Right now, in a typical year, you’d be as likely to find Northland College professors finalizing camping reservations and route plans as you would be to find them grading term papers and final exams. That’s because, as the winter semester transitions into the month of May, Northland students and faculty immerse themselves in a condensed, four-week term devoted to experiential, field-based courses.
Taxonomic study of Wisconsin plants, nature writing workshops in the canoe wake of Sigurd Olson, rigorous geologic mapping in Wyoming, hands-on experience on local sustainable farms. Such courses provide intensive educational experiences inviting students to focus on a particular topic, skill or region.
But this isn’t a typical May. Campus is shuttered, state parks are closed, campgrounds are unopened. And many of our students have already returned home, finishing a semester immersed in wi-fi instead of wilderness. The strict isolation required to limit further transmission of COVID-19 has made the typical May Term an impossibility.
This current context has required teachers (at all levels) to be nimble and creative, adapting to new methods of online delivery and new student needs. Many Northland faculty will move forward with innovative online versions of their existing May Term courses, while other faculty are working to create new courses more conducive to an online format.
One new course will be a seminar devoted to studying the pandemic itself. “Pandemic! Northland Unites” offers an opportunity to study pandemics through a multidisciplinary approach. This course will be team-taught by more than 15 different professors, each providing their own lens of understanding. Through daily video lectures by Northland faculty, readings, and online discussions, students will examine how societies understand and respond to pandemics of the past and present. Topics include epidemiology of infectious disease, biology of viruses, economic cost-benefit analysis of social distancing, impacts of isolation on public land use, philosophies of hope and despair, and much more.
And this May, we’re hoping YOU might join us. Given the online format, we are able to offer a way for community members, friends and family, and alumni to engage in this pandemic seminar FOR FREE. This is a grand experiment to reach as many learners as we can. Through the course website, community members will be able to access all lecture video, readings, and discussion questions. In addition, we hope to help organize video meetings for participants to engage with others in discussion of the topics.
Like many communities around the globe, Northland students, staff and faculty are seeking to respond and find meaning as we face fears and prepare a path forward. Northland is a community of learning rooted in an interdisciplinary approach toward understanding webs of complexity. This May, we invite you to join us.
For more information on how to participate in this seminar, please visit the course website.