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36 minutes | a month ago
Dr. Lucy Long and Jerry Reed: COVID and Comfort
Jolie is joined by Dr. Lucy Long, director of the independent Center for Food and Culture and an instructor of American studies, ethnic studies, folklore, and nutrition at BGSU, and Jerry Reed, a recent graduate from the MA program in popular cultures studies at BGSU. They discuss their “Finding Comfort/Discomfort Through Foodways” project that examines how comfort food can be meaningful and create meaningfulness in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Announcer: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie: Welcome back to the BiG Ideas podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Jolie Sheffer, Associate Professor of English and American Culture Studies, and the Director of ICS. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are not recording in the studio, but remotely via phone and computer. As always, the opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Jolie: Bowling Green State University is located in the Great Black Swamp, long a meeting place of the Wyandot, Shawnee, Lenape, Ottawa, Kickapoo, Fox, Pottawatomie, Erie, Miami, Peoria, Chippewa, and Seneca Indian tribes. We honor the rich history of this land and its indigenous inhabitants, past and present. Today we're joined by two guests, Dr. Lucy Long and Jerry Reed. Lucy directs the Independent Center for Food and Culture and teaches in American studies, ethnic studies, folklore and nutrition at BGSU. Her research focuses on food, music, and dance as mediums for meaning and community. Jolie: Lucy served as the Director of "Finding Comfort/Discomfort Through Food Ways," a project that examines how people are living and eating in these difficult pandemic times. Jerry Reed earned a BS in Education and an MA in Popular Culture Studies from BGSU. He completed an internship with the Center for Food and Culture, working to develop a curriculum that uses food to help children understand cultural conflict. Jerry worked as the Assistant Director of the Food Ways Project. Thanks both for being with me today, I'm really excited to talk about this with you. To get us started, could you tell us a little bit about the Food Ways Project and how it came about? Will you start us off, Lucy? Lucy : Okay. When the pandemic first hit, I started noticing that food media was publishing recipes for comfort food. And this is a stressful time for comfort food. So I actually edited a volume and published some articles in 2017 on comfort food, so that automatically grabbed me. And my initial response to some of these publications, particularly-there was one for the New York Times, and it was comfort foods of famous chefs. And it was all these specialty ingredients and things that, probably, the average American would not have in their pantry. And I realized, first of all, these foods are not things that I relate to, personally, as a comfort food. And they probably are not relevant to many people who are reading this. But also, the idea of having to go out and find these ingredients, some of which are very expensive, but many of which, you would have to go to different grocery stores or try to find them. Lucy : And I realized, that's going to cause a lot of discomfort. So that got me thinking a little bit more about at how, during this time, it's not a simple thing to say, "Here, eat some comfort food and calm down." And then also, comfort food itself as a very American concept. Every culture has food that is comforting, that reminds people of their childhood, and things like that. But it's uniquely American in that there is a particular sort of morality attached to food in America. That different foods are good and bad, depending on what they do to your body, physically. And we're not even talking about health, we're talking about whether or not those foods make you fat or whether they make you kind of sluggish or whatever. Lucy : So, so much of our morality around food is tied to how that food impacts your body, your body image, and whether or not you have the proper type of body. So therefore, Americans talk about good foods and bad foods in terms of, good foods are ones that are healthy for us, will keep us nice, fit and slim. Bad foods are the ones that really tastes good, lots of fat, lots of sugar, salt, but we all know that they're bad for us. That they have negative impacts on our weight, on our body shape, and on our energy levels. Lucy : So that grows out of a very distinctive, American attitude towards food. And the phrase, "comfort food," was invented in the US. Dr. Joyce Brothers used it in the 1960s as an explanation for why so many Americans were starting to be obese, said that people are turning to comfort foods. They have stress in their lives or they need comfort for some reason, so they're using that as an excuse to eat these fattening foods. And then the food industry picked up on that and said, "Oh, okay, here are some comfort food dishes," and they started using that concept to market these dishes. Saying that, "Oh, everybody needs comfort, so here, eat some macaroni and cheese." So it turned into a marketing category. Jolie: Yeah, it's so interesting because, two thoughts. One is that, the opposite of comfort food is discomfort food. The things we're supposed to like are the things we're not supposed to enjoy. That there really is this idea of, maybe that is also a very American thing, that Protestant work ethic, that we're suspicious of pleasure, in some ways. Jerry, what was your particular interest in some of these issues in this Food Ways Project? Jerry: Especially as we dug deeper into the interviews that were conducted, I think one of the most surprising and interesting aspects for me was this idea of food of discomfort. Because we focus so much on this idea of comfort food as this a very individual experience to help one self feel better. Which is incredibly relevant during the time of pandemic or even during a time of stressful elections. So when people start talking about foods of discomfort, there's two major things that I've noticed. One is there are foods of actual physical discomfort, foods that you just can't eat for dietary reasons. Whether you're lactose intolerant, PKU, et cetera, that your diet is limited. Jerry: And then there's also foods that, it's not so much that the food itself causes discomfort in some way, it's the concept of food as a whole. Some people have turned their minds now to that ... Let me redo that. A number of people have realized that, "Oh, now I happen to work at home or not work for a while. I'm living well within my needs." And they can see that, now that they've stepped a little bit outside of that daily work that they do from 8:00 to 5:00. So to be able to realize that, oh, there's got to be a number of people who are not able to live within their means. Especially during a time like this, where even as I'm struggling, I'm surviving. And so that's brought a number of weird pieces of discomfort, just conceptual discomfort, to people. And that has caused some to act, some to not act, at different levels. Jolie: I'm curious, in terms of this project, because of the pandemic you had to really work remotely. Entirely, I imagine, including with the number of international collaborators. So how did that affect the way you collaborate and conduct research? Lucy : We were able to actually extend this project much further than most oral history projects. We frequently did not even know where people were when they were responding, initially. And then it does kind of happen, I also was using social media, LinkedIn and the Center for Food and Culture has a website. And that goes out to anyone who's interested, anywhere in the world. And then I was also using Facebook. And so when I was sending out information about this, and people were responding, and then they would tell their friends about it. So I also do a lot of work internationally, especially on culinary tourism, so a lot of my international connections were seeing this, "Oh yeah, this is really interesting." And so they were sending me things. Lucy : Some of those people would just send me a little paragraph, this is what's happening here. Other times, there are people who are using this ... I developed it first as an assignment for an undergraduate class, and then realized, oh, this would actually be very useful to do on a larger scale. I should mention here, too, I did get a little bit of funding that helped to cover honoraria for the researchers. Minimal honoraria, I should say, from the Association for the Study of Food and Society. And then also humanities, the Ohio Humanities. Formally the Ohio Humanities Council, now it's just called the Ohio Humanities, and then also from the Elliot Torium Foundation, a private foundation. Lucy : So when this started, it was just like, oh, this is interesting. Let's see where we can go with it. And then, because of my international work, various colleagues in different places were picking up on it and extending it. And then the researchers themselves, one of them, who also happens to be my daughter, she teaches in Ireland at a university. So she's having some of her students do the project. And she was interviewing some of her colleagues and friends, who tended to be very international. So we're hearing from people who lived in Israel or who had parents in Israel, Norway. And then another one of the researchers is Chinese studying in the US. So he has access to a different group of people. Lucy : So, it's not a model for a social science ethnography. A lot of it was serendipity, but everything was so sudden and unexpected, we just took whatever opportunities there were. I had worked previously with Jerry and so when I started getting this idea, I approached him. I said, "I don't know if there's going to be any funding, would you like to sign on to be the assistant director of this? There's a lot of administrative stuff that I'm going to need." And he said, "Sure." I said, "Now, I don't know about funding, but ..." So I know that Jerry was committed regardless of funding. So he's been a tremendous help through this. Jolie: And Jerry, could you talk a little bit about some of the tasks that you were working on and how the pandemic may have changed the way you had previously worked on projects or worked specifically with Lucy and your relationship prior. Jerry: I guess, for my tasks, there's two halves of it. There's the largely administrative half that, it was at home or not at home. It didn't really make too much of a difference, really, just depended on which wall I was staring at. But then came the other half of it, which was doing interviews and conducting these interviews with all of these participants. Which was a very different way than I'm used to doing field work. My field work that I did for my thesis, I did at a middle school in the area. And I was there with the students for a large portion of the day, and that's what I was used to, is just being around the people. So now all of a sudden, doing these cold calls to people I don't know to say, "Hey, I want to talk about food for awhile," was a very different setting. Jerry: But because people were already isolated and wanted that contact, they were happy to talk with any stranger about anything. Just that piece of human contact was so valuable to everybody that we talked to, and it made some of the conversations we've had absolutely fantastic. And yet my work with Lucy prior, because of the nature of building curriculum, the only real thing that changed was that we couldn't really meet face to face. Which can be, I guess, somewhat solved via Zoom, WebEx, whatever your medium is. Jolie: I think it's interesting that you're talking about, in addition to comfort food, the comfort of community. And even having the occasion to talk about these things is also a real balm in these challenging times. Can you talk a little bit, each of you, about how this project created or changed your sense of community? Lucy : I think for me, I really enjoyed getting to know the different people who were working with me. They're all either master's students, PhD students, or they had recently completed masters. I was able to learn things from them, and that was really nice. I was given a whole different perspective on things from them. And then a lot of people were sending me emails with just brief snippets of their thoughts about comfort food. And some of those really challenged the assumptions that we all have. One of them that I always point out, a woman contacted me and said, "I just wanted you to let you know that my husband and I are both disabled. We've had to live off of food stamps for the last 20 years. We are eating better now than we ever have because the food stamps were expanded," and they were able to go to the farmer's market. Lucy : They were able to use them for fresh produce. And she said, "This is wonderful. I'm healthier now than I ever have been." And that was completely the opposite of what we expected. That's not to paint a rosy picture of this all either, but it automatically challenged some of my assumptions about class in America, and how class is then tied to community. Similarly, someone else, they actually came from an upper middle class background and they lived out in the suburbs. And they said that in order to go shopping, they had to drive to a supermarket. People didn't usually go out walking in their neighborhoods. They had all this money, but they didn't have that kind of casual contact that you could get in a city or in a very small town. Lucy : And they said getting food meant they either had to drive somewhere or have it delivered, and they could afford to do that, and they recognized they had a lot of privilege in being able to do that. But she said, "It's very, very lonely. We don't have the usual kinds of contacts." She didn't realize that going to the grocery store had been a way for her to connect with people. Before, it was just a chore and now suddenly, she recognized that it had been a routine that had provided connection for her. That she didn't recognize that. So two things there, having money definitely made things a lot easier for people, but it didn't automatically give them a sense of community. Lucy : And it did not give them people that they felt that they had a sense of belonging with. And then also, being partly because of the pandemic, people were starting to recognize that these activities around food that we think of as just chores, that they were actually opportunities for very meaningful connections with other people. And suddenly we were missing those. Jolie: What about you, Jerry? Any observations either through the research or your own experience, in these last seven, eight months around community that have caused you to think a little differently? Jerry: Especially in thinking about the interviews, it's surprising how much, when you would start to ask somebody what their comfort food is, how little they would talk about the food. And what the conversation would turn to is about the meals that they would share with people, or the origin of the recipe that they got the recipe for their comfort food from. And then they would bring off into a different story about that, about their grandmother, so on, so forth. And so, I think it goes to show so much of comfort food is tied up in identity and community. Who we decide our tribe is. And so it's really fascinating to hear somebody start to talk about how much they really, really have been going to carbs during this time, and then all of a sudden they're talking about how much they miss their grandchildren or friends, so it really is a lot of focus on the comfort that we get from community. Rather than the comfort that we get from food. Jolie: We're going to take a quick break. Thanks for listening to the Big Ideas podcast. Musical Interlude: Question. Answer. Discussion. Announcer: If you are passionate about Big Ideas, consider sponsoring this program. To have your name or organization mentioned here, please contact us at email@example.com. Jolie: Hello and welcome to the Big Ideas podcast. Today I'm talking to Dr. Lucy Long and Jerry Reed, about their research on comfort food ways and how the network and practices around food provide opportunities for connection. One of the things that also strikes me in the discussion about comfort foods and how they come from traditions, from rituals, whether those are religious or cultural, familial, regional, things like that. I'm wondering, are you seeing in your research, new traditions being formed out of these pandemic times? Or revisions of traditions due to these particular circumstances? And if so, can you give us some of those stories? Lucy : I think new traditions are definitely being created, being rediscovered. One of the definitions of comfort food, Julie Loker was a medical sociologist who first started studying comfort food, and she published an article in 2002 and then in 2004 that established comfort food as a scholarly topic. And she identified four different needs that were being fulfilled through comfort food, that then helped people relieve their stress. And one of those was nostalgia, one of them was convenience, and we don't always think of convenience and fast food can be comfort food, because it's very convenient. Foods that offer physical comfort, the hot chocolate on a cold day, and then indulgence, which is what we usually think of. And then about 10 years later, another researcher identified belonging as a need that was being fulfilled. Lucy : So people wanted to eat the foods that other people were eating, because it gave them a sense of belonging to that community. So that gave us a baseline for studying comfort food. And part of what we started finding, the definition of comfort food is foods that help relieve stress. That's the accepted, American definition. What we started finding is that the kinds of stresses that people were dealing with during the pandemic, I think are more of an existential nature. We don't have control over our lives anymore. All of a sudden you have to recognize that nature really is more powerful than humans. So all these myths that, Americans in particular have grown up with, were suddenly being challenged. Lucy : And so, what I started noticing was that comfort food was fulfilling some of these more excess existential needs. Baking bread, I find it amazing that that so many Americans had gluten sensitivities, that bread purchasing was what was dropping. And then all of a sudden, they're all trying to make bread during the pandemic. And I felt like a lot of what that was showing was, people had a sense of control by cooking in general. And they could control the whole process and they could control the outcome. And having that sense of control is very important during the pandemic, when we can't control anything else. Lucy : It also gives people a sense of agency or efficacy. We can actually do something, it's not just control, but we can actually do something to change the outcome of things later. So we can organize our freezer so that we know that we can now make dinners for at least another 30 days. And that makes the individual feel like, oh, okay, I can do something to change the outcome of my future. And then also, one of the things that was fascinating, that the researchers who are doing most of the interviews pointed out to me, a lot of people were finding comfort by giving comfort to other people. Working with food banks, making food for their neighbors, doing things like ... something as simple as going shopping and checking with all their elderly neighbors and friends to see if anyone needed things picked up. Lucy : And that was being nice, but it also fulfilled this existential need to feel like, as an individual, we have significance in life. We can matter. And we can matter to these other people. So we started seeing these other needs, rather than belonging, I like to think about connectedness. Because part of what we were seeing with food was people were connecting, not just to a community. They were connecting to nature, to the seasons. So many people started gardening. I know for the first time I was able to do a CSA because usually I'm not in Bowling Green during the summer. Lucy : So suddenly I was, and I discovered that, oh, okay, now I'm eating zucchini and tomatoes and nothing else for the next three weeks. So now I'm eating butternut squash and potatoes and that connects me to the seasons. It connects me to nature. It connects me to these larger things that help to give a sense of continuity of life. So that kind of connectedness is on an existential level. And it's a much deeper kind of stress than simply, I had a bad day. So some of that was very exciting to me, the idea that people were finding comfort by giving comfort. I find that very optimistic and it gives me a lot of hope. Jolie: Yeah, and I think that's one of the ongoing questions, of what of these changes will stick around after there is a vaccine, after the immediate pandemic crisis has passed. Jerry, are there any other new traditions or observations that you were struck by in some of the interviews you've done that you want to share? Jerry: I guess I can categorize them in three different ways. There's the new traditions, one of the examples I can think of is somebody who has specifically taken time out of their day to have their tea time, specific time, and they specifically have their tea with condensed milk. Which is very popular in Newfoundland. Then there's also traditions that have changed. So one interview we talked about how do you have a Seder dinner online and the guides that have been sent out by the community and recipes that have been sent out. Sadly, people can only have a Seder dinner, but have a Seder dinner for a smaller group, rather than the large portions that are usually served because you have so many people. Jerry: And then there's also this, it's a slight abandonment of tradition, and one of the best examples that I have for this from an interview, would be a couple that ... Their new date night routine was to go to this very fancy Italian restaurant. Well, you can't eat in, so they would get the takeout and eat this very nice, expensive Italian food, in their car out of styrofoam boxes. So it's this, going away from being around all these people ,and it speaks the same idea of it, but it's not really the same thing anymore. And it's also an excuse to get out of the house. It has a new meaning just beyond that. And so that's three different ways that I think about it. Jolie: What possibilities do you see in bringing food into classrooms more often and more directly, whether at the K-12 level or in college. Could you talk a little bit about that? The role of education around food? Jerry: Well, I steal this concept from a botanist I met in Costa Rica. He became a botanist, and then later a tour guide, and said that he studied botany because there's plants everywhere, so you always have something to talk about. And the same is true with food as a human need, you just need food, so there's always something there to talk about. And food is so intrinsically tied into identity, and often in ways that we don't realize, which circles through back to the appropriation piece. When we talk about Southern food, for instance, and even Appalachian food, these two very different categories that both get a lot of their food histories from historically Black cooking and slave cooking. Jerry: And so when we talk about food, at any level within education, all of a sudden we're able to talk about individual identities without even having to bring up ethnicity, race, gender. One of the easiest questions to ask, to start talking about what your identity is without really even talking about identity, but talking about food, is to ask how your family prepares rice. Because most families eat rice, and if you don't eat rice, that says something when it comes to identity. And rice is this really recognizable and very versatile food. And so what you do with it says a lot. And then you can start talking about, when it comes to cultural differences, this aesthetic piece, that your enjoyment of this specific rice dish comes from your history and your family and how grandma makes it. Cultural history. Jerry: So food is this vital piece of connection. And my previous research for my thesis focused on how children use food as a means of creating connection and community amongst themselves. And they're very active in doing this, and examining food, and trading food, and trying to engage each other with food. It's a human need. And so to be able to bring this human need to the forefront of education, to use it as a background for conversations in the humanities, conversations in the sciences, is easy and beneficial because it's very easy to understand. Jolie: I'd like us to conclude by asking you each to reflect on our current moment and what you think might be the broader implications on how we regard food ways. And in particular, what lessons do you hope we learn from this moment about food and connection that we can take forward with us in the after times, whenever they do eventually arrive. Jerry, would you go first? Jerry: So much of how we decide who we are as individuals comes back to food. Not necessarily the individual dishes, but the people we eat with, the people we choose not to eat with, and how we share those meals. And what this time has done has changed that in very significant ways. But I think people are also finding ways to overcome that and rebuild their community, and rebuild the communication that they once had through food, through a variety of other means. And so I think one of these overarching pieces that you should begin to look at next is, we compare the inequalities between these two new systems, because it's easy to see one problem in just one system. But once that changes, it reveals new problems that may even say, the problem that we thought we had? It doesn't exist. That's not even the thing because it's actually this thing. So now is the time to really solidify all of these major problems that then can be focused on. Jolie: What about for you, Lucy? What would you hope we take away from this period in history in thinking differently about food and culture? Lucy : First, I should mention, that listeners can go to the website and actually see ... We have an online exhibit from text and photographs from the interviews. So people can go to www.foodandculture.org, and that website takes them to the exhibit and to the whole project. And they can read the questionnaire and actually respond. And they can also see on that website, the curriculum project, doing it. But I think the thing that I take away from this is the significance of food. That we tend to overlook the power that it has to create connections for us. And those connections both take us inwards and outwards, so that we can connect with our own histories, our own past. It can be something that's very personal, but it also connects us outwardly with larger society, with our larger culture, and internationally. So I think what the pandemic is doing is making us recognize the significance of small things, of everyday things that we normally take for granted. Jolie: Thank you both so much for joining me. I really loved this conversation. Listeners can keep up with ICS by following us on social media at @icsbgsu. You can listen to BiG Ideas wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Please subscribe and rate us on your preferred platform. Our producers are Chris Cavera and Marco Mendoza, with sound editing by Marco Mendoza. Research assistance was provided by Kari Hanlin. Musical Outro: Discussion.
40 minutes | a month ago
Dr. Sandra Earle and Dani Haynes: COVID and Food Insecurity
Jolie speaks with Dani Haynes, coordinator of student case management at BGSU, and Dr. Sandra Earle, an associate professor of pharmaceutical science at the University of Findlay and a university advocate at BGSU. They discuss how COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurity for many students and share advocacy strategies to mitigate the stigma, shame, and misinformation around basic needs insecurity on college campuses. Announcer: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture & Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie : Welcome back to the Big Ideas Podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture & Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Jolie Sheffer, Associate Professor of English and American Culture Studies and the Director of ICS. Jolie : Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we're not recording in the studio, but from home via phone and computer. As always, the opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily reflect those of BGSU or its employees. Bowling Green State University is located in the Great Black Swamp, long a meeting place of the Wyandotte, Shawnee, Lenape, Ottawa, Kickapoo, Fox, Pottawatomie, Erie, Miami, Peoria, Chippewa, and Seneca Indian Tribes. We honor the rich history of this land and its indigenous inhabitants past and present. Jolie : Today, I'm joined by Dani Haynes and Dr. Sandra Earle. Dani works in the BGSU Dean of Students office as the Coordinator for Student Case Management. She also founded the Falcon Care Grab and Go initiative to address student hunger and food insecurity. And Dr. Sandy Earle is an associate professor of pharmaceutical science and Associate Dean for Assessment for the College of Pharmacy at the University of Findlay. Sandy also serves as a university advocate at BGSU with a special interest in providing assistance to those in crisis and ensuring food security for all students. Jolie : I'm very happy to have this conversation. To start, I'd like each of you to share how you got interested in student crisis intervention and advocacy work, particularly around the issue of hunger and food insecurity. Dani, do you want to start us? Dani: Well, I got started in student issues, student crises about six years ago. I used to work for a nonprofit and originally I was working in survivor services for survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence. And I was an advocate at the University of Toledo for their Title IX process. And so throughout that time, I began to notice some of the issues that students were having that didn't necessarily coincide with Title IX incidents, but was still very traumatizing to the individual. Dani: So, when I started here at BG, I still had some of those same notes in my mind, but I wasn't sure if it translated to the student population. Within maybe my first six months, I began to see some students who were housing insecure and food insecure. And I know that BG already had the Falcon Care program, which you can donate some swipes to students in need. Then,throughout the summer, I realized the dining halls weren't necessarily open, and so those students didn't have the same opportunity to receive resources. Dani: And originally I began to provide them food from Kingsbury, which is where I lived. I would take food into the office and then Chris was like, "Are you feeding students?" And so I said, "Hypothetically. Will I get in trouble?" Because we need this job." And so I explained, "Well, students are hungry. And I, as a mom, cannot see students hungry. I just can't do it." And I explained what some of the issues were. Dani: And so he said, "Okay. You can start this program. We'll give you some money. Let's see how successful it would be." Dani: And so originally, there was a bet on if I can provide close to 50 bags for the first year and we served 47 bags within the first year, which highlighted that there was a need. Since then we have provided 159 grab-and-go food bags since our initiation. So, that's just to say the need is growing, not just because of the pandemic, which has exacerbated the need and provided greater awareness for those who didn't necessarily see that it existed. So that's just a little bit about how I got into crisis. Jolie : What about you, Sandy? How did you come to be interested in food security issues? Sandra: Well, I have been a professor for a long time and I absolutely love being around college students and obviously as a teacher and as a professor, my focus has, for a long time, been on student success and how do I help them? And I teach something that's kind of challenging usually, so I'm always trying to think of how to help them. Sandra: And as my husband Rodney moved into the presidency, people told me, "Hey, Sandy, you have some power. You could use your power for good." And I'm like, "Really?" Because of course, what do I know about this? This is not my gig. This is his. But if I can use my power for good, I better darn well do it. Right? It's my responsibility. And of course I love it. I love being able to help students and everybody obviously, but students are probably in the position that need the most support from somebody like me. Sandra: And honestly, I was fairly unaware of this problem of food insecurity on campuses. It's much more serious than maybe my being very poor as a student, but this is real food insecurity that people even bring from their home. So, I came from a home where I never was wanting for food, but once I was on my own college, things got a little tight. Sandra: So, if you think you don't even have that safety net from home, so you're coming from that. And how do we expect these students to be successful in school if they have to worry about what they're going to eat next time, or where they're going to sleep, or if they're safe walking across campus, or if they're dealing with some mental health issues or crises? How do we expect them to sit and study and take a test? Of course, we can't. Sandra: My goal is to make sure that the only thing students are worrying about is their exam. That's my goal. Of course, that's a pretty lofty one and it's certainly beyond my power, but whatever I can do to help with that is my goal. Jolie : Sandy, we know that stress in childhood, including around poverty and food insecurity, has dramatic consequences on children's brain development. Can you tell us a little bit about the biochemical and psychological effects of resource insecurity? Sandra: Well, I could tell you what I know, which isn't a lot, other than the research that I've done as an person of interest, not from a scientist standpoint. But it's very clear that if students, especially young children, don't get the nutrition that they need, this is a critical time for brain development and their ability. And not only that, but for them to feel safe in this world, that they don't have to be worrying about things that they should not be worrying about, and dealing with actually being able to fuel that brain chemistry that we need to learn and to be happy. Sandra: And we can't minimize the happiness part. I think that people that are in constant distress, it's physically very bad for your body and obviously emotionally and mentally break down because we've got to deal with our most basic needs first. There's plenty of research on that. But kids that are without food or stable environments, homes, et cetera, their chances for success in this world are so diminished. It's a crisis. Sandra: And I'm especially worried during this time of COVID. There's so many kids, especially kids that have single working moms. I think of this every day. Because I feel like some days I'm struggling and I have every luxury. And I think these moms and dads that are single parents that have to go to work probably, because we know that those that are making the least in our society, as far as their income, it's something like 85 or 90% of them, and Dani, you can correct me if the percentages are wrong, but they cannot do their job virtually. Sandra: And the people that are at the very top income brackets, those folks, 95% of them can do their job virtually. So, while it isn't going to be easy to do your job virtually and teach your kid, at least you're physically there. So, I don't know. I don't know how to help this, and this is not necessarily food insecurity specifically, but just the COVID situation and you have to work to get food on the table. That's not an option. Jolie : I'm going to ask Dani a question, which is what does food insecurity actually look like on a college campus? Because we were talking before about the salad days of ramen or mac and cheese. But that's not really what we're talking about primarily. So, what does it look like on college campuses and how is it perhaps different than what we hear or think about with K-12 students, where they can get breakfast and lunch? But how does it show up at BGSU? Dani: Okay. So for K-12, let's talk about in elementary, in BG. At least 90 to 95% of their students are free lunch or reduced lunch. So, let's think: If that full population came to BG later on, they've been food insecure their entire lives. And they bring it to BG, what does that look like? It is the ramen noodles. It is the Kraft mac and cheese, but it's more than that. Dani: It's making a conscious decision to go without something, usually food, so that you can pay something else. Between 6% of university students in a four year institution go at least one day without eating. 10% at a community college. Roughly 44% of collegiates on university campuses struggle with food insecurity. So, it's surviving off of granola bars. It's saying, "Oh, I'm hungry, but let me drink some water." It's trying to get a free meal from a friend because you don't have another way to get it. Dani: Or it's coming from a food insecure background and then you get to college and you have all these meal swipes, and so you hoard food because you've been without food for so long and then you become panicked when your meal swipes are getting lower, your Falcon dollars are getting low. It looks different for each and every student because it's always a case by case basis. But some of the signs to look for in food insecure students would be those students you always see asking for food. And we've had some of those students, especially in the Nest, always standing around. You have those students who you invite out to lunch, dinner, or breakfast and they can never go. You have those students, you go to their house and their refrigerator is pretty bare. And so it's really about teaching them what food insecurity is. Dani: I know I went to Ohio State. I come from a single parent household and I'm first-generation, so nobody explained food insecurity to me. What I expected from college is, you will struggle. That is college. So, when I was food insecure in college, I didn't know that it was a problem. I walked into it like, "Oh, this is to be expected. This is normal." Dani: Students today are still thinking, "Oh, it's okay for me to struggle and survive off noodles." That's still food insecurity because it is expected. I was told this is what I can expect from college, right? So, when you are living the life that you've been told is the typical college experience, you don't identify it as a problem because it's never been taught to you to be a problem. And so that's the other piece of food insecurity that we need to start talking about. That being a struggling college student does not mean going hungry. It doesn't mean going to class starving and thinking, "Oh, I need to focus and I may just eat some noodles when I get home and that will hold me over for the next couple of days." That's not a struggling college student. Struggling college student could be classes, it may be finances, it can be a whole host of things, but it should never be food insecurity. Jolie : What are some of the initiatives that you two are working on to address these needs on campus? Sandra: So, one of the little things that I help do is starting the community garden. So, the community garden is just outside the art building. Anybody can walk by and get whatever they need if there's something there that they need or want. It's not something you have to sign up for. You don't have to tell anybody your name. You just get what you need and if I were queen of the world, I would replace all the shrubs with food. Sandra: Unfortunately, we live in a climate where there's not too much we can plant that will be there all year. But we live in a farmland. This is, as you mentioned, we live in the black swamp where the soil is quite amazing. If you look around at the farms, we have very high producing farms around here. Let's plant some food and just be able to walk by and pick what you want. I know that sounds probably idealistic, but why not have that for a goal? Dani: I actually love the community garden. So, I always promote the community garden. One, because fresh produce is really hard to come by for food insecure students, because that's not what it's given at entries. So, that community garden is amazing. Don't knock it or sell it short. It's pretty amazing. And it's cute. All the students like, "Oh, is that what those boxes are?" I'm like, "Yeah, go get some food." And I am a tomato and cucumber girl, I'm a vegetarian. I can survive off tomato and cucumbers like nobody's business, which that garden produces a lot of. Dani: Some of our other resources is the Falcon Care Program, which students can donate one swipe a week. You can do that virtually if you go to the Office of the Dean of students webpage or our present website, which a lot of our student orgs use, you can click on resources and there should be a link to take you to donate a swipe. Dani: Those swipes come to me on a meal card and it's really discreet. So, if a student is food insecure and they come and get a meal card, it has five swipes on it. No one else is going to be able to identify, "Oh, they went to Dani and got a free food card." It's not like that. We have that program, which has been here for years and it's really great that Chartwells have partnered with us to support students facing food insecurity. Dani: We also have the grab-and-go food bag program that you mentioned. That bag of food, each bag is about $20.08 because I priced it out. In that bag, you'll get almost a week worth of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A little bit more if you stretch it. So in order to inform students about that, I don't know if you all have seen some of the digital marketing on the screens that says, "Don't go hungry" and then it has, "Go to the Dean of Students office." That is to promote our food assistance programs. Dani: So, we have our Hunger/Homelessness awareness week. It's a week worth of programming. We started the event last year. This is our second one. It is November 16th through the 20th. We have a number of events. We plan on using Greek councils to do a food drive for that week to support our food bank program. We also plan on collecting swipes virtually. We plan on partnering with some student organizations and some residence life students to promote that program. And then we have some cooking demonstration videos that will be released that week to show students how to prepare food within our grab and go food bag. Sometimes it looks just like a lot of random, quick things that you can take on the go, which it is meant for that. Dani: And also a lot of students don't have cooking utensils, which is strange. Can openers. You will not believe how many students can't eat the canned food because they don't have a can opener. So, it is meant to be accessible and easy and quick on the go. But there are ways you can make meals like mac and cheese. You can put the tuna in there and have tuna mac, right? But showing them that they can do that. So those are some of our resources. Jolie : Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BGSU, like universities across the country, moved with very little notice to remote and online instruction. We are now back open, but with a dramatically reduced footprint on campus. How has the pandemic affected students in terms of their access to things like food, housing, and other necessities? How has the pandemic changed some of the student needs and how have the initiatives you're offering adjusted to meet those changing needs? Sandra: I'm just going to comment on one thing on this, Dani, because you're really the one that knows the facts on this. I know from talking to Rodney and others in the leadership of the university, there's a huge concern, and this is probably happening nationally, I just have not seen it, he is very concerned because the group of students that did not come back this fall are the lowest income students as far as family income. Sandra: He said, "We had a big jump in family income if we look at our average family income of our students." And that's because we've lost the lower income students. And this is extremely alarming to me as an educator and as a member of our society that wants people to have access to education. One of the things when it comes to food insecurity is that if you have a college degree, less than 5% of people with college degrees have food insecurity. But if you don't have a high school diploma, about 27% of those folks have food insecurity. Sandra: So, education is a social mobility thing that we have to work diligently through to make sure that it's available to those that want to better their life's lot. I really worry that families that were hit hard by the COVID pandemic, no longer is college an option for them. And this is a huge problem. Sandra: Dani, maybe you have more statistics on this. But I know that Rodney is super concerned about this and he worries that it's not just that they're taking a break. The window of going to college is fairly short. So if they're not coming now, they're probably not coming. So, it's a worry. And it's not about keeping numbers up for college. It's about providing social mobility for these students that really, I'm sure, were excited and counting on it and now it's just not a possibility. Dani: That is a really great point that I think a lot of people have not really given a lot of thought to, is the students who are not coming to college. The lower income student, the first-generation student. And because it's a family dynamic. So, if your entire family is struggling, if you were the one to assist with your siblings or other parental adults or guardians, and then they are getting sick or they can't work as much, you make a sacrifice because it takes a village. And so that is one way that we should be concerned about our students and that COVID has brought more light to. Dani: In addition to that is the amount of students who live check to check. I think a lot of times people really think collegiates are far more wealthy or have far more parental support than they do. And so one thing we've noticed immediately is when the university closed in the spring semester, the amount of student emergency fund requests, it tripled. Actually, it's just off the charts. Dani: Normally we would donate a dozen, maybe two dozen awards to students. At this point, we're close to 1400 students applying for our student emergency fund. And it's not because they feel entitled. It's literally because they don't have the familial support. They were living check to check. When you think of international students, they can't work anywhere but on campus and we're not hiring them. So, where do they go? They don't qualify for the community resources. They don't qualify for loans. And so that's an entire demographic of students that is really hard to serve. And you want them here, because again, this is a great opportunity for them, but how do we meet their needs? So, you can think of how COVID has highlighted some of that. Dani: And then the final piece, again, is food insecurity. So, I think the student emergency fund really highlights some of the housing insecurity because it is living month to month. It is worrying if you're going to be evicted. But food insecurity, since COVID, I think in the spring semester, we provided two dozen food bags to students. We partner with our BGSU Police Departments because they're 24 hours. And students were able to go there and collect the bags so that they could still have access to the resources. We were still able to use some of our Chartwells Falcon Care Cards, the students will be able to go and grab a meal from dining hall and take it to go. So, that was still an access for them. We really was able to transition very well to continue to support the students and we're very thankful for all of our partners who helped us with that. As of right now, our office is still open 8:00 to 5:00. So, if students need food, they can always come and grab a bag. Dani: We're always thinking of new ways to support our students in food insecurity. I know Chartwells just provided 10 HelloFresh type of boxes that they had left over. And so I emailed a lot of our food insecure students, "We have these free boxes of food. Come." And they came immediately. Like, "Oh, absolutely." And so that's just to show, although I had just helped them within the last couple of weeks, they're still food insecure. They're still seeking resources. Dani: And then the last one is the mobile food pantry. They've been able to go off campus and use the drive in. Their numbers are still large because, although we closed campus, the students were still here. They have a lease. They may not be able to go home. So, I think COVID has really shown how much the community needs one another and how there are so many ways we can support one another that we probably would not have thought of pre-COVID. Jolie : We're going to take a quick break. Thanks for listening to the Big Ideas Podcast. Musical Interlude: Question. Answer. Discussion. Announcer: If you are passionate about big ideas, consider sponsoring this program. To have your name or organization mentioned here, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jolie : Hello and welcome back to the Big Ideas podcast. Today, I'm talking to Dani Haynes and Dr. Sandy Earle about student food insecurity and other challenges made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jolie : Sandy, in addition to your advocacy work, you are a researcher studying how different drugs affect the body and in turn how the body can change a drug, as well as you're interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning. How do you understand the relationship between these different roles? How does your research inform your teaching and your advocacy and vice versa? Sandra: Well, that's a great question. I probably don't reflect on that as much as I should on a day-to-day basis. I don't know. I've been very blessed in life. I love my job. I love my students. I really like learning new things. I like to continue to learn. I think most people in academic environments do. Sandra: I am very interested and have done some work and trying to figure out how to help each student learn in the way that they do. I don't have a degree in this area. My area of expertise is pharmacokinetics, which is modeling drugs to figure out how much drug needs to be where in the body at a certain time to be efficacious but not toxic. So my actual training, as far as my academic training and what I teach, doesn't really help that much. Other than my interest in math and modeling things, and really knowing that everybody's unique, and that's what pharmacokinetics teaches you too. You're tailoring it to that unique situation and everyone's unique. Sandra: I love what I teach. I think it's very interesting and I think it helps patients have the best experience that they can have. And so it's important for me to help pharmacists know how to do this, but I have really become more engaged and that's through my work in assessment and helping students be successful in the classroom. And this, I guess, again, leads back to the food insecurity and not having to worry about ... Yes, you should be worried about your test. Yes, you should be worried about your project and your paper. You need to be worried about all that. But please don't worry so much that you can't be successful. But I don't want you worrying about food and shelter. And so I guess circling back to that, I explained my path, I guess, how I've evolved as an academic. But ... Jolie : One of the things that you're really talking about is this tension between addressing the individual needs of a given student, but also recognizing that we live in a society that the systems themselves are unequal, right? And so we also see patterns of inequality around access, around some of the resources. So, a 2019 study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that LGBTQ +, Black, and Native American students were significantly more likely to be food insecure, housing insecure, or a combination of the two. Can you explain for listeners, why is it that some members of these groups are at an increased risk? And what are some of the things that universities can do to help meet those students' needs? Sandra: Well, I think, and Dani, you can jump in here too, but from my understanding and my reading, it's because they're in a situation where often they live, they've been brought up in food deserts, which are more and more common and problematic in our society. And if you don't know what a food desert is, it's an area that you cannot get affordable, appropriate food within your local area. Because a lot of folks don't have transportation either. And especially during COVID when the bus systems shuts down, how are you going to get food when there is no food for you to get? Especially healthy, affordable food. Sandra: And as Dani mentioned before, produce is especially difficult to get. And as a healthcare practitioner, we know that diets that are just made of processed food or fast food is not what we want people to be eating. But to be able to get the fresh produce and to get affordable, fresh produce, in a lot of places you have to have a car. And this is often where people that are disadvantaged because of their race or their sexual identity are put at great disadvantage. Sandra: So, I don't know if that answers your question. But we also know that COVID, for these groups that are in such distress anyway, COVID has affected them as the disease itself and access to all the support systems that they need, it's hit them in two to three, probably more than that, fold when compared to others that are not in these groups of, as you've mentioned, gender identity minorities, as well as Native Americans and People of Color in general. Dani, you may have more light to shed on that. Dani: So, you said a lot of great points. The only thing that I would add is those demographics, or that population of students that you mentioned, you can also think they are probably more times than not an independent student when you think of student financial aid. So with that, that means there's not very much familial with support or monetary support. They're probably working a little bit more than 10 to 20 hours a week to come to college, to survive in college. Dani: So, there's so many other factors. Really, when you think about student financial aid, it is way more than Pell Grants and things like that. You should always think of those independent students as those students who constantly need high touch points. For the last three to four years, I did reach out to student financial aid last summer and on average BGSU receives about 1,400 independent students that self identify as independent students through student financial aid. Dani: Those 1,400 students should be students that we are always checking in on because we know, based on that status alone, they don't have the support. So, just things like that. Again, I mentioned earlier on I love trends and things like that. So, it's always about knowing, yes there's marginalized identities, they will struggle at a greater rate for a number of reasons. And a lot of it could be systemic. Also learning, what are some of the other groups of students or why those particular groups still align within other challenges, really? So, I think that would be the other piece I would add. Jolie : What are some of your practical recommendations for what institutions can do to support students facing basic needs insecurities? Dani: I think the first one would be making it available. So for example, Wood County, BG in particular, there's no homeless shelter for just the average person we have Cocoon. So, maybe we could have Residence Life provide immediate shelter for students in need and not just those in a Title IX situation, which is always great and we are very appreciative. Could it be possibly creating family housing? Because we know that our student demographic will change. We will probably get more parents. Where are they going to stay? What are the support services that we have? Dani: Student organizations. Is it just directed towards average college age students or all collegiates? So, if the meetings and things like that are in the evening, then I'm probably not going to go, but those same meetings have free food that I would probably benefit from. So, it's just really looking at all of those little pieces and how, if we shifted them or added additional resources like having afternoon meetings or having a grocery store, not just the pantry, but an actual grocery store where you could just shop and have all types of items. Dani: I know that we partner with the French thrift shop in Woodland Mall. And so we give students clothing vouchers that they need. That has been a really great resource for student parents, because everything in there is 50 cent or $1 and you don't have to pay for it because we already have the clothing vouchers. We partner with LMARIES Laundromat. That's been super awesome because yes, the residential students have free laundry through residence life, but off campus it's really expensive to wash clothes. Dani: I know when I was a grad student, I went to school overseas and it was super expensive. I never dried my clothing for a whole year. All of my clothes were crunchy. I remember when I came back home, that was something I was really excited about because I couldn't afford both. Clean clothes I can do, but you just going to have to air-dry and they're crunchy. They are not the same. It's a privileged opportunity that I realized is a real thing. But laundry was really expensive. So having that as a resource to students. Dani: Having toilet paper and regular household items. A student just asked me, "Can I buy light bulbs with the Walmart food card?" And I was like, "Dani, why did you not think that students need light bulbs?" They need to see. And they just bring so many things to my attention, for resources that they need. It's so incredible because we're humans, we have our own apartment and yet we take a lot of things for granted. And so I think the other thing is within higher education, we can look at some of those things that we take for granted as something that everyone has and makes sure that our students will have them. Sandra: And frankly, I don't have much to add to that other than I think the biggest thing I would say is don't assume you know. Don't assume anything. I have learned a lot about this just from hanging around people like Dani and doing some reading on my own. And don't assume you know. I have learned that there's students on our campus that not only did their parents not support them, but they're upset that they're here. Sandra: So, there's so much. And I think as somebody that has never had to worry about this, to put yourself in the shoes of someone that does, and really look at it with love and compassion and sometimes I get upset cause I see people's comments about food insecurity and dismissing it. And I think that's the biggest thing I would say, is people need to be open to the possibility of what this is and thinking about what it would be like to be in this situation. And then trying to do something about it. Whether that's with actually giving gifts of money to the different food pantries and of course to the BGSU Student Emergency Fund to support students. Sandra: And it's not only students, it's also staff and faculty that are in this situation. And we want to make sure our whole community is taken care of. So, to give monetary gifts, or to Dani's point, maybe take someone that you know out to eat or offer them even something subtle like a bag of cucumbers from your garden. Just put yourself in their shoes and do what you can. If you're in the position where you can help, I would encourage you to do that. Because our society, we're really dependent upon each other. During this time especially. Jolie : So, that really leads to my last question. So, for folks who want to support these initiatives, what are some things they can do? So Sandy, you mentioned donating to the student emergency fund. Are there other places or ways that people can give if they are able to do so? Sandra: I'm going to let Dani answer that. I know you can do that through the Student Emergency Fund. I'm sure that you can support the different food pantries in the area, but I'm going to turn that one over to Dani because this is her thing. Dani: So, there's always opportunities to help students. Is it connecting through student organizations that also serve student populations? Is it the Center for Public Impact? They do a lot of assisting with students. Is it donating swipes so that we can have swipes for our Falcon Care program or donating food to the grab and go food bag program? Is it winter apparel? Last year during Hunger/Homelessness Awareness week, I had some coats and gloves and other winter apparel. Our off-campus commuter service program actually knitted a lot of the scarves and hats. Dani: You'd be surprised how many people come to BG, not fully understanding that, one, BG is a windy tunnel. As soon as I step foot on the campus, it is so windy. I don't understand where the wind comes from. So, it's always really cold. Students are not always prepared for that. Dani: So, it's having maybe a clothing closet or creating that or saying, "Hey, I have all of these coats or winter apparel. Is there anyone in need?" Is it hygiene products? Do you have those? Is it supporting students during move in? Like sponsoring a student's bedding or ensuring that students have maybe a refrigerator or microwave? It's so many little pieces that we can do to help. I think as long as we begin to focus on serving the students in most need, we will always be able to serve all of our students because it only goes up from there. Jolie : And Dani, for students who may be in need of some of these resources, what's their next step to access them? Dani: They can go to the Office of the Dean of Students webpage and all of our resources are there. If you click on support and guidance, it will take you to the case management services page and you'll be able to access this. If you can't remember that, if you type in free food in the BGSU main page, it takes you to a landing page that has resources for free food, as well as application for our food assistance programs. Dani: The applications is not meant to decline, it's meant to gain some information. Because if a student is facing food insecurity, they're facing financial insecurity, they're facing other things that I can assist with as a case manager that you may not always have the opportunity to do if I don't know who you are. So, that's another resource. Dani: And then always, if you can't remember that, think of Office of the Dean of Students. We have drop-in hours Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 5:00. You can always call 211, that's a community resource. So, no matter where you are as a BG student, especially when we have a lot of virtual students, 211 and they will be able to direct you to any community resource that is available so that you're not just reliant on our campus resources, because it's not going to sustain you if it's an ongoing issue. Jolie : Great, thank you both so much for joining me today. Jolie : Listeners can keep up with ICS happenings by following us on Twitter and Instagram @ICSBGSU and on our Facebook page. You can find the Big Ideas podcast wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Please subscribe and rate us on your preferred platform. Our producers are Chris Cavera and Marco Mendoza with sound editing by Marco Mendoza. Research assistance was provided by ICS intern Morgan Taylor, with editing by Kari Hanlin. Musical Outro: Discussion.
40 minutes | 2 months ago
Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy and Dr. Jyothi Thrivikraman: COVID and Resilience
Jolie is joined by Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy, chair of the department of public and allied health and an associate professor of food and nutrition at BGSU, and Dr. Jyothi Thrivikraman, an assistant professor of Global Public Health at Leiden University College in the Netherlands. They discuss their interdisciplinary, international research study of how COVID-19 has impacted the sleep and mental health of college students and offer advice on resiliency in the midst of stress. Announcer: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture & Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie : Welcome back to the Big Ideas podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture & Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Jolie Sheffer, Associate -Professor of English and American Culture Studies and the Director of ICS. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we're not recording in the studio, but from home via phone and computer, as always, the opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Bowling Green State University is located in the Great Black Swamp, long a meeting place for the Wyandot, Huron, Kickapoo, Erie, Miami, and Peoria tribes. We honor the rich history of this land and its indigenous inhabitants, past and present. Jolie: Today, I'm very pleased to be joined by two guests, Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy and Jyothi Thrivikraman. Mary-Jon is department chair of public and allied health and an associate professor of food and nutrition at BGSU. Her research interests include energy balance, body composition, and innovative teaching. Jyothi is an assistant professor of global public health at Leiden University College in the Netherlands. Her research interests include food insecurity, food waste, and healthcare financing. She has worked and taught in countries around the world, including in Asia and Africa. MJ and Jyothi were part of an interdisciplinary, international research team studying how COVID-19 impacted the sleep and mental health of 2000 college students spanning seven countries and three continents. The study's findings and recommendations were first published in an August 2020 special issue of Clocks & Sleep. Thank you both for being with me today. I'm really happy to get to talk to you about your research. To start, could you explain the questions motivating this research and what you learned from your surveys? Mary-Jon: We are looking at the intersections between lifestyle, behaviors, resilience to stress and rumination in college students during the COVID-19 pandemic. So to unpackage that a bit by lifestyle behaviors, we're talking about food intake, alcohol consumption, sleep, physical activity. When we speak about resilience to stress, we're thinking about bounce back or recovery from a stressful situation. And when we think of rumination, we're considering excessive negative thoughts. So with that context, there's been a great deal of research to show that positive lifestyle behaviors, help to bolster mental health and likewise with resilience to stress, if an individual has more resilience to stress that helps to support their mental health. So more resilience, less anxiety, more resilience, more positive mood. The flip is true for rumination. If an individual has more excessive negative thinking, they're likely to have more markers of depression or more perceived stress. There have not been many studies that have looked at that intersection. Mary-Jon: So between lifestyle behaviors, resilience, and rumination, and certainly not in college students during a global pandemic. So that is the focus of our study. And it's a survey, and we have been working, as you said, in the introduction with researchers and a variety of disciplines and a variety of places across the globe. Something that you didn't mention in the introduction. We did our initial research in April and May, but we have done a follow up in October and November. And one of the exciting things I think that we added, we have a new partnership. So we have some partners who are in Ghana. So we have a fourth continent and an eighth country that we're excited to be collaborating with. And I think initially what we have found is that college students are struggling during this pandemic and it doesn't matter where those college students are. Mary-Jon: So the mental health struggles are very real. We're seeing in terms of those lifestyle behaviors that students' dietary quality has decreased, their physical activity has decreased. Their sleep quality has decreased. They're experiencing more stress, less resilience. We have seen perhaps what you would characterize as positive changes in alcohol consumption. So students are drinking less and they're actually spending more time in bed, so more sleep hours, but that hasn't led to better sleep quality. So even though you're staying in bed longer, not sleeping as well, and if we're thinking about the alcohol consumption, a lot of times alcohol consumption comes with group gatherings and folks are doing less of that right now. Jolie: Jyothi, mental health has been on the minds of lots of American parents, faculty members, staff for a long time. How does that compare to where you are at Leiden? Are these patterns similar where the pandemic is exacerbating existing problems, or is the context there a little bit different for sort of what the base point comparison was? Jyothi: So my college, Leiden University College, is part of Leiden University and we're in the international honors' college of Leiden University. And we draw our population 50% from the Netherlands, but the remaining population comes from countries around the globe. And so for many of our students in the initial lockdown, it was this uncertainty about if their country's locked down. Will they be able to get home? And so there was a fear about, will they be able to go home? And if they go home, will they be able to come back and return to study? But the situation now is slightly different. Most of the students have come back to study, and we are doing a mixture of online and face-to-face classes. And the Netherlands as a whole, for most schooling has opted for face-to-face. So primary and high school students are all face-to-face and college students, we have the option of meeting face-to-face if we want to with reduced numbers, smaller classes, ventilation, and mask wearing, which has just been legalized in the Netherlands. Jyothi: So our situation is slightly different in terms of that face-to-face interaction, which I do think has helped a lot with the students. In the initial stages, when we had that very, very strict lockdown in March, April and May, it was a challenge. We're not as an institution used to having online education. So we went from a very small, interactive dynamic program to being on Teams and Zoom, which none of us had ever done before. So there was a great deal of transition, uncertainty, uncertain Wi-Fi connection for many families, right? And many students. And I think some of those issues have resolved as time has progressed. Jyothi: That being said, the students, what they're struggling with now, I would argue is the social aspects. So they're getting the education that they need, but there's the social component of learning that is being missed out on. So we do have a residence building and we do have students living in their dorms, but surprisingly, I was really apprehensive about 400 students moving in from many different countries. I was absolutely confident that we would be ground zero for a COVID outbreak and we've had five or six cases since they've come back. And so that's been amazing, but that has meant that they've been following really strict social distancing guidelines, isolation. So they haven't had the social interaction. And I think now, as the weather gets colder and darker, you can see some of those challenges appearing. We've had beautiful unseasonably warm weather, and now it's cold and dark and it gets dark around four here. So people are fraying at the ends. Jolie: You talked about the way your teaching had to adjust in very short order to online, but I'd like you to talk a little bit about how your research and your data collection methods changed in this time period. And for this project in particular, did you have to do the project differently than you normally would have, or was this kind of similar to the kinds of research each of you had done previously? Mary-Jon: It's really interesting that you ask this. And for a number of years, I've been working with research that involves health patterns in first-year college students. And one of my collaborators, Robin Tucker, is at Michigan State University. And another collaborator, Laura Keaver, is at Institute of Technology Sligo in Ireland. Laura had obtained some grant funding that would have enabled her in April to travel to Michigan State and to BGSU, to help build on our research collaboration. Obviously that didn't happen because of COVID, but one of Robin's graduate students,Chen Du, had recently had a study approved for face-to-face data collection that looked at the intersections of lifestyle, behaviors, resilience, and rumination and college students. So we needed to regroup. Mary-Jon: And Robin and Chen worked together really quickly to reformat this investigation into an online survey. Robin reached out to Laura from Ireland and me at BGSU and said, "Would you like to collaborate on this?" So Laura and I said, "Sure." And we worked quickly to gain approval from our institutional review boards. I posted about the survey to our faculty listserv to get help in recruiting students. And when I did that, almost immediately, I had responses from some colleagues who were interested in getting involved. So Wan Shen is a Chinese faculty member, she is in nutrition. She said, "Could I help you to recruit a Chinese sample of students?" And I said, "Oh, that would be fabulous." Mary-Jon: And HeeSoon Lee, who is a South Korean faculty member in social work, said, "I would love to help you recruit a South Korean population." So both of them jumped on board and then another colleague. His name is Brent Archer, he's a South African colleague, he's in communication sciences and disorders. And he said, "Oh, maybe I can help you recruit a South African population." Well, that didn't work out. However, Brent connected us with Jyothi and her team in the Netherlands, and this just kept growing and growing. And we formed this international team of health focused investigators, but health in a broad sense, multidisciplinary health. And it's been just super exciting to work with and learn from this whole team. Jolie: And Jyothi, what about for you? Was this process in doing sort of everything online and surveys and the sort of international approach, was that in line with previous research you had done, or was this a sort of new mode of work for you as well? Jyothi: It's a very new mode of data collection for me and tend to be very much more of a participatory action research type of researcher. So I've done a photo voice project where participants in the Hague had to take photos of their food waste. So I do believe in local engagement, right? So this was very new for me in survey data. My strong suit is not quantitative data, so this was a leap for me as well too. But you know, what was nice was to join a project with researchers from different countries and to learn from each other, to understand people's different viewpoints on these topics, to even get feedback on the paper. So we've had one paper submitted and accepted. And so it was nice just to see how other people thought about the different issues and the suggestions they gave. So I think it's an opportunity to learn and MJ, Robin and myself, we've applied for another grant. We weren't successful, but this possibility has opened up other possibilities, which has been lovely. So I welcome future collaborations with this team. Jolie: I'm curious, another question I have is sort of how do you when you're working internationally across multiple disciplines, right? So a general common language of health, but thinking about those questions with different methodologies, different theoretical orientations, all of that, how did you create a common research language for talking across those disciplinary, theoretical, geographical and cultural differences? Jyothi: Sure. I can actually give an example. We had multiple email exchanges about this. So in the first round of a survey. We didn't collect any race and ethnicity data. And we were talking about that, during the second round, there is race and ethnic data collected, but solely in the U.S. and we were trying to think about how would we collect that here in the Netherlands? And we don't collect data like that. And so we emailed back and forth with Laura at Sligo. And she said that they just dropped that question. The same with the Malaysian partners and Taiwan and we don't categorize individuals according to Black, white, Hispanic, African-American, those categories don't exist. It's whether you're Dutch or not. And whether you come from a migrant background or not. And so the categories that are used in the U.S. even though they make sense to me, because I'm American, they're not practical here. Jyothi: And for our students, if they had to fill that out, they would know what to make sense of that. We do have students that are Black, but they're African black. We have Zimbabweans; we have Ethiopians; we have a different category. So their experience about being Black is very different. And so I think we spent a few emails, so we actually don't have those questions. So it was also looking at the survey to contextualize it for the various regions, what made sense. And that was fascinating for us to think about as a team. How do we think about this, and what are the assumptions that we're making when we include these questions? Jolie: So, MJ, you were the founding director of the Health, Wellness, & You academic learning community at BGSU where first-year students guided by upperclassmen, grad students and faculty mentors became researchers about their own health patterns. Can you talk a little bit about why you think it's important for first-year students in particular, just to really think reflectively about their patterns and to find opportunities for improving their own self-care practices? Mary-Jon: Jyothi and I actually talked about this yesterday. And one of the concepts that she talked to me about was critical junctures in life. And Jyothi was talking about that in the context of the COVID pandemic being one of these time points, where it can cause you to take either path A or path B, and it's a life course shift. And I think that parallels the work that we do with first-year college students. So it's one of these critical junctures in life where students are adopting patterns that may follow them throughout life. So it's a time where if you're able to establish healthy lifestyle behaviors. So if you're able to learn techniques that will help you to improve your resilience or be more physically active, or eat a high-quality diet or sleep better, that those are patterns that you can use to support you throughout life. Jolie: Given your experience at both the U.S. systems, and now in the Netherlands, I wonder what changes you'd like to see implemented. And you can answer this at whatever scale you want, whether it's sort of on the small scale, like a college campus, right? Are there recommendations you think that could improve health care access and the issues of resilience and things like that for students, or they're kind of bigger scale changes? Clearly, you're mentioning sort of the different kind of economic and social support models that's a much larger scale, but what are some of the smaller scale changes that you think could help improve student outcomes in times of real challenge? Jyothi: So, one of the things that my institution did, because we were shifting online, we decided that the student's well being was central to that. And we weren't going to operate as a business as usual standard. So our Dean actually said, "it's okay if you want to cut back on content a little bit to ensure that whatever you teach you meet the learning outcomes, but you kind of focus on a few things and ensure that they learn those well." So that relieves a little pressure from us, but it also helps the students that they're not just moving from one task to another, to another, one topic to another. So I think it's recognizing at the moment what you need and for the students, it wasn't drilling content and more content into them. And so I think it was even in the initial stages of the pandemic we had from the institution and understanding that 80% is good enough. That we need to transition ourselves. Many of us have families, kids that were home, and it wasn't this expectation of you must work a hundred percent. Jyothi: You need to be on calls. 80% is okay. 70% is okay. And part of that is, it's a different sort of job guarantee. In the U.S. you have tenure in institutions, but many of us here have permanent contracts. So after two years, you're generally up for a permanent contract, which means that it's really hard to fire you. But most people work really hard, so there's a level of trust. So with my husband's company, for example, he was locked down and worked from home, but it was also, they told him universally for the first two weeks, just make that transition to being at home, ensure that your kids are okay. And I think it's not just us as a university or college, it has to be multiple pieces of the puzzle to recognize that we're all in this together and working together. And it made a huge difference that my husband could take two weeks and we could kind of focus on the kids and we didn't have to worry about this and that, that we could kind of transition as a family into this new reality. Jolie: You've both studied, taught and worked at universities and cities around the world. I'm curious as to some observations you might make about similarities or differences with how different regions or nations provide mental health resources and support to students in particular. Mary-Jon: Something that we have both talked about is the stigma that is associated with mental health care and concerns. At BGSU, right before the pandemic, we participated in something that was called, The Healthy Minds survey to look at mental health factors on our campus. And some really interesting findings came out of that. So most of our students were experiencing mental health challenges. So about 60% of them were experiencing mental health challenges, but only about half over the time course of a year actually got treatment for their mental health challenges. So that's half of students going untreated, and the students by and large are reporting that those mental health challenges affect their academic performance. So about four and five of them are saying "these mental health challenges have affected my academics." Mary-Jon: And I think maybe the most interesting thing that came out of that survey for me was that almost no students said that they would judge another person for receiving mental health services. It was very small. It was about 4% of them, but 47% of people thought that other students, other people in their lives, would judge them for receiving mental health services. And when I'm thinking about that, that is the single biggest challenge is to mitigate that stigma so that we're getting students and we're getting members of the population at large connected with the services that they need. Jolie: How does that compare to your experiences, Jyothi? Jyothi: So while we do have good overall medical care, I think mental health is one area that we don't do so well here. So there are waiting times, and it is a challenge to go and seek mental health care. And at my college, we do have student life counselors, but there's a limited number of sessions that you can have and schedule with the student life counselor. So once those are done, you do need to seek care outside of the college and getting and accessing that care, while it might be free, is a challenge. And even that, there are limits to how much the insurance will cover. Jyothi: So in the Netherlands, they ask you to define whether you have a low problem, a medium problem, or a high problem. And then they decide how many sessions they think that you might need. So someone who has a low mental health issue, they might decide to give you 10 sessions, and then it just scales up from there. So while we do have a system that there are not barriers financially, there are other barriers. And so it has been a challenge this semester for some students accessing those services and part because in the country where we struggle with that in general. Jolie: We're going to take a quick break. Thanks for listening to the Big Ideas podcast. Announcer: If you are passionate about Big Ideas, consider sponsoring this program. To have your name or organization mentioned here, please contact us at email@example.com. Jolie: Welcome back to the Big Ideas podcast. Today, I'm talking to Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy and Dr.Jyothi Thrivikraman about sleep, mental health, and resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nancy Krieger, a professor of social epidemiology at Harvard's Chan School of Public Health said that COVID is pulling a thread that is showing the very different conditions in which we live because of social structures that are inequitable both within the United States and between countries. By pulling the thread, it's revealing patterns that have long been known in public health. I think this really speaks to what we've been talking about. As we've seen, the pandemic has exposed and deepened racial, socioeconomic, and health inequalities. In the U.S. this is definitely true in the case of Black Indigenous, Latinx, and other communities of color, having higher rates of infection, serious illness and death. And we're certainly seeing that here with the disparate economic impacts of the virus. Do you also see differences in access to and the efficacy of self-care, sleep and resilience among members of at-risk groups? Mary-Jon: I would see some specific challenges to these BIPOC communities and challenges that I have experienced when working with my students are that oftentimes these communities are essential workers. So they haven't been given the same breaks or the same flexibility that lots of us have had for working from home and social distancing. So these communities are put at greater risk. And some of the students that I've worked with, they have had to continue working at their jobs because they are the only family member who's currently working right now. So even though they're trying to navigate the higher education system, they're also responsible for supporting their families. And I think that there's a good body of research to say that the BIPOC communities are also living with higher levels of day-to-day stress. And those experiences with chronic stress can have an effect both on mental health and on physical health. So it's a more vulnerable population. Jolie: Anything you want to add to that, Jyothi? Jyothi: Yes. So we don't have the same categories. So for us, it's migrant, non migrant. And within the migrant category, we do distinguish between Western and non-Western migrants. So for non-Western migrants, so in the Netherlands, that would be Moroccans, Turkish. We do have a large Indonesia Surinamese population from the former Dutch colonies in Indonesia and Suriname. And in the first wave, they were not disproportionately impacted, but in the second wave they have been disproportionately impacted. In terms of whether they're essential workers or not, we don't necessarily have that. So it is much more of a mix between Dutch and non-Dutch doing some of those grocery store clerks, the other essential roles. Jyothi: So it is a different mix here, but I would argue, yes, these communities have been impacted in other ways. So whether it's primarily suffering illness and death from that, but they might have impacts around food. They might be under employed, so the other secondary impacts. A lot of them may not speak Dutch. So accessing medical care, the shift to online education, if your kids go to a local school, everything was in Dutch. And so some of the parents have challenges understanding what is going on if you don't speak Dutch. And then there aren't very many support mechanisms to help non-Western migrants who don't speak Dutch right now. Jolie: We are recording this conversation in December 2020. So we're now a year out from the first confirmed cases of COVID-19. I want to ask a last question. What do you think are the most important lessons that you hope we are learning? What do you see as the best-case scenario for how this current crisis might transform our conversations around mental health and wellbeing? Mary-Jon, you want to go first? Mary-Jon: Sure. For me in the pandemic, I have seen the value of educational institutions. Bowling Green State University, often calls itself a public university for the public good. And I believe that the pandemic has made that mission even more clear. So I'm reflective. And I think about the pandemic as an opportunity to be part of the solution. Something that I think about with higher education is that it has a reputation for being a bit of a dinosaur. So we don't adapt very rapidly to change. And the pandemic was something that forced us to rapidly adapt to change. So we were able to transform our courses quickly online. We have been able to learn that we can work in hybrid course environments in hybrid work environments. And if we have students or we have faculty, or have staff who are experiencing challenges, that it gives us an opportunity to work with them in a flexible sense. Jolie: And for you, Jyothi, what do you hope we take away from this time? Jyothi: I think to follow up on what MJ just said; I do think that it has opened up new possibilities from an educational standpoint, new ways of collaborating across institutions, amongst faculty. We've had guest speakers from around the world that we didn't even think were possible. And so, for exposure to students, that's been brilliant. We've also gotten much more creative about trying to design assignments, where students go outside of the building. So we don't just give them essays anymore. We say go safely or in groups of two with masks and go take photos and develop an essay. So we've started to think creatively about how education works and what's the best way for students to interact with the material. But because I like larger pictures, I do wonder because there is this talk about getting back to normal and some of the conversations we've had about structural inequalities, both in the U.S. and here in the Netherlands. Jyothi: I do hope that we don't go back. I hope that one of the lessons that we learn is how to creatively engage with solutions and problems. To realize what we've been talking about, which is that we're people and that we need each other much more than we've realized. I think both the U.S. and the Netherlands tend to be very individualistic on some level. And one of the lessons that I hope and that public health is formed from is how important we are and how connected we are. And we sometimes forget that. And I hope the pandemic has made us realize our connections. Jolie: Yeah, I think that's so true. I think this time, and the challenge is so many of us have with social distancing, that feeling of isolation really does reveal that when we talk about public health, we're not just talking about viruses or bacterial infections or things like that. We're also talking about collective mental health, and the social fabric of communities and the need to really prioritize that. If we can get a man to the moon, if we can do this moonshot warp speed for a vaccine, why can't we have those same kinds of ambitions and success at really rethinking the social fabric of our communities to be more equitable? So thank you both so much. You wanted to add something? Mary-Jon: So can I add something? And I don't know where to throw this in later, I think many of the pieces of education and pieces of programming already exist, it's just getting people connected with those and something that's been really neat on our campus is we've had these dining robots. So these little robots that you can order and they deliver your meals to you. So that's something that happened on our campus right before the pandemic began and something I serve on this mental health awareness and education committee, and something that we were able to do was to get messages to students about support services, like the counseling center to be included in the dining robot. So when you get your meal, you also get a message reminding you of support services. Mary-Jon: I don't know that will work and actually help to connect people to the services. But I think we need to look at those unique communication methods. And another thing that campus is doing is Designing Your Life. So that's a book that came out of Stanford, but it's an approach. And it's been mostly used with mid-career professionals who might be unhappy in their lives. So to think about how to design more successful and more meaningful lives, but it's an approach that's really being considered for college students to think about designing their lives in a manner that will promote better balance and better self-care. Mary-Jon: So I'm thinking about some of these things that we discussed, and I'm thinking that if we have this designing your life approach, that part of that is thinking about how to bolster your resilience and thinking about how to set up healthy lifestyle behaviors. So I think about these pieces just being infused in all of the courses, and as faculty members, we're always putting together a syllabus design for course. So what can you put in there that can help to connect students with services and let them know that it's actually okay to access the services? Jolie: Listeners can keep up with ICS by following us on social media, whether that's Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook @icsbgsu. You could also listen to Big Ideas wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Please subscribe and rate us on your preferred platform. Our producers are Chris Cavera and Marco Mendoza with sound editing by Marco Mendoza. Research assistance was provided by ICS intern, Morgan Taylor, with editing by Kari Hanlin. Musical Outro: Discussion.
29 minutes | 2 months ago
Dr. Monica Longmore and Dr. Wendy Manning: COVID and Social Distancing
Jolie is joined by Dr. Monica Longmore and Dr. Wendy Manning, professors of sociology at BGSU, to discuss their National Science Foundation-funded grant to study social distancing compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also discuss how family bonds are being challenged and redefined in this challenging time. Announcer : From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie: Welcome back to the Big Ideas podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Jolie Sheffer, associate professor of English and American Culture Studies and the Director of ICS. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are not recording in the studio but remotely via phone and computer. As always, the opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Bowling Green State University is located in The Great Black Swamp, long a meeting place of the Wyandotte, Shawnee, Lenape, Ottawa, Kickapoo, Fox, Pottawatomie, Erie, Miami, Peoria, Chippewa and Seneca Indian tribes. We honor the rich history of this land and its indigenous inhabitants, past and present. Jolie: Today I have the pleasure of being joined by two guests, Dr. Wendy Manning and Dr. Monica Longmore. Wendy is a distinguished research professor of sociology who studies the increasing diversity and complexity of contemporary family relationships. She currently serves as Director of the Center for Family and Demographic Research and co-director for the National Center for Family and Marriage Research. Monica is also a professor of sociology, she studies how individuals defined themselves along with self-evaluations of various personality components. Thank you for joining me today. Both of you in April, as well as Dr. Peggy Giordano, were awarded a National Science Foundation grant on the subject of the coronavirus pandemic predictors and consequences of compliance with social distancing recommendations. So, we've all been living with social distancing but you're, sort of, really thinking about the impacts of that. So, thank you for joining me today to talk more about this research. Jolie: Can you describe the research project and how it's evolved as this pandemic has continued? And generally speaking, how is social distancing connected to your own individual research interests relating to marriage and family relationships and adolescent development? Wendy, will you start us off? Wendy: Sure. It's a great pleasure to be here today, so thank you. What we're doing today is really based on a long-term, 20 year project and so, that really has positioned us to best understand what's happening with COVID. And we started this project back in 2001, we did our first year of data collection of teenagers who were living in Lucas County, Ohio and they were all going to public schools and so, it was a population-based sample. And we had about 1,300 adolescents participate in the survey and we have been following them all through their adolescence, all through their 20s and now they're in their early 30s. And so, we had just finished our sixth wave of data collection when the pandemic hit and so, we have these valuable participants who we really know a lot about their lives and we had just finished a data collection, focusing a lot on child well-being and because a lot of our respondents are now parents and we thought, how are our respondents doing in the pandemic? Wendy: So, we were considering about how we're doing during the pandemic but we were like, how are our people doing? And so, we decided that it would be really a unique opportunity to ask them, when we just finished interviewing them about child wellbeing and parenting, how are you doing now? And so, that's really how the project stemmed was. We thought we have all of this information for so many years about these respondents and there's a lot of polls and surveys that are going out right now but they're all cross-sectional. And they're just asking you, kind of, one point in time, how are you doing? But we really wanted to know, we knew how they're doing over their whole life course and what they were like prior to the pandemic and how that's influencing what they're doing now. So, that's, sort of, in a nutshell where we got the idea. Maybe Monica, you want to tell us about the actual, how it's going. Monica: I think Wendy's correct. I distinctly remember a conference call with Peggy and Wendy and we had just completed our data collection and the first polls were coming out and these posters were saying, "oh, everyone's depressed and there's problem drinking and there's child maltreatment" and Peggy, Wendy and I were saying, "relative to what? What's our baseline?" And we knew that we had those measures, not only did we have them but we had those measures going back many, many years. This is, in a sense, a natural experiment. We've been collecting these data and then this pandemic hits, so that becomes our stimulus, so to speak. What do people look like now? Did their problem drinking really increase? Did child wellbeing decline? Did depressive symptoms go up? Did anxiety go up? And how much so? Or is it the case that individuals who are already experienced in these problems, perhaps the pandemic amplified it? Wendy: And also the question of, who does better and who fares better during the pandemic? So, trying also to learn something about maybe targeting programs or targeting efforts to try to help folks out. So, the National Science Foundation had an opportunity, what they call the rapid grants, where they would review them very quickly and that's exactly what we needed was, we needed to get in the field soon, we could not sit around and think about this for a year. Usually we would pre-test, we would have a lot of ideas, we would write a long grant application but we really had to pull something together quickly but we were in a good position because we had just finished asking them a whole compliment of questions. And so, a big feature and something that our colleague, Peggy Giordano, has really been taking the lead on are, we do a fair number of qualitative interviews. Wendy: So, we interview people with an online survey but we also target different groups of folks and talk to them. And in their own words, find out what's going on and we've had different themes over time and so, we decided we really wanted to ask some questions about social distancing, about COVID. And so, you were asking about how this project changed. We normally would do those interviews face-to-face, we have a wonderful interviewer in Toledo, Claudia Vercellotti, and she, instead of talking to folks in person, talked to them on the phone, we couldn't be face-to-face. And so, the pandemic did change how we did our interviews and it gave us an opportunity, though, to talk to a wide variety of people. Not everybody was living in the area, we had over 50 of those interviews completed on top of our efforts to do an online survey with close to 1,000 respondents. Wendy: So, the online survey continues during the pandemic, so that is something that our respondents are used to. We initially interviewed them in person, the first few waves and then we slowly have been moving to an online format. They know us, they know what the survey is about and it allows them to do the survey in the comfort of their own home, when it's good for them. We're almost out of the field collecting data on them, so we started in June and we'll be hopefully completing at the end of October and about 80% of the respondents have agreed to participate. Jolie: That's really impressive. It really speaks to this long-standing relationship that you have. Monica, your research examines how people define themselves in multiple factors, including their identities, beliefs and experiences. How do you see the pandemic and social distancing protocols having complicated or changed or amplified how individuals, particularly adolescents and young adults, craft these self-definitions? Monica: Right. So, one of the areas I'm interested in is, what are the psychological resources that people have for coping with problems? Particularly what I'm calling stress-related COVID problems. And so, what I'm suggesting is that, individuals who started out with a higher sense of efficaciousness or sense of control over their lives, would better be able to manage COVID related stresses, things like having to homeschool, having to telecommute, financial problems and that those are the individuals that perhaps would be less likely to experience depressive symptoms, high anxiety and problem drinking because I was trying to think of something that's behavioral and that's of a concern to individuals. So, that's, kind of, the approach that I'm taking up and I'm just recently looking at that, the idea of what I'm calling positive parenting. What are the ways that parents can continue to provide emotional support in a sense of caring to their children? And then, obviously, what's the gendered component of that? Because one of the things many people know is that, when kids are stressed, they call for mom. Kids are angry, they call for mom. Monica: And so, it does seem like there's going to be a disproportionate workload for women, particularly in that emotional range, what they have to give and obviously then, something has to give. What is going to give? Perhaps work hours have to give, maybe standards for homemaking have to give, something has to give. And so, as we've said before, we need a base, we have to know what it was prior, we can't just go in now and say, oh, look, women are not working as much as they used to. Well, compared to what? That's the approach that we're always taking. In prior work, Peggy, Wendy and I, have also looked at this notion of uncertainty, whether it's relationship uncertainty. As you probably know, there's high rates of cohabitation. And so, we're interested in whether or not COVID, the pandemic, is making individuals less certain about their relationships. Or perhaps you realize life is short, this is not so bad and then obviously, financial uncertainty, what is the effect of financial uncertainty on psychological wellbeing? Jolie: Wendy, much of your research is about cohabitation and its relationship to wellbeing. And we know that due to social distancing, many of them are living in closer quarters that they have ever lived before. Do you have any early implications for short or long-term impacts for couples and families? Wendy: I think that's a great question and there's been a lot of speculation about that and we can all draw on our own experiences and thinking about how relationships can be strained during these times but also you might learn that this is really a great relationship for you. Wendy: And so, I think, initially a lot of people were thinking, we're going to see high divorce rates because couples aren't going to have any outlets. We don't know the answer to that yet, we don't know if more couples are moving in together. There was a thought that maybe in our effort to create a COVID bubble, you would have COVID cohabitation. And whether those relationships are going to be as stable as other relationships that weren't formed during COVID and so, that all remains to be seen. And so, that's what's going to be really exciting because we'll actually have some evidence about that and we really want to know the answers about that. We've done a lot of research on intimate partner violence and relationship quality and we'll actually be able to understand if there's a change in intimate partner violence or verbal conflict or relationship satisfaction. So, all of these elements of relationships we'll be able to see what was happening before COVID and what was happening after. So, we're interested in that. Wendy: Peggy is analyzing, right now, a lot of the qualitative interviews that we've done and she's finding, also that there's couples where there's not agreement about social distancing or about how to manage it and so that can be an extra source of stress. So, it's not just being in the same house together, maybe having financial pressures but also just the pandemic itself and how to manage it, can differ. And she's seeing a decision and I consider there might be more increases in that with the holidays emerging. So, how are couples going to deal with social distancing? And it's one thing if you're social distancing during months where there's not major holidays but eventually, I think, there's going to be additional pressure and strain on couples. So, we're using the surveys, we'll be using the in-depth interviews, so we're really looking forward to moving forward on that. Jolie: This team on this grant includes Peggy, who has a background in criminology, Wendy, you as a demographer and Monica with social psychology. Why was it so important for this project and this project in particular, as well as your research, generally, to bring together these different disciplinary perspectives? Monica: For all of our projects but this one in particular, I think that we all brought something unique to it. Wendy, of course, understands demographic patterns and I think that I brought to it, sort of, the theory of behavioral motivation and then Peg always has been able to really articulate problem behaviors. And what is life like for individuals who have more disadvantaged backgrounds? Whether it's economic marginality or perhaps a history of substance abuse or a history of intimate partner violence or a history of parental incarceration. And to contextualize it, her point is always, you can't just study family life without looking at how it might differ by these sociological variables. So, I think we've all brought something different into the project. Jolie: Monica, your research is so much about child adolescent development. Since most adolescents can't currently have the typical social experiences that define their stage of life, what are some of the questions you're interested in finding answers to about the repercussions or changes to adolescent self-definition? Monica: I think this is a tough time to be an adolescent. Part of it is developmental, that the process of individuation, where you're supposed to be separating from your parents and really looking more to your peer group for guidance, at least, in terms of popular culture kinds of things. And that has been completely turned on its head. Now, on the other hand, what young people have now that they haven't had in the past is the social network and Snapchat and FaceTiming and all of these different kinds of ways of connecting. And so, I suspect what we're going to see is that, kids are finding ways to separate from parents in ways that we don't even know because we're just not in the groove, so we have no idea how they are staying connected. But one of the other things I was going to mention but normally when we're thinking about health and wellbeing, usually the larger your social network, the better you are, right? Monica: Particularly because the larger the social network, the more likely you'll get the emotional support you need. And you can also give social support because of that norm of reciprocity. But what happens then when you have this large social network and you can't do it anymore. And so, one of the hypothesis that Peggy, Wendy and I have is, this may be one of those instances where individuals with the smallest social networks may actually fare better than an individual with a larger social network. Now, again, this is something, it's a preliminary hypothesis, so we have to still study that. Jolie: We're going to take a quick break. Thanks for listening to the Big Ideas podcast. Announcer: If you are passionate about Big Ideas, consider sponsoring this program. To have your name or organization mentioned here, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jolie: Hello and welcome back to the Big Ideas podcast. Today I'm talking to Dr. Wendy Manning and Dr. Monica Longmore about their NSF funded project on compliance amid social distancing protocols. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified many, many of the aspects of systemic, racial and economic inequalities in the United States and around the world. We are seeing that racial and ethnic minority groups are at increased risk of getting sick and of dying from COVID-19. In regard to your study, how diverse is the sample in terms of ethnicity and the variables of disproportionality related to social distances capability? Wendy: So, that's a big question that we're interested in, is the idea that the pandemic is not experienced evenly across all groups. And so, there's people who are marginalized in terms of economics, in terms of race and ethnicity, we have folks who are marginalized, all kinds of domains. And so, we'll be able to consider that in our analysis because our sample reflects the population of Toledo. And so, we have a sample and we over-sampled on racial and ethnic minorities in our project. We have...Our sample also includes a fair number of folks of different economic standings and economic wellbeing, so that will be important. We have included questions about who's an essential worker or not, so we'll have some understanding of what their occupation is and whether they've suffered economically due to COVID. We asked very direct questions about that. So, I think we'll be able to answer questions and find out ways that maybe some folks are better able to cope than others. Wendy: And so, that's what we're hoping to learn is that, while the pandemic is going to hit some people harder, people might have different kinds of resilience. Maybe if they have different kinds of social networks or different kinds of engagements in their relationships. So, we don't know the answer but it's a good one. Monica: I would add to that, that we also know a little bit about their social experiences, in particular. One of the questions we asked is, do you know someone who came down with COVID? And then a second follow-up question is, do you know anyone who passed away from COVID? And so, I think that those are questions that really get at the lived experiences. Jolie: What are you hoping your research might reveal about community and cultural factors for compliance with social distancing protocols? How are you hoping that your findings might help public health officials and others to better communicate around particular pandemic protocols but maybe also about qualities for resilience, more generally? Wendy: I think that's what makes our project really exciting because we feel like we've done a lot of research over the years but we've never researched something that's so time-sensitive and such a crisis, that's experienced by everybody. So, we're hoping that we will learn, who is resilient, who is able to maybe cope. We assume everybody is stressed, how that differentially impacts some folks versus others. And so, we're trying to reach out to broad audiences. One of the missions of NSF is that you have a public engagement component of your project and so, we are very invested in that. And so, we look forward to speaking to people in our community about what we find but until we know our findings, we don't know what the solutions will be. And so, right now, some of the solutions are, sort of, generic, it's, sort of, a one-size-fits-all and the messaging has changed a lot over time. Wendy: I know already that from the qualitative data, that it's complicated, that people have complex rationales for their behavior and they're appropriate for them in their life. But we're really excited about making a difference. We're just not sure exactly how that's going to happen. Jolie: I'm wondering if, because of this time, you are also thinking differently about getting some of your findings in the hands of your subjects. Has that been a subject of conversation amongst the three of you co-PIs on this project? Wendy: We don't have a specific plan, at this moment, to share the findings with the subjects but we definitely are thinking about new ways of sharing the findings through social media and we have hopes that then, we'll be able to reach out to our respondents. We typically do not correspond directly with our respondents, unless it's about interviewing and about the project but as many of them have participated over the years, I'm sure they've Googled us and they understand what our project is. Sometimes we talk about what some of the findings are, we really want the respondents to know that they are valuable to us because only they can represent their lived experience, nobody else can, we can't replace them with somebody else just like them. So, if I was just doing a big survey, I could just say, oh, here's a 20 year old person who's in college, I can just find another person like that. So, they're very unique and special but we're hoping, not only our respondents but the broader community, as they represent the community, we'll be able to speak out to them. Monica: One of the other strategies we've done on this project, more so than any of our other projects, is the involvement of undergraduates in the research process. Through the CFDR, I was able to receive a small grant to hire, I think it was about, five undergraduates, to work on our project, to help with the transcription. We met with them weekly and they were just fabulous. And, in fact, was so successful we're doing it again. We also have several students, undergraduates, who are doing research projects that will be present in their research projects, on campus, at one of our undergraduate conferences. And we're just given thought to, how do we take it to the next step? Is it possible that not only are the students transcribing and critiquing the data and writing about it, is there a role to actually train some of them to be part of the interview process? Is that something we can do as a next step? Monica: And so, that's as a research team, that we're trying to do is, bring research to the level of the undergraduate so that they are active participants in it. And with this particular project and because they were all home, it was not hard getting really bright, enthusiastic, students to work with us. Jolie: A group of researchers from the University of Maryland, coined the term quarantine fatigue, to talk about the decline of people observing social distancing protocols, as the pandemic has grinded on. Through their research, they estimated around April 15th was when some of that fatigue started to set in. Do you have any advice that you would give to those who are experiencing quarantine fatigue but are trying their very best to comply with social distancing guidelines? Monica: Quarantine fatigue is nothing new, I'm thinking back to research that Peggy, Wendy and I did during the HIV epidemic. And it was very similar, kind of, thing, in fact, they sometimes call it zigzag compliance, where you comply with safe sex practices and then it goes down and then you comply and then it goes down and it does get exhausting. And I think the message just has to be the same. You have to wash your hands, you have to social distance, you have to wear a mask. And I think that the constant reminder is the only thing, I don't know what else can work. Jolie: How are you two, personally, holding up in this challenging time? What are some of the strategies that each of you has taken to, sort of, deal with the additional stressors of social distancing of, sort of, higher alert around health and wellbeing, things like that? For you Monica, what are some of the strategies you've maybe ramped up or shifted compared to before? Monica: No matter what we're doing in terms of our research, I'm always the one who says, let's just remember, everything will take more time, nothing takes the time we think it takes. What used to be 15 minutes is now an hour and a half and we have to give ourselves that break. And I think Peggy, Wendy and I have been fortunate with this long friendship that we connect a lot, we talk a lot. In terms of my own personal life, I live out in the country, I have, maybe, three friends. Once in a while I'll go into Bowling Green but I'm pretty much at home. Jolie: What about for you, Wendy? What is this time look like for you and how are you coping, maybe, differently than before? Wendy: Well, I think we're working at home, so as faculty, that's different. We are engaging with students in different ways. And, maybe, we're having more intense and even sometimes more emotional conversations with students as they are trying to cope and deal with COVID. So, I think, you feel like you might be making more of a difference for some people who are having a hard time and I think we all, as faculty, feel a responsibility for that but at the same time, we all face our own struggles. And so, trying to think of activities that you can do, to get outside, I went camping, so some things like that. I thought I was past the years of camping but I actually slept on an air mattress on the ground and it was not bad. Wendy: So, I think, we're all doing a lot of Zoom calling with family and friends. So, I had a Zoom call on Sunday, with people from all over the world I had went to a international high school, so people were in Japan and Israel and Houston and London. And so, I think sometimes we're reaching out to people in new ways and connecting more, so I think that's helpful. I play online Euchre with my in-laws, once a week, so that I have a card game. It's almost the same as being there, it really feels almost the same. We never did this before the pandemic. So, Monica and I both have dogs, so we spend a lot of time with our dogs. Monica: And I also had a huge vegetable garden this year, it's just so classic, just like you see on television. I had a huge garden and every weekend I'm canning something. And when I do go to-- Wendy: --About bringing me a can. She dropped off at the shops, she goes, I was in town and I left you some salsa, I'm like, great. So, I benefited. Monica: Yeah. Yeah. Jolie: Thank you so much for joining me today, Wendy and Monica. Listeners, you can keep up with other ICS happenings by following us on Twitter and Instagram at @icsbgsu or on our Facebook page. You can listen to Big Ideas wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Please subscribe and rate us on your preferred platform. Our producers for this podcast are Chris Cavera and Marco Mendoza, with sound editing by Marco Mendoza. Research assistance was provided by Kari Hanlin. Thank you all so much. Musical Outro: Discussion.
38 minutes | 2 months ago
Dr. Steve Cady and Charles Kanwischer: COVID and Leadership
Jolie speaks with Dr. Steven Cady, the Director of the Institute for Organizational Effectiveness at BGSU, and Professor Charles Kanwischer, Director of the School of Art. They discuss collaborative leadership during times of crisis and the lessons we’ve learned about adaptive teaching, effective communication, and more. Announcer: From Bowling Green State University and The Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie: Welcome to the BiG Ideas podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Jolie Sheffer, associate professor of English and American Culture Studies and Director of the ICS. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we're not in studio, but are recording remotely via phone and computer. As always, the opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Jolie: Bowling Green State University is located in the Great Black Swamp, long a meeting place of the Wyandotte, Shawnee, Lenape, Ottawa, Kickapoo, Fox, Pottawatomie, Erie, Miami, Peoria, Chippewa, and Seneca Indian tribes. We honor the rich history of this land and its indigenous inhabitants past and present. Jolie: Today, I have the pleasure of being joined by two guests, Dr. Steve Cady and Professor Charlie Kanwischer. Steve is the director of the Institute for Organizational Effectiveness at BGSU. He's world-renowned for his expertise in organizational behavior and development, specifically with the focus on whole system change. His current work involves collaborating with others to develop the best of both online and in-person learning environments. Jolie: Charlie is the director of the School of Art and a professor of drawing at BGSU. He's a six time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship. In his administrative role, Charlie studies data to determine what students need to succeed in online learning environments. Steve and Charlie, thank you for joining me today to talk about leadership. Well, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly exemplified the need for the kind of work you do to model collaborative leadership and meet the needs of students, faculty, and staff to deal with this swiftly changing academic landscape. Steve, could you start us off by talking about how your work was immediately impacted in March when the university moved to distance learning and what changes you made? Steve: So my work is on two levels, one is in the classroom with my students and then on the second level is my work with my colleagues, you two, and others at BGSU and beyond. On the first level, I immediately talked with my students and when I saw what was coming on the horizon, that we'd likely close down and we'd likely shut classes or go into a online setting, I talked with my students and I talked to them about various scenarios. I talked with him about scenarios in the class, "If we go online, this is what's going to happen. This is what we're going to meet online. This is how we're going to make it work. And this is how I'm going to handle the class, how we're going to handle your learning as well as your grading." And those kinds of things, and really made sure they had their questions answered. I also encouraged them to think about how they were going to handle it, what their scenarios were and what they were going to do. Steve: And I gave that advice to some other faculty that I was talking to, and they did that. And they said that it was pretty amazing that all of the sudden, when it happened, their students knew what to do, where to go. It's kind of like that emergency, like in a fire or whatever, where do we meet? Where do we regroup? That kind of thing. So that was number one, that was really important. Steve: And the second thing is I sent a note out to my friends and my colleagues and people and said, "Let's get together and support each other. What can we do to help each other? What can we learn from each other? How can we help each other and get better ideas on what to do in this moment?" What emerged from that was 170 people instantly showing up, signing up. We met on a Wednesday, over a hundred people showed up, I said, "You want to meet on Friday?" Another a hundred people showed up. "You want to meet on Saturday?" Another a hundred and something showed up. "Want to meet on Sunday?" Another a hundred and something showed up, and we were meeting almost every day, and then we started meeting weekly. And what came out of that is the importance of community and the importance of supporting each other. And the use of Zoom and the use of video conferencing to be able to see each other, while not ideal, it does work. Jolie: How about you, Charlie? How did that transition play out both in your role as a professor and as Director of the School of Art? Charlie: Well, it was on us so suddenly, that's what I remember. We were face to face one week... I guess we were reading news reports, we were sort of seeing, sensing this freight train coming at us, but then it was us in a rush. And I can specifically remember a faculty meeting, we called an emergency faculty meeting, when we understood that we would be closing down for what I remember was presented to us as two weeks. We were going to take a two week pause, we were going to suspend face to face classes for two weeks. And I remember really the sense of disbelief and the sense of trepidation that the faculty expressed in this meeting that we conducted to sort of figure out where we were going with the reaction to the initial shutdown. Charlie: And then it was an issue of, well, two weeks became a month, right? A month became the rest of the semester, the rest of the semester shaded into getting ready for the fall and knowing that we would have to prepare over the course of the summer. So a big part, I think, of my relationship with the faculty that I'm directing, the faculty that I'm working with, it was kind of leading them through the gradual amplification of the situation, sort of approaching it in stages. And I can remember faculty talking about, "What, if this happens, what if that happens? Have you read this article? It's telling us we can't engage in this set of behaviors anymore, we can't engage in these kinds of teaching practices anymore." And I remember going back again and again to the ideas, here's what we know now, here's what we can put in the firm column. This is something that we have a little bit of certainty about, it's not a whole lot, but we have to use that to begin to project into the future. Charlie: So what I found, I guess, was that leading the school at that moment was not just about the moment, it wasn't just about the situation we were in, in that particular moment. It was trying to create, I guess, the right kind of mental attitude, the right kind of response toward an inevitably shifting unfolding future, if that makes sense? Jolie: When you are dealing with a moment of such profound uncertainty and constant change, right? That the information, the decisions were not being made once and then decided for a semester, but that week by week, day by day, there might be changes needing to be made, that a big piece of what was effective was actually being really transparent with students and with colleagues about what is known, what isn't, and the fact that there are going to be lots of things the answer is, "I don't know, great question. Let's figure it out. Let's talk about it." Jolie: I think it's interesting that that's so important because the tendency, I think a lot of folks have during a time of crisis is to feel like what is demanded of them when in leadership positions is to be decisive and create structure and to be sort of rigid, and that, that is going to be more comforting to people. Could you talk, Steve, maybe a bit about what your own research interests in change management reveals about how people actually best respond to stress and change? Steve: Yeah, people support and defend that which they helped to create. And what's interesting is when we're in a learning environment, learning by its nature is about failure. It's about trying, taking risks in a safe space and learning at a deep level. And so when you look at collaboration and you look at leadership, we have spent how many centuries in rows and aisles in classrooms, where you sit and you're talked at, you raise your hand when you're talked to and you rewire the neural pathways in the brain to learn to be very much a linear, responsive thinker in which you don't think for yourself. Yet, the core value of education is we want to empower and inspire students to be leaders, to go out in the world and to be thinkers and to solve problems. Steve: So tell me one organization that you go in and sit in rows and aisles, when you go out and work? Show me one place where you're going to sit and be talked at and only speak and answer questions and regurgitate or repeat what you've been taught, so prove that you know what I'm talking about by repeating it back. Give me one example where that's life, it's not. Steve: And yet we spend from early childhood, all the way through college, and what's changing now, active learning, engaged learning is really... the flipped classroom, it's all coming back. But for years, and we're just now starting to get to it, for years that's all we've done. So now we create conditions where people go into the work, they sit and they say, "Tell me what to think. Tell me what to do. Where do I go? And what can I do?" And it's like automate. It's appalling to be honest with you. Steve: So change, if you want to teach people and you want to lead truly innovative, exciting places where people are joyful, wrestling with ideas, bringing their whole self into a situation. Bringing their mind, their body, their spirit and emotion, they don't just check their brain at the door and be told what to do, and don't share their emotions because it's not an appropriate and they can't be themselves, and they're taught that at school. And before you know what they go home and they have relationship problems because there's emotionally detachment from their kids, from their wives, from their husbands or partners, whatever it might be. And we have created an instructional education system that I think teaches us to be half-brained and half-human. And I think that we are now on the cusp, on the edge of a renaissance in terms of unleashing the whole human being into what is possible. And that is being advocated by all the learning and so forth. Steve: So collaborative leadership or leaders who are in environments and changing environments, they've been taught they have to have the answer because everybody keeps telling them to have the answer. It's not their fault and it's not.... And people might say, "Well, you should be transparent. You should be..." Well when they're transparent then the people that are followers take it out on them, passive aggressively, use the information against them, say that they're weak. It's just feeding into the same formula. Steve: Then there's a few brave, wise leaders, and it's beginning to emerge and it's coming out in the science and the research that the whole brain is necessary for great leadership. And you get leaders that then step out and step into that space. And they lead and they engage people and they let them fail and learn, they call it fail forward now, they call it the training, letting people fail forward into new learning and innovation. Bringing diverse groups together, it's easy to collaborate when you're with the homogeneous group, but you take a diverse group, it takes a lot longer to get to a place of functioning. Who wants to take the time to get there when you're in a hurry to show results. So leaders have got to be willing to step out and allow followers to push on them, to test them, to see if they really believe in this new kind of leadership that they're bringing forward. Charlie: Yeah, I think that's a really good answer, identifying creativity as an integral element in leadership. But from our point of view in the school of art, it kind of goes without saying, our issues are a little bit different. We are a collection of makers, studio practitioners, and our practices are based on trial and error and adaptivity and iterative, and we're used to work arounds and coming up with alternative solutions when one solution isn't working. We have that culture, we're in possession of a culture, in lots of ways has stood as well in this crisis, going back to the pasta makers and the glass pipes and all the at-home kits that faculty were putting together for students so they could work away from our studios. That creativity was in abundance. Charlie: Where maybe we face a little bit of a different problem than what Steve might be referring to or what might be going on in the more traditional academic areas on campus is our need is to harness that creativity in some way, to take all those people flying in different directions and help them establish a sense of collectivity, of collective purpose, of collective response to the situation that we were facing in the spring and that's ongoing. Charlie: Not that we want everyone to be on the same page, we embraced that variety is a strength, that diversity as a strength. That diversity not just of media and all the different things that we teach in the school, but diversity of intellectual approach, conceptual approach. It stood us very well but the difficulty as a leader, the challenge as a leader has been to arrive at consensus in the midst of all that diversity. Consensus on certain policies about how we're going to conduct our classes, consensus about the most effective modality for teaching a given discipline. It's been interesting. I've never believed more strongly that the culture that you move into the crisis with is the culture that sort of determines the response to the crisis. If we have a strong sense of community, if we have good communication, if we have a sense of transparency and fairness in the school moving into the difficult situation, then it seems like we're much better prepared for the unforeseen, the sorts of things that a crisis like this is going to throw at you. Jolie: I think one of the things you're both talking about is in some ways, and this has come up in other conversations this season in talking about the pandemic, is that it has created certain opportunities by throwing us off our well entrenched habits, right? And it's forced those in positions of authority, teachers in classrooms, directors of departments or schools to acknowledge and to have to model adaptability, creativity, a willingness to say, "Yep, I got that wrong. Okay, let's regroup." And then that becomes empowering for those, whether your students or it's the members of that department, school community to say, "Oh, I see my leader modeling this thing, okay, I can try and fail too." Because I think a lot of times what happens is we say we want our students to be creative, to take risks, but then we, in the position of authority, actually don't really demonstrate our own flexibility and willingness to take risks. It's like, "Well, I've had this assignment, I know how it works, I'm going to keep doing it this way." And this moment has made that really impossible in ways that are kind of freeing at times. Steve: I'll just say what's empowering in that is when a faculty member partners with the students and intentionally invites the students to partner with them in finding a new solution and saying, "Let's figure this out together." Students have been super helpful. Jolie: Yeah, they know things that we don't, right? And they often really do have an understanding of how to make better use of digital environments, of other ways of communicating and connecting. That can be really transformative. Steve: You start a class, you open a Zoom and you say, "Who can help me monitor the chat room?" And so if someone says, "Oh, I'll do that." And so they help you monitor the chat room and then I'll say, "Can you all summarize what's going on in the chat?" And then I say, "Can someone else do this here, and kind of help us pull up a screen and we'll create a collective document that we're going to work in." And someone will say, "I'll do that." And then so while they're doing that I'm focusing on this and we together are doing the class. Charlie: It's almost a cliche by now that we're not going back to the way things were before the pandemic, but we're also recognizing a lot of opportunity in that. The adaptations we've made, the flexibility we've demonstrated, the fact that we can offer content now in multiple modalities with different kinds of tools that faculty don't necessarily have to be present on campus, that they can be at home in a more flexible environment. Some of our faculty are actually in other countries, we have one faculty member teaching full-time from Canada right now, and another faculty member teaching full-time from Italy. They're both engaged in research projects at the same time that they're teaching and doing service. The kinds of technological bridges that we've been able to make, the kinds of technological structures we've been able to make are allowing a kind of flexibility and fluidity on the part of faculty that is unprecedented, we've never been in this kind of situation before. Charlie: We've also found that students who maybe are shy when they're in face-to-face critiques, unwilling to talk because one or two people are taking over conversations, we're finding it's much more democratic when they're online, that some of those shy students are speaking up. And actually some of the conversations that we're having around the work are more engaged, more robust than what we experienced in the face-to-face classrooms. Jolie: Yeah, there really is. In some ways there's a kind of leveling of some of those power dynamics in that move to the two dimensional screen where everyone could be a stakeholder and they can choose what kind of role that is, whether it's through the chat or speaking. I have a question for you, Charlie, about kind of your own work as an artist. How have you been impacted by this move and what is your working life like? Charlie: Like every artist I know, I've had shows canceled, opportunities that would have happened are not going to happen. In some cases canceled, in some cases postponed. So on a professional level, the pandemic's had a big impact just on the art world and the number of shows that are taking place, and the attendance at exhibitions, and galleries have had to close, museums have had to close. This sort of circulation that we take for granted in the art world has really been impaired, really been reduced. But when it comes to sort of daily working practice, and I try to work in my studio just about every day, when it comes to that, that has really been a source of strength through all of this. The idea that I'm going and doing this thing, making my work, even making progress in my work, feeling like the work has a different kind of meaning, a different kind of importance even due to the pandemic, due to the situation that's created by it, that's been really important. That's been really important. Charlie: That's been a source of, I don't know if it sounds like the right word, but solace or comfort, or maybe a better way to say it is centering. It's giving me a kind of a kind of groundedness that allows me to deal with the hyper fluidity of the situation. And I've talked to other studio artists, studio based artists who have said the same thing, that they've never felt more connected to their practice. I'm talking about the actual going to the studio, make the work, the actual execution of the work. They've never felt more connected to that than they have during this situation. Steve: And I would that for me, it's kind of interesting, I've yearned for that more because in my position and some of the things I've chosen to do, I have spent more time really busily holding the huddles and the other types of things. And I've noticed some of my friends have had that ability like you're talking about, and I've kind of yearned for that. I almost want to take some time to not be doing all these collaborative things. Charlie: That is your craft though, right Steve? You're a facilitator. You're a conversation sponsor. You're an expert at it, that's what you do. So in a way, you're exercising your craft, you're practicing your craft in a similar sort of way. Jolie: Well, and I think what that also points out too, is this moment makes in some ways more visible, all of the different human needs we have. This gets back to your point earlier, Steve, about kind of the whole student, right? We have to understand their material needs. We have to understand their spiritual needs. We have to understand all of that before we could really get to the intellectual. But it also, I think, for us as professionals, this has sort of made us realize, "Oh, I need more alone time." Or, "I desperately need more connection, that I'm feeling very alone and I need my colleagues. I need my relationships." And sort of forcing all of us to kind of identify, what are our individual needs for success? And if we recognize that, then we're in a better position to actually help our students and those we work with to similarly say, "Okay, what do you need to really feel successful, centered, balanced, able to do your best work?" Charlie: I guess what I would try to connect what we've just talked about to is the notion that, I see as one of my responsibilities is leader of the School of Art is to remind people, to urge people, to do everything I can to assist people in finding a sense of, I don't know if this is a word, but purposefulness, purpose in what they're doing. Because the pandemic has shifted, in all kinds of ways, not least of which is traditional outcomes for our work. For my studio practice, the places that I would normally be showing it. It's availability to people, and true for all the faculty. A lot of that has been taken away, and we don't know when it's going to come back and it's certainly not going to come back in the manner that it existed before. Charlie: But if you think about how that impacts students, we have students who are aspiring to be artists, students who are learning to be creators who want to succeed on a professional level. They're looking at the radical restructuring of the world that they thought they were entering, right? And it may even mean that some professional opportunities are closed off temporarily or shifted in different directions. So in the face of that sort of chaotic situation right now, the face of that unsettledness, it's more important than ever for students and faculty to remind themselves, what is this really about? What is this about at a deeper level? Why are you making work? Why are you putting so much effort into something that doesn't have the obvious outcomes anymore, and may not have the professional visibility that it had before? It really becomes about the work, I guess is what I'm saying. Jolie: About process, right? But it's about the process, right? Rather than the outcome. Jolie: What were you going to say, Steve? Steve: It's both in the sense that, there's a great book you may be aware of it's, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Charlie: Mm-hmm (affirmative), of course. Steve: And in that he describes people in Nazi war camps, completely healthy people died. Yet there were these other folks in the camps that weren't healthy, that were injured, and they survived. And he was trying to figure out as a medical doctor, how to help more people survive. And he said, one of the telltale signs that people were about to die was that they gave away their cigarettes, which was their currency in the camp. And what he found was that the people that survived regardless of their physical condition were the ones that had purpose, they had some work to continue. In the arts, they had an artistic project or book to write or something to complete, or they had something that they were living for, that they still had... They were yearning for, something that they yearned to complete and finish. Steve: And it was people who had that. So switch it to this. So I, with my students always ask them, "What difference do you yearn to make in the world? What is your profession, your career, your job that you're going to go after that matters to you, where you're going to feel a sense of purpose? How is this class and how is what we're doing going to serve you in going for that?" And I find that in this situation, if I can keep my students focused on the prize on the thing that they yearn for, in the midst of this it helps them to deal with the pressures. And if they're in community sharing that, that's the other piece, it's this community of support is critical. If anything I learned in this is that we have got to create small communities of learning, communities of support, build them, create them, start them amongst the faculty, amongst the students, amongst students and faculty, administrators, but we need to be in communities supporting each other. Jolie: We're going to take a quick break. Thanks for listening to the BiG Ideas podcast. Musical Interlude: Question, answer, discussion. Announcer: If you are passionate about BiG Ideas, consider sponsoring this program. To have your name or organization mentioned here, please contact us at email@example.com. Jolie: Hello, welcome back to the BiG Ideas podcast. Today I'm talking to Dr. Steve Cady and Professor Charlie Kanwischer about leadership during crisis, and what we've learned about online instruction and communication. We've been talking about the importance of communication and collaboration, what are some of the factors you see that impede true collaborative leadership at the university level or in large organizations and institutions? Charlie: Well, the first words that popped into my mind were bureaucracy and budget. I don't know, the interrelatedness of those two things. Sponsoring interdisciplinary work, sponsoring collaborative work, it can be expensive. Asking the university to allow two faculty members to teach a single class and not simply double up the class, there's a cost to that. And you have all these sort of administrative structures and disciplinary structures that they just function better when everybody stays between the lines. When you're trying to cross over, when you're trying to work in between, lots of times the bureaucracy doesn't know how to categorize it, it doesn't know how to evaluate it, it doesn't know how to measure the outcomes that emerged from it. Most of the structures we have at the university are set up for measuring discrete things, categorizable things, and anything that seems to want to resist that or move outside of that. It can be difficult to do that if not even opposed. Steve: Yeah, and I would offer... My favorite African proverb is, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others." And there's a really good book out that's called Going Fast and Slow, and it talks about the brain and the brain science of decision-making and how people think. And you got your executive function, and then you got your instinctive portion of your brain, instinctive function, and the fight and flight, and those kinds of things. They call it system one and system two in this particular book. Actually it's interesting, you got the left and the right and the front and the back of the brain. And if you think about it, the back is about instinct, the front is about thinking and reflection and so forth, and slowing down. The left side of the brain is about order, logic, and the right side is about creativity. Steve: And so now you've got all these different parts of the brain that are engaged, and the biggest impediment is that people sometimes don't want to engage the whole brain. So they don't want to take the time, they want to go fast and therefore people want to go alone. Yet in order to go fast and to go with others, but to go alone, the only way you can go alone with others fast is through dictation, to dictate, to direct, to force, to coerce, to make the decision and put in place the mechanisms to force people to do it. That's the only way you can do that. And then you can maybe get people to move fast because we're in that school system structure that we've trained people for many, many years to sit in rows and aisles, listen when talked to, and move quickly based on the edict that has been given out. There's a lot of other impediments, but I would describe that as a core impediment that gets in the way of true collaboration. Jolie: Well, and that's the thing, that there are certain things that are happening fast, right? That we may have to react quickly, but what you're suggesting is if we really want to make these changes transformative and meaningful, then you're going to have to be willing to slow down, to listen to other people, to take time, to try and adjust. And it's going to be less linear, and that may be in the short-term frustrating, but in the long-term, you'll get further with it. Steve: What does slowing down mean? I'm slowing down right now. I'm only taking five seconds. I take a breath, I've slowed down. I can slow down in a half hour. It doesn't mean slowing down for months. It's painful to slow down. So if I move and act quickly, it's like, "Let's get this over with, let's get this over with..." And you watch a brilliant athlete who can just move and you think, "How do they do that so elegantly?" So I think there's a notion that fast means everything's right now and slow means everything's way out there. But actually you can move too fast in one day or too fast in five seconds. It's about how we slow down our thinking, slow down our presence, presencing and noticing, and slowing ourselves down for that situation as appropriate and moving at a pace that still keeps us moving forward. Jolie: One of the things we've seen with the pandemic is that existing socioeconomic and racial disparities have gotten much worse, right? And this is on the economic front, on the health front and the infection rates, death rates and the economic impact. So it can be hard to sort of talk about those intersectional dimensions in the work that we do, but how do you address the ways in which not only are some communities more impacted, but also some have greater voice? How do you ensure everyone gets a say and is heard, and that decisions are made with them in mind and with their shaping that, again, getting back to the fast and slow, when not everyone even has equal access to the conversation? Charlie: Well, that's been a hard problem because you're caught in this bind. You don't want to overburden people with communication. You have to know when to communicate and when not to communicate, and you have to have some discernment about what's important enough to communicate and what might not be so important that you might just be bothering people with too much communication. So I view it as one of the most important characteristics you can have as a leader is that sense of proportionality, what I called discernment a moment ago. When is it necessary, and in the interest of the people you're communicating with, to communicate with them? And what can I take on? What can I relieve them of? What sort of burden can I take off of them? Charlie: I think it goes back to the notion too, that inside of a entity, an organization like a school of art, you have to have pretty good governance structures and that means we have an advisory council of the leadership in the school that meets with me every week. And then we have regular faculty meetings and the separate divisions in the side of the school are required to meet regularly. So that throughout these governance structures, people feel free to share and to speak up and not only do ideas flow up to me, but they also flow down from me to everybody in the school. Charlie: I feel pretty good about the way that we've communicated with faculty. Of course, it's students, I think, that are more difficult to communicate with in this situation. We don't have good communication channels in the school right now for getting information out to students collectively. At the height of the pandemic back in spring, I was making fairly regular, consistent messages to the students through email, and even through video, trying to let them know what was going on. That's tapered off though through the summer and into the fall, I was getting feedback from students that email isn't really an effective way to communicate. Some of those emails had to be long, almost by necessity. And that certainly tuned students out pretty quickly when they see a long email, they're already ready to delete it. I had some experiments with putting together a sort of student council, a representative group from across the school that I would meet with regularly, but that was kind of sidetracked by the pandemic and the inability to get together. Charlie: So that remains a challenge, how we communicate with students, how we let them know what's going on inside the school. And then more to the point that you we're making, how we recognize who in our communities, of both students, faculty, and staff too, who's vulnerable, who needs that extra communication, who needs that reach out, that extra level of connection? Maybe it's not going to everybody, it doesn't have to be a blanket email, but I'm finding ways to have regular meetings with people who I know are at some sort of risk. And I am, by the way... See, I am seeing that, I am seeing the stress take different kinds of forms for faculty and staff that are really having an impact on their health. Jolie: Yeah, and I think, by the same token, figuring out how to build processes, not only to communicate to those communities, but also for them to learn from them, right? So my final question for each of you is, what bit of advice, or what would you like to see around thinking differently about practices and principles of leadership learning from this moment? Charlie, what do you want to take away? What have you learned or what do you want others in leadership positions to learn from this moment about how to better lead? Charlie: It's a great question and a very hard question to answer. I guess I would begin with... What you want to recognize, I think in any communication that comes from leadership is a kind of empathy, a kind of acknowledgement of the difficulty of the situation that you're in. But it has to be empathy that's based on particularity, if it's so generalized and if it's repetitive, if it's always the same phrasing, if it's always the same points being made, if you're always using the same vocabulary, what that's signaling to me is that you're not thinking about the particular qualities of your audience, the particular lived experience of your audience. That might require extra communication or more customized communication, sort of what we were just talking about with Steve, but I think it actually goes in the opposite direction if you don't engage in that sort of thing. It becomes a kind of perception that the leadership that's communicating with you is, it was kind of communicating through a template. Charlie: We talked about industrial scaled education, industrial scaled content delivery, there's industrial scale communication as well. And I think when you're communicating to a diverse community, a very heterogeneous community, everybody doing something different, having different sorts of experiences, that kind of more homogenous communication is off-putting, it can actually do more damage, I think, than benefit. Jolie: What about for you, Steve? What would you like listeners to take away when they think about leadership roles and how to be more effective? Steve: I think believe in the power and the wisdom of the group, individually and collectively to trust and believe that people will make better decisions together than you can. If you think you can make a better decision than the group you've lost your group. Charlie: I think that's a nice, succinct way of really describing what I was trying to get at in my statement, Steve. I think out of empathy is an acknowledgement of solidarity and an acknowledgement that you're all in it together and that others may have ideas that benefit the collective. And if you imagine that you've got all the answers or that this is all on you to solve, you lose the group right away. Jolie: I think that's a great place to end. So thank you both so much for this conversation. Listeners can keep up with ICS by following us on Twitter and Instagram @icsbgsu and on our Facebook page. You can listen to BiG Ideas wherever you find your favorite podcasts, please subscribe and rate us on your preferred platform. Our producers are Chris Cavera and Marco Mendoza, with sound editing by Marco Mendoza. Research assistance was provided by Kari Hanlin. Musical Outro: Discussion.
32 minutes | 2 months ago
COVID and Tales From the Camp and the Classroom
This episode is the final chapter of a mini-series focusing on the NEH-funded project "Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis.” Stevie Scheurich guest hosts and shares the personal stories of precarity and uncertainty for non-tenure track and contingent faculty members in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. These participants discuss how the pandemic brought to light pre-existing crises and economic insecurity within academia and share how they are navigating these challenges as instructors. Announcer: From Bowling Green State University, and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Stevie: Hello, and welcome back to the Big Ideas Podcast, brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. Stevie: I'm Stevie Scheurich, a PhD student in BGSU's American Culture Studies program, and a graduate teaching associate in BGSU's Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies program. I'll be guest hosting this episode, which is part of a mini-series focusing on the National Endowment for the Humanities' sponsored project, "Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis: Adaptive Teaching and Learning at Bowling Green State University during COVID-19." Stevie: Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are not recording in the studio, but from home via phone and computer. As always, the opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the individuals involved, and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Stevie: Bowling Green State University is located in the Great Black Swamp, long a meeting place of the Wyandot, Shawnee, Lenape, Ottawa, Kickapoo, Fox, Pottawatomie, Erie, Miami, Peoria, Chippewa, and Seneca Indian tribes. We honor the rich history of this land and its indigenous inhabitants, past and present. Stevie: For today's episode, we will be doing things a little bit differently. Building on our previous episode, featuring members of the grant team working on Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis, today, I will be talking to the non-tenure track faculty members who participated in the summer camp devoted to reflexive teaching and learning. Campers were comprised of graduate teaching associates and contingent faculty who experienced differing levels of precarity due to their positioning within academia. Stevie: Since we here at Big Ideas are big believers in the transformative power of storytelling, this episode will feature members of the Summer Institute sharing their personal experiences of precarity and uncertainty caused by COVID-19 pandemic. Stevie: I began by asking everyone about how the pandemic has brought to light preexisting crises and precarity within academia. These crises are disproportionately experienced by people who are Black, Indigenous, people of color, disabled, queer, and working class folks at all levels of academia. Stevie: I asked everyone how they saw these inequalities affecting their students and themselves as non-tenure track faculty. Everyone immediately began by reflecting on how their students were being affected. Megan Rancier, an Associate Teaching Professor of Ethnomusicology was concerned by major gaps in access to internet and technology. Megan: I think I've definitely noticed those inequalities kind of more outside the university than within it. But I think you're absolutely right that once we kind of all went into crisis mode, all of these obstacles, all of these inequalities, suddenly became much more obvious to people who previously probably were oblivious to them, like me. Megan: For example, I'll talk about one thing with faculty and one thing with students, and I'll start with the students because obviously when we shifted everything online, there was this massive assumption that the internet would just solve everything. It won't be any problem. Students are using internet all the time. They're good at it. They know how to use all of these different things. And of course they'll have access, because why wouldn't they? Megan: Then, come to find out, everybody was using the university wireless. Well, not everybody, but a lot of people were using university devices, people living in urban spaces, rural spaces, it didn't matter where they were, if they were not on campus, there was no guarantee that they were going to have access to a device or access to a reliable internet, and, in some cases, internet at all. Megan: In retrospect, it seems completely bizarre that we would have just made that assumption that everybody would be fine. Within a few days. It became obvious that everything was not fine and students started to fall through the cracks. So that was a huge challenge for everybody. And then you start looking around and realizing how many other challenges students are dealing with. Of you're in an apartment with eight other family members and they're all sharing the same device, or maybe you live in a situation that is not healthy or safe, you have that added challenge. Megan: All of a sudden the focus totally shifts from, "we need to make sure the students are doing what they're supposed to be doing, completing their assignments, doing what we ask them to do in our course syllabus, et cetera, et cetera," and all of a sudden we, faculty, are more placed in a situation where we're like, "Hey, are you okay? What do you need? Talk to me. Are you there? I'm worried about you." Megan: Suddenly it became a lot more human than I think a lot of faculty are used to being with their students. And that is very challenging, I think, for a lot of faculty, because I think sometimes we go into this sort of default mode of almost a little bit of a oppositional relationship with students, as if they're always trying to outsmart us and we're always trying to anticipate what they're going to try to do to get out of what we're assigning them, blah, blah, blah. And so there's this kind of Tom and Jerry dynamic a little bit. Megan: But when we get into that mindset, we forget about each other's mutual humanity, and I think that the COVID crisis and shifting everything to online and realizing the real problems that our students were dealing with outside of coursework, was a real wake-up call for faculty, that I think we needed. Stevie: Christopher Witulski is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the College of Musical Arts who teaches ethnomusicology and world music. He's noticed that both the pandemic and the summer's protest for racial justice have prompted a broader discussion about how curriculum design can be used to either promote or push back against colonial and white supremacist structures. Christopher : Maybe that's telling that it's not very often that I sit back and think, what would the dream structure be for a system that is more equitable for everybody involved. The fact that that's not a conversation that we have is telling in its own right, and perhaps that's part of the conversation itself. Christopher : But no, in my department, we're actually trying to make some changes. I think there are a lot of things that we've noticed related to the COVID crisis in the spring, the shifty online learning too, and then also the issues, the obvious foregrounding of racial disparities and inequities that happened over the summer, obviously that extended far past that, but that became really clear and really focused in the national consciousness over the summer. Christopher : That's turned into, I don't know about other fields, but across music studies that's been something that every part of musical studies has been grappling with, this history of white supremacy, why we value what we value, what we teach, why we teach what we teach, how we do it. Because at the end of the day, it's all choices that we're making. We're valuing certain ideas and valuing certain content. Christopher : I personally don't care if you know Mozart's birthday, but this is a conversation I've been having with my students for a different class, how can you take these ideas about history and thread them into something that's relevant and compelling and helps us to understand the experiences that we are having here and now? How do we understand? When I teach world music, how do we look to other people around the world and see how they're interacting with music and each other, and use that to understand ourselves? Christopher : Maybe that's a little selfish, but how can we look at something that feels different, because that's what a lot of teaching is, you're introducing new ideas, and then using that to better reimagine ourselves? Stevie: Some of the people I talked to focused on how the pandemic's highlighting of existing inequalities has given us an unprecedented opportunity for improvement. Tiffany Scarola, an Assistant Teaching Professor in the English Department sees the pandemic and the major shifts in educational approaches that it requires as an opportunity for expanding and accelerating the work that has already been done to build just and equitable classrooms. Tiffany: I feel like for both me and my students it's been equally set, but I mean, there's always going to be issues in any form of education, whether it be higher education or K-12 learning, because people are becoming more comfortable with embracing their identities, which they should. We have accessibility now as opposed to it being disability previously, and we have the LGBTQI community. Especially BG, it being a safe zone, safe campus, things like that. Tiffany: It's just the fact that people are becoming more comfortable, but it's still this slow moving arch, because we just don't know what people are going to become comfortable with once they kind of define their identity. But before I definitely feel like a lot of those particular issues that students struggled with, especially with regards to identity, not just so much as in gender or binary identity, but in terms of having disability requirements and stuff like that, students with dyslexia, or I have a student who requires to be able to actually see my mouth physically to be able to listen to lecture, because I forget what it is that causes that, but that kind of need is something that I never would have thought of, especially now with having to wear my face partially covered when I do a physical lecture. Tiffany: But I definitely think some good has actually come out of the pandemic because now we're kind of, and I don't want to use the word forced, but it seems like the only term I can kind of use. We have to confront it and we have to realize it in a real way and in an immediate way. And some of the stuff that we've had to do to accommodate just kind of the general student population has very much had a positive effect. Stevie: While everyone was mostly focused on how the crisis was affecting their students, with a little encouragement I was able to get them to share how the crisis was affecting them as non-tenure track faculty members. Megan: Of course faculty were going through their own challenges. So shifting from the students to the faculty themselves, I think most of us are in the privileged position of not having to worry about equipment and reliable internet as much, although that is still a challenge for a number of faculty, especially part-time faculty who don't enjoy a full-time salary, let's face it. And they also have job precarity, as you mentioned, to worry about. Megan: I saw numerous examples of people trying to teach from home, but they had their kids there. Their kids were home from school and they're trying to juggle 50 different things. I mean, I realized how incredibly lucky I am to have what I have, just a quiet space. I don't have children so I didn't have to worry about that. And I completely sympathize with people who do because that just seems like such an impossible task. But yeah, a lot of pressure placed on faculty to suddenly come up with this completely new way of teaching that a lot of faculty just really were not prepared for. Megan: It makes sense. I mean, so many things you take for granted, just sitting in a room and talking to another person, you don't realize how easy it is until you're trying to replicate that experience through a screen with buttons and apps, and all of a sudden you realize, oh my gosh, I took this simple thing so much for granted, where I could say something and look at the other person to see if they understand, and now I can't even do that. That's such a simple thing, such a human thing, that technology really cannot fully replicate. Megan: The pedagogical experience, like pedagogy itself, is so dependent on that basic human interaction that I think a lot of us are still kind of struggling to figure out how to replicate that. Stevie: All of the campers I spoke with noted that the COVID crisis and the summer camp have encouraged them to bring a vulnerability and approachability that has helped them build stronger community in both their virtual and face-to-face classes. Here's Elena Aponte, Adjunct Instructor of Women's Studies and Academic Writing. Elena:: I think struggling with community was kind of an issue beforehand. It still is now, but I think post pandemic, we're a little more in this together. And I think difficult in terms of personal issues, my teaching persona and being a teacher has incredibly changed since the pandemic. And that's one of the things that the summer camp really helped with too, is just allowing us to be more vulnerable and allowing us to really engage more as a community with students, whether that's making sure to let them know that this is a safe classroom or just simply reaching them on a more personal level with the different things you can do as a teacher. Stevie: And here's Chris Witulski. Christopher : I think I have, but I'm not sure if it's a change from the student side or if it's a change that results out of my own thinking as I shifted during the camp. There were a couple of elements of the camp that I really appreciated, especially starting... The idea of creating a space for learning is not a super novel idea for online teaching. But for instance, I remember there was a moment in the camp where some of the assigned listening was about vulnerability and humanization and sort of humanizing yourself and trying to allow the students to be human as well. And that goes beyond the basic, here are a handful of strategies for icebreakers and building communities. It gets beyond that in a way. Christopher : For many students, maybe it doesn't. Maybe it doesn't matter. But I feel like I hope it does. Sort of being more human, being a real person, being vulnerable, being comfortable with that, sort of sitting within that and existing there. So yeah, in that sense, I do feel like there has been a change. I hope it's something that's reflected in the way the students are perceiving things. Stevie: Some campers have also noted that as much as technology can be a barrier, it can also help build a relaxed and supportive learning environment. Here's Elena Aponte again. Elena:: I think allowing them talking via chat is often really fun too. Because if you spend a lot of time online or interacting with each other like that, it is really fun. So it's been fun to teach that way too. And they are kind of way more supportive. I know in my office we have the motion sensor lights and sometimes if I'm lecturing my lights will just turn off. So they're used to me waving my hands at some point during the lecture to turn the lights back on, and they're really supportive about that. Stevie: Speaking of technology making and breaking barriers, Tiffany Scarola shared with me how she used Snapchat to help reach students who only have access to classes through their phones. Tiffany: In the spring, when we were first to go all remote, I had one of those students who was using his phone a lot for schoolwork, and I decided to use Snapchat as a mode of communication with my students. And I kind of sent it as a joke, "You guys can hit me up on Snapchat." And a bunch of them were like, "No, I really need it, because I have terrible internet, or I have unreliable internet, but my phone data works so much better." Tiffany: At the end of the semester, several of them remarked to me, "If you hadn't used Snapchat to send out messages about class, I never would have known when some stuff was due or I never would have known class announcements or never would have known these updates." Stevie: I concluded all of my interviews by asking the campers to share with me their wildest dreams about how this crisis could serve to restructure academia into a more just and equitable environment for both instructors and students. Answers ranged from changes in individual teaching practices to broad changes at every level of education in the United States. Tiffany Scarola emphasized the radical importance of bringing transparency to academia. Tiffany: This is something that I truly do value, pandemic or no, but definitely the pandemic I think would provide us the opportunity to embrace this, is transparency for real and not the manifestation, the falsity of it. I mean, because transparency is a real thing and people say the word, but they don't live the word sometimes with certain things. And I just feel like, if not now, when are you going to do it? Tiffany: Because that's how we break the barriers and realize that all of those members of those underrepresented groups can participate. If we are truly embracing transparency, then those groups will feel included. Of course, people identifying by their proper pronoun, all those things are so acceptable and great and I love that and let's keep doing that, but that's not all we need to do to create a completely equitable society, either in academia or outside of academia. Tiffany: I just hear the word transparency used in meetings and it's just like, but you guys don't fully embrace it, and that's part of why there's still a disconnect and why your students aren't getting the material, is because you aren't fully being transparent. Tiffany: I, for as long as I've been teaching, I think I've been teaching now at this level since, I want to say, like 2013 was my first year teaching academically at college level, and I have always tried to embrace the idea of transparency before it was a thing. Letting my students know about the things that I struggled with in school and the things that I struggle with as an instructor, letting them know, "Guys, I really messed up this one lecture thing from the other day, so forgive me. Let me backtrack on this," and stuff like that. Tiffany: Just being actually open with them, even down to how I design my Canvas shelves. When I do it, I put everything out there for them all at once, and I tell them, yeah, it's going to be scary and intimidating, but at least you know everything that you're getting into. And I try to make it so everything is just in the modules and they can just go on down the line and there's no, here's your to-do list for the week, here's this separate window where you can get all these readings from. It's like, here's all the readings and they're listed in the schedule in this order, so literally all you have to do is go down the line. Here's the assignment for this week and just go on down the line. As opposed to making them dig for the content. Tiffany: There's a time and a place where they should be doing that for source acquisition and stuff like that, but a truly transparent classroom means that we recognize all of those things and we allow our students to see that we are not infallible, because that's a big part of the problem with not just the underrepresented groups, but with the groups that are widely represented. They still feel that there's this really big distinction between the fact that we're in front of the room and they're on that side of the room. Tiffany: At one point, we were all on that side of the room and we need to recognize the real struggles of what happens on that side of the room, regardless of race, gender identity, any of those things. And it starts with us acknowledging the things that we have struggled with ourselves. Tiffany: Right now, people are more willing than ever to talk about things that they're struggling with, but we still could do more. In an ideal utopian society, yeah, it would be to not just say that I believe in transparency and to say that I create a safe space, to actually live up to saying the words. Because there's a big difference between saying that you embrace it and actually demonstrating it to your students. That's how you get through to them, and that's how you overcome crisis, whether it be in your education or in the real world. It's all the same. Stevie: Chris Witulski focused on the need for universities to build flexibility into their structures to encourage experimentation and to make systemic change easier. Christopher : This is something that I wish we were better at, but there are a lot of structural, really firm, multi-level structural boundaries to being able to make the kinds of changes that I think would be really helpful, whether it's in the area, in the department, in the field of study, in the classroom, at the university. Christopher : I think the hardest part... See, I don't even have an answer to what I would imagine a dream situation to be, because I'm having a hard time imagining beyond the boundaries that exist, you know? But I feel like oftentimes there are solutions that seem really clear and really straightforward, but then there are boundaries to implementing those that are frustrating and I think the sheer degree of frustration that exists keeps those boundaries in place. Those things prevent people from being able to carry out the kinds of changes that would make a difference. Christopher : In terms of a structure, I would love to see a more flexible university. I would love to see a more flexible system. We're trying to do that a little bit in our area. I would love to see stronger online systems. I would love it whenever I take an online class, I learned a lot because there were good things that I wanted to use instead of, I took this online class and I learned a lot because being a student in it was really awful for some reason. The camp was actually was an excellent example of something that gave a lot of models of how you can do this better. But a lot of times when I've taken online classes, they've been really painful. Christopher : I would love to see more flexibility for instructors, for the university, for structures, for students, more options, more ways to engage things, more ways to understand the ideas that we're trying to get across, more opportunity for choosing your own adventure, but not in a way that just sort of fits you within a different administrative structure instead, which is what it often turns into. You know what I mean? So a way to do that in a real powerful way at the core of imagining what the school is. Christopher : What that looks like, I don't know. I'd have to sit down for a little while and jot some notes down. Stevie: Elena Aponte emphasized how hiring more Black, Indigenous, and POC instructors will positively impact Black, Indigenous, and POC students. Elena:: I think the sense of humanity is really important, and if I was going to look to the future, I would definitely hope that that sense of humanity is put to the forefront too. And again, going back to my personal things in terms of justice and equity, making sure not to teach students a history of anything that's whitewashed. Elena:: Because in the Pathways Program, I do have quite a bit of students who are students of color, are first-time, first-generation students, and they may not be expecting their professors to even acknowledge that or understand that, and so I want to be able that I can. Elena:: It does frustrate me that I am, even though I'm half Puerto Rican, I'm still white, I'm also half white, so it's frustrating that I do have to teach students of color their history in some way. That is frustrating. So my hope for the future would be that there's more opportunities for professors of color to teach everything they want to teach, but also to teach students a history from their own perspective too. Elena:: I know we're seeing stuff with like the University of Chicago is offering, it's been a while since I've read the article, but they're offering this program specifically for Black scholars and they're getting a lot of pushback for it because they're saying, well, you're shutting out a huge demographic of students, et cetera, et cetera. But if we're looking at the world around us, it makes sense for them to want more Black scholarship, especially if we need to understand these issues for those of us who can't, or didn't before. So that's also something I'd like to see moving forward in terms of justice and equity, recognizing the Black, Indigenous, people of color, and that community and making more opportunities for them without making them feel guilty either. Stevie: Elena also pointed out the importance of equitable pay for non-tenure track faculty. Elena:: From a completely personal standpoint, more opportunities for adjunct professors as well. Better pay. Access to healthcare. I think adjunct professors do a lot of the majority of teaching core classes for universities. Same thing with graduate students. Graduate students teach a lot of core classes as well. They just need to be more publicly recognized for the work that they do. Elena:: We're well-educated individuals. A lot of us have masters degrees as well. And we're doing this because we love to teach, or we love the discipline that we've learned in, so it's only fair that we should get a little more recognition over what we do at the university, which I think will happen in time, for sure. Stevie: Finally, Megan Rancier pointed out the importance of equitably funding education at all levels. Megan: Now, if we're talking about my wildest dream, I would want to make university education free. I would want it to be accessible to everybody. And that would also require all the K-12 schools to be adequately resourced and equitably resourced, so that students come in with the same levels of preparation. Which, if you teach in any university, you realize that they are not. So that would be my wildest dream. Equal resource allocation to all K-12 schools, free college for everybody, adequate funding. Megan: My God, if you look at the decline in the state share of instruction to public universities, the institutions that the state is supposed to be supporting so that it has an educated workforce that can then go into good jobs so that they can then pay their taxes and fund everything that we need in the state, it's shocking how that funding has declined over the past few decades. Megan: I would love for this crisis to be a wake up call to state legislators, and even federal legislators, to reinvest in public education, because we need it. And we've seen how the pandemic has highlighted all of these inequities. Megan: But what my fear is, is that it might do completely the opposite, because we've had this economic downturn as a result of the pandemic and the knee jerk reaction seems to be, well, we've got to cut this, we've got to cut that. All of a sudden we're in austerity mode, when that is very short-term thinking. If we're thinking in the long-term, we need to be investing in education even more. Megan: Not to get on a soapbox or anything, but because of what I saw with inequal access to technology and resources during the shift in spring 2020, I would just like for that not to be an issue, those just simple barriers to an education. And again, it's true at the K-12 level as well. Megan: Every child, every student should have equal access and equal opportunity to the tools and resources that they need in order to have a shot at being successful. Because otherwise the inequalities will simply compound on each other and the gaps will become wider. We need to change the direction of the funding situation in education. So I don't know if that was a dream or a dystopia that I just painted for you. Stevie: With that, I'll leave you all to mull over your own dreams and ideas about what can be done to build a more just and equitable academia and educational environment for all. Stevie: I want to thank everyone who spoke with me for this episode. Listeners can keep up with the Tour to Pedagogy from Crisis Project and other ICS happenings by following us on Twitter and Instagram @icsbgsu and on our Facebook page. Stevie: You can listen to Big Ideas wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Please subscribe and rate us on your preferred platform. Stevie: Our producers are Chris Cavera and Marco Mendoza, with sound editing by Marco Mendoza. Support for this episode was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funded the grant project, Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis: Adaptive Teaching and Learning at Bowling Green State University during COVID-19.
40 minutes | 3 months ago
Dr. Rachel Rickard Rebellino and Tiffany Scarola: COVID and Community
This episode is part three of a four part mini-series on the NEH-funded project "Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis.” Jolie speaks with Dr. Rachel Rickard Rebellino, an assistant professor in children’s and adolescent literature, and a “camp counselor” for a month-long summer program for humanities faculty on adaptive teaching and learning during the COVID-19 crisis. Tiffany Scarola, an instructor in the University Writing Program, joins to share her experience as a camp attendee. They discuss building just and equitable learning communities within larger, and frequently inequitable, institutions. Announcer: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie: Hello, and welcome back to the BG Ideas podcast brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Dr. Jolie Sheffer. This episode is part of a mini series focusing on a National Endowment for the Humanities sponsored project called "Toward A Pedagogy From Crisis: Adaptive Teaching and Learning at Bowling Green State University during COVID-19." Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are not recording in the studio, but are at home talking via phone and computer. As always, the opinions expressed on the podcast are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Bowling Green State University is located in the great black swamp, long a meeting place of the Wyandotte, Shawnee, Lenape, Ottawa, Kickapoo, Fox, Potawatomie, Erie, Miami, Peoria, Chippewa, and Seneca Indian tribes. We honor the rich history of this land and its indigenous inhabitants past and present. Today I'm very pleased to be joined by Dr. Rachel Rickard Rebellino and Tiffany Scarola. Rachel serves as one of the NEH project's camp counselors during the summer camp. She teaches courses on children's and adolescent literature for the English department. Her research examines digital youth cultures, girlhood studies, and social justice themes and children's literature. Tiffany is an instructor in the University Writing Program where she teaches first year composition, and she was in an NEH camp participant this summer. Her research interests include encouraging student cognitive processing and establishing a cult of vulnerability in classroom environments. Rachel and Tiffany, thank you very much for joining me today. Rachel: Thank you for having me. Tiffany: Yeah. Thank you for having us. Jolie: Equity, accessibility and social justice are clear priorities in the NEH project, and they're also at the heart of the research and the teaching that both of you do. Rachel, could you start off by talking about how your research on youth literature is a catalyst for conversations about equity injustice? Is this a relatively new phenomenon in children's literature or is there a longer history of that kind of connection? Rachel: That's a great question. There is a pretty long history of youth literature being a tool for conversations around equity and justice. So I'm thinking specifically of the example of The Brownies' Book, that was a magazine that was specifically put out to address perceived gaps, real gaps, in the literature that was being written for Black and brown youth. And the purposes of that magazine were very, very explicit that it would be to lift up Black youth, to help them to really see their value in a society that was devaluing them. And this was in the 1920s, I don't think I said that initially. Rachel: And since then, youth literature has definitely served kind of a conservative function in upholding social values in some capacities, but there has always been youth literature that is breaking boundaries and that is really pushing for more complex conversations. And I think because youth literature is a space where cultural values are really taught and disseminated to young people, it makes sense that we kind of see both sides of that. That we might see more conservative sides of that, but we also see sides that are very like pushing forward and trying to work toward equity. Jolie: How does your own research in this area inform your teaching? Rachel: A lot of my research deals with how... It's kind of at the intersections of education and literary studies. So I look at a lot how teachers might use certain books in their classrooms to have conversations around equity and justice. So you might imagine that that then kind of bleeds over into my own classroom of how I'm using the books that I'm working with in my classroom to have conversations with pre-service teachers and other students taking my classes around social justice. So for example, this semester I'm teaching a class on American histories in youth literature, where we're really looking at how certain dominant narratives of the history of the United States are countered or questioned through contemporary youth literature. And I'm taking some of the research that I've done about how books like Thanhha Lai's Inside Out and Back Again, which is a verse novel about the Vietnam war, how that book really offers a different kind of narrative around the experience of Vietnamese refugees and the experience of refugees in general. And then kind of flips that on its head for child audiences and for adult audiences, as well. Jolie: Tiffany, you focus on breaking down barriers in writing classrooms through de-centering yourself as the instructor and using what you call "unusual teaching methods," such as bringing in popular culture and social media as a tool for teaching research and writing. Can you give some examples and explain how you are re-imagining pedagogy for your current students? Tiffany: Well, one of the things I do is something that I've done actually the last few years is that I write alongside them. Every assignment that they write, I also write a version of that assignment and I do a true rough draft and a true final draft. I make sure that they know completely transparent that, "Hey, this is a real rough draft and this is something that real writers struggle with." It's not just this kind of like product endgame type of situation and emphasizing the fact that it is process over product. And that's something that has really helped them a lot over the last few years. I think I started doing it, I want to say in maybe 2018 is when I started first doing it with the more research heavy 1120 courses. And I did like a proposal with them. I did an annotated bibliography all like following the same type of advice that I give them, like saying, "Yeah, I could write on something fancy or I could write on something that I actually have a great deal of ethos connected to it." Tiffany: Cause that's something that I always see, they come up with these topics that sound really good, but because they don't have any first person perspective or an actual true investment in the topic, they get stuck at like the worst possible spot. Cause yeah, they can find the research, but then when they go to sit down to write it, if they don't understand the kind of complex scenarios that are being discussed in the heavy research that they're finding, they struggle. So I try to do that with them and so I've done that the last few years in the classroom and they have really taken to it. I've even been doing it this semester where I do the rough draft. I post it the week before they do so like, I'm even like, "Yeah, I'm one of those annoying students who always has to have it done early, guys." Tiffany: And I even had a student in class the other day, like outright say, "I can tell that this is a real rough draft." Tiffany: I'm like, "What are you talking about?" Tiffany: "Well, you have needles up there instead of needless." Tiffany: I'm like, "Yes, I know. And that's a good lesson to always read through your work and not rely on spellcheck, cause that's not spelled incorrectly, but that is obviously the wrong word." Tiffany: And you know I use those types of like "ahas" that they bring into it as these like true teachable moments. And it is very frightening actually to have them read it, but letting them know that like, "Hey guys, this is actually scary." And like letting them know that it is something that really does not get any easier over time, even being on the other side of the classroom and they truly value it. Tiffany: And we have that happened the other day and I was so excited when they said that. I was like, "Yeah, but see this is a good thing, cause yeah, you can use Grammarly and you can use spellcheck, but it's still a thing that you have to actually read through your content." So that's something that I truly value and they do too. And it allows them also to be more open with the struggles that they're having with their own work. So they were very grateful for that. So that kind of the evolution and arc of kind of some of the things I've done in the classroom to kind of create that sense of camaraderie. Jolie: One of the other features of the pandemic is that it has really made visible long-standing inequities in the US, right. We see this in every aspect of the pandemic, the economic fallout of the pandemic, which communities are disproportionately impacted, the health disparities, as well as access issues. Right? Sort of poor students, Black and brown students, rural students, not having the same kind of access even to Internet. And we've talked about bandwidth issues and we're seeing food insecurity, housing insecurity, as well as police brutality, things like that. So I'm curious for both of you, how do you see structural inequalities in some of the conventional policies and practices of higher education and how are you trying to challenge some of those or rethink them to reduce some of those inequities? Rachel: That's a really good question. I think the very first thing that came to my mind as you were speaking, which is not... Might at first appear a little bit more tangential, but something that I've been thinking about a lot really recently that I've noticed with my students, especially first-generation college students and lower income students, are really trying to get the most bang for their buck from the college experience. Understandably so, but then that has manifested them taking 18 credit hours every semester in a way that the oddness of this semester of having this mix of a lot of them are taking a mix of hybrid classes like asynchronous classes, synchronous classes, and trying to balance taking six classes, all meeting in different modalities, all with different deadlines. It's terrible. I cannot imagine that, like I think back to my own undergrad experience and it just seems like such an impossible thing. Rachel: And it's very frustrating to me that this is something that they have to do because they don't want to have to take an extra semester. They need to finish as soon as possible. And I totally understand why they're doing it, but it is an inequity that students who have more luxury to potentially take another semester to not try to finish as fast that they are able to take four classes and be a little bit more comfortable. So something that I have really tried to impress upon my students is I instituted a policy this semester of a two week window for deadlines. No questions asked. I think they think that I'm not serious about it. Like that I don't mean what I say. Every time that I get an email that's like, "I'm really overwhelmed. I forgot about this. I'm so sorry. I'll get it to you. Like in a couple of hours." Rachel: Like, take your time. You have two weeks, no questions asked. And the policy initially I put it in place thinking primarily about health reasons and giving that two week window would just allow just a blanket. You know if they're quarantining and then very worried about not sure if they were exposed, that that would give them space. But what it has really turned into is a space for all of the messiness that this semester has brought. And specifically I'm thinking about students who are just very overwhelmed, having that extra space allows them to do the work and the time that they have versus trying to make everything fit when they have a paper for all six of their classes due on the same day, which has happened. Jolie: What about for you, Tiffany? Are you thinking about particular ways that the university may not have been set up towards equity and things that you may be doing to try and shift that balance a bit? Tiffany: I mean, I think all things considered the university has done as much as it was able to do in such a short timeframe, trying to get the needs of certain students in as well as they could, like with that MyDesign BGSU thing that they had. I know that even though I'm primarily teaching hybrid sections, I have students that are fully remote students in my hybrid sections and making the reasonable accommodations for them to still be able to participate in the class content over the course of the semester, because there's various reasons for why they're unable to physically be in the classroom. I have had everything from they're just concerned about their health to they have only my class as the hybrid class. So they're not going to spend the money on the dorms and the apartment and stuff like that to just be in there for just my class. Tiffany: Over the last few weeks I've had students who are commuting from home because maybe they only have two hybrid classes, unable to show up on time or late and stuff like that. I've always liked to think that I've been relatively flexible with that type of thing even more so this semester with the fact that there's so many things operating against us. Like how Rachel said, with students that don't have the luxury of being able to just kind of take the regular standard full load of classes. One thing that I've always valued about higher ed is the degree of autonomy that we have with some of those things. Obviously we always abide by university and department policies and stuff like that, but there is that like we're allowed to do that. And I think it's something that is important because we don't know always the backgrounds of where our students are coming from and it applies to obviously race and ethnicity and gender, but it also applies to learning abilities. Tiffany: I think that this whole pandemic has brought to light a lot of the issues regarding transparency too. I mean, one thing that I really hope comes out of all of this is that instead of just preaching the term "transparency," we actually enact transparency in like a real way, cause it's such a higher-ed buzzword and we all know this. We've all been in those meetings where they say the word and like everybody kind of gets like the silent, "Ooh," going on. But I really hope that that's one of the more positive things that comes out of it for both students who are the more, racial groups, gender, all that stuff. But also for those kids that maybe are not part of one of those more protected groups, but still need just as much attention because they have an IEP, some kind of learning disability that they need compensation for. Jolie: I think part of what you're talking about is whether it was formalized or just kind of normative in higher ed was really like students and faculty members were expected to sort of check their lives at the classroom door, right? You walk into that space and now it's an intellectual space, our bodies, our spirituality, our families, our material circumstances, those are meant to be left outside and we are just meant to connect like mind to mind. And I think what the pandemic has revealed is that's impossible. Jolie: That is such an expectation of students having enough to eat, having a safe place to live, of having access to the tools and resources of having kind of learning styles that match the instructors perfectly. It's sort of, there's a whole list that is unspoken with those expectations. And I think one of the things that both of you are talking about is finding in this moment, a kind of radical transparency, a shared vulnerability that when everyone is out of sorts, when everyone feels vulnerable, it actually creates a space to bring our whole selves into the classroom. It's actually essential for learning, right? Because it gets back to things that both of you were talking about, which is you need to meet students where they are so then you can tell them where you're going to go together. Right? And I think for too often that has been a one directional conversation. And I think that's one of the things the summer camp was really interested in breaking down. Rachel: I was just going to say that, I think that is something that when both of y'all were speaking, I was just really thinking about how rigor above all has kind of seemed to be the way that we operated. That we needed to have these rigorous classes where you were, it was assuming that as long as you worked hard, that you would, that nothing else mattered. As long as you were able, that you were willing to put in the intellectual work that you would do well in the class. And that's just not, that's not how any of this works. Like we have so many other things going on in our lives. And I do think that that transparency and I think radical compassion too for students, I kind of, as you were just saying, Jolie, to allow for that vulnerability, Jolie: We're going to take a quick break. Thanks for listening to the BG Ideas podcast. Announcer: If you are passionate about BG Ideas, consider sponsoring this program, to have your name or organization mentioned here, please contact us at ics@bgsuedu. Jolie: Hello, and welcome back to the BG Ideas podcast today. I'm talking to Dr. Rachel Rickard Rebellino and Tiffany Scarola about their work and experience on the NEH sponsored project "Toward a Pedagogy From Crisis." One of the other areas, I think that has been a part of the discussion about curricular change and about rethinking higher education has often related to the syllabus and the reading list. Listeners may be familiar with the phrase of decolonize the classroom or challenging the syllabus. So, Rachel, how do you think about these practices and what resources or approaches would you encourage listeners to take on when thinking about ways of re-imagining some of those conventional pieces of a college experience to be more equitable, inclusive, transparent, compassionate, things like that. Rachel: So something that I think about a lot with when I'm thinking about how I'm designing my syllabus and thinking about class readings in particular, is the way that syllabi can really reveal the way that whiteness is assumed to be the norm. And that reading scholarship by white researchers, reading books by white authors is very much the assumption and that then other books or scholarship by authors of color that gets kind of like relegated to these like African-American literature classes or multicultural literature classes versus having syllabi that are truly inclusive. And so something that I am very attentive to in how I designed my courses is really looking carefully at whose voices am I privileging in not only the primary readings that I am teaching, but also the secondary readings that I'm teaching. So for example, I'm thinking about the ways that I... Something that I have been critiquing myself about is the way that I talk about the history of children's literature and that historically I would talk about the history of children's literature from this very kind of like white, British, American perspective. Rachel: And then later in the semester, I would have a class period where I talked about the history of African-American children's literature and the history of like more inclusive children's literature. And I still, I'm not a hundred percent sure why that was how I divided that up. Perhaps it was because it was how I was taught, and putting my classes together over the past couple of years, I've really tried to like it's a small thing, but merge those two. Those are not separate histories. Those are one history. And if I'm only teaching history by if I'm framing the general history as reading authors, as reading white scholars talking about the history of children's literature who are primarily focusing on white children's literature, that's a huge gap. Rachel: So in terms of how that applies to just thinking about our syllabus in general, I think it's important to go back to those really primary foundational things. How are we introducing our concepts? What is at the core of what are our first... What are our readings our first two or three weeks of class? Who are we introducing? What are the frameworks we're introducing for reading? And because that's the knowledge that like our students might know nothing about our subject and likely do know very little about our subject coming in. So if what we're giving them as the foundation is this very colonized foundation, what is that doing to our class as a whole? Jolie: Tiffany, do you have anything you want to add about kind of when you're thinking about the syllabus and the readings, things you're doing to create a more inclusive experience? Tiffany: What I try to do when building my syllabus? I mean, clearly I don't get the opportunity to incorporate literature and stuff like that as traditionally thought with most types of writings slash English type classes. However, especially in the 1110 class, which is more about kind of the buildings of foundations of writing, I try to, because I mean the scholarship is largely kind of from white contributors to largely white audiences. And that is a huge problem. The assignments that they just recently finished was the literacy narrative examination. I had an excerpt from Malcolm X. I also had an excerpt from other narrative life of Frederick Douglas, which is more traditionally used and maybe like an antebellum lit type course. But I use that as an example of a literacy narrative in that along with some of the more commonly known authors reflected in that type of genre of writing. Tiffany: With the assignment that my students are working on right now with regards to discourse communities, one of the readings I have is Mother Tongue by Amy Tan. So I try to find a bevy of authors from those different backgrounds to kind of further reinforce the diversity of this particular topic because we're not just teaching to one particular ethnic group of students. And I feel like that is a big problem that they feel devalued when they don't, there's a big... There's something to be said about while this author doesn't have a similar name to me and doesn't look like me on the dust jacket or on the little picture and like the bio, and as much as we don't want to admit it, it kind of does to a point and that affects them and that affects their participation in it. So that's what I try to do when I incorporate stuff into my syllabus and how I design my syllabus. Tiffany: But I also try to think about the various backgrounds that my students come from with regards to their learning. Usually one of the first assignments I have them do in either of the first year writing courses is I ask them to let me know about their previous experiences in their writing English classes and what have they experienced. And, I mean, it's largely, yeah, they've had to read books and take quizzes and maybe write one big five paragraph research paper. But every once in a while, there are those students that don't really have the same type of experience with it. And they come from a variety of different ethnicities and backgrounds and stuff like that. So, trying to pace it so that it's enough space for both the students who have the strong background and don't need as much foundation building and allowing me also to be able to build the foundation for those who need it. Tiffany: So I try to incorporate both with diversity in terms of actual ethnicity, but also again with diversity and learning styles. And because there are students who constantly come, when they come in in the first few weeks of class, they come in with their IEPs and it's like, these are the accommodations that I need for this class and making sure that, "Okay, well, good. How I broke it up this should allow you enough time," or having a more flexible due date for stuff. I always say the students who maybe have Asperger's or ADHD or something like that, if you are struggling, know that you can come to me and just say, "Hey, I'm having a really hard time. Is there any way I can have even a few extra hours or even an extra day," as long as they're doing that and I write that into the syllabus. Tiffany: To say that, "Yeah, obviously late work is not great, but if you come to me and let me know, I can make the accommodation for you so that you don't feel as bogged down with the assignments." Cause it's a lot. So that's what I try to do whenever I build a class. And I try to, with a reasonable amount of expectations and that's also where having the prerecorded lectures has been helpful, especially this semester. And in a lot of those, I break down the required readings that I have for the course. Tiffany: And I've even told my students that if you guys have to choose between reading one of the articles I've posted, or just listening to the audio lecture, and you have a whole ton of other stuff for one of your other classes, just listen to the audio lecture because it breaks it down for you in a more manageable way so that you are not perhaps as bogged down and maybe you can listen to it while you're working on something for another class. So that's kind of what I try to do, but there's still a lot of scholarship with regards to the specific subjects that I teach that is obviously kind of one way. And that makes it difficult. So I'm constantly looking for that and when I find it, I do my best to incorporate it, Jolie: The name of the NEH camp and project use the term "crisis." And it's not hard to see why, right? We are living in a time of unbelievable challenge. And the pandemic certainly is a crisis, but the camp also tried to emphasize the idea of play and playfulness to a great degree. Rachel, can you talk about why that was and what it meant for you to emphasize play particularly around the idea of creating community? Rachel: I think it's really easy for classroom spaces to become these, especially like higher ed spaces, to become these very rigid spaces where we do things a certain way. This is what our lectures look like. This is how our discussions look like. We have to use these big words and speak in a certain way and write in a certain way. The shift in spring to the very sudden shift to online, things change rapidly. And all of a sudden people's dogs and cats and kids are in the screen and our video is cutting out or I'm talking for... I start babbling on and I'm on mute. And just this kind of like, everything becomes very silly. And I felt like for me personally, just having, you have to embrace the silliness. If you're not going to embrace the silliness, it's just going to get like weirder and worse. Rachel: You have to kind of embrace how strange everything is in addition to how awful everything is. So when it came to designing the camp, I was leading our week on building community and I created this bingo board that kind of incorporated choice and choosing your own adventure through these different assignments or activities related to community. And I think that doing that really... I'm a firm believer in choice and kind of calling back to our previous discussion about readings and decolonizing the syllabus. I think that's another way that you can do that is to bring in student choice with readings as much as possible so that they can find things that fit with them and their interests and experiences and gaps that they might have that they can then fill if you allow for choice. So choice has always been a huge part of my own pedagogy. Rachel: And I think that that alliance... the intersections of choice and play and kind of just breaking out of structure, I think are important in teaching in general, but then maybe become especially important to call back to our very first discussion about kind of like thinking about the digital space. If we're in this kind of amorphous digital space where you can do all sorts of interesting things, I think the best way to experiment with that is through play. And they're trying things out and being willing to say, "Okay, this didn't work. This was not effective. And it failed massively. And that's fine. We're going to try this other thing," and just kind of playing as opposed to being stuck in, like, "This is what we're doing. Here are the hard and fast rules and we can't break from that." Jolie: So, Tiffany, as a camper and now back in the classroom, how did that spirit of playfulness and experimentation affect you? Tiffany: I mean, I feel like Rachel and I are aligned in kind of our approach to teaching and hearing Rachel say these things and in my head going, "Yeah, I do that too. Okay, good. I'm not the only one that kind of has this really weird kind of already kind of playful approach to things." Recognizing that "Okay, A is not working. So let's try B" is so very important and it's something that I've always strived to do. And I will even do it in the classroom because I very much believe that teaching is wonderful and all this stuff, but it's also a performance art to an extent. You are in front of the room and, yeah, you can take classes on classroom management, stuff like that. But if you don't have the charisma to get the students excited, even to the point where maybe they're just listening there quietly and, you know now you can only see about like their eyes up, but still as long as their eyes are on you and not on their phone, you're good. Tiffany: But that kind of reaffirmed some of the things for me that I already do as an instructor because I've always tried to take it very much in that vein. Like one of the ways that I would often start the class would be with this kind of Pepsi challenge thing. Where I'd have two lists and it was like, cause I don't know if you guys remember, but like I was a kid of the nineties. So like the whole, "Which is better Coke or Pepsi," and do that sort of thing as a way to kind of build the community and seeing who likes A over B and things like that. And even in the middle of a lecture, if something is clearly not working or if I can clearly tell that they're like, "Oh, my gosh. Please stop." Tiffany: I'll be like, "Okay, y'all are obviously falling asleep," and all of a sudden be like, "What? No, I'm not." It's like, "Ah, I see the faces." And engaging and acknowledging it in a way that doesn't make them feel bad about it being like, "Dude, it's okay too." Just like, for instance, a few weeks ago I had to take over a course from someone who was unable to finish out the rest of the semester. And it's an 8:00 AM Monday course and... Yeah, I saw your eyes grow and Jolie. Yeah, I saw both of y'all... Anyway, bear with me for a second. So my eyes did the same thing, but the morning of the first Monday 8:00 AM, I'm walking, I walk in and I set stuff up and I'm sitting there and I'm waiting, the students come in, and I waited about two minutes to start class. Tiffany: And I said to them, I was like, "Yeah, so 8:00 AM classes, those are awful." And they all kind of nod their heads and laugh and it's like, "Yeah, don't worry. The teachers hate it too, guys. It's not just you. Like sometimes it's just really awful." And like playing it off like, "Okay, well now you have me. And like, ha ha," like look at this whole kind of really playful thing. Or it also makes me think about, I don't remember if I put this in any of this stuff for the camp, Rachel, but this is something that my first year teaching, I was adjuncting and they had me in a bio lab to teach a writing class. And in this bio lab, it had all these taxidermied, freaky animals all over the room and it scared the bejesus out of me. So I thought it would be funny to walk in five minutes late and pretend to be a bio 1110 instructor instead. Tiffany: And so I walked in and I didn't say anything. And I turned on the computer and I waited and I like checked my watch. And I'm like "Okay. So I'm Dr." I can't remember the name. It was some weird name. Like I made up a name and everything. Tiffany: And I went on for about three minutes before anybody like stopped me and said, "I think you're in the wrong room." Tiffany: I'm like, "Oh wait, is this supposed to be composition?" And all of the students kind of like shaking their heads real nervously as they're shuffling through their schedule, like trying to figure out if they're in the wrong room. It's like, "Oh wait, is this comp?" Tiffany: And they're like, "Yeah." Tiffany: I'm like, "I'm sorry, I'm just kidding. Like I'm your teacher, it's all good." And just like this communal sigh of relief that came over the room, and that was one of the best classes that I ever taught because of doing that and having the willingness to show the vulnerability of it, cause you're putting yourself out there every time you're in front of a room and letting them know that, yeah, this is me. And that class, most of those students ended up taking the next class with me the next year. Tiffany: And a lot of them were like, that's a result of you doing that and like showing this different relationship than kind of this automaton they believe us to be. So I liked seeing with that and especially with some of the stuff Rachel presented during that week of, like this is how you build community and like reaffirming that, okay, I'm not just weird. This is actually something that works. It's just my approach is just kind of this niche approach and embracing that for what it is and further creating. Cause it's why this kind of cult of vulnerability is this thing that I... this kind of quasi phrase that I created is why I do that because it builds community without the students feeling pressure to become part of the community. It's a welcoming sense that they get that I'm open and receptive to their ideas, which in turn also helps with equitability and diversity and stuff like that because they're coming to me. So that's how I kind of further facilitate that throughout. Jolie: I have one final question for you both, which is to ask you to reflect on our current moment and to ask, what is the lesson, the most important lesson you hope we take away from this situation? What is the sort of best case version that going forward we change our pedagogical practices? So you want to start, Tiffany? What for you is something you hope we take away from this moment? Tiffany: Are you speaking in terms of like the pandemic and how we've had to adjust our approaches? Okay. Jolie: Yeah. Tiffany: Okay. I have to go back to my favorite word of, probably the millennium, is "transparency." I really hope that instead of just preaching it, we actually practice it because that's what the students need right now. They are craving knowing that they're not the only ones struggling. Granted our struggles are never going to be the same and we're never going to be exactly in the same point, but at least we can meet... at least if we try to meet them midway because transitioning to college is so frightening for so many students, especially for those from more vulnerable populations. It's something so far removed from everything that they know. And right now on having the pandemic on top of that, just further compounds the issues that we so infrequently just kind of glance over because we've all been through it. Tiffany: So it's like it's a rite of passage. Yes. But they still need to know that, they need that reassurance from us. And one of the only ways to do that is to recognize the fact that we struggle too. The struggles might not be the same and they might not affect us in the same way, but we all still struggle. And it's okay because it's in times of great crisis that people really become themselves and figure out the people that they want to be. But they still need to know that they have scaffolded support, especially from educators. Tiffany: Educators, and as you both know, sometimes we're surrogate parents. Sometimes we act as therapists. Sometimes students are so inspired by us and we have this like superhero quality that they attach to us, and I think in recent years in education that's kind of become removed. And it's shifted to this alternate universe and I really think that with the pandemic and acknowledging all our vulnerabilities... Obviously you still need to maintain a separation of church and state as it were, for lack of a better phrase, between the professional, you, and then the you, but there's a way to do it. Tiffany: And people should be more encouraged to do that to facilitate community because right now we really need it. And it's something that we've always needed, but we need it more so now than ever so that we don't collapse so that we come out of it and are able to be strong at the end. Jolie: What about for you, Rachel? What do you hope we take away from this moment? Rachel: I think the thing that I keep coming back to is just a radical care and empathy and that the being in a global pandemic, having these important and awful and difficult conversations around race and really trying to... really navigating the multiple intersecting ways that Black and brown bodies have been attacked this summer. Like these are all crises that are happening kind of collectively and communally, but our students may or may not be in crisis at any point. Like there are crises that are happening every day to our students, whether they are small or large. And the fact that we are all collectively in crisis, I think has made a lot of people willing to be more caring and to offer more flexibility. I know for my own teaching personally, like I have been more flexible with students through this and I've been thinking a lot about like, why don't I... If and when things are quote/unquote "back to normal," which is a huge question mark that, who knows. Rachel: But if and when things are back to normal, whatever normal means, why not maintain some of these same policies? Why not maintain radical policies around accepting late work and allowing students to make up classes when they are in crisis? Why not have more no questions asked policies for certain, rather than trying to like police every activity that students are doing? Rachel: And of course, will there be people who take advantage of that? Yes, there will be. But are there people that take advantage of the current system and that are coasting through because of other advantages they have? Yes. So why not maintain some of these policies and some of these procedures that we've put in place now, once we're all back together? So yeah. Radical care and empathy, and to echo what Tiffany said, vulnerability. I think that this being in the pandemic has certainly broken down some barriers that I had built for myself around how I present myself to my students. And that's, I mean, I don't think there's... I don't think you can go back after you're like, "I'm a real human, not just your performing song and dance teacher." Jolie: Hmm. Thank you both so much for joining me, Rachel and Tiffany. Listeners can keep up with ICS by following us on Twitter and Instagram @icsbgsu. You can listen to BG Ideas wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Please subscribe and rate us on your preferred platform. Our producers are Chris Cavera and Marco Mendoza with sound editing by Marco Mendoza. Research assistance for this episode was provided by Stevie Scheurich with editing by Kari Hanlin.
35 minutes | 3 months ago
Dr. Lauren Salisbury and Dr. Matt Schumann: COVID and Pedagogy
This episode is part two of a mini-series focusing on the NEH-funded project "Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis.” Jolie is joined by Dr. Lauren Salisbury, a graduate of BGSU’s rhetoric and writing PhD program and an online instructor, and Dr. Matt Schumann, who has taught in the department of history. They served as "camp counselors" for a month-long summer program for humanities faculty on adaptive teaching and learning during the COVID-19 crisis. They discuss the importance of intentionality, reflexivity, and building community in virtual course design. Announcer: The is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie: Hello and welcome back to the BiG Ideas podcast brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Dr. Jolie Sheffer. Jolie: This episode is part of a miniseries focusing on a National Endowment for the Humanities sponsored project Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis: Adaptive Teaching and Learning at Bowling Green State University During COVID-19. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we're not in the studio but are recording from home via phone and computer. As always, the opinions expressed on this podcast or those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Jolie: Today, we are speaking with Dr. Lauren Salisbury and Dr. Matt Schumann. During summer 2020, they served as camp counselors for a month-long summer program for humanities faculty, which was a central component of the NEH-supported grant. Jolie: Lauren is a graduate of BGSU's Rhetoric and Writing PhD program and is an instructor in the department. Her research explores how space and place shapes student experiences in online courses. Matt has taught classes in our history department, receiving the Elliott Blinn Prize for Instructor/Student Basic Research for Innovative Design in his historiography course. He's also studied the scholarship of teaching and learning including how technology can be used effectively in humanities classrooms. Jolie: Lauren and Matt, thanks for joining me to talk about big ideas. I want to start with just giving a little background on the summer camp. The camp focused on humanistic pedagogy for digital environments. Can you explain who you were designing the camp for and some of the main goals you set for yourself and for your campers? Matt, you want to start that question off? Matt: Sure. I guess I'd like to start by saying we wanted to de-center technology just a little bit because the COVID crisis really forced a bigger conversation about our priorities and identities as instructors. What we really wanted to do was gather faculty from as broadly as we could across the humanities and have a conversation about, "Well, what does teaching look like in this strange new world that we're encountering in the midst of this pandemic?" Having that question really right at the center of our organization efforts for the summer camp, that really determined a lot about how we organized it and how we arranged our material. Jolie: For you, Lauren, a lot of times, when we are talking about and thinking about teaching online, we're talking about technology tools and using new tools. You made the choice not to explicitly center the camp around learning new technologies. Can you explain why not and what you felt was more important in this moment? Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. There's nothing to say that technology isn't important. We didn't want to say that at all. But, technology comes and goes. It evolves constantly. What was cutting edge last week, isn't this week. Although having those tools in our back pocket is really important, it's more important, as teachers, to start at the end goal. We wanted to give instructors the opportunity to really have a space to reflect on what their learning goals were for the course, for their students, and the goals they had for themselves as instructors this semester in this really unique situation we've all been put in, start there and then backtrack and learn about ways to go out and find those tools or find ways to make those goals happen, that was more what we wanted to put at the forefront, in the center of what we were doing in the summer camp. Jolie: That really leads to my next question, which is for you, Lauren, in that the camp really did emphasize reflexivity in course design as a tool for building community. This is something that has been interesting you for a long time. Can you talk about your background in rhetoric and writing and how you became interested in student experiences in online environments? Lauren: Yeah. I've been doing online teaching and learning scholarship for a very long time since my master's degree. It really was born out of my own frustration as a student, alongside my frustration as a graduate student who is trying to learn how to teach and didn't have a whole lot of experience using online tools from the teacher perspective. I had taken online classes quite a bit as an undergraduate, to varying degrees of success. From the instructor side of it, I didn't have a lot of experience. Lauren: I started digging into online learning and teaching scholarship a lot more, and realized that although a lot of the popular scholarship on online learning is about what instructors are doing, and, again, what technologies are being used or what influence technology has on teaching and learning, there wasn't as much from a student perspective. Anytime we get student perspective in online teaching and learning scholarship, it's typically from the idea of responding to what instructors are doing rather than speaking for themselves about what would be effective. I was really interested in seeing if we asked students from the beginning and say, "What working for you or what do you need in an online environment?", what kind of responses we would get and how students are experiencing those online learning environments that we're helping to curate and design. Jolie: Can you give an example of why something like a policy around using your camera is more than it seems to be? Because, on the surface, it sounds like, "Well, you want student engagement, so, of course, they should have their cameras on." Why is there more to the question than that? Lauren: Absolutely. I, 100 %, understand the desire. I'm teaching online synchronously this semester for the first time in a very long time. Technologies have changed a lot. Having the ability to see students' faces in a video format like a Zoom is great and, at the forefront, seems like a good idea. You get to see everybody's faces, see that they're engaged and participating. They get to see you and you don't feel like you're talking to yourself at your home office, but it can actually provide a lot of barriers for a wide variety of students. When you force your students to have their cameras and microphones on, although your goal might be to see if they're engaged, respond to them, what can actually happen is you're inserting yourself into their private space. Lauren: The majority of students, right now, are taking their online courses from either their residence, if they moved back home with their parents, or are living in an apartment off campus, or their dorm rooms. Those are very private places for us to suddenly be popping into and to have a full view of as well. Students are being forced to reveal things about themselves and their private home life that they wouldn't otherwise be asked to do. Likewise, students who are already in disadvantageous positions, students that have children at home, students that are caretakers for elderly parents or other folks in their families, people who have full-time jobs or who might need to multitask at the same time that they're taking their online course for whatever reason, they're suddenly laid bare in a way that they wouldn't otherwise be. Although the goal is great and I completely understand it as a person who has taught two 20 black screen boxes a couple times in the last few weeks, the risk and the thing that we're asking students to reveal there, to me, just isn't worth it. It becomes more of a surveillance tool than about effective teaching. Jolie: Matt, you are, by training, a historian of the 18th Century. You research the use of technology in classrooms. I'm pretty sure they didn't have digital technologies back then, unless you're referring to finger puppets. What inspired you to bring technology into your history classroom? Can you explain some of the challenges you faced and how you approach using digital technology to navigate those? Matt: Sure. Well, I'm glad, just right off the top, that you mentioned my specialty in the 18th Century. As a scholar of teaching and learning, I know there are a lot of my colleagues who will run right up to the present with the best pedagogy, the best techniques, the best and the latest scholarship. Honestly, my point of departure for even thinking about my educational philosophy was Edmund Burke in 1757 when he was honestly barely older than many of our students. He made a quip in the introduction to something that he was writing that, "Well, it's really great if you can teach me what you know, but I like it so much more if you can teach me how you know what you know." Matt: As a practicing historian, as much as I love digging around archives, and microfilms, and things like that, if I'm honest about my craft, much of it is online. It was really natural for me, if I wanted my students not just to know what I know but do what I do, to send them online. I had been doing this long before there was any talk of forcing online courses, or having a pandemic, or anything like that. It was much more about, "Well, what can I access digitally as a historical researcher and how much of this can I put in the hands of my students?" The more that I found that I could, and especially in recent years as more archives have gone online, libraries have gotten much better at putting their materials online, as just learning management systems like Canvas have become significantly, first of all, more standard but, second, more user-friendly, it's been that much easier to design courses, with students in mind, and be able to say to them, "Well, you're online anyway, you're using a number of tools that are familiar to you like Google. Can we put even more powerful, even more academically relevant material in your hands that helps you to replicate the process that I have or any of my colleagues have as well as scholars doing their scholarly thing?" Matt: One of the priorities that I have, as an instructor doing this, is, exactly as Lauren shared, really trying to be student-centered, really trying to ask students, "Well, okay, you're paying for this learning experience, you're enrolled in my class. What do you want out of it?" The second point of departure for me, beyond the young Edmund Burke, was the first student that I brought to a conference with me for a discussion on technology in the classroom, and that particular discussion centered on students insisting on bringing laptops and phones into the classroom, thinking that these were good educational tools and maybe finding out that they weren't so good. I asked this student, as he was a co-presenter of mine, "Well, why do you want to have your computer in the classroom? What is your priority? Why are you doing this?" He said to me, "What I really want out of my educational experience is I want you to teach me how to use my computer the way that you use your computer." This was a sophomore. For him to say that, echoing a 22-year-old Edmund Burke, only 260 odd years later, that just reaffirmed my approach to my courses. It became very much about designing that pedagogical, that learning experience for students so that they really could master the skills of their computers much more than any particular body of knowledge. Jolie: Yeah, that's so interesting because what you're really showing is that, so often, what we talk about is... from the faculty side, is there's your research and there's your teaching. Ne'er the twain shall meet, right? What you're showing is that actually it's not just that faculty members want their teaching to reflect their research interests, but actually students want to understand the processes by which faculty members learn and translate that knowledge into products, like an article or whatever it may be, and that laying bare those processes is actually a really effective pedagogical strategy. Matt: It is and this is something that I've experienced now in honestly three different modes of teaching the historiography class for Bowling Green's history department. I have told students that if they really want to join my project, researching the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, they can and I can almost guarantee that they will sleep very well. On the other hand, they can replicate what I do with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle for topics that honestly are much more interesting to them. I've been very pleasantly surprised by not only the variety of topics they've chosen but also the follow through and ultimately the quality of the products that they're coming up with. Jolie: One of the major areas of interest at the summer camp was on building a learning community online in a time of crisis. How have your past experiences with digital teaching methods prepared you for the current situation? Conversely, how has this crisis maybe challenged or shifted some of your thinking about creation of community online? Lauren, will you start us off with that question? Lauren: Sure. I think that, first of all, one of the most wonderful things about the summer camp was that there was this sense of community. It was very palpable that there was the sense of community in that space. Instructors automatically gleamed onto one another, and bolstered each other up, and were able to form the sense of community in a very short period of time because we were under a month that we spent together in that space. One of the things that was really wonderful about that community, which I think taught me more about forming community online, was that we all started from a place of vulnerability. Lauren: If there's anything we've learned in the last, how many months has it even been now, I don't even know anymore, seven, six months, that we're all very vulnerable right now in distinct, unique ways. We're all experiencing the pandemic, we're all experiencing the challenges of this year in unique ways, but we are all experiencing challenges. Lauren: Sharing that, right away, right from the beginning, felt very uncomfortable, I know, at the beginning for a lot of our participants to lay it out there, "Here were my failings, here were what felt particularly scary about moving online, here's what I don't feel like is going well," but that was what brought everybody together because we saw that we're all in that place. We're all having those feelings. Lauren: We're all having that experience of inadequacy, or fear, or just, "How are we going to the grocery store safely?" Those were conversations we honestly had in that space and that I continue to have with my students in our spaces as well, starting from places of vulnerability that understand we're all facing challenges right now. They're going to continue happening, that's not unique to the pandemic. Even whenever this is over and we can move back to our "normal lives", those challenges will still be there. Laying them out there right from the beginning and saying, "This is where I'm at, this is what I'm experiencing. Here's how it might affect what I'm bringing to this course or this summer camp," is really important. One of the things that I've done in my courses is have both a public and then a private one-on-one space where students can share those kinds of things. At the beginning of the semester, we do a typical get to to know each other discussion where they share just where they are right now, that's a unique space. Lauren: But then, I also have a private questionnaire that students answer, which is completely optional. I say that in about 12 different places and ways, that it's optional, but it asks them just about anything else they want me to know, that place of vulnerability, that place of mutual sharing has been just a wealth of community formation. Jolie: Thank you. What about for you, Matt? How have you been thinking about community? Matt: A lot of it... I feel like I'd like to reemphasize what Lauren said about almost having channels of communication open by design and also really, again, echoing Lauren, having ourselves as instructors really be, if not the center, then perhaps the anchor for the communities that our classes form. There are a couple of ways that I do that. We're in a Zoom session now and you can see that I'm broadcasting from my basement, right? This is the trial that I'm going through from the coronavirus chaos. Matt: I haven't formally lost my office at Bowling Green, but it's actually an hour drive away. My workspace now is half a desk in my basement, that's what I'm restricted to. I'm sharing that with my students as well and saying, "It's not just you that's been affected by this, it's really been everybody in the university community in one way or another, and it's important for us... as a community of learners, I might be a professional learner, you're the students maybe paying to learn, but we're still all learners here. It's important for us to recognize that this is a journey that we're all taking together." This is something that appears frequently in my course content as well. Matt: I joked about my project studying the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Very often, I'll joke with my students and tell them that there's no way that they're going to be interested in my topic. But, the way that they respond is that they'll say, "You're right. We're not particularly interested in the topic that you're studying." Matt: They're not going to care as much about Mid-18th Century diplomatic history, but what they do care about is that they see me not only demonstrating but actually going through the same process that I'm teaching them to go through. They see me get frustrated, and they see me asking myself questions, they see me losing confidence in parts of the process as well, and they see when I do well. I look, in some respects, like one of them. I try to open up formats for them to present to each other. I tell them, right at the top, and then they affirm this for each other, "If you're going to present in front of your peers," and I've set up opportunities for them to share screens with each other and share the products of their own research with each other... I tell them that upfront, "You will never have a more supportive audience for yourself, as a teacher, than your own peers." Then, they live this out teaching occasion, after teaching occasion, after teaching occasion. As they come to see me as an older peer, in a manner of speaking, they give the same benefit of the doubt to me as well. Jolie: I'm going to take a quick break. Thanks for listening to the BiG Ideas podcast. Announcer: If you are passionate about big ideas, consider sponsoring this program. To have your name or organization mentioned here, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jolie: Hello and welcome back to the BiG Ideas podcast. Today, I'm talking to Dr. Lauren Salisbury and Dr. Matt Schumann about their work as camp counselors for the NEH-sponsored project Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis. The camp brought together instructors from across multiple disciplines in the humanities. How would you say that the interdisciplinarity of this learning community enhanced the camp conversations about creating equitable and inclusive learning environments? Matt, for you, what was the benefit of the interdisciplinary nature of this project? Matt: This is, again, a really great question. I find interdisciplinary conversations, in general and especially in this context, to be hugely beneficial. It is really easy, especially as scholars, to get siloed into our particular disciplines and also to get siloed into our own personal experiences of whatever is happening around us, coronavirus or otherwise. To have scholars and teaching colleagues from all over the humanities echoing our struggles, echoing our frustrations, echoing our experiences, and, in some cases, echoing our growth and our triumphs was really affirming. It was very, very good to hear a number of voices processing the same event or the same sort of struggles in a variety of ways. Somewhat, as I had shared earlier before, not really insisting on a particular methodology for my students but exposing them to a lot. The interdisciplinarity of our own conversations in the summer camp was really refreshing because it allowed me and, as far as I could read from our participants, it allowed others as well to process their experience from a number of different perspectives. Jolie: What about for you, Lauren? What do you think that interdisciplinarity brought to this project? Lauren: Well, I think not just interdisciplinarity but also the variety of roles that we had present in the summer camp was really important. This was something that was by design on our part as camp counselors was that we really wanted the camp to represent the teaching population in the humanities at Bowling Green. It was important for us to make sure we had graduate students who are teaching. We wanted to have adjuncts who are teaching, we wanted to have non-tenure track faculty who were teaching and talk about how those challenges and those vulnerabilities we talked about are unique to those groups as well and, like Matt said, bringing in each of those perspectives to then talk to one another and understand how we each are experiencing the pandemic and pandemic teaching in distinct ways. Lauren: The graduate students were able to bring this dual perspective of student and instructor and talk about what it looked like, from the student perspective, to have all of their courses suddenly online, what do seminar courses look like when they're, poof, in a Zoom room instead, what was that like, what was it like to try to do that and then balance teaching at the same time, alongside all of the housing, personal, care taking challenges that went along with it. Non-tenure track faculty likewise who are perhaps full-time or who have been at Bowling Green for longer than those graduate students were able to speak to the way that institutional shifts happened or how it was unique for them to suddenly be online when they've never taught or taken a class online because they got their undergrad degree decades ago, so that was really wonderful to see not only those perspectives be shared but then also in things like... where we shared resources or we did a lot of sharing syllabi that were in process, things we wanted to do for fall. Lauren: To see those groups of instructors support one another, provide feedback was wonderful. It was mutual. We saw a lot of grad students say, "Hey. Actually, I just learned about this. You could try this," or the non-tenure track faculty went, "Oh, a few years ago, I taught a course that we did this." It was a mutually beneficial experience, I think, for all of those groups because of their different positionalities. Jolie: In the name of this grant is the term crisis, right? We regularly talk about, "This is an unprecedented time," right? The pandemic has revealed multiple crises. But, the summer camp emphasized a lot about play and playfulness. Can you talk about why you felt like that was an important aspect of this summer camp? Lauren, you want to go first? Lauren: Sure. I have a unique perspective on this, I think, because I currently have a almost two-year-old at home and another one on the way. I do a lot of play all day long, but a lot of play to learn, so that's something we do right away from the moment we're born is we play to learn. Play is all about understanding our position in the world, understanding how we interact with things in the world, and so that's a huge piece of it. I think that we also play because play invokes this no pressure or low pressure feeling, and that's what learning should be about. It should be low risk. Lauren: It should be okay to fail because that's, again, where our learning happens. I think one of the beautiful things about having play be emphasized... it's not just about, "Oh, we're going to have fun here," it's about, "Let's mess around and see what works. Let's mess around and understand that a lot of those stuff isn't going to work, and that's okay." It's okay to have failures, it's okay to have things not go the way we planned. It's okay to change things in the middle of teaching or in the middle of designing a course, realizing we need to make a change. Play is all about low risk learning opportunities and the ability to say, "I'm going to mess around with this. I'm going to get into my syllabus, completely trash it, rip it apart, put it back together, and see what it looks like now, or I'm going to rip apart that Canvas site, and see what I can do to play around with it, and make it something that's useful to me." Jolie: What about for you, Matt? How do you think about play and how was it important to you? Matt: I think I may actually take a slightly different tack from Lauren on this one, I also have a young one at home. There's plenty of learning through play going on that way as well, but also I do think of play as really invoking this term fun. Just like the pedagogical word "play," it's a very deep term. It's not something where we just mean messing around or just have a positive, emotional experience, but there's a much deeper pedagogical significance to it as well. What brought this out, for me, is actually the privilege that I had in the history department this last year. Matt: We just happened to have a couple of jokesters. Regardless of circumstance, it is an impulse for them to make it into a joke. Because they do that, I would just come away from every meeting in which those jokesters were present thinking, "If they can lighten the mood that way, if I can participate in lightening the mood in that kind of way, then really everything's not all that bad." The fun that I had in some of those history department meetings, the fun that I was able to transfer to our summer camp, to some of the classes through that sense of rhetorical play, that sense of just simple fun, it wasn't just a matter of, again, a positive, emotional experience. What it actually did was it spawned this sense of thankfulness that, even in the midst of a crisis, even in the midst of things being gloomy, or not going the way I wanted them to go, or feeling put upon by all the different circumstances, to have that sense of not only community but jocularity was immensely important. Matt: As I came to approach my situation with gratitude, it lifted not only my spirits but also the spirits of those around me, including in the summer camp, including among the students that I teach. Jolie: I want to conclude by asking both of you to reflect on the current moment. What do you think are the most important lessons that you want us to learn? What do you see as the best case scenario for how we might learn from this crisis to transform both academia and our own lives? Matt, will you start us off? Matt: I think there's a lot that depends on institutional leadership, and I don't just mean the president or the provost, I mean even at the department or collegial level. A lot that I'd like to tease out is that it can be a real temptation, in a time of crisis, to buckle down, look for what works, and just stick with it, really keep things on a tight leash. I feel like the best leaders and really the best case situation is going to be really looking at this crisis as an opportunity to experiment and innovate. As that happens, it's not just that we're going to find data-driven things that we can do, but we can also find new solutions to these problems that then carry us into whatever's coming once the worst of this particular crisis has passed. Jolie: What about for you, Lauren? What do you hope we can learn from this moment and take forward? Lauren: I think that one of the wonderful and also simultaneously frustrating things about being an online teaching and learning scholar as well as a working from home online instructor right now is that I've been doing both of those things for a very long time. To see a lot of these conversations come to the forefront is both a, "Yay. Finally, people are talking about it," and also like, "Yeah, I know. We've been talking about this. Thanks for joining us," kind of situation. It's been a lot of, "Yeah, the future is now. This is what's been happening for a couple decades now." I think that although that is very frustrating in a lot of ways, my hope is that whenever we go back to whatever it is we go back to after this, that those conversations continue, that we don't just have faculty members or instructors go back to teaching exclusively face-to-face and ignoring the online component. I've said, for a very long time, in various contexts, that we all are already online teachers, even before spring. Before March, we still were doing that because we all are using some component of online instruction, whether that's using a learning management system or we use our email. I also hope that we continue to see a lot of student participation in these conversations, too. Lauren: One of the things that's been really amazing, to me, is how involved students have gotten in the last few months in their own learning experiences. I've seen a lot of frustration from the side of faculty with this, and I get that to some degree. But, I've really enjoyed getting to see how many students have said, "No, this is unacceptable, this is not working. You need to do something different," or have said, "Yes, this is what we need. Thank you for doing this," and have taken a front seat role in their own education, that's amazing to me. Lauren: I love that there are all of these students who are really involved in that. I think, like so many things having to do with this pandemic, it wouldn't happen this way if it wasn't happening in 2020. Students have the tools to do that, too. How many call outs on TikTok have we seen, how many screenshots of really bad interactions have we seen on Twitter? We could talk about the privacy issues of that later. But, students, whether we like it or not, are taking ownership of their learning and saying, "This is not what we need, this is what we need. We need to have conversations about tuition. We need to have conversations about equity and access. We need to have conversations about privacy, about the fact that I have to work a full-time job to pay for this online course that I'm taking." All of those conversations that students are having is also something I hope doesn't go away. Really, I'm just hoping we all keep talking a whole lot because it makes me happy. I think that's where the change happens, that's where we all start to understand each other better, too. Lauren: Having conversations about the challenges from the student side, having conversations about the challenges from the instructor side and what that looks like, I think that's the only way we make any kind of lasting change or improve things. Jolie: Thank you, both, so much for joining me today. Listeners can keep up with Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis and other ICS happenings by following us on Twitter @icsbgsu, Instagram, as well as our Facebook page. You can listen to BiG Ideas wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Please subscribe and rate us on your preferred platform. Our producers are Chris Cavera and Marco Mendoza with sound editing by Marco. Research assistance for this podcast was provided by Stevie Scheurich. Thanks very much, everyone, and stay safe.
32 minutes | 3 months ago
Dr. Amílcar Challú and Dr. Chad Iwertz Duffy: COVID and Collaboration
This episode is the start of a four part mini-series focused on the NEH-funded project “Towards a Pedagogy from Crisis.” Jolie speaks with project directors Dr. Amílcar Challú, department chair and associate professor of history, and Dr. Chad Iwertz Duffy, an assistant professor in rhetoric and writing. They discuss the important role that interdisciplinary collaboration in the humanities can play in building just and equitable learning--whether online, remote, or in-person. Announcer: From Bowling Green State University, and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie: Hello, and welcome back to the BG Ideas podcast, brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Dr. Jolie Sheffer. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we're not recording in the studio, but from home via phone and computer. As always, the opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the individuals involved, and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Jolie: Bowling Green State University is located in the Great Black Swamp, long a meeting place of the Wyandotte, Shawnee, Lenape, Ottawa, Kickapoo, Fox, Potawatomi, Erie, Miami, Peoria, Chippewa, and Seneca Indian tribes. We honor the rich history of this land and its indigenous inhabitants past and present. Jolie: Today's episode is one of a mini series focusing on a National Endowment for the Humanities sponsored project, Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis: Adaptive Teaching and Learning at Bowling Green State University During COVID-19. Today I'm joined by the project's directors, Dr. Chad Iwertz Duffy, and Dr. Amilcar Challu. Chad is an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Writing in the English department. Amilcar is Department Chair and Associate Professor of History at BGSU. Jolie: Thank you both for joining me today. I'd like to start with some backstory on the project. The project focuses on the current global pandemic, which has completely restructured our personal and professional lives. Can you describe how the project came together and evolved into what it is now, and especially what is the role of pedagogy in this project? Chad: I think, speaking specifically to pedagogy, one of the reasons why it's so important is because everybody pretty much in the world at this point, has moved to online education. And, even though that's something that has a fairly rich tradition in my field, I don't believe there are very many fields that have been really seriously thinking about online education. So, pedagogy is kind of our entree into thinking about how, when we have to all learn virtually, how you do that, and how you do that well, and how you value your students, especially right now in this time of crisis. Jolie: And Amilcar, from a practical standpoint, how did you and Chad connect on this project, and how did you evolve its shape and what you were imagining you were seeking to study and do? Amilcar: Well, it was connections that someone else said. You're both thinking about this at the same time, and so why don't you talk with each other, and that was it. I think it highlights the importance of those informal interactions in getting things done, and pushing things forward. It advanced really, really fast. We both started talking about what we have in mind. It was something different, what each of us have in mind, but we knew that there was a lot that we were trying to accomplish that have the same goals. And, it was a very quick, fast process, and I was surprised about that. And it was part of the one great joy, I think, of putting this together. Jolie: Chad, I'd like to talk a bit about your specific background, and how it shaped the project. Your work focuses on disability and accessibility in what you refer to as public environments. Can you talk about what that means, and how you think about disability and accessibility in ways that connected in this project? Chad: Yeah, sure. I think when we talk about disability, we're usually thinking, and historically disability has been thought of as, it's kind of like a legal term. Somebody designated as disabled would be entitled to certain benefits under the law. But, that is really changing in scholarship, especially from scholarship. I'll just highlight from Disabled Women of Color, like Mia Mingus, Alice Wong, Sandy Hoe, and others who work on the Disability Visibility project. They really define access as "a form of love in order to help build a world where accessibility is understood as an act of love." Chad: Another scholar, Tanya Titchkosky, who does work in Canada, in her book, The Question of Access, defines access as "an interpretive relation between bodies." These really informed the way that I have been thinking about access in this project as, not just a legal standard for who is entitled to certain forms of accommodation, but really involving the very specific students and teachers who are within a classroom, what that environment looks like, what technologies are being used, and how we might kind of explode how we think of access in order to meet students, instructors, anybody's guest speakers who are in these environments that we're hosting. Meeting them where they're at and making sure that we can create environments where everyone is welcomed into that, not just from a legal standpoint, but also just from a relational standpoint and social standpoint. Jolie: And with that in mind, what do you hope we're going to learn from the pandemic that will help us rethink issues of disability and accessibility? Chad: Yeah, well, some of my specific work is in communication access. A lot of what I have done in the past is worked with speech-to-text writers, and speech-to-text readers, specifically disabled and deaf people who receive transcription and speech-to-text writing as a form of accommodation. And what's very interesting, is there's a lot of ongoing discussion about what creates appropriate or good quality communication access. Chad: I think a lot of us are familiar with closed captions, for example, on a television screen. But, that's just one methodology and is actually not the reigning methodology that's used in educational environments. That's referred to as a meaning-for-meaning transcription. Chad: My hope is that this ongoing work will help expose some of the cracks in that understanding of access as a checklist. If I just attach a transcript to my educational videos or my lectures, then it's accessible. I think I'd like to push back against that a little bit, and hear from people who may be in an online environment for the first time and not really sure about what they're doing. Meeting people where they're at, finding out what's going on, what's working well, what's not working well, where we can be directing our focus as we continue to think about access and educational environments. Jolie: Amilcar, you have a wide range of research interests, but all of it touches in some way about the concept of the environment, whether you're talking about environmental change in Mexico, or collaborating with students and community members to design and install interactive interpretive historical trails right here in Bowling Green. Can you talk about how your past work exploring environmental histories, as well as public engagement, influenced this project? Amilcar: Yeah. From one point of view, one contribution, I think it's practical. This got me thinking into the ways in which we can put teams together and work to solve a particular problem. And in this case, the problem was the impact of COVID in our institutional environment, and intellectual environment. That's one contribution that I think we should not dismiss, is that it gets the synopsis going in a way. But yeah, I think environmental history got me thinking in two other ways. One was, when we were talking about this, I think I was wrapping up my classroom environment, American Environmental History. And at that point, it was an online class. It's a class that always was very hands on. We were always doing field trips, walking in the woods, doing nature journaling. And suddenly, you had to rethink completely what you are doing. Amilcar: So that got me, I think, the mind to think from the point of view of pedagogy from crisis. But at the same time, how important it was for students and for me to have that connection, explicit connection to the environment. And environment as nature, potential marks, but also the virtual environment, that how all the environments intersect with each other in a common experience. Amilcar: The way that students were reacting to the COVID pandemic via their comments on their nature journal, for instance, was something that got me thinking a lot. Amilcar: The other way that I was thinking about this was, from an environmental perspective, was precisely through what is the environment, and how we create environments, natural environments, virtual environments, et cetera. And, to me, these look like the creation of the new environment, that we're all creating new environments to put it in a way. Jolie: That's great. We know that the pandemic has not only exposed, but deepened vast racial and socioeconomic inequalities. And we see this with infection rates, illness, and death by Black, Indigenous, and Latinx, and other communities of color. But, we also see economic impacts of the virus and in how it's affecting our students. In terms of our teaching, what are some ways that you think we can help address or mitigate some of those disparate impacts? Chad: I think that's such a important question, and one that really, I think, we can be hopeful about an answer right now. But, I think it's going to take some time. I know today, for example, when we're recording this, right now we've got over 7,000 new cases in Ohio alone of coronavirus. I think that we're really not seeing all of the effects right now. But, with those that we know and that you've identified, Jolie, it kind of takes me back to what Amilcar's response just was, where we're in a situation right now where we can be actively contributing to new built environments. Chad: Online education is not without its faults in terms of the ways that it can help support sexism, racism, ableism. But, we also are able, I think, to really combat those in new ways since now everybody is going to have to be thinking about these in their built environments. So, from the limited and ongoing things that we're seeing, I would suggest to acknowledge that this is going on. That's the first step, to acknowledge that coronavirus is not impacting educational environments in equal ways. It's disproportionate, just as you're saying, affecting communities of color. Chad: We need to come together, I think, to address these. Participate in ongoing research, encourage students to be speaking out when they're experiencing food insecurities, housing, insecurities, technology insecurity. Connecting them with the resources that are available through the University. I think that, yeah, that's something that's on all of us as educators. Jolie: Anything you'd like to add, Amilcar? Amilcar: Well, I want to echo in a way, both what Chad said, and also the way that you placed the question. I think the COVID pandemic is definitely multiplying the effects that inequality, of many different kinds, have in education. And, it's something that, as a faculty administrator and as a faculty member, I'm witnessing on a daily basis. That is, students who are now under greater financial stress, and they are saying, I cannot live in college right now. Students have that need to work more hours than before. I think this is compounding in itself the problems that the pandemic brings on its own. I think that our project is trying to learn from this, but also present responses to the students and faculty on how to better tackle. Jolie: Great. We have to take a quick break. You're listening to the BiG Ideas podcast. Announcer: Question. Answer. Discussion. Announcer: If you are passionate about BiG Ideas, consider sponsoring this program. To have your name or organization mentioned here, please contact us at email@example.com. Jolie: Hello, and welcome back to the BG Ideas podcast. Today, I'm talking to Dr. Chad Iwertz Duffy and Dr. Amilcar Challu about their NEH-sponsored project, Toward a Pedagogy From Crisis. Jolie: This question is for both of you, so either of you can take it first. Part of the project is about expanding and rethinking the public, which is obviously something that really matters to us at ICS. The humanities have an undeserved reputation for being disciplines that are more focused on theory than application. Castles in the air, rather than brass tacks. How do you see this project demonstrating and putting into action the values and disciplinary approaches of the humanities? Put another way, how can and do the humanities impact people in their everyday lives, that we can learn from in this moment? Amilcar: Yeah. I think that it's a terrible reputation that we have for being hyper theoretical or disattached from everyday experience, because the way that I think about the humanities, it's actually about this everyday perspective of life and how it illuminates on the way that we conduct our everyday life. At the same time, some of us are discussing applied humanities, as a theory. And in a way, the fact that we have to say applied humanities, to me, it's not really signifying how much we have strayed from that perspective. Amilcar: I think that we need to reassure that humanities have a lot to contribute to this discussion. It's practical and it's also subjective. It goes to how people are seeing the problems and acting upon the perceptions of the problems. So, I would put it exactly that way. Without these humanities, we really cannot tackle this. Without the humanities, we may be crunching some numbers, we may be dealing with models, but we are not dealing with people. Jolie: Oh, I like that. Let's underscore that. Without the humanities, we're talking about numbers, not people. What would you add, Chad, to this discussion about, what do you think is the value of the humanities, whether that's in terms of values, or particular disciplinary approaches to this research project? Chad: Yeah. Thank you for that. I'm reminded of a saying, or an art installation I saw once that was a series of posters that said, "The sciences can work towards bringing the dinosaurs back to life, but the humanities can tell us why that's not such a great idea." I kind of feel like that is going to inform my answer, where I'm not going to say that the humanities have more to offer than the sciences. But, I think it's a false dichotomy that we live in our own silos, and it just becomes so easy to not really talk to each other. Chad: But, one of the great things about this project has been the collaboration among a number of different departments, but especially English and History, both humanities departments. But even in so, seeing just the different methods and methodologies and ways that we understand this research, yeah, I think that it's just we have to be in this together. And so, as the sciences and economics are going to be able to give us information, I think what we can contribute as humanists, is the very real lived realities of what this pandemic is doing to us as people, what it's going to continue to do to our teaching beyond this as well, how we're going to interact with each other. All of these very big questions are ones that I think the humanities are especially well-suited to answer in conjunction with the sciences as well. Jolie: Well, and what you're saying there really connects to the previous questions, which is that the humanities are relevant here, not only in terms of pedagogy and the student experience, and analyzing the cultural and social impact of this moment, but also about those conversations about equity, accessibility, and diversity, those lived experiences. The data can tell us a lot, but they can't actually give us that kind of lived detail that is also so important. Chad: Yeah. I think, too, that so I do some statistical work with my research, and I think what tends to happen, we're interested in averages. We're interested in sort of that forced mean in being able to understand a situation, but I think there's so much value in asking what are those outlier stories as well. And, I think something that we are coming to find as a community is, that when you take that mean, you're really understanding a very biased, white, male centric approach that doesn't fit in every circumstance. So, absolutely. Yes, I think that understanding the stories that can be collected from, not just the mean, but also all of those other areas, is more than valuable. It's necessary and needed. Yes. Jolie: One of the things we'll be talking about in subsequent episodes of the podcast are parts of the dimension of this project, which includes a summer camp for instructors, and faculty members, and graduate students, to help them learn to teach better. But, another piece of it that I think is relevant to what we're just talking about, is the research piece. Chad, would you talk a little bit about the research project that you're developing out of this grant that does do precisely what you're talking about, of trying to capture some of those perhaps outliers, as well as those more typical stories? Chad: Yeah, absolutely. The one that I'm most directly involved with is a survey of the BGSU community. And we define that as all undergraduate, graduate level students, post doctorates, part-time faculty, full-time faculty, classified staff, administrative staff. Pretty much anybody employed or connected directly that way through the University. And what we're interested in, is a very quick statistical survey of people's satisfaction and experience with a number of different areas, such as their accommodation, use of technology, learning and teaching in different modalities. Chad: But also, I would say one of the largest elements of this research study is collecting those narratives. There is definitely a qualitative element too, which is the humanities wheelhouse. I think one thing that I'm finding with this research is, that statistical analysis is going to give us a real quick snapshot of the community, but that qualitative analysis, which is going to take a lot longer, is going to tell us a lot more about actually how these different criteria that we've selected are operating in people's environments throughout last spring, this fall, and the summer is applicable too. Chad: So, yeah, we really want to work towards building an archive that we can draw upon to be able to describe and share what the experience has been like, teaching and learning at BGSU through the pandemic. Amilcar: The approach that we come into humanities, mythologically speaking, it's very much an all-of-the-above kind of approach, in that it's not that we are dismissing the quantitative information, the average, or the standard deviation. But instead, that we are populating that with storytelling. Retrieving the storytelling and building stories based on all-of-the-above approach. I think that Chad was saying, that's in the contribution of the humanities as an approach, that we can integrate. We can provide that integration through our storytelling. Jolie: Well then, one of the things I think you're both suggesting, too, is that the humanities allows, or it is well-suited, to get at the intersections of different experiences, too. That something that on a data point might look like it's an either or. Either you identify as this category or that. In those narratives, it's much easier to actually see that it's this, and this, and this often. And it's in those complexities where you can see some of the differences and think about possibilities for redress or mitigation. Chad: Yes, yes. If I could tag someone to this, too. This sounds so much to me like a feminist contextualist methodology, which I learned about through Cindy Johanek. But, it's this idea, just like you're saying, Jolie, that we tend to call ourselves something and that comes with it a whole slew of ways that we understand how knowledge is made, or how it's possible. But it really, I think for this work, it's being driven by the research question, which is, what is happening right now at BGSU, and how are we teaching and learning through a pandemic? And that can be answered through qualitative and quantitative methods, and so that's why we're using both. So yes, absolutely, it depends on the questions that you want answered. Jolie: One of the other elements of the grant, particularly the summer camp, again, which we'll talk more about in future episodes, is this idea of play. And, that might seem like a contradiction. You're talking about a moment of crisis, and yet there's such an emphasis on play. Why was that important to you both in thinking about this grant? Amilcar: I think I answered the same way before, and we're going through it again. I think as an artist who lived through one of our big national study about crisis, which was the dictatorship, as a child and adolescent, there was no way of experiencing that without a strong power of play and humor. In that, people need to love, and people need to see things from another perspective. And there's nothing better than humor and play to get there, even under the most critical circumstances. Amilcar: There are lots of circumstantial evidence from all over my culture of origin, Argentina and Latin America in general, about the healing power of humor. So, I think that was one perspective that I was thinking when we started talking about the importance of play here. But, more generally, I think it makes you gain some distance with the problem that you are dealing with, even just to understand why the other person is having fun. It makes you just step aside, and then see things from a different way, and just shifts your perspective. Jolie: What about for you, Chad? Chad: Yeah, I think play for me is also a way of learning, and specifically a way of learning that allows for failure, too. And I'm always really interested in my teaching in being able to find spaces where students can fail and that'd be okay, because I think so much of teaching and learning feels so high stakes. We're teaching so that we are able to demonstrate that we do it well on our student evaluations of instruction. Students want to demonstrate that they have learned something, so they get good grades at the end of the course. And, shifting to an entirely online education for people, during a pandemic no less, is pretty high stakes, I would say. At least probably the highest stakes that I've encountered as an instructor. Chad: I think being able to incorporate play for all of the reasons Amilcar is saying, absolutely. And allowing for space where teachers can be failures, like that's okay, and we're moving beyond that and learning productively. And I think that play allows for that. Jolie: I love that, and I also love the idea of playfulness is also about imagination, about seeing beyond what currently exists, and trying to open oneself up to other possibilities. And I think that's part of what you're talking about with the pedagogy is, we don't have to, we shouldn't keep being bounded by what's been done before. We should think big, imagine big, and try and build that environment, to get back to Amilcar's language earlier. To create those more ideal conditions rather than being locked into where we were yesterday, or where we are today. Jolie: I want to conclude by asking each of you to reflect on this moment, and what lesson you hope we can take away from this. What would be one thing that you'd like to see transformed as a result of this crisis? Amilcar, you want to go first? Amilcar: One thing I would like to see transformed, is this whole idea of morality of teaching, that we think, okay, this is online. This is not online. This is in the classroom. I think right now it's so fluid that, that's steering a lot of creativity and play within all the distress brought by this crisis as well. Amilcar: One thing I would like to take away as the learning opportunities is that we start thinking beyond these buckets of how we teach, and try to be more integrity with how we do it. I also would like to see more imagination in the way that we organize teaching, even starting from the scales and grids. From the very fact that our point of view right now, we usually plan everything around the very strict grid, and right now the grid doesn't exist because it really doesn't matter that much when you are teaching something, if you are not competing, everybody competing for the same classroom or things like that. Amilcar: I think for administrators that's a very interesting imagination exercise, because they couldn't see any alternative to the grid. And right now we're living outside of the grid. From a practical point of view, [that's] some take aways that I hope that we incorporate for. And of course, there's the hope that we grow stronger through all this. And, I have that strong proof that we are now well aware of what face to face contributes to an educational environment, and what online contributes to our educational environment. I think we are more aware than ever before about the inequality of the learning experience, and how that intersects with other forms of inequality. So I hope that, that experience takes us learning in the future, and that we need to think inclusion first and accessibility next. Jolie: Good. What about for you, Chad? What would you like us to take away from this time in history? Chad: Yeah. Well, I'll say I completely agree with everything Amilcar has said. I think that the ability for us to move beyond the pandemic, and really valuing online education in a way that perhaps we haven't before, specifically online education that's accessible, that's anti-racist, that's feminist. These are all, I think, best case scenarios that we could move from where we are yesterday or today into the future of teaching. Chad: I also, gosh, I think reflecting on the current moment, and I know you only asked for one, but I feel like there are so many things that could really go well beyond here. But, I think, ultimately if we can realize the ways that our teaching have participated in white supremacy, have participated in ableism, and have really been a call to action for us to think through how, when we return to face-to-face education, that we'll be able to break down a lot of those barriers and start fresh. Chad: And yeah, just envisioning educational futures that were way more inclusive than they have been in the past. Starting new with students and with each other, that I think that would be such an amazing future to envision. Jolie: Thank you both so much for joining me today. Listeners can keep up with ICS by following us on Twitter at ICSBGSU, and on our Facebook page. You can listen to BG Ideas wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Please subscribe and rate us on your preferred platform. Our producers are Chris Cavera and Marco Mendoza, with sound editing by Marco Mendoza. Research assistance for this podcast was provided by Stevie Scheurich. Announcer: Discussion.
9 minutes | a year ago
The Enlightenminute- Just Keep Swimming? Researching and Writing During a Global Pandemic
BiG Ideas, a podcast from the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society at Bowling Green State University, is excited to announce The Enlightenment, a bite-sized podcast, written and hosted by ICS intern Taylar Stagner. In this episode, Stagner speaks with graduate students, and professors who share how the Covid-19 pandemic, and the campus shut down it has caused, have affected their lives as researchers and working parents. Jolie: Hello, you're listening to the BiG Ideas podcast. I'm Dr. Jolie Sheffer, Associate Professor of English and American Culture Studies and the Director of the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society at Bowling Green State University. This is not a typical episode. The conversation you are about to hear was recorded during the COVID-19 crisis, so you may very well notice a difference in our sound quality. You'll also notice that we've got a different format. We wanted to capture some of the incredible challenges facing BGSU students, faculty, and staff during this world historical event, as well as document some of the incredible creativity, resiliency, and generosity we've seen. Now more than ever, we believe it's important to hear thought provoking and inspiring stories about BiG ideas featuring members of our community. The following episode is one of several short form stories being produced and reported by Taylar Stagner, a master's student in the American Culture Studies Program and an ICS intern. We're calling this series, The Enlightenminute. We hope you enjoy it. Stay safe out there. Taylar: Research, draft, edit, submit, edit again. Resubmit, publish, research. Research, draft, edit, submit, edit, resubmit, publish research. Research, draft, edit, resubmit, edit, publish research. This is how you stay relevant in academia. It's a cycle of drafting and submitting to journals for publication. Constant research is how professors argue for tenure, master's students finish theses, and graduate students finally get the letters PhD next to their name. But what if a worldwide pandemic shuts down how people actually do research? With K through 12 schools shut down, kids are at home. Many research projects require in-person observation. And how do you stay calm and go with the flow when the whole world is turned upside down? Here at ICS, our director, Dr. Jolie Sheffer, is usually very busy with her own research and service projects, sometimes up to 15 projects at a time. But now, her energy focuses more towards her students' wellbeing. Jolie: Now, there was no guarantee that our students even have housing, that they have food, that they have enough money, those bare necessities, and even internet access to be able to participate in the classes. That priority list looks really different. So in some ways, I have fewer things on my plate now, but the stakes of those things feel much higher. Taylar: With a young child and a partner who also works from home, finding time to write is a challenge. But when Sheffer finds time to write, it becomes a necessary reprieve from the current circumstances. Jolie: I am trying to still write most days between 15 minutes to 30. There are a few days I've been able to get in an hour if my husband's able to watch my son. And that's actually been really helpful for my mental health. I mean, I really like losing myself in the research and getting back into those kinds of thorny problems that help me forget about COVID-19 and all of that uncertainty. Taylar: There exists so much uncertainty, especially with kids at home. Adam Cohen is a doctoral student here at BGSU. And the last couple months have been especially challenging because he and his wife recently had twins. Adam: Which they came three months premature. They were supposed to be born at the beginning of April. And due to some complications, they were actually delivered on New Year's Eve, 2019. So we've been in Cincinnati since then, because there's a really good children's hospital out here in Cincinnati. And they've been in the NICU, which stands for neonatal intensive care unit. Taylar: So obviously, taking care of his family is the priority. But with everything up in the air, Cohen still has to think about his dissertation and how COVID-19 might disrupt his original plans. Adam: Generally speaking, my research is in media studies, particularly audience studies. And for my dissertation, I've been researching what I call electoral spectatorship. So I'm looking at debate watch parties at bars during the 2020 presidential election in the US. Taylar: And there might not be another public debate to get together for the rest of the 2020 presidential election. Cohen might be able to switch his research to online watch parties, but that pivots away from what he was really prepared to study. Adam: But it's a completely different conversation than the one that I was previously in. And it kind of unfortunately cuts out some of the stuff that I was most interested in, like the intertwining with consumerism. I'd have to say, I really don't know. So I'm still kind of hoping that it doesn't fully come to that, but it might. Taylar: Stevie Scheurich is also working on their doctorate. They study gender and feminisms, and Scheurich is in their second year. Stevie: My focus is just kind of shot because everything is so up in the air. There's just so many variables that I can't really do anything about. And I'm coping. I feel pretty calm most of the times, but sometimes just trying to get my brain to think in a straight line or to sit down and do my task for more than 10 minutes at a time, it's just not cooperating. Yeah. There's time, but I feel like I'm moving slower. Taylar: I asked Stevie about how some academics are excited to get more work done with all this newfound time at home, but Stevie doesn't see it that way. Between their responsibilities as a student and a graduate assistant for ICS, this time just feels like a practice run for more unstructured time to work on a dissertation. Stevie: I feel like it's an illusion of more time. I still have the same amount of tasks to do in a day. I just have more agency when I get to choose to do it. And for me, I feel like this is kind of a nice dry run for thinking up dissertation time, because that is unstructured time as you find. Hopefully, there's not a global crisis happening during dissertation as well. But if I can do this, then I can sort of manage that as well. Taylar: In order to cope with all the uncertainty, Stevie has taken on the mentality of a familiar aquatic creature to help remind them it's okay to go with the flow. Stevie: One time, I went to the Shedd Aquarium and they had a jellyfish exhibit, and there's just this circular tank. And I guess they don't really move on their own. So they were just circulating the water in a circle. They're just at the whim, floating in a circle. And that's sort of how I feel, if that makes any sense. I'm sort of afloat in the ocean. Don't have a lot of power myself. So I'm just letting the wave carry me where ever. As long as I'm staying afloat, I guess, that's important. Taylar: During such daunting times, we can all take notes from jellyfish. The whims of a global pandemic have shaken all of us, but now there isn't so much to do other than ride the waves with fellow jellies to more certain times. During our next episode of Enlightened Minute, we speak to administrators at BGSU who are wrestling with how next year will unfold. I'm Taylar Dawn Stagner, and I hope you've enjoyed reaching Enlightened Minute. Jolie: You can find the BiG Ideas podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen. This episode was written, researched and produced by Taylar Stagner with editing by Stevie Scheurich. Special thanks go out to Marco Mendoza for his extraordinary sound editing in challenging conditions.
9 minutes | a year ago
The Enlightenminute: Teaching and Learning During a Global Pandemic
BiG Ideas, a podcast from the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society at Bowling Green State University, is excited to announce The Enlightenment, a bite-sized podcast, written and hosted by ICS intern Taylar Stagner. In this episode, Stagner speaks with undergrads, graduate students, and professors who share how the Covid-19 pandemic, and the campus shut down it has caused, have affected their lives. Jolie: Hello. You're listening to the Big Ideas podcast. I'm Dr. Jolie Sheffer, associate professor of English and American culture studies and the director of the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society at Bowling Green State University. This is not a typical episode. The conversation you are about to hear was recorded during the COVID-19 crisis, so you may very well notice a difference in our sound quality. You'll also notice that we've got a different format. We wanted to capture some of the incredible challenges facing BGSU students, faculty, and staff during this world-historical event, as well as document some of the incredible creativity, resiliency, and generosity we've seen. Jolie: Now more than ever, we believe it's important to hear thought-provoking and inspiring stories about big ideas featuring members of our community. The following episode is one of several short-form stories being produced and reported by Taylar Stagner, a master student in the American culture studies program and an ICS intern. We're calling this series, The EnlightenMinute. We hope you enjoy it. Stay safe out there. Taylar: Welcome to EnlightenMinute, a bite-sized podcast from the desk of ICS. I'm Taylar Stagner with more on how students and faculty at BGSU are dealing with the drastic shift in university life. Online video applications, like WebEx, Zoom, and Skype, help peers and instructors converse with each other during the statewide shelter in place order. No unnecessary travel is permitted and all classes and projects have been moved online. In the shuffle to switch instruction online to slow the spread of COVID-19, one of our interns at ICS is missing out on her last semester of college. Renee Hopper is getting her bachelor's degree in creative writing with a minor in German. To finish her minor, she was going to go to Germany before the shutdown. Renee: And I wasn't planning on being on campus next year at all because of study abroad. And now that summer is canceled, I have to figure out a way to take German online at a different university this summer and transfer it over, which I've heard is a rough process. Taylar: After BGSU moved to online instruction, Renee moved back to her home outside of Columbus in Dublin, Ohio with her parents and older brother. I asked her how that was going. Renee: Most days, pretty good, now that we're used to it. I've established my own little space in our dining room where my mom literally took our own Snuggies and hung them in the doorways so that I have my own enclosed little office. Absolutely innovative. But when I'm in there, I can pretty much be counted on that they're not going to come in and I can work. Taylar: While Hopper can make do, she can't help but feel like her undergraduate career ended anticlimactically. She had to go and empty out her dorm room during spring break. Renee: It was really melancholy. I wasn't expecting it, especially because there are so many fun things to prod at about dorm life, like you don't have a kitchen and you really miss food. But just the fact that I hadn't been expecting to start packing up so quickly made it harder to walk in the room and be like, "Oh, all of this is coming back with me right now." And it was really strange that I couldn't even go get food and use a bit more of my Falcon dollars before we left. I had to order one of those little robots and it brought us Dunkin and we had a little moment there. But it just felt, it didn't feel permanent at the time just because it was such an odd time to do it and because there were so few people on campus. Taylar: Hopper isn't the only one having difficulties with the change. Masters student Justin Kindelt moved to Northwest Ohio from Evergreen State University in Tacoma to pursue a American Studies degree. And since the switch, his workload as a student and graduate assistant has doubled. Justin: I feel like it's exploded, gotten huge. I mean, a lot of my projects had to switch from what they were supposed to be to something I can do at home, which you can't blame anybody for. It happens. But, and then one class, three papers have been added. Taylar: And that's not mentioning the change in responsibilities as a teaching assistant for the School of Cultural and Critical Studies. Justin: Teaching, what used to be a discussion that I get to lead on Fridays is something I have to type up every Thursday night. My students, I think, are suffering from the same problem, but it's not engaging us. Hey, here's some things, hopefully you can answer some of it. Taylar: Kindelt also thinks you lose something with the transfer to discussion boards and even video conferencing. You lose some of the back and forth. Justin: Well, I like discussions. I like to hear what somebody says and then respond to it and talk about this, talk about that. And it just feels like written discussions are much more formal. Even at two classes that we still video chat into, you've got to hit a button to raise your hand. And the professor picks whether or not to call on you, and you've got to turn your mic on and off. So there's just, the flows not there as much. It's much more structured, even if it's not academically structured. It's not as easy to just engage in the conversation. There's at least button pressing between communications on every aspect of it. Taylar: Teaching online is not something new for Dr. Kim Coates, the director of the American culture studies program. I asked Coates about how some professors think keeping strict deadlines on assignments instills normalcy in this chaotic time. She says that it's okay for professors to be lenient, but communication is key. Kim: That doesn't mean that I have been less or I've expected less from them in terms of the work that they do, but what I'm letting them know is that if they need more time to do it or any other types of flexibility that I'm willing to accommodate them. Taylar: With many students and professors with tenuous access to reliable internet, a physical library and uncertain global unrest, unneeded stress can add to our likelihood of sickness, something Coates hopes to avoid by communicating with her students. Kim: Again, I think all of us are doing the very best we can right now, and to expect ourselves to do our very best work or to be performing at our peak is just unreasonable and we're only setting ourselves up for disappointment and perhaps getting sick ourselves. And we don't want that. Taylar: Truly, these are unprecedented times to be getting an education, but Coates leaves us with some encouraging words. Kim: My generation, and even your generation, Taylar, and a few before have not experienced anything like this. It's really been since World War II that something like this has affected our country as a whole, as well as the entire globe. Seeing how we all come together and get through when circumstances demand that we do so, I think we've all done a really good job. So I'm proud of my students, I'm proud of my colleagues, I'm proud of BGSU. Taylar: In our next EnlightenMinute, how do graduate students and professors produce research during COVID-19? How much can we expect of ourselves, and how do we move forward with shaken up research plans? I'm Taylar Stagner and I hope you've enjoyed reaching Enlighten Minute. Jolie: You can find the Big Ideas podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen. This episode was written, researched and produced by Taylar Stagner with editing by Stevie Scheurich. Special thanks go out to Marco Mendoza for his extraordinary sound editing in challenging conditions.
39 minutes | a year ago
Dr. Lori Liggett- The Bicycle and The Ballot Box: How the U.S. Suffragists Pedaled Their Way to Empowerment
In this special COVID-19 episode of the BG Ideas podcast, we talk with Dr. Lori Liggett, who researches popular images from the women's suffrage movement. Liggett is a Teaching Professor in the School of Media and Communication and a Spring 2020 Faculty Fellow. Announcer : From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show him this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie: Welcome to the Big Ideas podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Dr. Jolie Sheffer, Associate Professor of English and American Culture Studies, and the Director of ICS. This is a special episode of the podcast, which we are recording during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means we're not in the studio, but are talking via phone and computer. Our sound quality will be different as a result. Jolie: But now more than ever, I thought it was important to share with you some of the amazing work being done by members of the BGSU community. Even, or especially when conditions are challenging, we need to recognize and celebrate great ideas. As always the opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the individuals involved, and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Today I'm speaking with Dr. Lori Ligate, a Senior Lecturer at BGSU in the School of Media and Communication who's teaching and research focus on gender and visual culture. She's a spring of 2020 ICS faculty fellow who is doing public scholarship focused on images of womanhood in popular media during the era of women's suffrage. I'm really pleased to get to talk with you today, Lori. Thank you for being flexible and joining me, virtually. Lori: Thank you. I appreciate it. Jolie: To start off, could you tell us a little bit about how you got interested in studying the era of women's suffrage? And what have been some of the more interesting and surprising directions that this research has led you? Lori: Right. Well, basically I got involved in studying the suffrage movement about 25 years ago, and it wasn't my original intent. I was studying women's service magazines of the late 19th century. Women's service magazines are things like Godey's Ladies Book, which was one of the first one. Then you segue into things like Good Housekeeping. Lori: I was interested in motherhood, domesticity from a sociopolitical point of view. As I was doing decades of looking at literally every issue of Good Housekeeping, I started seeing this pivot from talking about new household technologies, and cooking procedures and new techniques for mothers, and into more political stuff. And immediately I was hooked. And of course, I knew a little bit about the suffrage movement, but I hadn't seen it within that context. And it shocked me, because there were actual literary essays that would appear in the service magazines. Lori: I also started seeing it in advertising, just references were popping up everywhere. And when I really got into it was probably around the, I would say, 1908, 1910 issues. When you started seeing, and remember this as Good Housekeeping, references to militarism, to women becoming militant, to radicalism. Now, this is Good Housekeeping. I guarantee you, if you were to go to the newsstand today and pick up a Good Housekeeping, you would not see anything on radicalism and militancy. I was shocked. Lori: This was largely due to what was going on in Great Britain at the time. And a leader in Great Britain, one of the leaders, is the famous or infamous Emmeline Pankhurst. And the British movement had become militant at that point. We started to see the beginnings of that in the American suffragist movement. I just never imagined I would see it in Good Housekeeping. So that's the origins of it. Jolie: And what were some of the elements of your research that surprised you most? You said that the language of militancy, but what about some of the visual iconography? Lori: Well, I expanded from there over the last 25 years, I guess I would consider myself a media scholar, but I really focus on visual culture and visual communication. I've always been attracted to the images of things. When I study media, I'm interested in mediated images. And so I was already studying advertising. Lori: This was a long way to get to the bicycling stuff that I'm doing now, but I am a fanatic about the art nouveau movement, which was late 1880s, at full steam in the 1890s, less popular, but still very prevalent up until the start of World War I. I started seeing images of women in advertising that was very much art nouveau style, but would have a political element. In a lot of those images, I noticed that they were using the bicycle. And so you would see women on bicycles, advertising everything from soap to cigars, to carpeting, to flour. Things that had nothing to do with bicycling, but you would see a woman and a bicycle. Lori: I was just fascinated by that. And I started collecting images of women on bikes. Basically, what I was doing, I was downloading JPEGs, and just keeping an archive, trying to figure out what to do with it. At some point, I would say probably in the 1970s, definitely by the eighties, and certainly the nineties and throughout, you started to see more scholarship on the suffrage movement that wasn't what we would call traditional history. Lori: I was a grad student in the nineties, and so looking at material culture and the sociopolitical angle of political culture, it sort of brought everything together for me. So we've got these visual images, we've got advertising, we've got women's politics, we've got for some reason the bicycle, which I didn't understand at that point. And really a couple of decades later, it leads me to the project that I'm working on now. Jolie: Tell us a little bit about some of that research, and what have you discovered was the role or the purpose of all of that focus on the bicycle? What is the connection to women's voting, and changing women's rights? Lori: I had to backtrack and learn a lot about bicycle history. I'm certainly not an expert, but I know a lot more about bicycle history than I did, let's say nine months ago, let's put it that way. And so the bicycle itself is just a fascinating global phenomenon. Today we would look at a bicycle and almost all of us, regardless of gender, of where you live in the world, the bicycle has been part of your life at some point. There's reason for that, which is that the bicycle represents the first device that permitted human beings to self mobilize. Lori: In the 1600's, there are images of people on these things that kind of look like a bike. People were imagining something along those lines. But it takes until about, I think the date is 1817, and you have a German guy, his name was Karl Von Drais, or Dryas probably. He developed this thing called a running machine. Now what was the running machine? They were also called hobby horses, or dandy horses. Another name based on his name was a Draisine. What it was is it was something that looked like a bicycle, two wheels. There was a plank that you would sit on. Lori: You would straddle it, sit on it. And then with your feet, almost like Fred Flinstone, you would move it along. It took decades of improvements until you get to the 1860s. And you have something that the French developed, which was called the boneshaker. The boneshaker was called that because it was incredibly hard on the cyclist's body. Lori: At the time these devices would have been made out of wood and steel. The tires, there was no tire the way we think of it. The wheels were made out of iron or steel. And so if you wrote it, it was just shaking every bone in your body, so it was called the boneshaker. And there was a woman's version, which was called the tricycle. They develop these three-wheel devices, extremely heavy, extremely expensive, not to be ridden in public. But only wealthy women who had private space, so garden space, would ride a tricycle. It said that Queen Victoria had a couple of them. And they were pretty popular amongst the wealthy. But you did not see women riding a tricycle out in public spaces. Jolie: Well, so fast forward a little bit to how does that get associated? How do these new technologies and improvements to this, get associated with ordinary middle-class and working-class women? Lori: It's interesting you say ordinary because the bicycle, the one we think of with the big wheel and the little back wheel, that was actually called the ordinary. And that was developed in the 1870s. It was called a high wheel or an ordinary, and it was considered an improvement on the boneshaker because it was light and it was fast. It was extremely difficult to maneuver. Riding schools were set up. Lori: But you actually had women, particularly in the beginning, French women who started almost performing on these high wheelers. They would come to the United States and perform as almost circus acts. And they were working women. They were women who were not from the upper classes. They tended to wear clothing that was considered back then a little scanty. And they were seen really as spectacle, as an oddity. Lori: In the late 1880s, you have something developed that's called the safety. The safety is really the progenitor of the bicycle today. And almost immediately due to a guy in American named Albert Pope, he imported the safety. He bought all the patents for it, and he started marketing like crazy. And Americans started buying the safety. Just a couple of years of the safety coming to the United States, bike manufacturers started doing something they called the drop frame so that women could get on to the bike. Lori: Women took to it like crazy. And in the 1890s, you have something that was called the bicycle craze. And it truly was this phenomenon. I don't want to bo
31 minutes | a year ago
Melody Freeland and Dr. Cynthia Ducar: Universal Language? Translating Math for the English Language Learning Classroom
In this special COVID-19 episode of the BG Ideas podcast, Melody Freeland, a BGSU grad student and winner of the ICS ICS Student Research Award, and Dr. Cyndi Ducar, associate professor in World Languages and Cultures at BGSU, sit down to discuss teaching strategies in application to students learning math without English as their first language. Announcer: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie: Welcome to the Big Ideas podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Dr. Jolie Sheffer, associate professor of English and American culture studies and director of ICS. Jolie: This is a special episode of the Big Ideas podcast, which we're recording during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means we're not in studio but are recording via phone and computer. Our sound quality will differ as a result, but we thought it was important to share with you some of the amazing work being done by members of our BGSU community. Perhaps now more than ever, we want to celebrate big ideas. As always, the opinions expressed are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Jolie: Today, I'm joined by two guests, Melody Freeman and Dr. Cynthia Ducar. Melody is a BGSU alum with an undergrad degree in mathematics education for ages 7 through 12 who is currently working on a master's degree in Spanish, also at BGSU. She received an ICS student research award for her project "Analyzing and assessing the preparedness of math teachers to meet the needs of students for whom English is not their native language". Her faculty mentor is Dr. Cindy Ducar who teaches graduate and undergraduate Spanish courses and topics such as applied linguistics, Hispanic socio-linguistics, and heritage language pedagogy. Welcome, Melody and Cindy. Thanks for being with me today. Melody: Hello. Cynthia: Good to see you. Jolie: Melody, could you start us off with a description of your project and what motivated you? What questions were you trying to answer? Melody: Yeah, so my project, the official title is BGSU in mathematics education graduates self-efficacy for the teaching of Hispanic English language learners. So this project kind of focuses on looking at our own program at BGSU, which I went through as an undergraduate. So it's kind of a unique thing where I can kind of look at that program for mathematics education, but specifically at those who are studying to get their degree in a 7 through 12 grade certification for teaching math and those same students who are going through the program or have just recently graduated, kind of like myself and my colleagues, who I graduated with at BGSU, and looking at and studying or investigating their levels of self-efficacy specifically for teaching students whose native language is Spanish or who are classified as English language learners. Melody: I guess I would say that where this project came from, why this question, why this project, I think part of it comes from the fact that I did go through the same exact program as an undergraduate, so I have kind of this firsthand experience and our program is one of the top in the nation. But any program still has gaps or things to work on, and so I did notice or take note of a few things as I did go through the program myself, one of those gaps in preparation, which is related to preparing our future teachers who teach math specifically, to be able to do that efficiently and effectively for this student population specifically. So I think that those are kind of the main components of what led to this project. Jolie: Cindy, how did you come to work with Melody on this research project? And how does your own research in socio-linguistics help shape your mentorship for this project? Cynthia: So I met Melody quite a few years ago and she was in my Spanish course for majors and minors, and like she said, she was majoring in mathematics education, but her Spanish was through the roof. I mean, she was a stellar student from day one. And as we got to know each other in that class, eventually she got closer to the end of her career in her senior year, she came back to me and she said, I'm thinking about working on this action research project, where I work with students who are weaker in English and have a background in Spanish and I want to do something more for these students, so how could we work together? Cynthia: So we talked about coming up with a placement for her that was going to lead her to a population in Northwest Ohio that might have more Spanish speaking students. She wound up in Fremont and things didn't quite go as expected, I would say, but she got a lot out of the experience nonetheless, and was able to implement her project there with a group of students and have stellar results. So I think that's how this now came to be. She saw the effects of putting into place changes in her teaching style and then the approach to math, and in that case, she was using manipulatives and looking at changing the wording and word problems to reach these students. And my own research looks at the flip side of this, right? It looks at these students acquisition of Spanish, but you really can't separate that from their acquisition of English, right, that push to learn the dominant language. So preparing teachers to be able to meet the needs of this population better is something that matters to me in terms of student success, in general, in helping these students reach higher levels of achievement. Cynthia: And I think often we think of this as a Spanish teacher problem or an English teacher problem in English as a second language problem. It's really no one's problem, but it is all of our business to do our best to help all of our students. And so I think Melody's project addresses that, by trying to meet the needs of these students in a mathematics curriculum, which is often overlooked, and math is often the first subject they say will be easy for you if you're limited English proficient. Jolie: And that's my followup question for Melody, which is, we often hear math talked about as a kind of universal language, that it doesn't sort of matter what language it's being spoken in because the math itself is this transparent tool for communication. Could you talk about why you think it's so important that math teachers, in particular, be able to instruct in Spanish more effectively? Melody: What you just mentioned is one of the things that I hear so often, when I talk to people, I talked to colleagues, I talked to educators and other people in the community, a lot of people say, kind of echoing what both of you just said, math is a universal language, but math in and of itself, really is its own language with its own register, and these things start to get really blurry and complicated for someone who is bilingual or is trying to learn another language, or learn mathematics in a language which is not their native language. Melody: When you look at the standardized assessments that you take for mathematics in 8th grade, in the United States, nearly 75% of native English speaking students score at or above the basic level. So that's almost three quarters. But those who are English language learners, it's only 30%. So that's a 45% gap in mathematics achievement. And this is so important. I mean, that in and of itself speaks volumes, I think. When you look at standardized testing and things like this, it gets even more complicated because 8th grade is one of the most important years of standardized testing in the United States for mathematics. And so that's right before you get into high school. Melody: So imagine these sorts of tests put you on different tracking once you get to high school, and it's been proven that data shows that when you're in lower tracked classes, the instruction is much lower quality, et cetera. So it's almost a snowball effect that is really not setting the student population up for the success that they deserve, or it were to receive equitable opportunities. Jolie: Cindy, as someone with extensive experience, what do you think educators should be doing to make their classrooms more inclusive? What particular pedagogical methods or practices do you find effective or promising? Cynthia: Melody and I have talked a lot about culturally responsive teaching and looking at the background that these students come from and just to talk about that 40% gap that she just mentioned, students are coming to math questions, there's words in those questions, right, they have to be able to understand those words. Once they are able to understand the words, the words come from a culturally loaded context, right? Not everyone is taking a trip to wherever Florida for the week, right, and then looking at airfare for that. There's a lot of cultural assumptions that are laid in, in these math problems. Cynthia: So to me it's important to address and to value the students' culture, so to include questions. I mean, there's plenty of ways to address students' cultures from students that come from a Latino background along with students that come from other backgrounds, right? We could look at something a little more neutral, right? Travel is something that's a privilege for people, whereas cooking is something that everyone does and you can still do plenty of math when you're cooking. Cynthia: So there's ways to still make math contextualized, and yet allow it to be culturally relevant across cultures rather than geared to certain contexts that are very privileged. So I think, just most important is, finding ways to bring in the students' cultures and making them feel included and valued in the classroom. And I think we can do that regardless of what the subject area is. Jol
30 minutes | a year ago
Dr. Albert Dzur- The Opioid Crisis: Wicked Problems and Creative, Collaborative Problem-Solving
In this special COVID-19 episode of the BG Ideas podcast, we talk with Dr. Albert Dzur, professor of political science at BGSU and a Spring 2020 ICS Faculty Fellow. He studies collaborative governance and how citizen engagement with government institutions might impact the opioid crisis. Transcript: Announcer: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas. Intro Music: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie Sheffer: Welcome to the BG Ideas Podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Dr. Jolie Sheffer, associate professor of English and American studies and the director of ICS. This is a special episode of the BG Ideas Podcast, which we are recording during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means we're not in the studio, but working via phone and computer. Our sound quality will be different as a result. But now more than ever, I thought it was important to share with you some of the amazing work being done by members of the BGSU community. Even or especially when conditions are challenging, we need to recognize and celebrate great ideas. Jolie Sheffer: As always, the opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Today I'm speaking with Dr. Albert Dzur, a distinguished research professor of political science at BGSU. He studies citizen participation and power-sharing in criminal justice, healthcare, public administration and education. He joins me today to talk about research undergone in spring 2020 as an ICS faculty fellow. This project considers the opioid epidemic, particularly within Ohio, as a wicked problem. Thanks for joining me, Albert. I appreciate your flexibility here. Albert Dzur: Thanks for putting this on, Jolie. Jolie Sheffer: Obviously, due to COVID-19, a lot has changed in the world since the beginning of the semester. As an ICS faculty fellow, you were already released from teaching and service to focus on research. How has your work in life changed due to the coronavirus restrictions? Albert Dzur: So much academic research is already done inside, so as long as you have a good chair, a good table, internet, you can do it anywhere. But there was field work, part of this research, face-to-face interviewing, which is really important. That has to be set aside temporarily. Interlibrary loan services stopped for now and professional talks that I had scheduled on this have been postponed in some cases to one year later. But, I have to say the biggest negative impact is emotional. A lot of people found it very disorienting to have to think about health and wellbeing all the time. It's in the back of our minds all the time. Our loved ones, our friends, our colleagues, right? We care about them, but it's way in the back of our brain,. But this COVID-19 epidemic puts it at the forefront such like you're constantly thinking about it, and if you're a news junkie like myself, you read and listen to the news all the time. Albert Dzur: Anyway, I turn on my New York Times app and it's like looking at a gravestone every day. It's really sobering. I mean, I heard an interview the other day on BBC Radio with a woman who had lost her mom to COVID-19, and she was talking about how she had been watching the news on TV, and every day I guess in Britain they have cases, case numbers on the left and mortality rates on the right, and she was just talking very methodically about how she was watching this as an outsider and then one day her mom became one of the numbers on the left, and then a week later her mom became one of the numbers on the right. It was heartbreaking, and it was like a reminder that these numbers that we're looking at, the curve and the flattening, we use all these numbers, but they're real people, right? On the curve. They're real people on the curve and there are tons and tons of people looking at the curve worrying about them. So it's been very disorienting in that way. Yeah, for everybody else. Jolie Sheffer: Has this COVID-19 pandemic made you think any differently about participatory democracy? Because that is your core research area about its promise or perhaps challenges to it in a time of crisis, particularly a time of public health crisis. Albert Dzur: The core idea, and we can talk more about this later too, is that democracy is a way of life that extends from the private sphere into the public sphere and that supports formal political institutions like elections, branches of government, state agencies, and other public institutions at every level, or at state, national, et cetera. So that's to say that if our social relations are hierarchical, are marked by gender or racial inequality, that's going to absolutely undermine the democratic character of our formal institutions even if those institutions are constitutionally established to follow democratic rules, like one person, one vote. So the basic idea behind participatory democracy is to say that rules and process are never enough, we need participation and engagement to have a democracy. A common criticism of participatory democracy is that it makes everything so political. Albert Dzur: Man, who wants to be politically active all the time? I mean, even activists don't want to be politically active all the time? Oscar Wilde had that famous saying about socialism, right? That it takes too many evenings. But what I've seen in the COVID-19 crisis is just how deeply engaged people want to be. The CDC says that masks are good and almost instantaneously you have people making masks, and not just for their family, but for the healthcare workers in the community, and healthcare workers actually don't want homemade masks. It's the thought that counts. People aren't happy staying at home, especially when there's a public problem. They want to do something about it, and I think that there's some exciting possibilities there for more participation along the lines of contact tracing and how ordinary folks like us without medical training might get trained up a little bit to do this in the future. Albert Dzur: That's interesting to me. So that's I think the promise. On the challenge side of this, participatory democracy has always been seen as face-to-face, face-to-face participation, right? The question is then is virtual participation of the sort that we're forced to do here, is that enough? The answer is no. It's not enough. We actually do need face-to-face engagement to have the kind of democracy that we deserve, and I've seen this in a lot of different domains, public administration, criminal justice, public health, that we carry around with us so many assumptions, fixed ideas, stereotypes about other people, about political positions, about political parties, political history, and these can't be changed unless we're actually engaged face to face with somebody in conversation, especially somebody that we didn't really want to have a conversation with to begin with. Albert Dzur: I think that we need to get out of this comfortable zone of the familiar, and that can't be done virtually or that's not enough. So I don't think that if you're committed to participatory democracy you can be satisfied with virtual democracy, but it's here to stay and I think we have to figure out a way to do it better. So I think once this thing is over, I mean, people like me have to really get behind internet as a public good. Whatever that means, low cost equipment, municipal broadband access, whatever it takes, everybody in the United States has to have internet access, cheap, available, good internet access. It's not negotiable. Jolie Sheffer: It's a public [crosstalk 00:08:30] utility now, right? The same the way we need water, we need clean water and things, we need internet access. The world doesn't function without it. Yeah. Albert Dzur: I'm not a millennial, so I'd never really struck me that it was a public good, but it's a public good. Jolie Sheffer: The project you're working on, one of the key elements of it is thinking about the opioid crisis as a wicked problem. Can you talk about what that term means and how the opioid crisis fits that criteria? Albert Dzur: You've heard the expression, "If we can send a person to the moon, we can fill in the blank." That's actually the literal origin of this concept of wicked problems. After the successful moon landing, NASA freed up some grant money to see how what they thought of as systems analysis and technical rationality that was so successful for the space program could be applied to social problems, and the particular social problems they're worried about, at the time, this is the late '60s, right? And early '70s, were the urban riots. So the urban riots in Detroit, LA and elsewhere. So in other words, if we can send a person to the moon, why can't we solve urban dysfunction? So NASA grant money funded a Berkeley seminar on this issue, and at this seminar, a Berkeley mathematician by the name of Horst Rittel presented a list of 10 major differences between technical problems that could be solved by systems analysis and social problems that couldn't, and this became the basis of the idea of so-called wicked problems. Albert Dzur: These are complex, multifaceted, they're difficult to define. Rittel called these demarcation issues. They're hard to demarcate. Any possible policy solution will lead to unpredictable and potentially negative repercussions, and it gets worse. There are conflicting values involved. You can see how this applies to the opioid crisis pretty well. There's this kind of uncertainty, a little bit of stumbling around, difficult normative choices. It's funny, I came across, they call these Delphi surveys and they're being used more and more, even during the COVID-19 crisis. The recent Delphi poll on th
29 minutes | a year ago
Gray Strain and Allie Lahey: Building People Power and Organizing for Reproductive
In this special COVID-19 edition of the BG Ideas podcast, guest host Gray Strain from the Center for Women and Gender Equity interviews BGSU alum Allie Lahey. Lahey is Senior Organizing Manager for NARAL Pro-Choice California. They discuss Allie’s work organizing for reproductive freedom, building people power, and developing strategies for engaging communities in the political and legislative process. Transcript: Announcer: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society. This is BG Ideas. Intro Music: I'm going to show you live with a wonderful experiment. Gray Strain: Welcome to the BG Ideas podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for The Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. As you may have already noticed, I am your guest host today, Gray Strain, Secretary for The Center for Women in Gender Equity as well as the Office of Title IX at BGSU. Thank you to Dr. Jolie Sheffer, of the ICS, for allowing us to guest host this episode. We appreciate the opportunity for collaboration. Gray Strain: This special episode of the BG Ideas podcast is being recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means we're not in studio, but instead are talking via Zoom and phone. Our sound quality will be different as a result, especially since we are on opposite sides of the country, but we want to continue to share with our listeners some of the amazing work being done by members of the BGSU Community. Even or perhaps especially during a crisis, we at ICS and the CWGE, think it's important to celebrate great ideas. As always, the opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Gray Strain: Today I have the pleasure of speaking with Allie Lahey, Senior Organizing Manager for NARAL Pro-Choice California and an alumna of the BGSU Human Development and Family Studies Program. In her position at NARAL, Allie spearheads the organizing program in California, supporting volunteer member led action councils, mentoring organizers and strategizing to flex the people power of NARAL for campaign victories. She has extensive experience in grassroots organizing and electoral and legislative engagement with communities, both in her work at NARAL and her previous position as the Ohio State Organizer with URGE, United for Reproductive and Gender Equity, where she primarily engaged young people through the organization's first integrated voter engagement program. Allie joins me today to discuss her work in the field of reproductive freedom and what engaging communities and the political and legislative process looks like in practice. Hi Allie, thanks so much for being here. Allie Lahey: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. It's a huge honor. Gray Strain: No, we're glad to get started and have this really important conversation with you. So first thing's first, obviously due to COVID-19 a lot has changed quite rapidly for all of us, and face to face interaction is of course, you know necessarily limited. For someone like you who spends a lot of time working on building relationships and making those really important connections. How has your work really shifted during this pandemic? Allie Lahey: Yeah, that's a really great question. And something I've been grappling with for the last month. COVID 19 has changed organizing and a number of ways. I think that of course it changes things logistically in terms of like how we build relationships, how we meet people. I think obviously not being able to meet in person is a huge barrier and not being able to organize in large groups, to show our power, is a huge barrier in order to make our demands, pass legislation and also it impacts turning out people to vote. And so for the first time in my time organizing and probably ever, we're seeing an entirely virtual turnout for elections. I'm working on one special election coming up next month and for the first time ever, no one is knocking doors in order to turn people out. And so we've had to turn to virtual tactics like text banking, all phone banking, finding people who want to host virtual voter contact parties, and so that has shifted things quite a bit. Allie Lahey: I think the other way in which the work has been shifted is because of the vastly changing political conditions. When you have almost 25% of people laid off and tons of industries possibly collapsing, it really does impact the types of demands that we make and what exactly we're asking for as organized [inaudible 00:04:11]. And so the first time you're seeing things like whole foods workers walking out and striking or you're seeing nurses demand personal protective equipment and staging walkouts out of hospitals. And we're also seeing really radical demands for things like universal health care or paid sick leave in order to stop the spread of this pandemic of the spread of COVId-19. Allie Lahey: So in reproductive rights, I think politically it shifted things where you see that States like Ohio unfortunately and Texas and tons of other States using this pandemic as a reason to say that abortion is not in an essential service and using it as a way to shut down abortion clinics. And so this has really been a moment where we've had to step up and say abortion is an essential service. We're going to have to do a lot of work on the defense. I also think though, it does open up the opportunity for the reproductive rights movement and all movements to make really radical front facing demands. So making sure that abortion is considered an essential service and that it's covered at no cost. Gray Strain: I think that's really interesting. Because I only really think of kind of the technological aspects of it, right, and those shifts, but also the way that our entire political climate has shifted and that we really do kind of have a unique opportunity to maybe push some of that work further. So I guess I want to take maybe a step back and talk a little bit more about the scope of the work that you actually do. Because I don't know if all folks out there necessarily have an idea of what reproductive freedom is or what organizing actually entails. I think we have a lot of different ways that we talk about it. And so I'm curious, could you provide your working definitions for both reproductive freedom as well as organizing it? Allie Lahey: Yeah, so the reproductive rights, health and justice movement and I also say freedom to what the work that I do, all these sort of movements work together and sort of to encapsulate a broader force for fighting for every person's ability to not have children, have children and a family and to make the best reproductive health decisions for themselves and their families and their communities. People typically think of reproductive rights or reproductive freedom being only centered around abortion access, which of course is a really crucial and critical part of the work. Reproductive freedom encapsulates a broader sense of what our rights are and what impacts our ability to make those decisions. So this includes access to birth control, being able to access healthcare for our children, having communities where our children can go to school safely or have children not be impacted by police violence or being able to access fertility services, particularly for LGBTQ families. Allie Lahey: And so reproductive freedom is a really broad category that I think encapsulates lots of different types of work. My work has centered around primarily abortion access, access to birth control. And when it comes to organizing, I think that the only way in which we can make demands for everyday people to have rights and to bring to justice, we can only win that through organizing. I think that in order to win we all have to band together and sort of build people power. And so I think that organizing is really what that is. It's about recruiting people into the work. Allie Lahey: It's about identifying and empowering new leaders in order to build up a really powerful coalition for our demands, and that can be done in a number of ways. And so for example, in an election, if you're working in sort of an underdog race, which if you're on the side of justice, you're almost always on the side of the underdog. You're oftentimes going up against really big interests, including big money and the media, and so the only way you can really win and get past that is by talking to a lot of people and having a lot of genuine conversations and building up a lot of leaderships, you can cover as much ground as possible in order to win. Gray Strain: That's great. And when we say for organizing, I think the term that I see a lot is grassroots. So what does grassroots organizing actually mean? Allie Lahey: Grassroots organizing to me, it means that it's for and by people. I always think of the difference between grasstops and grassroots. So grass tops is talking to people who are highly influential. And I don't want to diss all grasstops organizing because I think it can be a really important part of any sort of campaign. But this could [inaudible 00:08:47] talking to people or institutions who are highly influential. So this includes large organizations, the media, journalists, other sort of leaders in the work rather than the grassroots, which is everyday people. And ultimately in order to win, you can't just have the grasstops, but you have to have the grassroots. Allie Lahey: So for example, if you're trying to pass a bill, it makes a lot of difference to have five people lobbying on it or five people at a rally versus 10,000 and if you had 10,000 people showing up to the Capitol, that would say a lot more about your demands and your issue versus five people. And so as organizers, we're always trying to build larger and larger in order to have that power. And of course when you're building out and you
35 minutes | a year ago
Dr. Peg Yacobucci and Blaze Campbell- BGSU Allies: Women in STEM
Dr. Peg Yacobucci, professor of Geology, and Blaze Campbell, PhD student in Bowling Green's higher education and Student Affairs, discuss their work on the nearly $1 million grant funded by the National Science Foundation's Advanced program, which is committed to increasing the participation of women in STEM fields. Transcript: Announcer: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of culture and society, this is BG Ideas. Intro Music: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie Sheffer: Welcome back to the Big Ideas Podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. Jolie Sheffer: I'm Jolie Sheffer, associate professor of English and American Culture Studies, and the Director of ICS. Today we're joined by Dr. Peg Yacobucci and Blaze Campbell. Peg is a professor of geology here at BGSU and the principal investigator and project director of a three year nearly $1 million grant funded by the National Science Foundation's Advanced program, which is committed to increasing the participation of women in STEM fields. Jolie Sheffer: Blaze is a PhD student in Bowling Green's higher education and Student Affairs program and the Graduate Assistant on the BG ALLIES team. Jolie Sheffer: The BG allies program aims to develop systemic approaches to increase gender equity for faculty and STEM disciplines. To accomplish this BGSU ALLIES is developing models and policies to train faculty allies to reduce biases that impede the career advancement of women and other minoritized faculty. Jolie Sheffer: Peg and Blaze, thanks for joining me today. Peg Yacobucci: Thank you so much. Blaze Campbell-Jacobs: Thank you for having us. Jolie Sheffer: Let's start out with just some basic explanation of the grant that you received from the National Science Foundation. What is its purpose and who is it targeted at? What existing problems is it trying to solve? Peg Yacobucci: So the BGSU ALLIES project is seeking to address some of the barriers that women and other minoritized faculty in STEM disciplines here at BGSU face in terms of their career advancement. Our preliminary research data collection efforts have shown that women and minority faculty are not represented in our applicant pools for faculty positions at the same rate they are earning PhDs. Peg Yacobucci: We also found that especially at the mid career level, associate professor level, women in minority faculty are stalling out. They're less likely to go up for full professor, they're less likely to move into leadership positions in particular. And all of these things seem to be tied to some systemic and interpersonal issues, reflecting biases that are serving as barriers to women and minority faculty here at BGSU. Jolie Sheffer: This initiative has a two pronged approach that is about both inclusive leadership and faculty allies. Can you talk about the goals of each aspect of the project? How do they relate to each other? Peg Yacobucci: So research has shown clearly that in order to really transform an institution of higher education, you need to work both bottom up and top down. So the faculty allies portion of our project is focusing on how we can work with faculty within STEM and social science departments here at BGSU to learn more about some of these barriers that women faculty face, and to learn specific strategies to address things like microaggressions and the everyday biases and barriers that faculty face within their own departments. Peg Yacobucci: The inclusive leadership piece is really focusing more top down, working with faculty administrators. Chairs, and directors in particular have a really strong influence on what happens and the work experiences of the faculty in those units. We are also working with Associate Dean Steen's and working with the Provost to look at institution wide policies and practices that may need to be changed in order to reduce those barriers to women. Jolie Sheffer: Blaze, what does it mean for you to participate in a project like this, especially as a graduate student in your PhD program, what drew you to this work and what are you getting out of it? Blaze Campbell-Jacobs: It means a lot. And so prior to entering my PhD program, I worked in student affairs within higher education and so a lot of my interest has always focused personally and professionally on issues of social justice within higher education. However, all of my research professional experiences, it was really centered on students and getting them to form their ally ship development and how staff can really be instrumental in that approach. Blaze Campbell-Jacobs: And so when the opportunity presented itself to be a part of this program, I was drawn to it, one, because it gave me an opportunity to learn more about the academic side of things, and issues facing faculty roll in. So I see myself going into that role, probably after this. And so learning how I can see some of the structural ways women in faculty roles, what they face in the barriers, that was something that I really wanted to learn more about. Blaze Campbell-Jacobs: And then secondly, as I spoke to... So, presenting, doing workshops, facilitating ways to engage people around these topics is something that I'm really passionate about. And so, getting to do that for faculty and learning how people are doing that in an effective way to really foster ally ship within the faculty and academic side of things, was something that I really wanted to be a part of. Blaze Campbell-Jacobs: And Peg is my direct supervisor. And so I primarily work on the faculty ally side of things. And it just so happens to be all women within that team that I'm working with. And so that wasn't something on purpose. And so I just benefit from having all of these role models to really learn from across disciplines within BGSU. Blaze Campbell-Jacobs: And so that means for me in my professional development, that I'm not only learning about these things, of how to be a better facilitator and be effective in really transforming culture within the higher education setting, but I'm also studying my supervisor and all of the rest of the women on the team on how I can really leverage myself and develop myself into a professional going into research and teaching and things like that. So it's been really awesome. Jolie Sheffer: That's great. Peg what does it mean for you personally, to be able to open the door to more women in STEM fields? How is your own experience shaped your commitment and thinking through of this project? Peg Yacobucci: I can actually take this back to kindergarten. I was in kindergarten, right as the missions to the moon were closing out in the early mid '70s. And first week of kindergarten the teacher asked whatever wants to be when they grow up. And of course, they said, astronaut, because oh my gosh, I want to be an astronaut between the moon missions and Star Trek. I mean, why wouldn't you? Peg Yacobucci: And my teacher said, "Well, I'm sorry honey, you can't be an astronaut because you're a girl and girls can't be astronauts." Which was true at the time because you had to be an Air Force pilot to be an astronaut. And only men were allowed into the pilot program and the Air Force at the time. Peg Yacobucci: And I just shrugged it off. I was like, "Oh, okay. Nevermind then." And then I read a book on dinosaurs about a week later and said, "Okay, I'm going to be a paleontologist." And here I am 51 years old and a paleontologist. Peg Yacobucci: So I encountered this barrier of women and girls in STEM very early on. And I'm pleased that my kindergarten teacher did not tell me that I couldn't be a paleontologist, which was helpful. And then I had a lot of support from teachers and from my parents working my way up through high school and into college to be a scientist. There was a lot of encouragement that this was something that I can do if I was passionate about it. Peg Yacobucci: When I got to college, I really confronted some of those barriers firsthand. Having faculty dismissed me, having faculty not answer my questions or acknowledged my raised hand. Having other students harass me, things like that. That was a very eye opening experience for me in college to see that there was a lot of institutional and interpersonal barriers that I hadn't really encountered as a high school student. Peg Yacobucci: And then moving on into grad school and thinking and reading about issues of women faculty, especially in academic settings, and what it's like for women in a very male dominated discipline like the geosciences, which has one of the lowest participation rates for women of all the sciences, and some of the unique challenges of that. Working in the field when you're the only woman in a group of folks out camping for three weeks in the middle of nowhere, and the person issues and safety issues that can come up. Peg Yacobucci: So there's a discussion that started in the 1990s when I was in grad school about how we can encourage more women to go into the geosciences, specifically, given these pretty significant barriers that are not just STEM related or science related, but related to the discipline itself. Peg Yacobucci: So when I came here to BGSU, I started in 1999. I was immediately interested in working on diversity and inclusion issues and got involved pre-tenure on a number of initiatives, and a number of university structures like the Equal Opportunity Compliance Commission, the university's Equity and Diversity Committee, things like that. Peg Yacobucci: So I've been working on issues of equity and diversity going way back to my very first days here at BGSU. So it's so exciting to get together with a group of people and work on these proposals for the National Science Foundation, and then successfully land almost a million dollars to work on this stuff. Jolie Sheffer: I want t
35 minutes | a year ago
Madi Stump and Chris Gajewicz- Listening and Learning: Lessons from the Land
Madi Stump, a BGSU student and winner of the ICS Student Research Award, and Chris Gajewicz, Natural Resources Coordinator for the City of Bowling Green, discuss environmental stewardship, human's relationship to nature, and restoration in local parks. Transcript: Intro: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society. This is BG Ideas. Intro Music: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie Sheffer: Welcome to the Big Ideas podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the school of media and communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Jolie Sheffer, associate professor of English and American culture studies and the director of ICS. Today, I'm joined by two guests, Madi Stump and Chris Gajewicz. Madi's an undergraduate environmental policy and analysis major who's currently working on a research project entitle, "Listening and Learning: Lessons from the Land." She's the first winner of the ICS Student Research Award. Chris is the natural resources coordinator for the city of Bowling Green and instructor at Bowling Green State University and a BGSU alum. Welcome, Madi and Chris. Chris Gajewicz: Hi. Jolie Sheffer: Thanks for being with me. How did each of you get interested in thinking about different ideas of environmental stewardship? Madi Stump: I've always cared really deeply about the environment. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my backyard or in my front yard or my neighbor's front yard pretending to make pizzas out of dirt and grass and just really spending more time outside than I did inside. I remember being called in for dinner and being called in to do homework rather than being told to get out and enjoy being outside. That deep love and that deep connection to being outside that I experienced throughout my childhood made me really invested in protecting the environment, but when I first came to BGSU, I was actually a music performance student. So I didn't study the environment initially in college, but after my first year, decided that music was not the path for me and really rekindled that relationship with nature and that deep sense of connection and belonging that I felt in nature and have this strong desire to protect places that other people could have that similar experience of belonging and inclusion in the natural world. That's how I found environmental policy and I'm looking to continue this work in my future. Jolie Sheffer: What about for you, Chris. Chris Gajewicz: It started a long time ago when I was a little, little kid and I spent a lot of time outside, very similar to Madi. I was outside a lot and the only rule was is that when my mom rang the bell, it was time to come in and it was a big farm bell and she would ring the bell and no matter where you were, you needed to stop what you were doing. It was really hard for me because I loved going out into the woods and building forts and digging trenches and making caves and lighting things on fire and just being like a typical kid and spending my time just being out around nature. I just enjoyed it so much and I didn't even know why. It wasn't a conscious kind of a thing. It was there. We had a huge woods behind our house that was about a mile square and that was my playground as I was a kid growing up. So I was able to kind of run around out there. Chris Gajewicz: My parents never worried about where I was, what I was doing when I was coming home. I just knew that when the bell rang, I needed to stop what I was doing and make my way back. But there was never a concern about my wellbeing or any of that when I was growing up being outside. So that sort of turned itself into going from, I guess a vocation or an advocation to a vocation and turning it into something more. By the time I was headed off to college, I realized that I wanted to be a teacher in the environment and I felt that that was a really important way to share knowledge. There was a professor I had when I was at Hocking College and she was very good at kind of laying it down. She taught us how to be an educator in the environment. Chris Gajewicz: But she said, "It doesn't really matter how much you know and how much you have inside your head. If it never comes back out of your head to other people, then it's basically dead knowledge. Once it's dead knowledge, other people have to start from scratch." I learned at that moment, that being a teacher, taking that information and being able to tell the story about that information was a really good way to hook somebody in the environment. Hopefully, over the past 30 or so years of being involved in the environment from when I was a teenager myself and now, I've had the opportunity to really help other people kind of grab onto a reason to be in the outdoors. Jolie Sheffer: What does it mean to you to have a relationship with land and with nature? Why is that important to you, Madi? Madi Stump: I think in general, having a relationship with land, with nature, with the more than human or non-human world means caring about it. I think that's the fundamental level is having a deep sense of care and love for what is not human. That relationship can look very different to a lot of people, but the commonality is that there's some sense of care or spiritual or religious affiliation connection or even a recreation connection with the land. But that care of there is something that I get and then your relationship is a two way street, so humans get something from nature, but then we also give. Part of that relationship as reciprocity to me and that is what's really important about having a relationship with the land is when you have reciprocity with nature, you can give as it's giving you. That makes it so easy to protect and conserve and be mindful of how we're using what is around us. Jolie Sheffer: What about for you, Chris? Chris Gajewicz: For me, it's a sensory experience and I want that sensory experience to be gained by others as well. When I'm out in the forest environment or I'm out in a natural environment, I can't help but be in awe of where I am. But it's not just the sight of it, it's the feeling of it, the smell of it, how it envelops me when I get into the environment, get into the woods, get into the forest. I told someone recently that I spent a lot of my childhood immersing myself literally in the environment, and I would come home head to toe in mud and my mother would stop me at the door and that was it. She was like, "All right, take your clothes off and get in the house." And I'm like, "Well, but..." "No, just do it because you're a mess." But that's how I interacted with the environment is that I became part of the environment. Chris Gajewicz: So it was more for me, Madi used the word spiritual, and I think that's a really great way to describe it. For me, it's maybe a combination of that, a combination of me being a part of the environment and not separating myself from it. That's where all the sensory awareness comes into it for me. So I think it's kind of interesting. I'll be out with a group of people and I'll say, "Now, over on your left, you can see..." and I'm not even looking that direction, but I had been a moment ago, "... and there's a cooper's hawk and it's sitting in the tree," and they're like, "How did you see that?" I'm like, "Well, I don't know. I just did," and now, been able to make a job of it. So it's being aware of all of the things that are around you, smell that, touch this, see what this is. How does this make you feel? Are these leaves, do they smell good? Do they smell bad to you? Chris Gajewicz: I think that for a lot of people, nature is somewhat foreboding and they're frightened of it, especially if they've not experienced it, like maybe Madi and I have. They find themselves separating themselves to the more comforts of being inside a home as opposed to being in nature. There's nothing about nature that frightens me. I enjoy it very, very much. There are things in nature that can be a little bit scary, but for the most part, there's really nothing to be afraid of. Luckily, living in Northwest Ohio, we're in a great place to be because we don't have poisonous snakes, we don't have bears, we don't have things to really worry a whole lot about. So you can kind of put that on the back burner and really immerse yourself in the environment and not worry about being eaten by something. Jolie Sheffer: Madi, you've chosen to use oral history as a major feature of your research project. Can you explain how oral history is different from other forms of history or research and you felt it was important for this project? Madi Stump: Oral history is, in the most simplest terms, someone's story that is recorded. So it is recorded history told from the perspective of someone who has been in the situation or has had a really unique experience that's valuable to the historical record. It is a fairly recent field of history different than the traditional forms of historical scholarship that deal with written documentation and having a written record and that is what we use to study what's happened in the past. Oral history takes that a step further and gets the experience right from the source. So that is really important, in my eyes, for environmental history because there's two facets of environmental history that a piece of history environmental, and that is the human dimension, which a lot of people are surprised. Why is the human in environmental history? But the human dimension and the natural dimension, you can't separate them. We are integrally connected in every aspects of human life. There is nature. Madi Stump: So environmental history brings these two seemingly different perspectives or experiences together. In telling environmental history, there's certain forms of historical records that we can use. We can use pollen counts, we can use tree rings, we can use journals, but
37 minutes | a year ago
Dr. Jackson Bliss - Writing Identity: Experimenting With Form and Style
Jackson Bliss is an assistant professor of creative writing at BGSU. His genre-bending fiction focuses on being mixed-race in a global world. This episode features a conversation about exploring identity through writing and a reading from his forthcoming novel, The Amnesia of June Bugs. Transcript: Intro: This podcast features instances of explicit language. If you are listening with children, you may want to save this conversation for later. Intro: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this. It's a wonderful experiment. Jolie Sheffer: Welcome to the Big Ideas Podcast, brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Dr. Jolie Sheffer, associate professor of English and American culture studies and the director of ICS. Jolie Sheffer: Today I'm joined by Dr. Jackson Kanahashi Bliss. Bliss is an assistant professor in the creative writing program here at BGSU. He's published in The New York Times, The Boston Review, Ploughshares, Tin House, and many other publications. He earned his MFA from the University of Notre Dame and his PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California. Today we have the pleasure of hearing him read from his new work, Amnesia of Junebugs. Thanks for joining me today, Jackson. Jackson Bliss: Happy to be here. Jolie Sheffer: You are both a creative writer and a literary scholar. How do you think of your creative writing as being shaped by scholarship on Asian American literature? Are there other ways in which you see your work as interdisciplinary? Jackson Bliss: Yeah, it's a funny marriage, actually, and I think it's an accidental one, because, in the beginning, I wrote most experimentally, and then when I started studying Asian American studies, I realized there was a sort of strong bent towards experimentalism and activism and how it connects to ethnic nationalism, ethnic studies, academic studies, and academic centers and universities. So this was completely accidental. I didn't intentionally sort of imitate the preferred genre of activist-minded APIA literature. It just sort of happened that way. But the more I studied Asian American studies, particularly works like Immigrant Acts by Lisa ... What's her last name? Jolie Sheffer: Lowe. Jackson Bliss: Lisa Lowe. Yeah. It sort of made me realize there's a strong sort of push against the stylistics of the empire, which tends to be connected to linear narratives and coming-of-age stories. That made me want to write that story, particularly because I found it a little bit both historically informed, but also generically arbitrary that a particular sub-genre of fiction would supposedly work so well, right, in something that we are actively trying to deconstruct. Jackson Bliss: I feel like writers like Viet Thanh Nguyen are perfect examples of people who said, "No, you can have a narrative arc and do a lot of important work instead of deconstructing standardized, sort of imposed European models of narrative." Jackson Bliss: So I think all of those things appealed to me a lot. So it became much more conscious the more I wrote fiction, I think. Yeah. But in the beginning, it was totally accidental and organic. Jolie Sheffer: Your peace Dukkha, My Love is an experimental hypertext novella, created for the web. Can you describe our audience, what that term means? What is an electronic novella, and what can people expect when encountering a text like that? What were you hoping to explore, both formally and thematically? Jackson Bliss: I think part of it is that there is a very tiny archive of electronic writing, just in general. If you go to the standard places that catalog experimental writing, for example, they're really small. They're highly limited. A lot of writers that write experimentally or create online hypertext don't even publish through them. They just publish on their website. So it's highly decentralized in a way that can be really frustrating for, for example, scholars in new media, because there is no clearinghouse for someone to find all the works. Jackson Bliss: I think the thing that new readers of hypertext, which is online experimental writing, have to sort of keep in mind is a lot of it is about the ability to create your own narrative, sort of on your own terms. This is sort of the burden, but the beauty of reading. In Dukkha, My Love, essentially, readers click on hypertext, not knowing where it takes them. So they have control, but they're doing it blindly, right? So there's a lot of that going on. It's highly immersive, but it's also indeterminate in terms of where your freedom and control as a reader will take you. Jackson Bliss: Eventually, as readers start reading more and more, they sort of participate in the cyclicity of the three intersecting narratives, which is absolutely part of the point of reading it, which is the ways in which there is a historical cycle that would repeat, the ways in which we repeat sort of certain cultural modalities of xenophobia and fear against the other, the ways in which our own understanding of reality sort of goes in these continuous cycles of knowledge and awareness and denial, and the proof of this as well is on the first page, when readers click on one of the destinations, where you can basically pick where you want the story to go. It'll even say, "My life is a circle," right, sort of reinscribing this idea in the reader that they are participating in it, but they are not necessarily aware of where they're going, which I think is kind of a fitting cultural analogy of sort of our own conceptualization of history, right? So we sort of have an idea of where it's going, but we're sort of blind as to where exactly it lands. Jackson Bliss: So yeah, it took me about probably four years of doing research and writing the excerpts and about four months of teaching myself how to code enough to learn how to strip audio files off of YouTube videos and then basically take my own music and sort of record it and then time it and cut it in such a way where it worked with the videos, which I basically ripped off from the Learning Channel and someone else. God bless all of you. Thank you for your fine work. Jackson Bliss: Yeah. But I was learning as I was creating. That particular genre was something I had never done before, and that's why I wanted to contribute to the discourse, because I felt like it's pretty emaciated, in terms of a genre, right, but also highly accessible. Those two things really appealed to me. Jolie Sheffer: That project in particular, you set yourself a set of hurdles that were challenges you had to then work within, right? So you make something that is, by nature, through coding, deeply linear and kind of limit certain pathways. It is not an endlessly, right? You have to create a set of possibilities, which means foreclosing others, and yet your work itself and the things that interest you are all about the chaotic, the unpredictable, the messy. So how did you kind of respond to the challenge that you set for yourself? Did you feel like you'd handcuffed yourself, or was it liberating, in some sense, to have to work within these limitations? Jackson Bliss: To be honest, I thought the limitations were there to keep me sane, because I think I would have lost my (beep) mind if I had literally created a work of infinity, because, originally, the idea was I was going to create [inaudible 00:06:50] Book of Sand, right? You could almost make that argument, but if you read Dukkha, My Love enough, you will eventually hit the same narrative strand. So you do sort of touch on finitude at some point. It's impossible to avoid that textual finitude. Jackson Bliss: But the constraints ended up being lifesavers for me, because this project otherwise could have gone on forever. Let me give you an example. When I was trying to keep track of all the three separate narrative strands and then create a separate stub for each one on my website, this required a level of organization that, frankly, I don't like to have in my art. That goes against my entire ethos as a multimodal, mixed-race, experimentalist-leaning, voice-driven, stylized writer. Yet here we were, where I basically had to control my choices, one, so that I could finish this product before the next semester started and, two, to sort of create a bottleneck, I guess, a narrative bottleneck, where, at some point, everything does have to go through certain sort of narrative choices. Jackson Bliss: That's both because of the limitation in my coding skills, frankly, but also because there are certain sort of narrative strands I want readers to go through, and I don't want them to necessarily be negotiable. So, for that reason, the index page is, in and of itself, a sort of delimitation of the narrative choices, right? Readers only have basically 10 to 15 places to choose, and then they only have 4 to 10 actionable links on that page. So it sort of starts and ends with finitude. Jackson Bliss: There is, believe it or not, those of you that have read this, a goodbye page, an acknowledgement page, but, as it turns out, it's incredibly (beep) difficult to find. I mean, I can't even find it, and there's other details that I put that I think were just a little too [inaudible 00:08:41] for themselves. There was an asterisk next to certain narrative strands, letting readers know, "Hey, this is it. This is about to take you to the final page," and I hope that readers would note that this was connected to the theme of the star colonies. That's why the asterisk's there. But you have to scroll down, and if you don't scroll down, you don't see it, and then it doesn't take you to the final page. Jackson Bliss: But I'm not upset about this. I don't hate myself. I have accepted that th
34 minutes | a year ago
Dr. Melissa K. Miller: Moms on the Run - Mothers in Politics
Dr. Melissa K. Miller, 2019 ICS Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor of Political Science at BGSU, discusses her research on women in politics. Dr. Miller shares her findings from her analysis of media coverage of the unprecedented number of women running for office during the 2018 election cycle. Dr. Miller explores how media coverage influences voter perception of mothers running for office. Transcript: Introduction: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society. This is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Jolie S.: To the BG Ideas podcast. A collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Jolie Sheffer, an associate professor of English and American culture studies and the director of ICS. Today I'm joined by one of ICS' faculty fellows, Dr. Melissa K. Miller. She's an associate professor of political science and affiliated faculty in the department of women's gender and sexuality studies here at BGSU. Her current research is focused on women who are mothers who ran congressional campaigns in the 2018 midterm elections. This is the first extensive bi-partisan study of mother candidates and we're thrilled to be here to discuss her research. Thanks for joining me, Melissa. Melissa M.: Thanks for having me. Jolie S.: The 2018 midterm elections really put the spotlight on women running for political office. Can you talk to us about what initially drew you to focus on candidates who were also mothers? Melissa M.: I really have always been interested in the intersection of women, media, voters, campaigning. Gender and politics is a study of my research and I'm an expert on American politics. What happened? I go all the way back to 2008. A friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Jeff Peak, he's a presidency scholar. I'm a gender scholar within the political science department and we decided to do a collaborative project where we content coded press coverage of the presidential candidates back in 2008 and we thought what a great slew of candidates to look at. I of course was most interested in looking at how Hillary Clinton was covered by the press in her 2008 attempt to get the democratic nomination. Melissa M.: He was interested in all the candidates as a presidency scholar and so we did a press coverage study of Hillary Clinton and it was amazing to do. We published our results in the journal called Politics and Gender and there were some real gendered aspects of her coverage that really jumped out. In the midst of that campaign, from my perspective as a gender scholar, I was so pleased to be able to study Hillary Clinton's press coverage. We content coded 6,000 news articles about the democratic race specifically to look at her coverage and then come around August, John McCain, the Republican nominee named Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor as his running mate. And so suddenly our study is underway and it was like we'd won the lottery. Melissa M.: At least it felt that way for me. Holy cow, now I can study a Republican woman also competing not for president but as a vice presidential running mate. So we also, Jeff Peak and I, did a study of how Sarah Palin was covered and in both Clinton's coverage and Palin's coverage back in 2008 there were real gendered coverage markers. Their gender was mentioned at a disproportionate rate. Their marital status was mentioned at a disproportionate rate. In Hillary Clinton's case, her press coverage was much more negative than her male rivals and the content of that negative coverage was highly personal. Really personal descriptives that were very negative about her. Melissa M.: For Sarah Palin, her coverage was very distinguished by the fact that she was objectified. Her appearance and clothing was mentioned off the charts relative to Joe Biden who was the democratic counterpart on the democratic ticket. So fast forward, we published these two studies, one about Clinton, one about Palin and a couple of years go by and I get an email from a couple of scholars who are interested in publishing a book on the intersection of motherhood and politics. And they reached out to me knowing my work on the 2008 campaign and the two Clinton and Palin studies I'd published. And they said, "Would you be willing to write our chapter on mothers running for political office and their media coverage?" Melissa M.: I said, "Absolutely." So I did a deep dive back into that 2008 data and I wrote a book chapter really dissecting going back into all the articles and looking about how their motherhood status was portrayed in 2008 and it was fascinating and it suggested to me right away that motherhood can be both an asset and a liability on the campaign trail. So for Hillary Clinton in 2008 her daughter Chelsea was an adult. Chelsea was out on the campaign trail. Chelsea was viewed positively. The coverage in the media was that she was sort of an asset to her mother, really effective on the stump. For Palin, it was scandal, scandal, scandal with her kids and it was a different, she had young children. The youngest was a special need infant. She had five kids. There were three separate scandals that the press really sort of harped on. Melissa M.: One was the pregnancy of her teenage daughter. One was the use of state funds as governor of Alaska to take her kids with her to official events. And the third was the use of Republican campaign funds to pay for clothing for her kids. It was a real negative in her coverage. Over the course of that research too, of course, I'm soaking up and reading everything. There's very little scholarly work on mothers and how they're treated on the campaign trail, so what I'm finding is more press coverage accounts and what I find is that for instance, Lisa Madigan, the Illinois attorney general was badgered by the Chicago Sun Times when she was considering running for governor. Already elected to statewide office by the way but badgered by the press for how could she raise young kids while being governor. Jane Swift, this is going back to 2001 so a little bit further back, was Lieutenant governor ascended. Melissa M.: She was next in line. The governor leaves office mid term. She ascends. She's vilified in the press because she's eight months pregnant with two twins. One set of twins. I said that wrong. You go back a little further. Patty Murray was derided as just a mom in tennis shoes by a Washington state legislator when she was not yet running for office but she was lobbying her state legislature to save an important preschool program in the state of Washington. While she went on and took that derisive comment by a male state legislator and made it a campaign slogan and ended up running for office and eventually won a seat in the US Senate. So as I'm reading all of this for this motherhood chapter in the book that was published recently, it's called Mothers and Others, I just thought, oh my goodness, more work has to be done. Melissa M.: There've been so many strides that have been made frankly in terms of women's press coverage but it seemed to me that it's still problematic. I think the media and possibly voters have not yet grappled with, is it okay for a mom to run for high office if she has young kids and questions would be raised about the appropriateness of this. In a way that in my own view and studying press coverage, those kinds of questions are not typically raised about men with young children. So I wanted to do a project. Jolie S.: And with that project, what are the kinds of women you're talking about when you are following candidates on the campaign trail? Do they share similar demographics, political affiliations or other characteristics? Melissa M.: I'm actively trying to interview both Republicans and Democrats. It's a little bit harder to find Republicans because there were not as many women who ran in 2018. The big surge of women's candidacies were among Democrats but I still nevertheless have already interviewed two Republican women. Melissa M.: They tend to be in their late 30s, early to mid 40s. There are women of color. I've interviewed one already in my sample so far and it is important to me to try to get as many different types of women amongst this group that I get their stories from. I mean I'm looking for where I think the challenge is greatest. So I'm really looking for mothers who have kids that are anywhere from infant stage till around 12, 13 years old. So I have women who've raised as little as $40,000 for their campaign to as much as $8 million. So there's also a range in how viable their candidacies were. The mother who only raised $40,000, I will tell you was the nominee of the Republican party. She did not raise a lot of money. She was running in what we call a blue district and she was very candid about saying that she felt she didn't get a lot of hostile questions about the raising of her kids. She said, "I don't think anyone thought I could win so it wasn't an issue." Melissa M.: I've heard that from a couple of women. At the other end of the spectrum, I have candidates who raised hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars all the way up to around $8 million, women who came very, very close to winning. And so I think so far I've got a good mix. It's not the kind of large end statistical study where I'm trying to get a representative sample but I am purposely trying to get a variety of mothers who come from different backgrounds and experiences and also from different parts of the country. So already I have women candidates from the South, the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West. So it is nationwide. And what I'm finding so far is what appear to be some regional differences and what appear to be some generational differences in terms of whose concerned about their ability to serve as mothers. Jolie S.: On that question of the generational
39 minutes | a year ago
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Dr. Karen Johnson-Webb: Environmental Racism and Community Advocacy
Dr Mona-Hanna Attisha , the pediatrician whose press conference and testimony before Congress alerted the public about the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the author of BGSU's 2019-2020 Common Read, What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance and Hope in an American City and Dr. Karen Johnson-Webb, associate professor of geography at BGSU, whose research includes racial disparities in health, discuss environmental racism and the Flint water crisis. Transcript: Introduction: From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas. Musical Intro: I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment. Dr Jolie Sheffer: Welcome to the Big Ideas podcast, a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Dr Jolie Sheffer, associate professor of English and American culture studies and the director of ICS. Today we're joined by Dr Mona-Hanna Attisha and Dr. Karen Johnson-Webb. Dr Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician who's press conference and testimony before Congress alerted the public about the Flint, Michigan water crisis. She's the author of BGSU's 2019-2020 Common Read, What the Eyes Don't See A Story of Crisis, Resistance and Hope in an American City. Dr Jolie Sheffer: Dr. Johnson-Webb is an associate professor of geography at BGSU. Her research includes racial disparities in health. Dr Jolie Sheffer: Thanks for joining me today. Mona Hanna-Attisha: It's great to be with you. Karen Johnson-Webb: Thanks for having me. Dr Jolie Sheffer: Mona you played an important role in alerting the public about the Flint water crisis and advocating for the city's residents. Can you begin to just tell our audience how you began practicing medicine in Flint and how that led into your involvement in the water crisis? Mona Hanna-Attisha: Yeah, so I first got a flavor of medicine in Flint as a medical student. So I went to Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine and it's actually the first community based medical school. So the medical school is founded to really kind of serve the rest of the state, and Flint was one of its original campuses. So as a medical student over 20 plus years ago I was in Flint for my clinical training and that's where I really fell in love with the city and I fell in love with the discipline of pediatrics. I then went to Detroit for about 10 plus years to do my residency at the Children's Hospital in Michigan. And then in 2011 I had this amazing opportunity to come back to Flint to give back to the city that really gave me so much and to serve as their pediatric residency director, which means I got to oversee the training of future pediatricians. Dr Jolie Sheffer: Okay. How did you first learn about the possibility of elevated lead levels in Flint's water supply? Mona Hanna-Attisha: So I learned about the issue of lead kind of late in the story. So in April of 2014 Flint changed their water source from the great lakes, which we had been getting for over half a century to the Flint River. And this was done while we were under kind of state appointed emergency management and it was all about saving money. So that happened in April of 2014 and there was kind of concerns from the very beginning about things like color and odor and taste and bacteria. And throughout this time all the people in power said everything was okay. So I was telling my patients for about a year and a half when they came in with concerns about the water, that everything was okay because all these really important scientists were saying everything was okay. But that all changed when I heard about the possibility of lead in the water. And that happened in the summer of 2015 and not in clinic and not in kind of my office, not the hospital, but actually in my kitchen at home at a barbecue with a high school girlfriend who of all things happened to be a drinking water expert. And at that time she alerted me to the possibility that hey the water is not being treated properly and because of that there would be lead in the water. Dr Jolie Sheffer: I think this is one of the important parts of your story is that you were uniquely qualified to do something, but you learned about this through a matter of just your social network, right? Just your human connections to neighbors and friends. And I think that's something that we'll talk more about, but the ways in which being an actor or making change is not necessarily because you planned to, but because you're the right person at the right time in a particular place. Mona Hanna-Attisha: Absolutely right person, right time, right place, right team, right training, right background or experiences that prepare you for these moments, which you can never plan for. Dr Jolie Sheffer: Okay. Karen, your background is in geography. Can you tell us about how you came to focus specifically on black infant mortality and maternal health and how these fit into geography? Karen Johnson-Webb: Well, I'm probably one of the few people you'll meet with three degrees in geography. Most people sort of trip into geography. And I did as an undergrad. I'm also an alumni of Michigan State University- Dr Jolie Sheffer: Go Green! Karen Johnson-Webb: -Department of Geography. And when I decided to do my Masters, Dr John Hunter, an imminent, very famous medical geographer, made his presentation to the grad students. All the faculty were sort of cycling through and I said that's what I want to do. And I've always been interested in issues of race, racism and how it impacts people's everyday lives. And when I moved, my family's from Michigan, but I grew up in Washington, DC, but came back to Michigan State to go to college. And when I came back after getting my PhD and everything and started just trying to tool around for an idea of what to research locally, I found that, I looked at a map of the United States mapped by state with infant mortality and you expect to see high rates in the South, but I didn't expect to see Michigan and Ohio pop out like Mississippi and Alabama. And that was very curious to me. Karen Johnson-Webb: And then another coincidence, during winter vacation one year, I read a little blurb in the Toledo Blade that said that the Public Health Department had gotten a grant to study lead. Not lead, to study black infant mortality. And so I called the guy, I just called him and I said, "Well, I'm a health geographer. I'd really like to add my expertise to this committee." And that's how it started. I started working with Lucas County Public Health, the Ohio Equity Institute, OEI, was part of the grant. And there the disparity, the gap between black and white infant mortality is, it's phenomenal. And especially in Lucas County for a couple of years it was really wide. It was 14 infant deaths per 1000 births, live births for blacks, dead infants, 14 dead infants compared to 0.1 per 1000 for whites. And there's no way to explain that by just controlling for education, income, mom's visits, is mom smoking, et cetera, et cetera. Karen Johnson-Webb: And so now scholars are starting to look at toxic stress on the mom's body and not just stress experienced in her lifetime. We're talking about stress that's passed down generation to generation. So, that's sort of the long version. Dr Jolie Sheffer: Can you say a little more about that, Karen, and how kind of toxic stress is related to environmental racism and structural racism more generally? How do we understand the role of racism in the physical health of families and communities over generations? Karen Johnson-Webb: Structural racism as opposed to individual racism, which most people, most everyday people would think racism is about I don't like you because you're black. I don't like you because you're Asian, et cetera. That's individual where feelings are involved, perhaps. Structural racism has to do with structures and systems that were put in place intentionally over hundreds of years in this country that were designed to subjugate black people, to rob them of their wealth or their ability to gain wealth through many things, education, jobs, what have you, and these systems continue. Not only do you have a situation where you have families who have not been able to provide wealth to their future generations, but these systems continue to persist. And it may be intentional, but it may be unintentional, like the school system, the public school systems. I don't think there are teachers or administrators who are there to subjugate black children. However, we're all placed in a situation where, because of the way the housing market was structured by policies of the US government, you have poor black people pooled together in cities. You had massive white flight, which was subsidized by the US government. And you've got children that are attending substandard schools because of the way that the taxation system is set up, none of which is their fault. Karen Johnson-Webb: And so those are the types of things that you have policies that have the effect, perhaps not the intent, but the effect of poor education outcomes, poor health outcomes, poor political outcomes, poor environmental outcomes, et cetera. Dr Jolie Sheffer: So those policies that you're talking about in terms of land ownership, private property have to do with who was eligible for mortgages, right? Karen Johnson-Webb: Yes. Dr Jolie Sheffer: As a result of changes in mid century, about redlining and blockbusting- Karen Johnson-Webb: That's right. Dr Jolie Sheffer: -that kept those mortgages and that wealth contained in certain neighborhoods that only certain people were eligible to buy in. Karen Johnson-Webb: That's right. Dr Jolie Sheffer: So that's what you're talking about there. But this also has very material effects on health in terms of the quality of the land that is available. Historically we think about valuabl
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