On Thursday, February 12, College Library welcomed eighteen students from the UW-Odyssey Project for an evening class on how to find and evaluate resources available to them through the UW-Madison Libraries. Established in 2003, the program changes the lives of participants, many who have overcome homelessness, addiction, or poverty to get a jumpstart on earning college degrees.
According to their website, “Each year Odyssey provides students with a challenging college humanities class with award-winning faculty. Students receive free tuition, textbooks, childcare, and a weekly dinner through support from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, grants, and private donations.”
Eliot Finkelstein, Instruction Coordinator at College Library, and Brooke Williams, Resident Instruction Librarian, led the session for this English 100 class. Since all of the students were writing six-to-eight page research papers about a social problem of personal interest to themselves (topics ranged from single parenting to the incarceration of black men), Eliot and Brooke focused on finding scholarly articles which could support the students’ arguments. Part of that process involved being able to tell the difference between an article published in a scholarly journal and one published in a popular magazine. Both types of information are useful, albeit for different reasons, and the instructors took pains to ensure that the class interrogated their sources – asking who wrote the article and why – in an effort to identify potential bias.
According to Eliot, “This was such a rewarding and memorable class to teach. I was impressed by the passion of these students and how engaged they were in the research process.” The field trip to the library was arranged by the course instructor, Kevin Mullen, who originally invited library staff to teach these information literacy skills at the class’s usual meeting place next to the Goodman South Madison branch of the public library. Realizing that his students would benefit from a visit to an academic library, Kevin arranged for them to come to College at the other end of Park Street.
Since that first class, several students have returned to the library to check out books and to consult librarians about the research process. We hope this is the beginning of a long and successful relationship.
For more information about this unique program, please visit the website for the UW-Odyssey Project.