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University Relations

Feb. 1, 2008 Communique

Katrina course generates campus, community, global interest

Look around campus and you’ll notice faculty-to-student ratios in the classrooms are generally low. But one class offered this spring, Katrina: The Nation at a Crossroads, turns that ratio on its ear.

For the approximately 20 students enrolled in the ethnic studies/women’s studies course, there are more than 30 speakers who represent local and visiting specialists from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives. In addition, individuals affected by the 2005 hurricane and some who took part in the relief efforts will speak with the class.

It doesn’t take advanced math to figure out that’s more than one “instructor” per student.

“When we first began brainstorming about the class, I decided to circulate an e-mail to UCCS faculty and staff asking anyone interested in the topic to contact me,” Andrea Herrera, director, Women’s and Ethnic Studies Program, said. “Without exaggeration, within less than 60 seconds I received three responses. Within a day, nearly 40 people expressed interest in the course and volunteered their time and expertise. The response was overwhelming.”

Herrera and Michael Larkin, instructor, Geography, are the faculty members responsible for pulling together this far-reaching lineup. The idea for the course sprang from a conversation about Spike Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke.

“Michael suggested that we present the film as part of the Women’s and Ethnic Studies Film Series,” Herrera said. “This led to a discussion of the idea that Katrina had virtually disappeared off of the public’s radar screen. It was at that moment that Michael and I realized that we needed to teach a course that would keep the conversation about Katrina going , a conversation about the devastating and ongoing effects of the Hurricane throughout the entire Gulf Coast region, a conversation about the reality that was put into stark relief regarding the racial and class inequality that continues to haunt our nation.”

Some of the themes that will be addressed include the role of race, gender, and class in the disaster; New Orleans’ unique physical and cultural geography; the role of the media in covering the events; the political and cultural aftermath; and artistic or cultural responses to the hurricane.

“Our efforts have attracted both national and international attention,” Herrera said. “In addition to corresponding with specialists from across the United States, I am in contact with a colleague from the University of Liverpool. Our syllabus was also posted on a national web site. As a result, I am collaborating with colleagues from across the country, including the Gulf Coast, who are teaching similar courses. In addition to sharing information and resources, I have received quite a bit of feedback regarding the structure and content of our course.”

All lectures and presentations are open to the campus and the community. The class meets 4:30 p.m. to 8:05 p.m., Tuesdays in Dwire Hall 121.

Course highlights include:

  • March 11: “By Invitation Only,” screening with film producer Rebecca Snedecker
  • March 18: 5:30 p.m. Read-In at the Kraemer Family Library with Gregory Squires, professor, George Washington University, and co-editor of the collection, “There is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster.” The book will be available for purchase before the lecture with proceeds directed to relief efforts.
  • April 8: “Katrina Through the Eyes of Children,” traveling art exhibit featuring the artwork of children impacted by the hurricane.
  • April 29: “Still Waiting,” screening with filmmaker Kate Browne, Colorado State University
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