A Virus and an Epiphany


The Map, by Mary Cassatt, 1890. Collection of the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University

As our spring course in mass media framing entered its final throes a few weeks ago—before universities decided to offer courses remotely or virtually—I noticed a clutch of students was hanging out in the classroom, even though the final bell had rung.

Students weren’t waiting for me as I tucked my papers into my over-stuffed bag.

Instead, they were conferring—somewhat passionately—about the day’s readings.

Typically, students leave in a rush when a class ends—to catch their bus or run to their next class.

Our course is the last in the daily schedule, and sometimes students hang back.

But this was the first—in a long time—that students were engaged ardently in a discussion after class ended.

The fact the course had a life beyond its borders made me proud—proud the students indulged in their learning, sharing thoughts, and carrying their ideas with them.

Later in the term, the graduate students who were in the class were able to gather in a small, supper seminar before voluntary isolation became widespread.

The remaining students who conferred—those feeling well and willing to keep a safe distance—presented their papers.

Their orations were planned to last five minutes.

But they ignored the guidelines and spent 20 to 30 minutes each, sharing their discoveries.

Each student dug deeply into her or his topic about the role of media and framing in society and culture.

Each shared what was gleaned from theory and research, and each took a leap of faith and considered how we might learn from our studies and make improvements in the world.

Before we knew it, the clock struck 10 p.m.

We were captivated by the chance to learn.

To think.

To listen.

To talk.

To explore.

To share.

I won’t soon forget the evening when a group of students probed and questioned ideas; struck out—on their own—into abstract terrains; and offered up their views for scrutiny.

Now that’s what I call learning.


21 March 2020

 With acknowledgement and gratitude to the Native peoples on whose land I live, write and teach: the Multnomah, the Clackamas, and the denizens of all Indigenous nations

 With thanks to the students who make my life so rich by their willingness to learn













About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in nativescience. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Virus and an Epiphany

  1. Maria DePriest says:

    Cynthia, this is a beautifully written celebration of teaching done so well that your students immersed themselves and presented their discoveries with passion. Bravo to you and all your students!


  2. Cynthia, this sounds like one of those uber rare teaching moments. Blessings.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s