New classroom experience offered at UND


Students and instructors discuss new humanities class on Monday. Left to right: Nick Dokkin, Mary Overby, Sarah Heitkamp, Leif Bergerud, Ben Davis. Photo by Brendan McCabe/The Dakota Student.

Instructors from New York University, Columbia University and the University of North Dakota are joining up at UND to teach a new hands on and life experience course. The New Humanitarians class is something that the instructors believe could truly change lives. A discussion of the new class was held Monday in the honors building.

“We have something really new, that hasn’t been taught at any university so far,” Doctoral student from Columbia University and instructor Leif Bergerud said. “We want to do it at the University of North Dakota because we want people to look up the Honors Program of UND and realize that great things go on here.”

The class has a multitude of different subjects throughout the semester, including infectious diseases, gender inequality, water shortages, art activism and poverty.

“There will be two main umbrella topics of the class: women and water,” Leif said.

The New Humanitarians is an intensive four credit semester long class that takes place every Friday from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. during the 2015 Spring semester.

“This class is about as far away from a required class as possible,” Leif said. “You have to take your academic A-game and soul to this class, and take it to a level its never been to before.”

Another way this class differs from the rest is its take on technology. Skype will frequently be used not only to communicate to leading experts around the country, but also to talk with two of the instructors that live in New York City.

Most other forms of technology, including cellphones, laptops and E-readers, will not be permitted.

“There is going to be a lot of technology in the course, but we don’t want it to be overpowering,” instructor Trista Bergerud said. “It’s going to be a discussion based class, and if everyone is hiding behind their laptop the discussion will be lacking.”

Along with group discussions, there are several other key aspects of the course. During the semester, students will read several books. Students are expected to read between 100 and 150 pages per week.

“In many ways, it is more like a think tank than a class,” Leif said. “But it is also very reading intensive. Free writing will be important too, but it is very depressurized writing.”

The main difference with this class and any other is that there will be a trip to New York City over spring break. Students will be individually presenting a project to a group of United Nation panelists. The cost of the trip is $1,750, and will be a great networking opportunity for students, Leif added.

“The trip is not a shopping trip, it is not a vacation,” Leif said. “It will be a lot of fun, but it will also be a lot of work. We want to introduce you to people that are actually taking the problems that we talk about head on.”

Anybody is welcome to try to get into the class, but it is limited to 12 people with students in honors classes given preference.

“We are well-trained thinkers and problem solvers,” graduate student Sarah Heitkamp said. “I hope everyone understands what a great opportunity this is.”

Each instructor plans to bring something new to this class, and each of them has a colorful background, ranging from humanitarian work in Africa to Infectious disease research in North Dakota.

If you would like to learn more about the course or to see the syllabus, Leif Bergerud may be contacted at [email protected].

Brendan McCabe is a staff writer for The Dakota Student he can be reached at [email protected].