MACOMB, IL – As the COVID-19 pandemic has altered nearly every aspect of higher education delivery, Western Illinois University College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Dean Sue Martinelli-Fernandez has taken steps to promote work by CAS faculty and students beyond the traditional classroom.

Martinelli has been working since late April with several campus offices to develop a college-based podcast series. She collaborated with the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research, uTech and Tri States Public Radio to set up the series “CAS Chats,” which already has two episodes on file and three more in production. The first episodes are about the student study of the pandemic, and the state and national response to it.

“Like everyone else, I’m tired of only being able to react to this,” said Martinelli-Fernandez. “I want to showcase our great faculty and students, offering information to the general public. CAS Chats is an initiative dedicated to lifelong learning, living fully and making a difference in our students’ and communities’ lives, locally and globally. It features the ongoing research, outreach and teaching of our fabulous Arts and Sciences faculty.”

Martinelli-Fernandez said the idea was born from a conversation with two friends and colleagues and has a goal of being forward-thinking and forward-acting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the people I talked to is a faculty member who has contributed to a series of podcasts at her university; the other is an emerita faculty who I have known since my graduate school days,” she said. “In conversations with them, as well as colleagues on campus and friends with college-age students, it is clear that listening has become the preferred mode of educational and informational medium of the busy and still engaged person.”

The first podcast is a case study by a student of WIU Political Science Professor Casey LaFrance into the reaction of various states during the pandemic. Courtney Dalton (Knoxville, IL), a political science graduate student in LaFrance’s seminar in public administration, studied how Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s response to the pandemic compares to that by governors of other states.

The second podcast is a recording of three students from WIU Anthropology Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad’s course called “Culture and Catastrophe: The Anthropological Study of Disasters.” After spring break, the subject matter in the course moved into studying the COVID-19 pandemic and the way the media portrays sciences vs. politics vs. economics. The class compared the pandemic response in various countries from the students’ perspective.

Students in the podcast reflect on researching a global disaster as the circumstances change from day-to-day.

To listen to the podcasts, visit wiu.edu/cas/chats.

Advertisement

Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.