In Renée Cramer’s Reproductive Law and Politics course, students have the opportunity not only to read influential works but also to meet with the authors personally.
Jennifer Block, an independent journalist who writes about health, gender, and conflict of interest in medicine, planned to visit the Drake campus in April. Students in Cramer’s class had read one of Block’s books and were anticipating meeting her when the trip had to be canceled due to COVID-19. Despite this setback, Cramer was able to arrange for Block to speak with the class remotely via videoconferencing. Within the same week, California filmmakers Angie and Mike Sonrode, who made The MidDrift Movement, also visited the class via a virtual drop-in.
“Higher education is much more adaptable than it may appear,” Cramer said. “I’ve centered myself on serving students, and I think I will emerge a better instructor as a result of this forced move to remote instruction.”
Cramer also recognized the stress the pandemic was causing in her students’ lives.
“We spend the first 15 minutes of every session checking in: where are you, how are you, what are you noticing, doing?” Cramer said. “Then we dig into the readings, and the students have been absolutely brilliant.”
In her final class session, Cramer told her students how much she appreciated them, and then invited the Des Moines Blank Park Zoo staff to bring a llama and a rabbit to the class for 15 minutes to lighten the mood.