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Synthesis Program

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Program Highlights

The Synthesis Program utilizes a robust and distinctive approach to students' learning and emphasizes the importance of confronting large-scale, global issues from an interdisciplinary perspective. The three-course sequence encompasses six curricular themes that connect with UC San Diego Competencies:

  • Anti-racism
  • Climate crisis and intersectional issues 
  • Critical thinking and reflection 
  • Communication and process 
  • Problem-solving, creativity and curiosity
  • Teamwork and collaboration


Course Descriptions

Synthesis 1

Synthesis 1 asks students to critically examine through an interdisciplinary and antiracist lens how we communicate about the climate crisis in order to address the question of how we get people to respond and take action.

Through a variety of assignments and activities, students develop an awareness of both the message of a text and how the author crafted that message. They learn how to assess the purpose, audience and context of different rhetorical situations. The culminating project for Synthesis 1 invites students to either tell their own climate story in the medium of their choice (podcast, poem, song, short story, film) or create a proposal for how to raise awareness of the climate crisis with a particular discourse community. 

Synthesis 2

Synthesis 2 builds upon the skills developed in Synthesis 1 with a shift in focus to research. Students explore a question of inquiry through course projects and activities. These assignments introduce different research methods including observations and interviews and invite students to apply them to an interdisciplinary research project on the climate crisis or an intersectional challenge.

Synthesis 100 (Launching Fall 2022)

Synthesis 100 is an upper division project-based course that builds on skills developed in Synthesis 1 and Synthesis 2 by taking a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to solving complex problems.

Learning Goals

Through the activities and assignments of the Synthesis Program, students will develop:

Critical Reading and Listening Processes

  • Developing awareness of not only what texts say, but how they are crafted to deliver a message
  • Learning how to put authors in conversation with each other
  • Learning the concept of rhetorical listening and apply and utilize this concept to class discussions
  • Engaging in antiracist practices in pedagogy and education, such as centering the voices and knowledge of people of color and actively challenging racism within climate crisis policies, discourses, and responses
  • Learning about the standards of language that exist within different discourse communities and question the function of these standards

Problem-Solving

  • Discussing different proposed solutions for the climate crisis and intersectional issues
  • Developing the habit of mind of curiosity through agency and problem solving 
  • Understanding the ways in which institutional racism, climate crisis, and other global issues are interrelated 
  • Recognizing perspectives on a changing planet stem from positionality in the world (geographically, racially, etc.)

Rhetorical Knowledge

  • Understanding argument and its function and purpose 
  • Assessing purpose, audience and context (local vs. global) for different rhetorical situations
  • Recognizing and evaluating underlying assumptions and chains of reasoning that motivate arguments

Teamwork and Collaboration Experiences

  • Learning how to give and act on productive feedback to works in progress
  • Discussing the advantages and challenges of teamwork
  • Working together on a project that addresses a challenge related to a changing planet

Writing Processes

  • Learning about writing as an iterative process, as a series of phases or stages
  • Learning a wide variety of strategies, for beginning, drafting, organizing, revising and editing compositions
  • Being introduced to the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes
  • Developing a reflective practice 
  • Learning that failure  is part of any process and not the end

Collaborative Grading

Collaborative Grading will be utilized for SYN 1, SYN 2 and SYN 100. With each course, students  will contract at the beginning of the quarter for the labor and grade they commit to in relation to the course projects and activities. This approach to grading lifts up the importance  of students' process over product. Students are empowered to develop their critical approaches to reading, writing, and thinking rather than earning their desired grade.

Students report that Collaborative Grading:

  • Increases interest in learning for themselves
  • Increases creativity and willingness to take risks
  • Invites deeper exploration of the course material
  • Provides a different source of motivation than traditional grades
  • Relieves anxiety and stress 
  • Shifts the focus from grades to feedback

Additional Questions?

Please review the Synthesis Program section on Seventh College's FAQ page. For questions or concerns not addressed, contact synthesis@ucsd.edu.

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