By Riley Dauber
Washington College provides students with great opportunities both in and out of the classroom. Thanks to small class sizes, students can form close bonds with their peers and professors. The College also invites professionals to host talks and workshops that provide students with engaging and informative out-of-class experiences.
While students can learn about specific fields from professionals, out-of-class events often conflict with their busy schedules. The situation is made worse when events are required for specific classes, usually accompanied with a class discussion or reflection assignment.
For example, students in the Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion and Senior Equity Officer; Professor of English and American Studies Dr. Alisha Knight’s Harlem Renaissance class were required to attend the “Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom” film screening on Feb. 11, which included a discussion following the film with the Co-Director Nicole London, and film interviewees Angela Crenshaw ‘04 and Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience Adam Goodheart.
“The film did a really great job of [humanizing Harriet] and making her relatable, as the panel discussion mentioned,” senior Erin Moran said. “We have to write a response paper for the event analyzing and critiquing the event as well as connecting some topics discussed in the film to what we [learned in class].”
The event – specifically the discussion following the film – also created an accepting environment to learn and ask questions.
“You could tell that all of the individuals in the audience actually wanted to be there and learn together, which made it a lot more comfortable to ask questions and put yourself out there,” Moran said.
Students in the Harlem Renaissance class are also invited to a school-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C. Although not required, the trip is planned for April 8 – the day before Easter.
Many students go home over the holiday weekend to celebrate with their families. Some professors schedule due dates and assignments for the weekend, which may conflict with family plans.
“I wish [the trip] was another day so I could go. It sounds so fun,” sophomore Natalie Martinaitis said. “I wish there was a way where these events were built into the courses in another way…[so] it wouldn’t interfere with schedules.”
The trip is a great way for students to learn about the material outside of the classroom. It will not only improve the students’ understanding of the material, but they will also have a deeper understanding of the topic.
Planning the trip for a different weekend, one that does not conflict with a popular holiday, would give more students the chance to attend.
Assistant Professor in Environmental Science and Studies Dr. Jill Bible also requires students to attend events for her Environmental Communications class. Students were asked to attend three events: The Global Impacts of Arctic Thaw, a talk with Dr. Susan Natali, on Jan. 31, and screenings of “Into the Ice” and “Before the Flood” on Feb. 7 and 16, respectively.
Students in the STEM field rely on out-of-class experiences when it comes to their weekly labs, but these talks and screenings provide more opportunities to learn about the area of study from experienced scientists.
“I hope these films and the talk will enable all of us to think critically about what was effective and what was ineffective about the way in which environmental topics were portrayed,” Dr. Bible said.
Since these events are during the week, however, there is a high chance that they will conflict with students’ schedules. According to junior Mirabelle White, Dr. Bible was flexible.
“The film is already online, so [Dr. Bible] just sent me a link and I can watch it myself,” White said.
Since WC students are involved in many different activities, including clubs or sports, it can be tricky to find time in one’s schedule to attend these events. The College does their best to advertise these opportunities, but oftentimes, one event conflicts with another, or they are planned all in one week, which means some students will miss these experiences.
“I do recognize that students have other commitments outside of class, so these events might be difficult for some students,” Dr. Bible said. “Because of that, I think it is important to provide reasonable alternatives.”
It is a privilege to invite so many educated and experienced experts from specific fields, so these events should not be taken for granted. It may just be disappointing for some students to hear about an event only for their busy schedules to conflict.
“Every time I have an opportunity to go to an event…I always learn so much, and it does make concepts that we are learning in class a lot clearer in my mind as well as challenges me to think even more critically [and] concisely about topics in class and outside the classroom,” Moran said.
If a professor requires their class to attend specific out-of-class events, they should be flexible when it comes to students’ busy schedules; but, in turn, these events are great opportunities for students to learn from an expert, so they should attend if it fits in their schedule.