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Connecting remotely with authors and thinkers

Monday, July 20th, 2020

Professor Renée Cramer
Photo credit: Betsy Rudicil @Rudicil Photography

In Renée Cramer’s Reproductive Law and Politics course, students have the opportunity not only to read influential works but also to meet with the authors personally.

Jennifer Block, an independent journalist who writes about health, gender, and conflict of interest in medicine, planned to visit the Drake campus in April. Students in Cramer’s class had read one of Block’s books and were anticipating meeting her when the trip had to be canceled due to COVID-19. Despite this setback, Cramer was able to arrange for Block to speak with the class remotely via videoconferencing. Within the same week, California filmmakers Angie and Mike Sonrode, who made The MidDrift Movement, also visited the class via a virtual drop-in.

“Higher education is much more adaptable than it may appear,” Cramer said. “I’ve centered myself on serving students, and I think I will emerge a better instructor as a result of this forced move to remote instruction.”

The pandemic didn’t stop influential changemakers from visiting Professor Renée Cramer’s Reproductive Law and Politics course, and on the last day of class, students even received a surprise visit from a llama.

Cramer also recognized the stress the pandemic was causing in her students’ lives.

“We spend the first 15 minutes of every session checking in: where are you, how are you, what are you noticing, doing?” Cramer said. “Then we dig into the readings, and the students have been absolutely brilliant.”

In her final class session, Cramer told her students how much she appreciated them, and then invited the Des Moines Blank Park Zoo staff to bring a llama and a rabbit to the class for 15 minutes to lighten the mood.

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