For the first time, the MTSU Honors College will have two lecture series — by remote delivery — in the same semester.
“Civic Virtue” will take place at 3 p.m. every Monday (except Sept. 7 because of Labor Day) from Aug. 24 through Nov. 9. It is being coordinated by professor Mary Evins of the Honors faculty and Philip Phillips, Honors College associate dean.
“Images and Icons,” coordinated by Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies associate professor Rebekka King, will be held for students at 2:45 p.m. each Tuesday from Aug. 25 through Nov. 10.
The Honors College decided last academic year that offering two sections occasionally would help meet the growing demand for the class among our students, for whom the lecture series class counts toward the minor in Honors and graduation from the Honors College.
“Because of COVID-19, we decided to change the class from web-assisted to remote delivery,” Phillips said. “Most of the lectures will be delivered synchronously via Zoom, but a few of them will be prerecorded and made available to the students enrolled in the class.” (In the past, the public was invited to attend any in-person lectures. Phillips said most of the lectures will be posted online and made available to the public.)
“Although we would very much like to have the face-to-face interaction in the courses, we are doing our best under the circumstances to safeguard the health of our students and speakers,” Phillips said. “We anticipate that our students will be engaged electronically this semester.”
Discussing the Civic Virtue series, research professor and American Democracy Project coordinator Evins said at MTSU, “being True Blue expresses the civic virtues we want for our university. At the Honors College, arête, the name of our college magazine, means excellence, which represents what we value.”
“In this course, we are examining how we ‘promote the general welfare’ for our community, albeit sometimes at the cost of our own individual preferences,” added Evins, whose areas of expertise are social and political history and women’s history. “There is no greater symbol or metaphor for civic virtue in the present day than the humble cloth face mask.”
A scholar of religion with expertise in Christianity, King said “icons served as an important venue to both communicate and generate religious ideas or ‘truths.’ In the early church, before widespread literacy, they were also beautifully crafted works of art that were capable of evoking experiences beyond the constraints of language.”
King said she will be asking students “to think about the images that surround them and how they relate to them.”
“I am hoping that we will be able to capture this moment in time in which images are taking back the prominence that has been held by written texts since the introduction of the printing press, mass communication, industrialization and modernity. I want us to think very intentionally about what types of icons we find around us, how they communicate with their audiences and what they tell us, if anything, about who we are and what it means to be human.”
One Civic Virtue lecture, the Sept. 14 “Public Participation is our Work, Your Work: How to Influence Elected Officials” presentation by Beth Harwell, MTSU Distinguished Visiting Lecturer since fall 2019, will be filmed and posted on YouTube and be made available to the general public.
It is possible for students to take both classes this semester. Honors students may take the course up to three times for up to three hours of honors credit. Also, the courses meet on two separate days.
“We want our students to engage with topics of current and often enduring relevance and to invite speakers to address those topics from a diverse range of disciplinary and professional perspectives,” Phillips said.
The Civic Virtue and Images and Icons lecture series have an added dimension for Sept. 17 Constitution Day events.
“As always, we will encourage students to involve themselves in Constitution Day events and to vote in the upcoming election,” Phillips said. “Because both classes are MT Engage (enhancing student academic engagement) courses, students will participate in beyond-the-classroom activities (which may be virtual) and write reflective essays.”
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)