By Mohana Das, WIC GTA
Deanna Lloyd, a WIC Seminar 2017 alumna, teaches for the Sustainability Double-Degree Program and the Crop & Soil Science Department. She delights in exploring and teaching about the complex interconnections between environmental, social justice and economic issues. Additionally, she coordinates service-learning and experiential education for her department, each term soliciting and managing projects for approximately 300 students.
In this interview, Mohana Das chats with Deanna about her experience of teaching a WIC course at OSU and how the seminar has helped her pedagogy.
Q: When did you come to OSU? What were you working on before you came to OSU?
A: I have had a few different “positions” within OSU. My time at OSU started in December 2012 as a classified staff person managing service-learning projects for the Crop and Soil Science Department. I then became involved with the Small Farms Program in 2014 and was able to complete a Masters working with that program. After receiving my MS in Crop Science, I was hired as an instructor for the Sustainability Double-Degree Program. Throughout my time here, I have continued to manage service-learning projects and experiential education opportunities and have expanded those opportunities into our SUS courses.
Getting students out to engage and learn in their community is important to my pedagogy so I resonate with the service-learning/experiential education coordinator role. In my five and half years at OSU, I have helped place over 3,000 students in over 500 projects with 50 unique organizations/events. This equates to over 12,000 hours of service provided to the community and that many hours of learning in the “real-world.”
Prior to being hired at OSU, I was the manager at the Corvallis Environmental Center’s SAGE Garden, a local non-profit farm that grows food for local hunger relief agencies and offers educational programs. In this role, I was managing service-learning students as a community partner who benefited from their service. It was easy to transition to then help manage the projects for the CSS department as I understood what it meant to be on the community partner’s side of the relationship.
I was in Bellingham, WA for about 9 years prior to moving to Corvallis. Up there I completed my undergraduate work including a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate for secondary science education and then helped launch a school garden non-profit.
Q: What made you interested in teaching a WIC class? What, in your opinion, feels different when teaching a WIC course compared to teaching another course in your discipline? What sets it apart?
A: I loved the idea of having a small, in-person class to get to know! As mentioned, after a couple undergraduate degrees, I studied education and discovered how much I love teaching. As a kid and young adult I had a fear of speaking in front of people and was incredibly shy so I never saw myself becoming a teacher. What I realized though is that teaching for me isn’t standing and talking in front of people, but rather it’s an art in creative engagement.
With a WIC class, I’m not focused on teaching discipline-specific content, but rather creatively exploring new material with students as they practice writing. Students still learn discipline-specific content but engage with it in a deeper way as they evaluate evidence, discuss, explore perspectives, write for different audiences, review the work of others, etc.
Additionally, since we are examining “agricultural predicaments” in my course, there are no easy right or wrong answers. These type of questions and issues make for the best discussions! Students have to grapple with the ideas and practice “systems thinking” which is pivotal to sustainability. The “ah ha” moments I witnessed were so wonderful to see and they weren’t because I was up lecturing, but rather because students were engaging with one another on meaningful, and sometimes intense, topics. The cap on WIC enrollment ensures not only quality assessment on students’ written work but also the ability to facilitate discussions and learning opportunities that challenge students’ perspectives and encourage growth. Here is what a student expressed in their final reflection:
“I took quite a lot away from this class this term. The material influenced my perceptions on a couple topics but overall, I got more out this class on a personal level. I am generally pretty shy and don’t like to talk in classes, but because of the causal nature of the conversations, it made it easier to share my thoughts on things. As the term progressed I was less nervous about sharing, and on the last day the poster talks were easy.”
Q: How did the WIC seminar influence your WIC course?
A: I was encouraged by the WIC seminar to not underestimate the power of informal writing and assessment. This opened up my creativity as I utilized techniques shared in the seminar and blended them with techniques I had learned through my time educating in grades Pre-K through high school, both in the classroom and outside.
As I reflected on the WIC seminar and conversations, I noticed restrictions on what some people consider discipline-specific writing. It wasn’t the WIC programs expressing these limits, but rather the underlying, and sometimes unconscious, bias of us participants.
For the sciences, a classic scientific paper in the format of a journal article is often considered “discipline-specific.” Yet when polled, only 10% of my students expressed a desire to go to graduate school or into research. I planned accordingly and had a “scientific paper” as a project, but also had students write Extension publications, article reviews, place-based essays, and letters to the editors. These different genres of writings were also encouraged by a faculty member who had previously taught the WIC course and had success with different writing styles.
Q: What advice would you give to instructors who are working on proposing new WIC courses?
A: I would encourage instructors proposing new WIC courses to consider the full spectrum of careers available in their discipline and then create writing assignments, engage in activities, and invite guest speakers that reflect the variety.
For example, I teamed up with Natalia Fernandez at the Multicultural Archives to co-lead an activity examining photographs from the Bracero Farmworker program in Oregon in the 1940s. The activity was so different than their usual science courses that I was uncertain how students would feel about the activity. Student feedback about the experience and resource ended up being incredibly positive! There are so many amazing resources on-campus that we can incorporate into our classrooms with a little planning and creativity!
Q: And finally, if you had to share one anecdote from your WIC class, what would that be?
A: For this question I’ll just share some quotes from my student’s final reflections:
“My job occasionally involves me meeting with legislators or lobbyists and the majority of the discussions involves knowing how to work with people who have completely different political beliefs than you. Getting the different perspectives and learning the best ways to communicate and receive information and opinions is what I will take away the most.”
“It is rare in this day and age that citizens of the U.S. with such different backgrounds and political beliefs can get together and share opinions and try to pinpoint problems that need to be addressed. I say this in all honesty, it is too bad that our government isn’t a little more like this class.”
“This approach brought a new idea to sustainability as not just the idea that we need to save the world as individuals but rather that if we build a culture of teamwork, we can make a much bigger impact.”