based on an original article by Diane Toroian Keaggy
An innovative course envisaged by Feng Sheng Hu, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, provided prospects not only for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences but also for experts from various disciplines and across the country. It also welcomed students from all schools and all fields of study and brought even more points of view to the table. And over a thousand Washington University students attended.
After completing the three-week summer immersion course “The Pandemic: Science and Society”, biology student Priya Mathur from Washington University in St. Louis is better prepared for her future as a doctor.
“This class went beyond science and showed me how the virus affects and intersects all aspects of society,” said Mathur, a junior. “I now have the tools to have important conversations about the virus with those around me. My roommate and I have already discussed our rules for our apartment and ideas on how we can protect each other. “
Multiply those conversations by over 1,200. This is the number of students who have registered for the online course with two credit points. Nobody is more enthusiastic about the popularity of the course than the course designer Krista Milich, Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology in Arts & Sciences and an expert on zoonotic diseases.
“I knew that every student who enrolled this semester would help create a safer community on campus.”
– Krista Milich
“I knew that every student enrolled this semester would help create a safer community on campus,” said Milich. “From the list of speakers to the assignments to the opportunity to discuss with one another, the course has been designed to give them practical information about the virus, show them the suffering of others in the community, and help them strategize to follow safety measures and taking care of their sanity while making connections with one another. I am encouraged that our students have not only learned these lessons, but also share them with others. The entire university benefits from their knowledge. “
Among the speakers were David Wang | at the School of Medicine on the science of the virus; Shanti Parikh in Arts & Sciences on cultural perspectives and the scars associated with the virus; Heather Bennett at Sam Fox School on the effects of the pandemic on the arts; and Chancellor Andrew D. Martin on the impact of the virus on higher education. Others included Joshua Sharfstein of Johns Hopkins University for leadership and management; Jose-Luis Jimenez of the University of Colorado, Boulder, on aerosol transfer; and The Atlantic journalist Ed Yong on science communication. All lectures can be viewed on the course website.
The class was free for all full-time students and ran from August 17th to September 4th. Students attended daily lectures, participated in roundtables, completed quizzes, and created four means of communication – a video, an infographic, a letter to the editor, or the artwork – about the virus. The students shared their work on social media platforms using the hashtag #COVIDcourse.
“This course really highlights the heart of Arts & Sciences – comprehensive, interdisciplinary exploration of issues that affect our lives and our society,” said Hu. “The content, guest speakers and breadth of the course are exceptional and the student feedback has been great. I am proud that Krista, leading experts from WashU and other institutions, and our A&S community have come together to make this course a success. I think this will affect our school and campus in a myriad of ways. “
Jalen Bogard, a freshman at Olin Business School, said the class opened his eyes to new disciplines. For his communication assignment, he wrote a collection of poems entitled “The Voices of the Despised”.
“To me, the gift of this class was all of the new perspectives I hadn’t thought about before – how the virus affects Latinx immigrants, LGBT + people, and people with disabilities,” Bogard said. “I got interested in women’s and gender studies, African American studies, and even law. It brings interests to the surface that I didn’t know I had. “
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