Teaching from the Top

Uploaded by mountholyokenews on 11.03.2011

Lynn Pasquerella: "The prosecutor wants a quick clean story about what the defendant did to the victim."
This isn’t a Board of Trustees meeting or presidential office hours, but that is
Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella.
((Bit of Lynn Pasquerella teaching))
This semester, even with what could easily be described as a packed schedule,
Pasquerella—a philosopher--is co-teaching a Sociology of Prisons
course with criminologist Richard Moran.
Lynn Pasquerella, Mount Holyoke President, “We had the opportunity to work together
over the summer when I came on board. He actually came to see me during my first week of open
office hours, and we began talking about issues and I said ‘You know, I never had a chance
to take a course with you, but I would love to teach a course with you.’ And the more
we talked about the issues that were at the center of our work, the more we realized that
it would be a great course, and the opportunity to teach together has been invaluable.”
Richard Moran, Professor of sociology: “It’s very easy to teach a class with her. She has
an ability to draw people out…I think it’s this ability to listen, and probably empathy,
and she really is excellent at that. Sometimes in a class, certain students don’t feel
like they can speak. In this class, they’re not afraid,
which you would think they would be.” (Chuckles)
Meredith Spencer Blaetz ‘10, “The first few classes were a little odd.
She sort of has a celebrity status on campus. But she’s just like any other professor I’ve had.
She’s extremely smart—you can tell it from the minute she starts talking.
She doesn’t just lecture for three hours. She makes activities.
She wants us to be engaged with what she’s talking about.
Spending time with her, in her specialty outside of her presidential role has been great.”
With a student to teacher ratio of 9 to 2, there’s been plenty of opportunity for students
to spend time with President Pasquerella in an intimate setting.
But that also means there’s no opportunity to hide from the work—or
one another’s viewpoints. Pasquerella: “I love our students, and the way they are so
directly engaged with issues. They can do what I hope for in philosophy students which
is to propose, construct, evaluate arguments, anticipate, and respond to objections, but most of all,
they treat each other with respect, so that even in cases where there is vehement disagreement,
they’re always attacking the argument and not the person. So it furthers reason to debate
about the most difficult issues that we have to face in our society. So I’ve loved every
minute of working with our students.” ((Pasquerella and Moran debating one another))
As the students in the Sociology of Prisons course now know, in class debates often begin with the teachers
Moran: “I think that that’s really the key to the course…If you had two people
in there basically with the same viewpoint and the same knowledge set, what you’d basically
be teaching students is what to think, not how to think.”
Blaetz: “They started off the first class talking about
the difference between Philosophy which is kind of Lynn's
specialty and Sociology which is Richard's specialty,
so we were able to get the basis of those two disciplines
and then be able to apply them to the larger concepts
of punishment and prisons. They do disagree in class
sometimes,but it’s nice to see because when you have
one professor, you don’t get that, you get their
point of view whether you realize it or not. So we take notes on everything
that they’re saying. It’s a controversial subject, so of course there’s going to be
lots of different opinions, so it’s nice to be able to get all of them in one three
hour session.” Despite their philosophical differences,
Moran says he’s benefitted from working so closely with President Pasquerella.
Moran: “There’s something positive that happens if you know the president of the college.
There’s just more of a feeling of belonging… And I think for the students
it’s even greater. How many colleges can students
take a course from the president?...Most
campuses, the students have never even seen the president, wouldn’t recognize him or her
if they walked right by them. But I think there’s
some kind of personal payoff in just knowing her.
And if they watch how she operates, they can learn an awful lot.”
Including how to fit an awful lot…in an already crowded presidential schedule.
This is Max Pearlstein from the Mount Holyoke Office of Communications.