St. Francis Xavier University

10/09/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/09/2019 10:42

The Holocaust & Now: StFX, Maple League offer immersive learning experience to students and alumni

Students and alumni from StFX and its Maple League of Universities partners have a unique opportunity to learn about the Holocaust and the relevance of Holocaust education today through a new Maple League immersion spring session course, The Holocaust & Now.

The course, delivered through distance education and immersive, in-person learning in Europe, brings history, psychology, sociology, education, art, and more fields together with experiential learning, to examine human behaviour and experience during and after the Holocaust with a focus on the relevance of Holocaust education today. Students will be able to tailor course content to their specific program while also participating in a general curriculum focused on understanding the human context of the Holocaust.

Along with readings, class discussions and assignments, the course includes a 16 day immersion portion travelling to Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic with faculty leaders Dr. Karen Blair and Dr. Rhea Hoskin. The group will visit sites relevant to the Holocaust and will participate in unique immersive learning experiences. Students from all disciplines and years are welcome to apply before the Oct. 15, 2019 deadline.

'Holocaust education is at a turning point where we are currently educating the very last generation who will ever have the chance to meet and hear from a Holocaust survivor firsthand,' says Dr. Blair, a StFX psychology professor.

'Consequently, the future of Holocaust education now rests in their hands - how will they use that information? How will they continue to share survivors' stories with the world? Being able to say to their children, grandchildren 'I visited these sites, I heard from survivors with my own ears.' will be incredibly powerful once there are no longer any survivors with us,'

In 2016, Dr. Blair began teaching a fourth year psychology seminar course on the Social Psychology of the Holocaust, which later led to designing StFX's annual Germany/Poland Service Learning trip that takes students to Germany and Poland over reading week to learn about the Holocaust.

PROPER CONTEXT

She says the idea for the Maple League course came about so that students could have enough prior knowledge of the Holocaust to add proper context to what they're seeing to get the most out of the experience.

Holocaust knowledge has been slowly decreasing over time, she says, yet, there are a number of universal lessons that can be applied from the Holocaust to current day events, and indeed to future events yet to happen.

'Demystifying the humans who were involved, critically examining the behaviour of perpetrators, bystanders, and rescuers, as well as intimately seeking to understand the experiences of victims are all important for understanding humanity and human behaviour in any context,' she says.

'Students who have taken similar courses or participated in the StFX Holocaust Service learning trip speak of the experience as life-changing. For many, participating in this course will be a once in a lifetime experience that they carry with them for the rest of their lives and that will shape the way that they interact with others on a day-to-day basis.'

Dr. Blair says one of the unique features of the Holocaust & Now course is that it isn't just about learning about the Holocaust, it's also a critical examination of Holocaust education and will encourage students to think deeply about what the future of Holocaust education will look like and what role they will play.

TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING

She says the idea to open the course to the Maple League of Universities made sense.

'The Maple League of Universities focuses on providing transformative learning experiences with immersive elements. The Maple League also allows us to harness the power of four smaller universities to tackle ambitious projects like this one. It may be difficult to find 12 students from one campus alone who would have the means and interest in participating in such a course, but across four campuses, and across the alumni of all four campuses, we have no doubt that we'll find enough interested participants.

'There's also something special added to the experience by travelling with peers from other institutions. At the end of the day, much of what happened to allow the Holocaust to occur can be boiled down to viewing the world through the lens of 'us vs. them.' Bringing students together who perhaps sometimes take an 'us vs. them' perspective on each other can further contribute to building a transformative learning environment.'

The course is interdisciplinary and is aimed to appeal to students across any area of study. In fact, the final assignment will be tailored to each students' interests and academic needs.

The course is designed as a 300 level course, but it is open to students from first year onward. Any student can apply. Additionally, because the course is offered through Continuing Education studies, it is also open to alumni and friends of the Maple League universities, meaning that applicants do not need to be current university students to apply.

Dr. Blair brings to the course her expertise teaching the fourth year seminar on the Social Psychology of the Holocaust, developing StFX's annual Holocaust Service Learning Trip and her experience in studying human behaviour: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Her research interests dovetail with this perspective on human behaviour, as she studies Holocaust education, prejudice, hate-crimes, and mass-shootings, but also studies relationships, social support, resiliency and health.

Dr. Hoskin's background is in gender studies, feminist sociology and social psychology. Her research focuses on gender roles and their association with violence. In the context of the Holocaust, she studies how masculinity and femininity, as well as views of both of these constructs, influenced perpetrator behaviour and were used to shape the dehumanizing victims. Dr. Hoskin co-led the first Holocaust Service Learning trip in 2018.