UW News

October 30, 2020

‘2020: The Course’ ponders the meaning of this unusual year

UW News

For a time unlike any before, the University of Washington has developed “2020: The Course,” a new online class for UW students that helps contextualize this year’s extraordinary events and societal upheaval. “2020: The Course” gives students an opportunity to hear from UW professors and special guests who will discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, race in the United States, the state of the environment, the economic recession, civic participation, citizenship and this election season and outcomes.

This course, much of which is now available to the public, probes what national thought leaders are doing to meet the imperatives of this particular moment through their research, scholarship and service.

Among the featured speakers are UW President Ana Mari Cauce; UW Provost Mark Richards; Hillary Godwin, dean of the UW School of Public Health; Bob Stacey, dean of the UW College of Arts & Sciences; UW sociology professor Alexes Harris; UW history professor Margaret O’Mara; and writer and UW English professor Shawn Wong. A complete list of the invited experts is here.

Ed Taylor

“2020 has been a year like no other. It will be a year that will be remembered for the ways in which our university, nation, communities and world have been impacted,” said Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and lead instructor for the course. “We must also look at 2020 as a year in which we contributed to the betterment of our world and society.”

About 600 UW students, including from UW Bothell and UW Tacoma and including both undergraduate and graduate students, are engaging with a series of talks, lectures and conversations with scholars representing colleges and schools across all three UW campuses. Students are also documenting their own experiences in such a way that a time capsule can be created for future generations of UW teachers and learners.

Taylor noted that being a student at the UW means being invited into the spheres of ideas and lines of inquiry to which UW’s teachers and researchers dedicate their lives – and continuously bringing clarity of thought to the following questions:

  • How do we know what we know?
  • How do we know what we don’t know?
  • How do we decide what’s important to learn?

This educational vision and these questions are expressed throughout the UW’s curriculum, but most often in implicit ways, Taylor said. The purpose of this course is to animate this vision more explicitly through the presentation of and engagement with researchers and teachers whose work is meeting the moment – namely, 2020.

Joseph Janes of the Information School, author of Documents that Changed the Way We Live

Joseph JanesMary Levin

“How shall this moment be remembered?” asked UW Information School professor Joseph Janes, one of the nearly 20 public scholars presenting during the course. Janes, known for his podcast, “Documents that Changed the World,” came up with the idea to include a time capsule.

The time capsule will consist of contributions from students and faculty, including a poem by Wong, and others associated with “2020: The Course.” The capsule will be sealed and stored for safekeeping at UW Libraries, to be opened again in 20 years in partnership with the UW Alumni Association.

“2020 will be a year we will never forget, yet we will not be eager to remember,” said Janes. “By creating a time capsule, students will be part of creating an indelible legacy, recalling this remarkable year.”

The course began asynchronously on Sept. 30 and continues until the end of the quarter in mid-December. Videos of the lectures will be made available here , and typically will contain three parts: an introduction, a lecture and then follow-on conversation between Taylor and the other scholar.

For more information, contact Victor Balta, balta@uw.edu.

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