The coronavirus pandemic has affected the entire world—but how exactly has it affected us at the local and community level here in Sarasota and Manatee? New College of Florida is looking to provide some knowledge to the public with an online course called "Understanding Covid-19: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Pandemic," where students and the public can learn about the history of pandemics, and how Covid-19 affects us on a biological, philosophical and psychological level.
On Thursday, Sept. 17, the public can join the free online class at 6 p.m., which will discuss how the course was developed. The course will be presented by religion professor Manuel Lopez and digital librarian Cal Murgu, who also created the course.
"As an academic institution, we have a responsibility to try and determine what we do and don't know in terms of the pandemic," says Lopez. "We are concerned about the public gaining misinformation, and one way to help process the crisis in real time is to develop a class looking at the pandemic through an interdisciplinary lens."
The class meets twice a week online and provides class credit to New College students, some of whom are also interns with the Multicultural Health Institute run by Dr. Lisa Merritt, where they learn about the coronavirus on a local level. The public can visit the course's website and watch recorded lectures and access course material, including animated videos and student roundtable discussions.
The Multicultural Health Institute has also partnered with New College to provide local doctor and epidemiologist speakers for lectures. In addition, 20 different New College faculty members have contributed to the course, including philosophy, sociology, biology and economics professors.
"Participants will learn how SARS-Cov-2 functions on a molecular level, as well as the sociological and cultural implications of the virus," says Murgu. Next week, the course will discuss the history of vaccines, and how important a coronavirus vaccine will be to our community and world.
"We see this class as a time capsule," says Lopez. "No one has all the answers now, only theories on how to deal with the virus. And it's our responsibility to explore all the questions available to us."
Since New College is a liberal arts college, Lopez says it aims to look at the virus from angles besides science, such as how public health measures have impacted social behavior, the subsequent economic collapse and political tensions surrounding Covid-19. The class will also discuss the skepticism about masks and the science behind wearing them.
"This class is also a unique opportunity for students to engage with faculty members," says Murgu. "It's what a liberal arts education is all about."
"Understanding Covid-19: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Pandemic" will take place Thursday, Sept. 17 ,at 6 p.m. on the course's website.