Texas Tech Rawls College Author: Surviving College by Reading Comics

No pop-up pictures, but rather a modern take on creating engaging textbooks.

Illustrated renditions of sensitive college experiences and a depiction of a close-knit clique from different upbringings are scenes from a graphic novel textbook created by two professors in Texas Tech University’s Rawls College of Business to engage students transitioning into college life.

Tyge Payne, lead author and strategic management professor, along with co-author Jeremy Short, also a strategic management professor, added another comic textbook to the list of graphic novels for students. This textbook, titled “University Life: A College Survival Story,” is the first-ever graphic novel designed for incoming freshman college students. A graphic novel describes book-length works specifically targeted for young-adult audiences.

Payne has taught the freshman seminar, Interdisciplinary Studies 1100, three times and each time he said students were reluctant to participate.

“As I taught the freshman seminar class, I was constantly coming against blank stares. I tried to talk about a number of different topics and they didn’t want to get engaged or relate the content to their own experiences,” Payne said.

Short had previously created a graphic novel for his strategic management class and suggested Payne create one for his seminar class. The two collaborated along with illustrator Rachel Anderson, a 19-year-old Lubbock native, and Rob Austin, a Harvard professor, to produce an easy-read text they hope will exemplify college issues such as alcohol, drug abuse and relationships.

“Depression is a huge problem in college students, and a lot of people don’t really realize it,” Payne said. “We tried to touch on the light and dark sides of issues.”

“University Life” follows six typical characters throughout their first year in college. Payne said he chose six, intending to create a “Breakfast Club goes to college” scene. At the end of the novel the six students reflect on their experiences in testimonial format.

Because the seminar class meets only twice a week for the first eight weeks of the fall semester, Payne said the novel needed to be short and concise.

“You don’t have a lot of time to talk about many things, and that’s the reason we wanted to make the novel manageable within the classroom framework.

Around the U.S. these classes are either one-hour courses or in some cases the seminar is only offered during the orientation for a couple of days,” he said.

Payne also said he believes high schools can utilize “University Life” as well. Counselors can talk to high school seniors about what they might expect during their first year of college. He said it provides a leg up on the whole process. Payne plans to promote the freshman novel at conferences around the nation in hopes of getting it into as many schools as possible.

“University Life” comes with a full teacher’s guide to highlight key concepts and questions, which aid in the integration of content into the classroom. The novel was published on April 28 by Flat World Knowledge Publishers. The first chapter is available at http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/node/414046.

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CONTACT: Tyge Payne, associate professor, Rawls College of Business, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-1514 or tyge.payne@ttu.edu.