Core Skills for College and Beyond

Open to students entering grades 11 or 12 or freshman year of college in the fall
I - June 24–July 12, 2019
II - July 16–August 2, 2019
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 11:10 a.m.–1:00 p.m. and 3:10–5:00 p.m.
Deborah Aschkenes, Barbara Morris, Anne Summers, and Debbie Yuster

“I feel like I've become more analytical and can think outside the box.” — Abasiakan Udobong

Course Description

Intended for students who are already strong academically, this curricular option enables participants to hone the core skills necessary to thrive not only at top-caliber American universities but also in any intellectually demanding profession and in personal life. Classroom environments are intimate and collaborative, and students learn by actively engaging with the subject matter, the instructors, and their peers. Participants complete each of the four modules. The emphasis throughout is on learning to think clearly, critically, and creatively.

Close Reading and Critical Thinking
Deborah Aschkenes, Barbara Morris

Students learn to identify and critically evaluate the intellectual content, both explicit and implied, of what they read and see. We read sophisticated texts and read into them, identifying rhetorical strategies, unstated assumptions, and hidden subtexts. We examine a variety of literary genres such as essays, fiction, poetry, journalism, and speeches and, time permitting, branch out into visual forms such as painting, graphic novels, and film.

Participants become not only more insightful readers but also more nuanced thinkers.

Writing Effectively
Barbara Morris, Anne Summers

This course provides an overview of the techniques essential for successful academic writing, with particular emphasis placed on argumentation and organization. While reviewing the basic components of strong writing through discussion of argument structure, essay organization, style, and mechanics, we also engage in creative activities and discussions aimed at strengthening analytic and rhetorical skills.

The focus is on expository writing, the kind of writing called for in academic essays and term papers, but we also branch out into narrative and personal writing, as required for college admissions essays.

New Approaches to Mathematics
Debbie Yuster

In this unique approach to math, quite different from the way the subject is normally taught in high schools, participants practice mathematics as a discovery-based science, solving fun, open-ended problems through experimentation and creativity. They later revisit their hypotheses and prove them using novel proof techniques. In the second half of the course, we sample various branches of pure and applied mathematics, such as cryptography, probability, number theory, and geometry.

This course develops students' creativity, independent thinking, logical reasoning, and ability to rigorously support their ideas.

Research, Study, and Presentation Skills
Anne Summers

This class offers an overview of the research process, with special attention given to library and online resources, source evaluation, and bibliographic format. To help students prepare for college-level coursework, we also address strategies for note taking, outlining, time management, exam preparation, and oral presentation.

Class time is spent discussing the material as a group, practicing research strategies both online and in the library, and interacting with classmates through peer workshops and small group activities. Toward the end of the session, each student delivers an oral presentation, thereby honing public speaking and presentation skills.


Deborah Aschkenes

After working in fashion merchandising at Saks Fifth Avenue, Deborah Aschkenes received her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University, where she was awarded the English Department’s Miron Cristo-Loveanu prize for Best Master’s Essay. She teaches in the English and Interdisciplinary Studies departments at Riverdale Country School, integrating philosophy, visual art, and literature. Her research spans rhetorical theory, the neuroscience of perception, the Victorian novel, and classical ethics.  

Barbara Morris

Barbara Morris is a University of Chicago Ph.D. and the co-founder of a pioneering program in graduate research and writing at Parsons the New School for Design in the division of Art, Media and Technology. She has worked as a professor of film and literature at UCLA, Rutgers University, and Fordham University. Dr. Morris has received research fellowships from the Fulbright Committee, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the governments of Spain, the United States, and Argentina for her work in cinema studies.

Anne Summers

Anne Summers received her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from Stony Brook University. She was a Graduate Council Fellowship recipient at Stony Brook and holds an additional graduate certificate in women's studies. Her research focuses on perception in nineteenth-century literature and she has published work on Vernon Lee and Olive Schreiner. Anne has taught at Stony Brook University and Manhattan College. She has also worked as a copy-editor, editorial assistant, and SAT prep instructor.

Debbie Yuster

Debbie Yuster received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Columbia in 2007. She is currently an associate professor of mathematics at SUNY Maritime. Prior to this, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS) at Rutgers University. Her research interests include combinatorics, computational geometry, and algebraic aspects of topological dynamics. Dr. Yuster has taught undergraduate courses at Columbia and other universities, and has worked with New York City math teachers and their students in order to promote interest in math, as part of the National Science Foundation's GK-12 program.

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Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.