Throughout the year, our Scholars faculty and staff across programs will share their responses to three questions around our 2018–19 annual theme, "Migrations: Populations and Practices on the Move." The questions typically relate to a resource directors are using in class. Following is another entry in our “3 Questions With…” series. The first entry was with Tim Knight, director of the Environment, Technology and Economy Scholars program. The second was with Thomas Holtz, director of the Science and Global Change program. The third talks with Elisabeth Maring, director of the Global Public Health program.
Name: Dr. Beth Parent
Program: Life Sciences
Resource: First-year colloquium lecture series
Q1: How did you come up with the idea to organize the colloquium into five modules, and how did you present them in class?
The five topics were Eat, Drink, Sleep, Stress, Relax. I talked about the evolutionary basis of these five factors (why do we crave high fat/sugar foods?, the fight-or-flight response that we overuse in modern times); the neurophysiology (the hippocampus is crucial in all of these responses!); physiology, cell biology and molecular biology; and the connections between all these elements (stomach cells can sense they are no longer taking up nutrients, so they release a molecule to send a signal to the hippocampus to make us feel hungry.).
When you teach, you should make the information relevant to the students. I thought, “What do all of these students have in common?” That led me to choose topics that would affect them more as first-year college students than in high school. I presented them as lectures at a level that all majors would understand while emphasizing the issues that were impacting them: We crave high-fat and -sugar foods because they were scarce for our ancestors. Sleep really is important, and there are impacts on your body and brain when you don’t get enough. Relaxing doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money, and there are studies backing methods that might seem “New Age,” such as yoga and meditation.
Q2: What kinds of reactions did you find with these lectures--would you repeat this in the future?
Overall the response was positive. There were many questions during the lectures and discussions after class. Some students actually thanked me because the information was so helpful! I definitely plan to continue these topics in the future.
Q3: What does “Migrations” mean to your Scholars program?
In their beginning-of-semester reflections, students said that college would be different from high school because of more independence and “all the free time.” At the end of the semester, they talked about how that free time had to go to studying, and they had to work to prioritize, handle stress and not procrastinate.
Our students all migrated geographically, but I see them as migrating emotionally and mentally as well. They have moved from being high schoolers with built-in structure to college students who constantly have to make choices regarding their education and life.