Tag: podcasts

From podcast to escape rooms, final exams at Lawrence can get creative

Students look through clues in an escape room in the Mudd Library.
Students work to solve an escape room set up in the Mudd Library during spring term finals. For Lavanya Murali, the teaching approach was all about experiential learning.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Professors at Lawrence are continuously tapping into new and creative ways to assess how well students comprehend the information taught in their classrooms.

We caught up with two classes at the end of spring term where new approaches were being used, setting aside the traditional final exam or research paper — Lavanya Murali’s Anthropology 531 Semiotics course, where students were asked to build escape rooms, and Brigid Vance’s History 101 course, where students created a Lawrence history-focused podcast.

Sharing the history

History 101 is an introductory course, meaning there is a different professor teaching the course each year. When it was Vance’s turn to teach the course, she decided to incorporate a more interactive element for both her and her students to engage with. Rather than assigning a research paper, which is typically the final assessment for the course, Vance assigned her students to work together to create a podcast. 

“You hone the same kinds of skills, you still write the script, you still do the research, but the tone is a little different” Vance said.  

Throughout the term, students learned how to conduct research and explored the techniques historians use to do their work. With that knowledge in place, the students began doing research on Lawrentians from the past.

“I met with the university archivist and asked if this was a possibility, and she was totally on board,” Vance said. “We worked together a few months in advance of the class, figuring out what would be possible for students in the class to complete given the 10-week term.”

Using a list of noteworthy Lawrentians compiled by the archivist, techniques on research they learned in class, and a podcast they listened to in class as a reference, the students set out to create their own podcast on notable Lawrentians through the years. Listen to a few examples below:

“Tell ’Em That It’s Human Nature: Nathan Pusey’s Defense of the Liberal Arts”
by Holly McDonald
“The Teacher Who Died in Class” by William Kertzman
“Emma Kate Corkhill: A Private Life” by Anna Johnston
“Western Learning and Patriotism: Was It a Paradox?” by Angel Li and May Li
“Ye Yun-Ho: Lawrence Through the Eyes of a Korean Minister” by Ressa Crubaugh

“I care a lot about the way the class feels,” Vance said. “And that’s not something I think you can control, but I think you can try to help create a space where people can connect with one another.”    

Vance called her new approach to assessment “very successful” — not only through the positive reaction from her students to the more engaging assignment, but also to creating something that could then be shared. They placed posters in the Mudd Library near the end of spring term to direct people to the podcast.

“The posters with the QR codes that linked to the podcast were up through reunion weekend (in mid-June),” Vance said. “So, all the alums coming in could learn something about the history of this place, too.”  

Check out all episodes of the podcast here

Vance has gone the more traditional route for assessing her students in the past, but she has found that when taking a more creative approach, learning is a lot more enjoyable for both her and her students.  

“At least for me, I get very excited when doing something creative and collaborative,” Vance said. “So that’s something that I feel is really authentic and honest, and if I am honest with myself, it allows for others to be honest with themselves. Ultimately, I think it makes for a better learning environment.”

Vance would like to thank the following people who helped make the project possible: David Berk, Gretchen Revie, Erin Dix, Debra Walker, her History Department colleagues, and all of her Spring 2019 History 101 students.

Reading the signs

In Murali’s anthropology course, students learned about the different ways in which signs can be expressed, shown throughout the world, and how to make meaning of them.  

“A sign can be anything from a street sign to the clothes someone wears,” said Joseph Wetzel ’20, a student who took Murali’s course. “So, anything that signifies something else is a sign.”  

Throughout the spring term, the class built on this idea of signs being more than we typically think of. 

“A lot of understanding of how information is translated through signs is thinking about shared cultural knowledge,” Wetzel said. 

All of the work they did throughout the term led to students breaking into groups and creating their own escape rooms in various places around campus. 

“The students spent all term drawing on the semiotic theory they were learning in class to understand how clues work as signs, and how escape rooms are semiotic spaces,” Murali said. “They then applied this knowledge to creating their own escape rooms.”  

During class, they looked at different escape rooms online to familiarize themselves with them. At the end of the course, they used all the knowledge they gained about signs having deeper meanings based on cultural knowledge to create the escape rooms, and opened them to others on campus to solve. 

“There are clues that refer to different buildings on campus, and we have clues (that refer to) Lawrentians,” Wetzel said. 

It was a fun way to also explore Lawrence culture.   

Students work to solve the escape room set up in the Mudd Library.
“Escape Room: Library” was created by a group of students in Lavanya Murali’s Anthropology 531 Semiotics course. “I think it went well,” Murali said of the hands-on approach.

One of the escape rooms, created by Amy Courter ’21, Hayoung Seo ’19, and Wetzel and titled Escape Room: Library, was based on a concept that students could identify with. “It’s based on a student waking up from her dream, because they fell asleep while studying for finals,” Seo said.

Murali has been incorporating innovative learning methods into her classroom and has seen it have a positive impact on the way her students react to learning. 

“I have increasingly been focusing on engaged, hands-on assignments as a way to help students understand and apply what they learn in class, and this assignment follows that pedagogic strategy,” Murali said. “I think it went well, and I’m very proud of my students.”   

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

A view from inside the campaign: Professor Timothy Troy offers up-close look at Sierra Leone’s presidential election

Bonds between students and faculty members that last well beyond commencement and graduation congratulations have long been a hallmark of a Lawrence University education.

One such example recently played out in Sierra Leone, where theatre arts professor Timothy X. Troy reunited with former student Momodu Maligi for two weeks on the campaign trail of the country’s upcoming national presidential election.

Professor Tim Troy and Momodu Magligi
Timothy Troy, Hurvis Professor of Theatre Arts, spent two weeks in Sierra Leone on the presidential campaign trail with his former student and 2004 Lawrence graduate Momodu Maligi.

Troy traveled to the west African nation at the invitation of Maligi, a Sierra Leonean native who graduated from Lawrence in 2004. He returned to his homeland, where he now serves as the country’s Minister of Water Resources. He serves in the cabinet for the All People’s Congress (APC) party currently in power.

“I went purposefully to accompany Momodu during campaign activities leading up to the (March 7) election,” said Troy, Hurvis Professor of Theatre and Drama at Lawrence. “I was able to be with him for a variety of campaign activities as well as some of his ministerial activities.”

Taking a step outside of his normal role, Troy created a podcast reflecting on his first-hand experiences in Sierra Leone on the eve of the country’s historic presidential election.

Troy hopes listeners of his podcast come away with a clear view of his world into Maligi’s world.

“I want them to know why it’s important and to know that the stakes are high,” Troy explained. “Although I don’t get at it directly, if you listen carefully, you’ll see that there is civil discord underneath the surface. There is the possibility for violence and the hope that this next transition can happen peacefully is dearly felt by everyone I talked to.

Momodu Magligi sitting in his office
Momodu Maligi ’04 currently holds the cabinet post of Minister of Water Resources in the Sierra Leonean government.

“They all want their guy to win, but ultimately the specter of the civil war is still in living memory. Momodu was at Lawrence because of the Civil War. We’re honored that he’s bringing the perspectives of the kind of education we offer to his work there. Not everyone there shares that kind of perspective. It’s a country that’s rebuilding. It’s not stable. What they’re hoping for is stability. That’s certainly Momodou’s point of view. His candidate (Samura Kamara) is the continuity candidate. We’ll see if that point of view, that hope, prevails.”

While it might seem strange that a government major who took one class — voice and diction — with a theatre professor would develop such a bond, Troy says “that’s part of the beauty of this thing.”

“I never lost track of Momodu and our relationship has continued since he was a student,” said Troy, who traveled to Sierra Leone in December 2016 with Lawrence students to lead a series of Shakespeare workshops at various schools. “I have so much respect for Momodu’s efforts in helping rebuild his country and he feels so warmly about his Lawrence experience that my presence there was just a continuation of that ongoing relationship.”

Momodu Magligi giving a speech on a campaign stop
On the presidential campaign trail, Momodu Maligi engages with members of the All People’s Congress party during a stop in Bo District.

In traveling with Maligi on the campaign trail, Troy says he could see the lessons Maligi learned from having lived in America for a time. There are core values about fair governance and the public good he brought back to his homeland.

“Momodu learned what it’s like to have good social services, what it means to have clean running water in every household. He experienced that firsthand and it’s very clear that’s the goal. I was able to witness, through him and his ministerial and party colleagues, the fact they have a clear vision of where they would like to go. The water main that brings water into my house was laid 100 years ago. That kind of infrastructure is still waiting to be built in Sierra Leone. It’s a big task, but it’s clear goal for someone like Momodu and his colleagues.”

“I have so much respect for Momodu’s efforts in helping rebuild his country and he feels so warmly about his Lawrence experience that my presence there was just a continuation of that ongoing relationship.”
— Professor Timothy X. Troy

The major issues in the presidential campaign, according to Troy, are tied to the history of the Sierra Leone Civil War that lasted nearly 11 years (1991-2002), the Ebola crisis in 2014 and the attempts of a poor nation trying to establish a middle class.

“That’s really the national agenda,” says Troy, who spent four days at West Point prior to leaving for Sierra Leone, visiting with members of the academy’s geography department and talking to Africa-area experts there. “They haven’t had a stable raise of a middle class through the 20th century, so they have a very different starting point.”

A billboard for Sierra Leone presidential candiddate Samura Kamara
A billboard at Lumley Beach in the capital city of Freetown promotes the presidential candidacy of All People’s Congress party candidate Sumara Kamara.

As the country’s current foreign minister and someone who has served under three very different regimes, Kamara is seen as many as the favorite to win the election. But Troy calls the outcome “a huge unknown.”

“That’s one of the compelling things here. We look at Kamara and think ‘okay, in so far is how Sierra Leone stands in the world internationally, he is the best candidate. It’s so clear,’” said Troy, who met Kamara several times during his trip.

“But no one really knows,” Troy added. “There is no reliable international polling. There’s no credible equivalent of the BBC or of NPR that is recognized as a neutral observer that can help sort the various points of view. This is such a poor country you couldn’t even establish a credible telephone polling sample. Literally nobody knows who will win.”

Lawrence’s connections to Sierra Leone and Momodu Maligi include a visit he made to campus last spring to deliver a talk for the Povolny Lecture Series.

Government professor Claudena Skran has been extensively engaged with Sierra Leone for more than a decade. After spending time there conducting research on the role of NGOs in refugee resettlement, she founded KidsGive, a Lawrence-based nonprofit organization that provides scholarships for students in Sierra Leone and works to educate U.S. students about Sierra Leonean life and culture.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.