Despite the university’s transition to remote learning, Nebraska Honors students in a spring seminar have gained real-world insights through virtual visitors.
The seminar, “Honors in Winnipeg: An Ethics Based Study of Human Rights,” has moved from in-person to synchronous Zoom discussions. The course is led by Christine Haney Douglass, faculty fellow for the University Honors Program and experiential learning coordinator for the College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources.
Originally, the plan was for students to spend the semester learning about past approaches to human rights. Then, in May, they were to travel to Winnipeg, Canada, for an extended trip focused around the Canada Museum for Human Rights and field experience at the Fisher River Reserve with leaders from the Cree Nation.
“This course was developed to engage students in global dialogues, with the understanding that we would be collaborating with the University of Winnipeg, visiting there at the end of term,” said Haney Douglass. “With the cancellation of our travel abroad and the switch to an online format, I wanted to ensure the students still met the original learning objectives and had the opportunity to build upon their cross-cultural competencies and continue progress towards becoming informed, open-minded and responsible global citizens.”
One of the reasons this transition to remote learning has been so successful, according to students, was Haney Douglass’ commitment to developing rapport amongst the students.
“She spent time at the beginning of the semester to help us build a community within the classroom; this makes our class a great place for discussion,” said Mackenzie Burch, a senior from Weeping Water, Nebraska, “because of this community, we have been able to have interesting discussions with scholars across the globe, even amidst the pandemic.”
While group travel to Canada is currently out of the question, that has not stopped Haney Douglass from exposing her students to opportunities to engage with human rights experts from Canada and around the world.
In one session, students had the opportunity to participate in an interactive lecture with Shauna Labman, a legal scholar from the University of Winnipeg specializing in human rights and refugee law. During that discussion, students had the opportunity to compare and contrast refugee law in the United States and Canada.
In another lesson, students participated in a Zoom discussion with Matthew Magnani, a Harvard doctoral candidate who is currently conducting research in Norway. An archaeologist studying indigenous traditional knowledge and its connections to social-political change, he shared with the students about human rights issues related to forced shifts in residence, cultural activities and language, through the lens of his work with the Saami reindeer herders of Norway and the Maasai people in Kenya.
To round out the semester, students met with Shailesh Shukla, an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg who works with Canada’s indigenous students. Shukla helped the students connect with the experiences and challenges of the Cree Nation community, who live in the Fisher River Reserve in Canada.
“The chance to engage directly with these caliber of experts, even in the online format, has truly enriched the students’ experience in this class,” Haney Douglass said. “They have been able to conduct their global dialogues even while in quarantine.”