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Minor in Disability Studies, New CAP Courses Highlight UD Curriculum Innovations for 2021-22

By Shannon Miller

A new minor and several new courses are among the University of Dayton’s latest offerings for the 2021-22 academic year to help students meet institutional learning goals and to prepare them to live and work in a diverse, global society.

Many of the new courses have been approved for the Common Academic Program, the University’s undergraduate general education curriculum. CAP is designed to give each student a unique academic experience while ensuring their learning experiences align with UD's seven identified institutional learning goals — scholarship, faith traditions, diversity, community, practical wisdom, critical evaluation of our times and vocation.

A new minor invites students to examine conceptions, definitions and expressions of disability in the United States, and encourages greater advocacy for people living with disabilities.

Jana Bennett, professor and chair of the religious studies department and Associate Professor of Religious Studies Meghan Henning worked with several faculty campuswide to launch the new disability studies minor. At the start of the semester, 25 students were enrolled in the foundational course.

“Disability isn’t just limited to a certain set of characteristics we often think of when we hear that term,” Bennett said.

“When we think of disability, we think of using a wheelchair, being blind, being deaf or having other disabilities that are more visible. We classify people in those groups as disabled, then deem everyone else as ‘normal.’”

Bennett said the class will challenge that perception and consider the needs of those with cognitive impairments or chronic illnesses as well. In addition to the foundational course, students working toward the disability studies minor can take existing courses in political science, anthropology, physical therapy, philosophy and other departments that address physical and mental disabilities.

Other new CAP courses allow students to explore topics they wouldn’t typically experience in their academic majors or minors. For example, in Associate Professor of Finance Maria Vivero’s FIN 200: Finance for the Common Good course, students will explore using finance to implement governmental, foundation and nonprofit projects to advance societal goals. Through case studies, students will examine how financial markets can be used to advance common societal goals, and students will also visit businesses and organizations in Dayton that use sustainable business practices.

Global Languages and Cultures Associate Professor Jia Yang is teaching GLC 346: The Language of Food in East Asia, a new course that draws on East Asian foods to examine how spoken languages influence our perceptions of the world. One example includes examining linguistic differences presented in “cheap” versus “expensive” menus in American restaurants. Yang will also explore the East Asian roots of popular American foods and condiments, like ketchup.

Two CAP-approved courses in the School of Engineering aim to integrate engineering expertise with social justice. A new version of EGR 330: Engineering Design and Appropriate Technology is available for students who aren’t planning to participate in an ETHOS international immersion program, but are involved in the Collaborative Online International Learning program with colleges and universities around the world. In this course, UD students will connect with students in other countries on projects, and UD students will study human-centered design with an ETHOS Center partner. Scott Schneider, recently named to a new role within ETHOS as professor for leadership in community, is teaching the COIL version of EGR 330. 

EGR 331: Sociotechnical Engineering for the Common Good, is a new course for students who are participating in a domestic engineering immersion, including those in the Dayton area. Taught by Kelly Bohrer, ETHOS Center executive director, the course allows students during their immersion to dive deeper into community-driven technical projects and integrate social justice and human rights principles into engineering practice.

“Having EGR 330 offered in both the usual version and the COIL version provides more opportunities for students to be involved with the ETHOS Center, regardless of their ability or desire to do an immersion or a breakout,” Bohrer said.

“It expands how a student can connect with our mission and vision of a more just and sustainable world through humanity-centered design, sociotechnical research and cultural immersions. We are thrilled to continue building on our student programming and intentionally connecting the work we do with the engineering curriculum.”

Shannon Shelton MillerAssociate Director of News and Internal Communications, University of Dayton.

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