Free Course for Incoming Undergraduate Students

Pacific University's College of Arts and Sciences invites all incoming Fall 2020 students (first-year and transfer undergraduates) to participate in this free, one-credit academic course before college even starts!

Understanding COVID-19: Liberal Arts Perspectives (PACU-155) is a free online course, and it can be applied toward your undergraduate degree. Enhance your college career with an impactful and relevant introduction to critical thinking and analysis in the liberal arts. 

A welcome message from your host professor, Dr. Jaye Cee Whitehead

Welcome to Pacific University! 

Iwhitehead am Dr. Jaye Cee Whitehead, and I will be your host professor for PACU 155. I created this course imagining that your usual introduction to Pacific and the kind of education we provide has been interrupted by COVID-19.

Once you have completed this course, you will have had the chance to learn from six Pacific professors from six different disciplines in the college. You will also meet at least one Junior or Senior at Pacific who has worked closely with these professors; these students will guide you in discussions after each faculty presentation.

Pacific is a small school fueled by the close relationships between faculty, staff and students.  We are a caring collectivity eager to get to know our newest members at a time when we are all feeling disconnected from our usual networks and routines.  I hope this course will give you a small taste of how a quality college education can help you find meaning and a sense of purpose in your world.

Enjoy this short welcome video, filmed on our beautiful campus!

Class Meeting Dates & Times

The course begins Tuesday, May 26, 2020. We will meet on Zoom once a week every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. Pacific time (PDT) for six weeks. The last day of class is June 30th, 2020.

Enrolling in the course is free for all admitted first-year and transfer students starting at Pacific University this Fall 2020. All readings and other materials will be provided free of cost. Students will need access to the internet in order to stream the lectures and discussion groups via Zoom.

Best of all, the course credits can be applied toward your total credits needed to graduate from Pacific University!

How to Register for this Class

Please complete the Academic Interest Survey by the priority deadline of Sunday, May 17th to register for PACU 155. You will only complete one depending on how you are entering Pacific University:

Understanding COVID-19: Liberal Arts Perspectives (PACU-155) Course Description

Why were we unprepared for the novel coronavirus? What will be the lasting social, psychological, political and environmental impacts of the pandemic? What does the human response to COVID-19 tell us about human expression, creativity and hope when faced with fear and uncertainty? This special topics course will feature Pacific professors in the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences who will uncover dynamics and forecast impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic (1 credit, Pass/No Pass).

Meet Pacific Faculty & Students

You will get the chance to see Pacific professors in action. A few returning Pacific students have been selected to lead breakout discussions after faculty presentations. We know you’re going to enjoy getting to know some Pacific professors and students before the semester even begins.  

Dr. Jaye Cee Whitehead (Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences) will introduce the faculty and be your discussant.

Course Session Details

May 26th, 2020
Dr. Jim Moore | The Political Context for COVID-19

MooreOur responses to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 are led by politicians, very few of whom have any expertise in virology, public health, ethics, or any of the other concerns that we all have. How do political systems come to have such power over our lives? What are the different political systems? How do international responses differ from those in the United States? This overview will give you the analytical tools to understand and evaluate the policies, the politicians, and the responses from your fellow citizens as we experience these extraordinary times.

Dr. Jim Moore teaches in Pacific’s Politics and Government department. He has been known quote ancient Greeks, sing in Italian, use interpretive dance, inflict awful accents on his students, and give extra credit to those who finish the daily New York Times crossword puzzle—without using the internet.

Meet Dr. Moore's Student Discussion Leaders:

  • Tera Cafro - Politics & Government major
  • Lilly Mejia (she, her, hers) - Politics & Government major
  • Gina Kelley (she, her, hers) - Politics & Government major
  • Quinn Sykora (he, him, his) - Sociology major
  • Brittany Miller (she, her, hers) - Politics & Government and Psychology double major
  • Olivia Murray Ceriello (she, her, hers) - Political Science major

June 2nd, 2020
Dr. Ian Besse | Mathematically modeling the spread of infectious disease

besseThe real power of mathematics lies not in complex calculations, but in its ability to provide us with a  unique lens through which to view problems. When viewed from a mathematical perspective and translated into the language of mathematics, many otherwise intractable problems become solvable, often providing profound insight into the ways in which our world works. One area in which such mathematical modeling provides us with tremendous insight and predictive capabilities is in the area of mathematical epidemiology. This lecture will discuss the ways in which mathematics can be used to model and simulate the spread of infectious disease and how this can help inform the decisions we make when confronting an epidemic.

Meet Dr. Besse's Student Discussion Leaders:

  • Tiare Guerrero (she, her, hers) - Physics & Math major
  • Zena Stevens (she, her, hers) - Math major
  • Kara Putman (she, her, hers) - Math major
  • Kaira Bird (she, they) - Psychology major
  • Fernando Lira (he, him, his) - Business Administration major

June 9th, 2020
Dr. Jennifer Hardacker | You're starring in a Hollywood Movie

hardackerIf it feels like you're living in some made for Hollywood version of your life these days, it may be because Hollywood has in fact made this movie before--dozens of times. Outbreaks (and the many versions of zombies said outbreaks produce) make for gripping drama, and reassuring resolutions. In this session, we'll look at the way this sub-genre of films holds a mirror to society to reflect back to us our collective values and fears.



Meet Dr. Hardacker's Student Discussion Leaders:

  • Quint Iverson - Film & Journalism major
  • Morgan Stone (she, her, hers) - Film major
  • Abby Weinman (she, her, hers) - Theatre, Film major
  • Alex Foley (he, him, his) - Film/Video Major
  • Nicole Servin - Sociology, Film/Video major

June 16th, 2020 
Dr. Rebecca Schoon | Public Health vs. Pandemics

schoonThe COVID-19 pandemic is the most significant public health crisis to emerge in decades, raising questions that are central to the field: how to prevent its spread? Who is at highest risk and why? How can we design an effective and acceptable response? This discussion will introduce strategies that public health can apply to reduce the threat of the pandemic, from epidemiological tools to macro social policies. We will consider how the virus reveals pre-existing vulnerabilities in our society and how we might build more resilient systems for any such threats in the future.


Meet Dr. Schoon's Student Discussion Leaders:

  • Kelsey Nakagawa (she, her, hers) - Public Health major
  • Killian Lynch (she, they) - Public Health major
  • Carolyn Ngo (she, her, hers) - Public Health, Biology major
  • Kaira Bird (she, they) - Psychology major
  • Zoe Kim-Maskell  

June 23rd, 2020
Dr. Ben Hole | Ethics for a “Wicked” COVID-19 Problem

holeSome problems resist solutions. Their dimensions are unclear, incomplete, inconsistent, unstable, and involve multiple scales. Because accepted ethical theories fail to motivate solutions, these “wicked” problems pressure us to develop ethical theory, exercise moral imaginations, and discover creative solutions. To learn about ethical theory, we will apply dominant approaches to ethical dilemmas that healthcare professionals are facing today amidst shortages of medical resources – “trolley problems” have become commonplace. Then, we will look at other dimensions of the pandemic, as a wicked problem, and reflect on creative solutions for what is in our control. Pacific University provides you with special opportunities through civic engagement.  

Meet Dr. Hole's Student Discussion Leaders:

  • Ariel Watanabe (they, them) - Environmental Studies, Philosophy major
  • Reece Rhinehart (he, him, his) - Biology major
  • Majestik De Luz - Psychology, Philosophy major
  • Karsen Buck (she, her, hers) - Applied Sustainability for Environmental Science major
  • Fernando Lira (he, him, his) - Business Administration major
  • Seirra Wolfe - Physics major
  • Chris Walker

June 30th, 2020
Dr. Joanne Odden | We are Not Alone: It’s a Symbiotic World

oddenSymbiosis is prevalent in all ecosystems on the planet, and serves as a driving force of evolution, biological innovation, disease control and agriculture.  These associations paradoxically range from mutually beneficial through lopsided parasitic effects.  How can coral reefs and tuberculosis infections utilize the same cellular processes?  In this session, we will take integrative approach, spanning ecosystems to molecules, to explore the associations.


Meet Dr. Odden's Student Discussion Leaders:

  • Grace Connelly (she, her, hers) - Environmental Biology major
  • Janice Parks (she, her, hers) - Biology major
  • Hannah Ramsey (she, her, hers) - Biology major
  • Woodey Greer - Biology major
  • Jack Creagh (he, him, his) - Biology major

Stress-Free College Credit

If that’s not enough to get your blood pumping, you should also know there is only one short out-of-class assignment, the class is pass/no pass (no letter grade assigned), and you can drop the course without penalty.

We know this is a hectic time for many students, which is why we designed this course to be engaging and important, yet stress-free.

Contact Us

Mike Shingle | Interim Director, Academic & Career Advising