Stock image representing the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Fosters Community During Crisis

May 4, 2020

The close of this semester was an unprecedented challenge that the College of Liberal Arts and Science took head-on. Its staff, faculty, and students created new ways to share ideas and connect with each other in the context of classes, student groups, and in ways none of them could have predicted, Dean Pam Jansma, PhD, explained.

“We saw some role reversals where our students became the teacher—stepping in to help faculty adjust to technologies they had more experience with. In every way, our community has made me proud in how they’ve adapted to life away from campus,” Jansma said.

The College of Liberal Arts and Science’s commitment to students has never been stronger, she added. Faculty and staff have upped contributions they make to the Loving Lynx Fund and ensured students know how to access financial support. Relationships that mentor and support the college’s vulnerable populations have become stronger across the college.

“Most of all,” Jansma said, “the high standard of educational excellence that we’ve brought to remote learning means we are continuing the value that a liberal arts and sciences degree from CU Denver has always represented.”

Read on to learn more about how the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is creatively responding to coronavirus.

RaCAS Goes 100% Virtual

The Research and Creative Activities Symposium (RaCAS) is an annual opportunity for CU Denver graduate and undergraduate students to showcase the research and creative projects they’ve worked on throughout the year. The early May fair typically features about 200 presenters—many are from the College of Arts and Sciences—and dozens of judges from the CU Denver community and beyond.

Learn about some of the CLAS students participating in the first-ever virtual RaCAS.

When the university announced restricted access to campus in early March, RaCAS organizers quickly got to work. Simply cancelling the 23rd annual event wasn’t an option. “So many of these students have been working all academic year,” said Erin Golden, PhD, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities. “RaCAS is an opportunity to present a culmination of all these efforts.”

Golden and Elizabeth Evans, a graduate intern in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, transformed RaCAS into a one-of-a-kind virtual experience. The week-long symposium showcases each presenter’s work in a digital poster that will live on the site indefinitely. More than 150 students and 120 judges are participating. “I am really proud of what we’ve pulled together,” Golden said.

Attend the virtual fair from May 1 – May 8, and vote for the People’s Choice Award by Wednesday, May, 6. Winners will be announced Friday, May 8.

English Dept. Provides Resources for Faculty, Students, and Campus Community

The English Department quickly got to work supporting each other through departmental training sessions in online teaching. “Many of our faculty members, indeed some of our best teachers, had no experience in remote learning, so the week before campus closed, we organized a workshop led by specialists Miranda Egger and Alexandra Kagstrom,” said English Department Chair Philip Joseph, PhD. “The concise two-hour workshop gave faculty the confidence that they needed with technology in order to engage students.”

In addition, to let its majors know their economic futures are important, the department brainstormed a way to centralize career opportunities. Jenny Dunnington, a team member in the English Department’s main office, built a webpage that includes links to virtual job fairs, databases for online jobs, ways to do virtual job shadowing, articles on the best-paying jobs for English majors, ideas for working remotely during a pandemic, and more.

Culture Klatsch podcast logo

Another effort to foster community during a time of increased isolation is the English Department’s podcast, CultureKlatsch, which piloted last fall. Episode 4 will showcase how students and the CU Denver community are coping/adapting during this time and the role art can play in helping to navigate this difficult time. The podcast, hosted by Graduate Nathalia Velez-Ryan, will feature the audio projects produced in Dr. Michelle Comstock’s current class on podcasting.

“As far as content is concerned, we wanted to connect people in the department by airing personal stories about responding to the strange and challenging new world that students currently live in,” Joseph said. “But beyond that, we also wanted to emphasize the value of a medium that relies on vocal rather than visual communication.”

Math Department Recognizes Faculty/Staff in Virtual Meetings

To say goodbye to one of its beloved professors, Mike Ferrara, the Math Department hosted a virtual Zoom happy hour with games and a farewell YouTube video. Thirty people attended the April 13 celebration.

The department is also hosting regular town halls to keep connected with its students. On April 9, department leaders, faculty members, and students convened on Zoom to share current concerns, tips, and advice.

Integrative Biology Dept. Co-Hosts Virtual Student Lounge

The CU Denver Biology Club, in partnership with the Department of Integrative Biology, launched the first-ever Virtual Biology Student Lounge. The online experience kicked off April 24 with a “Stories by the Campfire” theme. Students were invited to grab some s’mores and share their stories and experiences over Zoom.

Picture of a s'more