CPSG100: Science & Global Change First Year Colloquium I
"Awful Changes": The Reality of Environmental Crises & the Nature of Science

Fall 2020
ONLINE Tues. 3:30-4:50 pm Eastern
SGC Website
Lecture Schedule Website
ELMS Canvas Website: http://elms.umd.edu/
Download an pdf file of this syllabus.


Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Office: Centreville 1216
Phone: (301) 405-4084
E-mail: ELMS (preferred) or tholtz@umd.edu
Office Hours (REVISED): Th 9:30-11 am or by appointment
Dr. John W. Merck, Jr.
Office: Geology 1119
Phone: (301) 405-4379
E-mail: ELMS or jmerck@umd.edu
Office Hours: Th 12-2 pm or by appointment


Brittan Farley
E-mail: ELMS or bfarley3@terpmail.umd.edu
[Title your email "CPSG 100"]
Office Hours: TBA

Andrea Johnson
Office: Centreville 1214
E-mail: ELMS or johnson118alj@gmail.com
[Title your email "CPSG 100"]
Office Hours: TBA

NOTE: It is your responsibility as a student to completely read through and understand this syllabus. If you have questions about it, please contact Dr. Holtz or Dr. Merck. You will be held responsible for following all requirements of this syllabus.

COURSE ORGANIZATION: One Zoom meeting per week, one (or more) asynchronous recorded lectures per week, one #ScholarsServes event (required), one Scavenger Hunt (required), one Excursion (required), two Wellness Modules (required).

REQUIRED READINGS: This semester there are three required books:

Additional online required readings and videos are indicated on and available via ELMS. Reading/viewing assignments must be done by the class time listed.

Copyright: © 2020 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. and John W. Merck, Jr. as to this syllabus and all lectures. Students are prohibited from copying and selling course materials, from selling lecture notes, and from being paid to take lecture notes without the express written permission of the faculty teaching this course.


LEARNING OUTCOMES: By the end of the semester, every student should be able to:

Item Percentage
New Student Profile Survey 5%
Pre-Course Knowledge Survey 5%
#ScholarsServes Report 6%
Scavenger Hunt 5%
General Quizzes 10%
Discussion Participation 25%
Academic Portfolio 20%
"Anatomy of a Scientific Paper" Takehome 6%
1-on-1 Interview 5%
Wellness Modules 6%
Excursion Report 6%
Final Quiz 6%
"Expectations vs. Reality" Reflection Essay 5%

Grade Scale: The numbers given represent the thresholds that must be passed in order to reach that grade (for example, A+ is 97.000... and any number greater). There is no rounding for letter grades; the thresholds must be passed. F is any grade below D-. Thresholds: 97, A+; 93, A; 90, A-; 87, B+; 83, B; 80, B-; 77, C+; 73, C; 70, C-; 67, D+; 63, D; 60, D-; < 60, F.

The Final Grade is the algebraic sum based on the numerical grades.

Some assignments are given either full points (for completion of the assigned project) or none (for non-completion or disruptive activity). Each general quiz is graded on an 8 point scale; the final quiz is on a 20 point scale.

  1. New Student Profile Survey (5%): By Sept. 1, all incoming SGC students are asked to complete a brief survey on ELMS Canvas to gather some demographic, technological, and interest backgrounds about you.
  2. Pre-Course Knowledge Survey (5%): In order to assess the effectiveness of the Science & Global Change program in teaching concepts related to our key themes, we survey the incoming cohort to see their pre-existing knowledge about climate change issues. This will be done online on ELMS during the first week of classes. Our goal is to see what you already know; thus, there is every expectation you will score poorly on it. DO NOT PANIC! Your grade for this is based on participation, not on your answers.
  3. #ScholarsServes Report (6%): All Scholars freshmen are expected to participate in one of the available #ScholarsServes activities by Oct. 16. In order to get credit for this event, you will be required to write a brief report on ELMS about this activity. This report will be due Oct. 23.
  4. Scavenger Hunt (5%): This project is to help orient students to campus life (especially some of the sustainability issues at the University), as well as help you get to know other people in the class. You will with your Peer Mentors to find a list of items on campus and document them. You must upload your documentation on ELMS by a date TBD based on campus rules of gatherings and social distancing. The planned date for the Scavenger Hunts will be announced. In light of the continued COVID-19 restrictions, and of student concerns, the Scavenger Hunt will be delayed at least a semester.
  5. General Quizzes (10% total): Six quizzes will be taken, of which the lowest grade will automatically be dropped. Quizzes missed due to unexcused absences cannot be made up.
  6. Discussion Participation (25%): As this is a Scholars Colloquium, all students are expected to attend every synchronous meeting and be an active participant when appropriate. In some classes, there may be directed interactive activities or discussions. Some meetings will involve Breakout Rooms. A default grade of 5 will be given for every meeting a student attends. They may be awarded up to 2 more points as extra credit for particularly helpful or effective participation in the meeting. Students who are present for a discussion section but are non-participants or are disruptive may be docked up to 2 and 4 points (respectively) at the instructors' discretion.

    While the expectation is that students attend EVERY synchronous meeting, it is recognized that occasionally conditions (accident, illness, power failure, etc.) arise that prevent such. To recognize that, every student is allowed two (2) absences from these meetings without penalty, so long as they inform the instructors and TAs by email (beforehand if at all possible), or certainly by the end of that same day that they will be/were absent and the reason for that absence. Should you not inform instructors and TAs in a timely fashion, the students will receive a 0 for the grade for the discussion/participation for that day. Additionally, if there are more than two absences the student will receive a 0 for the grade each additional class time missed. (If there is a medical condition or other extraordinary circumstance that does require missing more than 2 class meetings-or missing the date of an individual in-class presentation of some form-the student must provide documentation from the appropriate sort of official (health professional; court official; etc.) explaining the absence.)

  7. Academic Portfolio (20%): Over the semester we will have short lectures teaching the basics of HTML coding and website design. You will be responsible for creating a website to be mounted on a umd.edu server; successful completion of this project is worth 20% of the total course grade. For this project, you will be a member of a small Peer-Review trouble-shooting group. You will be expected to maintain your website throughout your four semesters in SGC, and you will be adding new webpages to it over time. An html template for the Professional Academic Portfolio is downloadable from the SGC website. The assignment itself can be found here, and a guide to more detailed html can be found here.
    This portfolio has several subcomponents:
    1. Phase 1 (3%): Uploading an image (ideally, one of you) to be used on the portfolio to your web space. Due online October 6
    2. Phase 2 (10%):Basic html version of the portfolio uploaded. Due online October 20
    3. Phase 3 (3%): CSS-enhanced final version of the portfolio upload. Due online November 6
    4. Phase 4 (4%): Assessment and trouble-shooting suggestions for members of your peer-review group. Due November 20s
  8. "Anatomy of a Scientific Paper" Takehome (6%): Due on October 9, each student will find an example of a recently-published scientific technical paper and "dissect" it, identifying its various subcomponents. Details about this assignment provided later in the semester.
  9. 1-on-1 Scholars Status Interview (5%): How are you doing at University of Maryland? How are you progressing towards your Scholars citation? In order to help make sure things are going well, and that you are progressing to completion of your SGC citation, we require all students to have a one-on-one interview with Dr. Holtz or Merck during the later part of the semester. There will be an online sign-up sheet to register for a particular time slot later in the semester. These interviews may be either online or in person during the faculty office hours. In light of student concerns, we will delay the 1-on-1 Interviews to the Spring Semester.
  10. Wellness Modules (6%): College Park Scholars is providing a series of short events and online activities (the "Wellness Modules") to help freshmen in their transition to the University and its available services. All students are required to attend two (2) of these.
  11. Excursion Report (6%): Each student is responsible for attending and reporting on one (1) of several options of extracurricular events. These reports are due as file uploads on ELMS online. The question sheet relevant to specific field trips will be provided in advanced; there are service project forms, as well as an even more generic report form: all will be made available on ELMS. Here are some options of types (and examples) of excursions available this semester; more will be announced in class and on ELMS as the semester progresses:
    1. SGC FIELD TRIPS: If the situations allow, the SGC faculty will lead a series of field trips during the semester. More details to come.
    2. SERVICE PROJECT: There are various opportunities for service on or near the College Park campus throughout the year. Some are organized by the "Scholars in Action" student group; others are done by different organizations. Participation in one of these will count as an excursion, with the submission of the report form. Dates and opportunities will be announced during the semester. (Note: this would have to be in addition to your #ScholarsServes event). Those who do organized service for SGC or Scholars (Scholars Advisory Board; the new SGC Social Media Coordinators; Scholars Ambassadors; etc.) may use this for their Excursion Report.
    3. ADDITIONAL OPTIONS: Other possibilities include: Scholars-wide presentations (or some specific events opened to members of other Scholars programs); presentations (other than class lectures) on-campus, off-campus, or online concerning science, critical thinking, the environment, or related issues; open houses of labs or other facilities; and more. When the faculty become aware of them, we will advertise the time and place of these. However, we encourage you to discover options yourself: if you find a possibility, please send Holtz & Merck the particulars for their approval.
  12. Final Quiz (6%): A longer quiz, due online by Dec. 11. This will cover all the material of the semester.
  13. "Expectations vs. Reality" Reflection Essay (5%): Due on the last day of classes (Dec. 14), this is a brief reflection essay comparing your expectations about what University life and the Science & Global Change program in particular prior to arriving here with your experience at the end of your first semester. A template is available at http://www.geol.umd.edu/sgc/resources/expectations.html.

LATE ITEMS: Graded items must be uploaded/posted by the date listed. If there are important extenuating circumstances, discuss this with the faculty & TA as early as possible so that we can make allowances, if we deem it appropriate.

IMPORTANTLY: Any item not turned in by the end of final exam period will be graded as "0", unless special arrangements are made in advance of this date between the student and both faculty. "I forgot to turn it in" or "I was busy with other courses" do not represent "special arrangements"; you must be responsible for your own grade and graded items.


Expectations & Attendance

Attendance in the synchronous meetings is required. The Scholars Colloquia require you to do more than simply master the information; you must be able to intelligently communicate and discuss the ideas and concepts of the course with your instructor and fellow students. See this website for the Zoom skills you should master and the proper in-meeting practices to use for the Colloquium.

General Policies

The University has provided a page on Academic policies here. Each student is responsible for reviewing this page with regards to issues of Academic Integrity; the Code of Student Conduct; Sexual Misconduct; Discrimination; Accessibility; Attendance, Absences, or Missed Assignments; Student Rights Regarding Undergraduate Courses; Official UMD Communication; Mid-Term Grades; Complaints About Course Final Grades; Copyright and Intellectual Property; Final Exams and Course Evaluations; and Campus Resources.

Laptop/Smartphone/Tablet Use:

Given the reliance on technology this semester, please make certain that you have access to appropriate hardware, software, and Internet connections. If you are concerned about your ability to connect remotely for this course, please consult the following information about solutions provided by the Division of Information Technology:


Communication in this course will primarily be by means of the ELMS Inbox email system. Even given its online nature, there is the possibility that due to unusual inclement weather or other unexpected emergencies, the University may close. Please consult the University main webpage or call 301-405-7669 (SNOW) to confirm such cancellations. Drs. Holtz & Merck will contact students via ELMS in order to inform them concerning delays of due dates for projects to be handed in or for exams: typically these will be shifted until the next available class date.