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LR professors dive into pandemic discussion with free 10-week COVID Class
LR professors dive into pandemic discussion with free 10-week COVID Class

Everyone has been affected by the novel coronavirus.

Lives have been lost. Jobs have been furloughed. Schools have moved online. Families have stayed home. Fear has grown, and rumor has run rampant.

Two Lenoir-Rhyne University professors — Dr. Taylor Newton and Dr. Devon Fisher — are attempting to stem the flow of misinformation and replace that with knowledge and understanding through a new, free class they're teaching this summer term, COVID Class: A Liberal Arts Exploration of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

"COVID-19 touches pretty much every area of our lives," Fisher said. "It's not just a medical issue or an economic issue. It affects nearly every aspect of who we are as humans – our physical bodies, our finances, our faith, our imaginations. As such, Dr. Newton and I feel an urgent need to address COVID-19 from those different perspectives."

Free and Open to all Learners

COVID Class is a free, online 10-week course that starts Tuesday, May 26 with the beginning of summer term, but late enrollments are welcome. The course is open to current and incoming LR undergraduate students, LR graduate students, LR alumni and the general public. Two course credits are only available to current and incoming undergraduate students.

"I'm most looking forward to learning alongside the students in the class," Newton said. "As a social psychologist, I have my own take on the coronavirus pandemic, but getting to understand the perspectives of experts from many different disciplines is exciting."

Newton and Fisher are serving as the official developers and course facilitators; however, they've gathered a diverse team of LR faculty from Hickory, North Carolina, Asheville, North Carolina, and Columbia, South Carolina, to assist in course instruction.

"Faculty tend to be fairly specialized in their areas of expertise," Fisher said. "We recognize that we don't have all the answers. I'm not entirely sure what history can teach us about pandemics of the past, but I know that Dr. Veronica McComb will have amazing answers to that question. I can speak to the role of literature given that is my area of specialization."

Gaining Insights Through a Broad Interdisciplinary Examination

"The complexity of this crisis, touching nearly every aspect of our personal and societal lives, is staggering," Newton said. "There is so much information out there, not all of it good. The liberal arts, with a broad disciplinary base and focus on the habits of the mind, is an educational approach well positioned to tackle this complexity. As the saying goes, we teach students how to think, not what to think. We hope to model the process of sifting through rapidly evolving information with both confidence in what we know, as well as intellectual humility to recognize what we do not yet know."

Guest Speakers and Topics

  • Dr. Kathryn Tinkelenberg, professor of nursing and director of the master of science in nursing program, offers an overview of the science of epidemiology and the responding role of health care.
  • Dr. Daniel Grimm, assistant professor of biology and former professional researcher in microbiology and biochemistry, then takes the class through a detailed understanding of the COVID-19 virus.

The class then spends the rest of the term diving into the holistic impact of the pandemic.

  • Dr. Jeffrey Delbert, associate professor of communication and author of the forthcoming book "Rhetoric and Governance under Trump: Proclamations from the Bullshit Pulpit," unpacks polarized responses to the pandemic and the propagation of misinformation.
  • Dr. Gary Johnson, university provost and professor of English, leads the class in developing an understanding of the current crisis through the lens of literature.
  • Dr. Tunay Oguz, assistant professor of economics, explores the impact of the pandemic on economic systems at both a macro- and micro-level.
  • Dr. Monica Campbell, chair and professor of education and co-director of the Teaching Scholars Program, analyzes the shift to online education, including issues of accessibility and policy.
  • Dr. Veronica McComb, incoming dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and associate professor of history, parses historical accounts of past pandemics to shed light on current events.
  • The Rev. Dr. Mary Shore, rector and dean at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary of Lenoir-Rhyne University, dives into theological interpretations of tragedy and suffering.
  • Dr. Ryan Luhrs, assistant professor of music, director of choral activities, and newly appointed conductor of the Hickory Choral Society, reflects on the role of communal singing in times of personal and societal crisis.
  • Dr. Kerrie Fuenfhausen, associate professor of counseling and counseling program coordinator, guides the class in an understanding of the mental health impact of the crisis.

COVID Class Registration

COVID Class starts Tuesday, May 26, 2020. The class is free to all. Two undergraduate credits are available for current and incoming LR undergraduate students.

LR faculty, staff, alumni and the general public can take the class at no cost and complete assignments, but no course credit is offered. Visit www.lr.edu/covid-class for more information and to register. Late enrollments are welcome.