There is nothing Klein College of Media and Communication professors cannot do when they put their minds to it. Recently, three professors in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations put their heads together to create a new course to be offered through Klein Global Opportunities (Klein GO).
It all started when Associate Professor of Instruction Dana Saewitz (she/her) attended a training at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in the summer of 2019. The course was meant for middle school teachers that had to teach Holocaust studies, but Saewitz had been studying the Holocaust her whole life and the training piqued her interest.
"I've always wanted to teach a course on the Holocaust, but I couldn't figure out how to make it fit within our department," Saewitz said.
Then, Saewitz read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. The book ties the caste system in India to slavery in America and Nazi Germany and got her thinking about the broader systems that allowed the Holocaust to occur.
Enter Assistant Professor of Instruction David Brown (he/him) and Assistant Professor Meghnaa Tallapragada (she/her). Saewitz reached out to Brown and together they reached out to Tallapragda after realizing that they could use their respective knowledge and expertise of the Holocaust, slavery and the caste system to create a course examining the underlying mechanisms behind such systems of genocide and oppression.
"Having amazing colleagues helped [Saewitz] build upon the excitement of it and turn it into a reality," said Director for Klein GO Allie Miller (she/her).
Thus was born Klein GO's newest study away program, Rocking the World: Disrupting Stereotypical Notions of Race, Class, and Religion.
The course, which is open to undergraduate and graduate students of all majors, will be offered as an early term start course during the winter academic session. Participants will spend three days on Temple University's campus learning from Saewitz, Brown and Tallapragada before taking a bus together to Washington D.C. There, students will visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, see national monuments and explore all the culture present in the city for a total of three days and two nights.
Before the class begins on January 3, 2022, students will read Caste and write a paper about their experience with the content so the professors can gauge the students' interest and perspective to guide their teaching. By the end of the program, students will create a digital artifact to be published in a digital gallery reflecting their experience.
"Everyone, including instructors, is going through this experience together," Brown said. On the ride down to D.C., the group will collectively prepare for the heavy topics they are about to experience at the museums. There will also be plenty of time for reflection and free time to have other experiences related to the course's focus.
Tallapragada is looking forward to giving students a framework to help structure how they want to go about disrupting oppressive systems, and is looking forward to learning from Brown and Saewitz. She also encourages students of all majors to sign up. "Every background a student has will be useful to bring to this course," she said.
Miller reflected on how well the course aligns with Klein's mission. That is, it focuses on current issues and events and encourages students to tell their stories. The course will also examine how these systems have spread through propaganda and how they have been transmitted through oral and written communication across generations.
"This has captured the hearts and intrigue of all faculty and staff," Miller said. Many faculty members have expressed interest in joining Saewitz, Brown, Tallapragada and their students on this journey, and many have already started reading Caste.
"I think we all agree it's one of the most important books we've ever read," Saewitz said. "I think students will walk out feeling empowered to make the world a better place."