Course Content and Organization

In Cornerstone, instructors teach to their passions, creating a unique course which addresses the questions “Who am I?” and “What does it mean to be human?” Students in Cornerstone are given the opportunity to wrestle with the “big questions” of life from a variety of disciplines and points of view and within a specific urban context. The course is intended to be transformational. We want our students to reflect on texts and experiences within the classroom and the city that will cause them to question and evaluate their assumptions about themselves, the world, and particularly the city they inhabit. In addition to addressing the “big questions,” Cornerstone focuses on writing instruction [see sample syllabus below].

Writing Instruction

As the first course in the writing sequence—which includes WI and WR as well as the Keystone Seminar—Cornerstone is intended to help students understand and achieve, through guidance and practice, the expectations of college level writing and critical thinking.

Outcomes: The specific writing and critical thinking outcomes can be found here. The rubric for the courses can be found here.  This document shows how both Cornerstone and Keystone lock together the  Written Communication and Critical Thinking Outcomes of the student’s education [see Milestone 1 and 2].

A significant amount of time should be dedicated to writing instruction and be built into your syllabus. In some instances you may find that you have to limit your topic or cut back on how many texts you assign so that adequate time can be reserved for writing instruction.  This should include informal writing assignments as well as formal writing or revision of assignments.  You should teach to the outcomes listed above which include such topics as thesis refinement, paragraph unity and coherence, essay organization and logical development of ideas.  These outcomes should be taught and assessed through three formal essay assignments.

Required Essay Assignments: The three formal essays will address summary, analysis, comparison/contrast.  These essays will be of varying lengths for a total of 15-20 polished and graded pages. The seminars and development opportunities offered by the Writing Center and NPD, as well as the VikingProfessor Blog [see link above] are good resources for how to write effective prompts for the essays. You should decide what kind of informal writing assignments you wish to incorporate into the class to help students practice writing. These may be peer critiqued and need not be graded with the same care as formal essays, if they are graded at all.  An initial short writing diagnostic should be administered the first week so that you can assess the particular writing abilities and needs of your students

Library Session: An introduction to the library and academic research is also a component of writing instruction in Cornerstone.  Students are not required to write a formal research papers in Cornerstone, but they do need to be introduced to academic resources and basic research methodology.  A library session with a reference librarian [] should be scheduled early in the semester.

Required Text: To help achieve these outcomes, instructors should require Diane Hacker’s Rules for Writers. Students should hold on to their handbook as they are expected to use it in their WI, WR, and Keystone courses as well.  There are no other required texts in Cornerstone.

Grading Standards:  NPU ACT scores suggest that students will have a wide range of writing skills and challenges. Statistically, each section will reflect this range of ability with the average grades being C’s and B’s.  A majority of A’s or a preponderance of D’s and F’s would be a statistical anomaly. For more information see “Grading Characteristics and Criteria” under Curriculum Guides/Outcomes at In order to maximize grading parity across sections, grading workshops will be offered during the semester.

Writing Advisors: To support your writing instruction, each Cornerstone section is assigned undergraduate Writing Advisors to assist students with drafting their essays.  You should require your students to meet with your WA’s for at least two of the three major essay assignments.  Please follow the protocol established by the Writing Center []; this includes allowing at least ten days between the due date of the essay draft and the due date of the final essay as well as avoiding scheduling conferences during quad finals week (mid-semester) or during the last week of classes.

Urban Engagement

Experiential and service activities focused on the City of Chicago should be integrated into the Cornerstone Seminar. Such activities should focus on Chicago as text and deliver on the promise that NPU is “uniquely urban.”  High impact learning in the urban environment, both service and experiential, should offer more than mandatory or optional field trips. Instead, such activities should be designed to integrate two to three of the following outcomes:

  1. Diversity of communities and cultures:  Student demonstrates awareness that her own attitudes and beliefs are different from those of other cultures and communities. Student demonstrates curiosity about what can be learned from diversity of communities and cultures.
  2. Analysis of knowledge:  Student demonstrates knowledge (theories, facts, etc.) from one or more academic disciplines relevant to community and/or urban engagement; student begins to connect such knowledge to what it means to participate in civic and/or community life.
  3. Civic identity: Student demonstrates basic ability to describe what she or he has learned from high impact learning activities in a manner that reveals a growing sense of being a responsible part of a community.
  4. Civic communication: Student demonstrates beginning ability to tailor communication in civic or community contexts to different audiences.
  5. Civic action and reflection: Student demonstrates that he or she has fully and actively participated in urban/civically-focused or experiential activities and is able to reflect or describe at a beginning level how these activities may or may not benefit individuals or communities.
  6. Understanding of contexts and structures: Student demonstrates a beginning understanding of structural sources of urban/civic problems; and is able to reflect or describe at a beginning level intentional ways of addressing them.

BUDGET: A budget of $50 per student/instructor is provided. These funds may be used for entrance, travel, or other fees associated with urban engagement. Funds may not be used for food, libation, or charity. Instructors can provide an invoice/quote in advance or provide a check request and receipts for reimbursement. All check requests AND receipts should be submitted in duplicate to the Keystone director, Ron Dooley

For your convenience, a check request form can be downloaded here: NPU Check Request.

Common Lectures: Voyage and Campus Theme Programs

Friday Sessions: Cornerstone sections meet 3 times weekly, on MW or TTH for 65 minute sessions, and Fridays at 10:30-11:35. The Friday session is intended to foster opportunities for collaboration among instructors with similar topics or common interests. Some Friday sessions are dedicated to Voyage or Campus Theme events and should be incorporated into the instructor’s syllabus whenever possible.

Voyage Program: The Voyage program is independent of Cornerstone and run by Academic Services. It is meant to orient new students to academic life, North Park and Chicago. Instructors have very limited responsibilities with the Voyage program You are asked to encourage students to attend Voyage events and to integrate the Voyage attendance requirement into your grading. The grade value is up to the instructor but should be minimal, commensurate perhaps with the course attendance policy.  Instructors need only record that students have attended the requisite three sessions.  Attendance is taken via a swipe card and results are sent to the instructor at semester’s end.


Voyage Overview Session

Thurs. Aug. 22, 1:15-1:30 pm (Anderson Chapel) – Mini Version: “Why does your first YEAR matter.” (Outline how the First Year Seminar Class will become the cornerstone of your education by answering the question: Why does your first semester matter?) – Presenter: Ron Dooley

Voyage Lectures:

Fri. Aug. 30, 10:30-11:30 am (Anderson Chapel) – Voyage Lecture Session #2 : NPU Distinctives

Fri. Sept. 6, 10:30-11:30 am (Meeting Groups TBA) – Voyage Lecture Session #1: Discussion on the book for the Common Read “The Book of My Lives”

Fri. Sept. 13, 10:30-11:30 am (Anderson Chapel) – Voyage Lecture Session #3: Value of a Christian, Liberal Arts Education featuring a panel discussion with NPU Alums

CAMPUS THEME 2013-14:  What is Peace?

North Park brings experts to campus to address “Big Questions” such as “What is Justice?” “Who is God?”  and “What is Community.”  These lectures are scheduled for evenings and occasionally Friday mornings during the common 10:30 hour. Instructors are encouraged to avail themselves of these opportunities when they can be suitably integrated into the course. For this fall, instructors are asked to require that their students attend one of the following lectures:

Aleksandar Hemon:  Tuesday, September 24th, evening, Anderson Chapel[Hemon’s Book of My Lives is NPU’s One Book choice for all incoming students to read.]

Eboo Patel: Friday, November 1, 10:30 am, Anderson Chapel.

Faculty Resources

Faculty Development: Cornerstone faculty will meet 5 times annually to build community and foster pedagogical innovation and collaboration. Instructors receive a $100 stipend for each session attended.  A schedule will be posted by late summer preceding the start of fall classes.  New Faculty: To better serve our students and to help our faculty become more proficient composition instructors, all new NPD faculty and adjuncts are required to attend the brief writing seminar offered during the  summer by the Writing Center [ a stipend is included].

 Viking Professors Blog: Please join the community at Everything you need to know about the Cornerstone and Keystone seminars is housed and discussed there.

Sample Syllabus: This link contains is an original NPD1 syllabus which may be adapted to Cornerstone. It is a sample and not meant to be prescriptive. Instructors are responsible for creating their own syllabi. Your syllabus constitutes a contract with your students and should thus adhere to formal syllabi requirements


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