Daniel Parson

Asking the big questions, in and out of class

A 10-minute walk from the Oxford College campus brings students to new kinds of lessons. There on an organic farm founded two years ago, they consider big issues around food. What goes into food production? Who has access to healthy food? What is the impact of agriculture on the environment? How are farm workers treated by society?

Across Emory's campuses, instructors like Daniel Parson are taking creative approaches to pedagogy to make lessons relevant. "Some people may wonder why a liberal arts college would want to support a farm," says Parson, an organic farmer/educator, "but this farm is about so much more than growing food." In the past year, he has hosted classes from sociology, environmental studies, English, and physical education at the farm. "In the classroom, students may read and discuss topics in the abstract, but being here makes it real," he says.

In an ethics class focused on moral leadership offered through the Candler School of Theology, Robert Franklin has students discuss and debate real-life topics, such as providing free health care to refugees, from one of six judicial perspectives (utilitarian, religious, political, etc.). "This class is an effort to broaden moral integrity and imagination to serve the common good," says Franklin, the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership. "The goal is to urge each of them to claim their own voice by the end of the semester."

In Angela Amar's forensic nursing elective, students familiarize themselves with a rape kit to better understand the experience of victims of sexual violence. The Atlanta Crime Lab team has visited the class to share how evidence is processed and analyzed, and students participate in simulations to identify wounds and causes. "This hands-on training helps our students learn how to respond to someone who has been affected by a violent crime," says Amar, associate professor and assistant dean of BSN nursing.

The elective is one of the new offerings in a revised curriculum in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing that seeks to prepare nurses to work not only in acute care settings but also in outpatient and community-based centers. "The new coursework is less about the sage on the stage as it is about interactive, small group learning," says Amar. "We want our courses to be less about memorizing facts than learning how to apply and use knowledge."