Summer Course Covers COVID-19 from Many Angles
Summer Course Covers COVID-19 from Many Angles

When the book finally closes on the COVID-19 pandemic, few will be more knowledgeable about its many traumas than a group of students at Creighton University.

More than 170 freshmen studied the impact of the virus from the standpoints of biology, history, journalism, philosophy and the psychological sciences. And if the opportunity eventually to expound impressively to one’s children about the great pandemic isn’t reward enough, then consider that the three-week online summer course is free and lays one credit on the road to graduation.

The pass/fail course is called “COVID-19 From a Liberal Arts Perspective,” and was designed by Rebecca Murray, PhD, professor and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“A group of Creighton faculty thought it might be interesting to think about the pandemic in terms of its wider impact, things like the virus itself, but also isolation and some of the social aspects like how it’s covered in the news media,” Murray says.

“So we designed a course around that, and we’re offering it to our incoming freshmen as a way to both study something they are going through and to introduce them to our faculty and to what the College of Arts and Sciences means at Creighton.”

It’s certainly the full Creighton experience, with course modules taught by Carol Fassbinder Orth, PhD, associate professor of virology and disease ecology; Adam Sundberg, PhD, assistant professor of history; Carol Zuegner, PhD, assistant professor of journalism; Amy Wendling, PhD, professor of philosophy and associate dean; and Thomas Lee Budesheim, PhD, associate professor of psychological sciences.

Murray herself teaches a module on the “Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm,” which encourages students to reflect on what they are learning and to consider how they might translate that learning into action both at Creighton and in their communities.

The course may be free, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Each of the faculty members recorded a lecture which combines with required reading assignments, Zoom discussion sessions, live discussions, quizzes, and, finally, a written reflection paper that doubles as instruction in how to use Creighton’s libraries.

Attisen McCorkle, an incoming Creighton freshman, says the course has been insightful.

“It provided much-needed information about the coronavirus that I would not have been able to attain by just watching the news,” McCorkle says, “and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the variety of learning because each module is taught by a different professor.”

Jack Bertagnoli, another incoming freshman, describes the course as “enlightening and highly intriguing.”

“The first ‘module’ or section of the class was my favorite as it deals with the science and biology behind the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Bertagnoli says. “Another module addresses the psychological effects of social isolation and distancing, specifically the negative social aspects the new rules of society are playing within our modern-day society.

“This course has provided me with a fun, challenging way to earn a college credit this summer on a topic that has impacted me and the human race so detrimentally.”