that merely increasing the percent of the population on antidepressants (currently about 11% of the US population over the age of 12) will not solve the problem of depression? 
  4. “Trust is of course an important ingredient in any society, but it becomes essential in modern developed societies with a high degree of interdependence” (214).  Think for a moment about modern American society.  We live in a very diverse country—we have been called the melting pot and alternatively the “tossed salad” of modern societies.  Would the authors argue that our heterogeneity (our diversity) impedes or positively impacts our ability to trust each other?  Think of your home community—do people trust each other?  Do people leave their doors and cars unlocked?  What other kinds of behaviors demonstrate a general state of trust or mistrust? Talk to your family members and neighbors and ask them if they tend to trust others and most importantly, ask them why. 
  5. The 2013-14 In Focus theme at Moravian is “Health and Healthcare” for which a working definition may be found at: After reading this description of healthcare as we are using here at Moravian, discuss whether The Spirit Level covers topics that are relevant to theme of health and healthcare and explain why or why not. 

Assignment 3:

First-Year Seminar Summer Assignment: Letter to Your FYS Instructor (Due August 20)

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.?

After giving some thought to these prompts, write a ‘polished’ email (the equivalent of a one-to-two page letter) to your First Year Seminar (LinC 101) instructor, outlining your expectations for college. The email to your instructor is due by August 20.

The First-Year Seminar Committee


FYS instructor emails:

Section A:  Dr. Paxton (

Section B (Fall) and Spring FYS*: Professor Barnes (

Section C:  Dr. Baxter (

Section D:  Dr. Black (

Section E:  Dr. Ferrero (

Section F: Dr. Gilson (

Section G:  Dr. Haddad (

Section H:  Dr. Hartshorn (

Section I:  Dr. Hirokawa (

Section J:  Dr. Husic (

Section K:  Dr. Johnson (

Section L:  Dr. Naraghi (

Section M:  Dr. O’Connell (

Section N:  Dr. Reid (

Section O:  Dr. Skalnik (

Section P:  Dr. Weil (

Section Q:  Dr. West (

Section R:  Dr. Wetcher-Hendricks (

Section S:  Dr. Yozell (

Section T:  Dr. Scholtz (

Section U:  Dr. Hoffman (

* Students in Professor Barnes’ Spring 2014 FYS are expected to submit their summer writing assignments in August, along with the rest of the Class of 2017.