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Students choose Sociology over spare time during snow day

Written collectively by Dr. Dennis Hiebert and the Global Problems and Change class.

They were not going to let another snowstorm rob them of another class.  As March went out like a lion, and classes were again cancelled on the last afternoon of the month, the students in one University College course were not going to go gleefully back to the dorms.

Global Problems and Change, an upper level sociology course, is scheduled as a double block class this semester, which means that it meets for its two 75 minute classes back to back on Monday afternoons.  The course had already lost one week’s classes to a snowstorm in January, and it looked like it was going to happen again.  After the morning classes had run as usual, the administration cancelled all classes for the afternoon as one last(?) blast of an interminable winter whipped the campus.

Dr. Dennis Hiebert, the instructor of the course, decided to stay for lunch before heading home to get an early start on some grading.  But several students in the course happened to meet him in the dining room and expressed how very disappointed they were that the class had been cancelled.  They had been eagerly looking forward to discussing the week’s assigned readings, viewing the scheduled video, and listening to the guest lecture.  So on the spur of the moment, the prof and the students decided to go ahead and have an optional class regardless of the weather conditions, because hey, the snow flying by the window was not (yet) perfectly horizontal, and not (yet) a white-out.

The students quickly texted their classmates and finished their lunch.  Twenty minutes later two-thirds of the enrolled students were gathered in the classroom, showing no signs of feeling like self-conscious keeners.  The topic was global poverty, and they just really wanted to process the assigned materials, reports such as “Global Poverty and the New Bottom Billion” , articles such as “In Praise of Leisure”, and videos such as “Wealth Inequality in America”. 

Together they watched the scheduled BBC video of a debate in Africa between world leaders on the causes, character, and course of world poverty.  Though the students could have watched the video individually on their own, they wanted to distill and deliberate it together.  They did not get to hear the accompanying guest lecture on fair trade by Professor Val Hiebert, but that component was rescheduled as an option later in the week, when three-quarters of the class showed up voluntarily to carry the conversation further.

Bravely making their way back to the dorms through the storm, the students pondered the complex challenges of the world beyond their own experience of it, or engagement in it, so far.  Safely making his way back home, Dr. Hiebert marvelled at Providence students more intent on learning together than on time off, and too engaged to let a little blizzard get in the way.

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