It’s been a transition” has been the common answer from students and professors when asked what it has been like to learn and teach from home. When the close bond of Union students and faculty came under pressure, the result was a transformation of our intimate homes into a college campus.
It is difficult to stay motivated in our homes without the usual interactions with friends, professors, and staff who serve as constant stimulation. In-person friendships, a backbone of the college experience, are absent. So is access to the studios, laboratories, and workspaces on campus. I am grateful to have working Wi-Fi and my own space in my home. But motivation without the constant stimulation of campus, open-door office hours, and countless hours spent with friends, has been incredibly difficult. Friends and family have become my priority as I schedule Zoom happy hours and Netflix parties to keep intact my very vibrant social life.
My professors have also come up with new ways to keep the exploratory quality of the Union experience alive.
“Hot Topics in Cool Science” is a course that serves as a science requirement for humanities majors like me. As professors and topics change every two weeks, I have discovered new and creative ways to learn about science, all from home.
With Professor Chad Orzel, I constructed a light diffractor to study the behavior of light as a wave and a particle. In the culinary chemistry unit with Professor Joanne Kehlbeck, I was running around my house squirting blue food dye on my tongue to study the behavior of taste buds and creating caramel sauce to experience the nature of amino acids in caramelization and Malliard reactions. In Professor Holli Frey’s unit on climate change, my peers and I participated in weekly analytic discussions on the COVID-19 crisis and its relationship to the climate.
In Professor Jennifer Mitchell’s class, “Queer Theory,” my peers and I collaborated to assemble a collection of creative and analytic work to study the academic discourse. We worked together on our writing in Zoom breakout rooms. And we’ve come up with new ways to visualize theory through the creation of manifestos, timelines or maps.
Virtual learning is hard, especially without the beauty of Union’s collaborative and active campus environment. However, this transition has sparked creativity in ways no one could have predicted.
Mitchell Famulare '21 is a double major in English and art history from Niskayuna, N.Y