All Sharpe Scholars are enrolled in a course that teaches them how to work ethically with and within a community setting, reviews fundamentals of research (discovery, writing, analysis), and guides them in the process of planning for community-based research. Additionally, during the fall semester each student enrolls in one of five Sharpe Seminars – small discussion-based classes that focus on how one academic subject can be used to understand and address social problems. These seminars foster close working relationships between students and professors.
During the first semester, Sharpe Scholars enroll in two courses:
All students enroll in a special one-credit short course, College and Community, which usually meets once a week. This course brings together Scholars, the upperclassmen who serve as their mentors (Sharpe Fellows), and faculty to engage in conversations about concepts that are central to the program: community, democracy, social responsibility, justice, and pluralism. Through films, case studies, small group activities, and guest speakers, students become acquainted with Williamsburg and develop an understanding of the process of community building, research, and social change. These larger group discussions are alternated with small group meetings with fellows to discuss and plan action and research projects.
In addition, Sharpe Scholars are required to register for one of the Sharpe seminars taught by some of the College's top faculty. Every year there are four to five seminars whose topics vary depending on the availability of teaching faculty. Professors have come from numerous departments, including Government, Hispanic Studies, Psychology, Sociology, Linguistics, Education, and Interdisciplinary Studies as well as introductory courses in Economics and Environmental Science and Policy.
Students are again enrolled in the one-credit College and Community course, and continue to meet on a regular basis in small groups with members of the faculty and their mentors; however, the second half of this year-long course is tailored specifically to support their development of a community-based research project. Teaching fellows and the faculty lead this weekly meeting.
A few examples...
Scholars in an environmental science and policy course may collect data and work on a project to restore and protect local watersheds. Scholars in a freshman seminar that focuses on literacy and social change may pilot on-line programs for extending the reach of adult literacy training. Scholars who enroll in a microeconomics course may conduct community-based research on behalf of local agencies that provide services such as food and housing to those who are hungry or in need of shelter.