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Experiential learning in the humanities


Erin Wunker, English and Canadian Studies


“I’ve learned that big ideas are worth working with and trying to bring to students. Think large, broad and zany. Thoughtful innovation can help make learning exciting.”

Given the ways that humanities continue to be challenged in the popular media, Assistant Professor Erin Wunker is working hard to empower her students by having them discover for themselves how the traditional tools of literary scholarship apply in their post–graduation experiences.

Dr. Wunker’s fourth-year seminar class is a perfect example of how her students are learning to find valuable, broad applications for literary skills they are learning in the classroom. In the traditional spirit of the commons as a space for public interaction, students are required to propose an act and follow up on civic engagement projects, thereby taking the theoretical material from the classroom out into the world.

In one noteworthy project, one of her students created what Dr. Wunker considers “an affective map of the city.” Using Google, the student set up an open-access map of the city of Halifax, and invited people to drop pins in areas where they’ve cried in public. The project allowed the class to work with an extremely avant-garde piece of Canadian poetry that uses conceptual poetry techniques to think about citizenship.

“Using the student’s project, we were able to think about the ways that emotions and affect can be translated into an image or a website that other people would be drawn to and moved to contribute to,” Dr. Wunker explained.

Innovation by collaboration

Dr. Wunker is no stranger to innovation. She’s currently collaborating with International Development Studies Professor John Cameron to develop a unique interdisciplinary class called Halifax and the World. The first-year class aims to give students in Canadian Studies and International Development Studies an understanding of the city they live in and how their actions and choices here in Halifax affect the lives of those living elsewhere in the world. Read more about this interesting collaboration.

“I’ve learned that big ideas are worth working with and trying to bring to students,” says Dr. Wunker. “Think large, broad and zany. Thoughtful innovation can help make learning exciting.”