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Contributor Name: Holly Gallagher
Created: March 19, 2020 at 9:37 AM

Story: What are your experiences teaching & learning in the time of coronavirus?

A little over a month ago, when my science and health writing class read an article on pandemics, we considered the possibility that we might soon experience the outbreak of a virus, but we didn’t really think that we would be responding to such a widespread and rapidly circulating virus so soon. Reading Ed Yong’s July/August 2018 The Atlantic Monthly article, “When the Next Plague Hits,” prompted us to discuss the increased likelihood of zoonotic diseases, as growing populations living in closer proximity to wildlife make it more likely that we’ll see diseases spread from animals to people. At the time, we talked about the media’s coverage of the newly reported zoonotic virus spreading in China, without realizing that this virus would be the next plague that Yong encouraged us to anticipate.

As I now consider what this class should cover in the last few weeks of the semester, I am hoping to inspire the students to continue writing about science and health issues beyond assignments for the class. The students in the class aren’t planning to be professional writers—they’re all planning careers in health and animal science fields—but they have now experienced the power of sharing controversial topics and ethical issues in research with broader audiences. Though I’ve always seen the writing we do as important beyond the academic world, I have a newfound motivation to encourage students to communicate with audiences beyond their immediate fields through writing, as the spread of their ideas may prevent or diminish devastation of the diseases they study.

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