"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means” said Joan Didion, during a 1976 lecture. I think it’s safe to say that most of us who teach in PWR agree that writing provides a way to make sense of the world, and work to instill that sensibility in our students. And what a world we’ve had to make sense of this past year! Daily life has been monumentally disrupted by COVID-19, while climate change has produced catastrophic weather events around the globe and unprecedented fires right here in the Bay, the increasingly unrepresentative democracy of the US political system has shuddered under the weight of the 2020 election, and never before seen numbers of people have taken to the streets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In PWR, we provide students with a place to use writing and research to understand, and shape, their world, and many of our students have met the moment by choosing to focus on the events of 2020-21 in their research projects.
What follows is a selection of the projects from PWR classes from Spring 2020, Fall 2020, and Winter 2021 that have directly contended with current events. While students’ complex and often-intersectional projects don’t necessarily neatly fit a single descriptive category, I’ve grouped them together to showcase the breadth of disciplines and approaches students have brought to these topics.
With the pandemic sending the class of ’23 home from campus mid-way through their first year, and class of ’24 Frosh spending their entire first year of college in virtual classes, COVID-19 has, understandably, inspired many student projects this year.
One of the Lunsford prize nominees for Spring 2020, Analaura Amezquita Calam, provided an early dive into the pandemic when she explored attacks on medical workers in her project “The Pandemic of Fear." Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9LoPUkLCgA&feature=emb_logo
Other COVID-19 related titles for students’ papers include:
Other explorations of the pandemic have looked at:
Social Justice Movements
Ongoing social justice movements have inspired nearly as many projects as the pandemic, with titles such as:
Additional social justice topics include:
The 2020 Election
2020’s heated presidential campaign, and the aftermath of the election, catalyzed projects on:
Other Current Events
This is a far from comprehensive list of the all the ways PWR students met the moment. Students wrote about many other current events around the globe, including Trevor Cambron’s PWR 2 project “Burning Down the Santa Cruz Mountains: My Escape From One of the Most Destructive Wildfires in California’s History,” which will be published in the Process journal for student writing.
Other contemporary topics include:
The events of 2020-21 will continue to provide material for PWR projects for years come, and I for one look forward to my students continuing to help me make sense of the world.
Header image from: https://www.vcfo.com/blog/business-budgeting-considerations-2021/