Teaching & learning spotlight: Students cultivate resilience amid COVID-19
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Teaching & learning spotlight: Students cultivate resilience amid COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges for The University of Tulsa community. Lara Foley, director of the Office of Integrative and Experiential Learning, recognized both the difficulties facing her students and the opportunity for intellectual growth COVID-19 offered them.

During fall 2021, Foley therefore designed and led a 3000-level Emerging Issues course centered on COVID-19’s effects on various fields and disciplines. By harnessing and redirecting the trials of the pandemic in positive and refreshing ways, she helped her 13 students in this Honors program course engage with the pandemic with curiosity, creativity and resilience.

Creating from the heart

two photos of two young women with long hair and summer clothing outdoors
Neha Khalid and Kate Lundy

One of the students, Neha Khalid, a biochemistry major, wrote a children’s book called The Attack of the Virus. Inspired by her family’s transparency about important historical moments such as the Partition of India, Khalid wanted to share lessons from the pandemic with her future family.

Darian Martínez, a psychology and Spanish double major, wrote poetry to address the moments of darkness, hope and defiance she experienced during the pandemic. She referenced mental health struggles and focused on the social justice movements that occurred during the pandemic with an emphasis on George Floyd’s death. Reflecting on the experience, Martínez noted that she came to understand the importance of empathy in thinking about COVID-19 because it exposed her to components of the pandemic she had never previously thought about.

Purposeful podcasting

A highlight of the semester was a visit by Honors student Hannah Whorton, who shared with the students details about her COVID-19 podcast series Perusing the Pandemic. Moved by the passing of her grandmother from COVID-19 shortly after TU sent students home in March 2020, Whorton educated the class and her podcast listeners about the medical effects of the disease, its impact on communities and the importance of vaccinations. Whorton’s project brought her joy despite its grim subject matter because she knew sharing her grandmother’s story would impact her world for the best.

Meantime, Kate Lundy and Jin Jiaxu enjoyed creating documentaries as their film studies senior projects. They explored the impact of COVID-19 on a diverse group of students on TU’s campus and Chinese international students, respectively. Both Lundy and Jiaxu, whose advisor is Department of Film Studies Chairperson Jeff Van Hanken, said they gained inspiration from their own struggles during the pandemic and sought to learn how others dealt with COVID-19. These documentaries will be presented, along with an original short fiction film by graduating senior Sam Modde and an excerpt from Julia Grantham’s original screenplay, on May 6 at the TU Arts and Humanities Festival.

side by side photos of two young women with long hair wearing summer clothing outdoors
Darian Martínez and Hannah Whorton

Overall, students in this Emerging Issues course valued its interdisciplinary nature and opportunity to learn from various perspectives. “It challenged me,” said Martínez, “to question the way I think, what I’ve been taught and how I look at the world around me.”

The interdisciplinary nature of TU’s Honors program facilitates learning in a way that leads students to new discoveries, collaborative ways of thinking and new perspectives on the world. Discover more and get your journey started!