There is a lot of information around these days about the coronavirus pandemic.
But sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to sort out all that information.
Simpson College is trying to help, with a six-part series virtual lecture series by faculty members on different aspects of the pandemic, available to the community online through Zoom and eventually, You Tube.
“As an institution that highly values the liberal arts and education for all, we want to offer a series that allowed people to consider COVID-19 from a wide variety of academic disciplines,” explained Amy Gieseke, dean of continuing, graduate and online programs at the college. “This interdisciplinary approach is so important for understanding, and ultimately addressing, complex problems like a pandemic. So many of our faculty had such interesting ways to think about this pandemic that we wanted to share their expertise with a wider audience.”
The series launched last week with a talk by Dr. Adrienne Gathman, professor of history, on “Pandemic Powers: Presidential Authority in a Crisis.”
Gathman said her lecture started as part of a class she taught in the spring on American Presidency.
“When we got flipped online, it seemed to me like the best thing to do was address the elephant in the room,” she said. “Let’s talk about what the president could and could not do. That’s the first class I did when we got back from spring break.”
Gathman, a Simpson alum herself, said she thought Simpson professors could serve as a trusted resource for people on the complicated coronavirus.
“There’s information overload, there’s also information intimidation,” she said. “There’s so much out there and there’s so many different sources. It’s somewhat intimidating to dip your toe in and start reading things, so there’s a tendency not to read anything.
“The speaker series is somewhere the community and students can look and say, ‘these are people who have filtered it for me, and I’m going to run with what they said,’” she said.
“When it comes down to it, Simpson is embracing our role as leaders in the community when it comes to education,” said Andy English, Simpson director of alumni relations and interim director of marketing and strategic communications. “We want to share that knowledge of the experts we have and the research they’re doing with the Simpson community. We believe the Indianola community is part of the Simpson community.”
English said alumni who joined the first presentation said they were excited to return to the Simpson classroom — even via Zoom.
“We received a lot of feedback from people excited that they get to have that Simpson experience from the comfort of their homes,” he said. “This is probably something we should have been doing for years.”
Subsequent talks will include a presentation by Dr. Pat Singer on “Repurposing Drugs to Fight COVID-19 on Wednesday, July 1; “Thin Democracy, Ecological Violence and COVID” from Dr. John Pauley on Wednesday, July 8; “Color Coding COVID” from Drs. Amy Doling, Jacy Downey and Kathie Lee on July 15; “Math Modeling of a Pandemic” by Dr. Heidi Berger and Noelle Boardman on July 22 and “Plague, Prejudice and Possibility: 14th Century Lessons for Our Own Troubled Times by Dr. Maeve Callan on July 19. All lectures are at 7 p.m. and are free to the public.
Gieseke said the lecture series probably will pause in the fall, when faculty will be busy with their usual course load, but could resume next summer, tackling a new topic.
In addition to live presentations via Zoom, English said the talks soon should be available on the Simpson College YouTube channel.