An Interdisciplinary Conversation on COVID-19

All Central College students – current as well as deposited for Fall 2020 – are invited to join a special remote learning course called An Interdisciplinary Conversation on COVID-19. Every participant who completes the course will receive two credits toward their academic work at Central.

To enroll in this course, please register by Friday, May 22, 2020.

For Newly Deposited Students

The course will provide an opportunity to experience what it is like to be a Central student while also learning more about COVID-19.

Classes will take place using Zoom, so internet access is necessary. Classes will be held from 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays from May 26 to August 4. The 11-week course is offered on a pass/no credit basis.

Please use your Admitted Student Portal to register for this class. If you do not know how to get into your portal, visit

For Current Central Students

The course will allow you to continue to do what you do best with Central’s faculty – understand a complex issue like COVID-19 from an interdisciplinary perspective. Plus, you get to learn from some Central faculty members you may not have been able to experience in the classroom yet.

Classes will take place using Zoom, so internet access is necessary. Classes will be held from 6-8 p.m. Thursdays from May 28 to August 6. Your 11-week course also is offered on a pass/no credit basis.

Current Central students can register here.

Course Description

The COVID-19 pandemic has created havoc worldwide, affecting education, employment, economies and global interaction with others. This two-credit course is an opportunity for students to interact with Central faculty in an interdisciplinary analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

The interdisciplinary course will be taught by Central faculty members in biology, chemistry,  economics, education, exercise science, English, French, German, history, music, mathematics and computer science, philosophy and physics. The class also includes lectures from the members of the college’s writing and sustainability programs, as well as Central’s study abroad program in Vienna, Austria.


Because this topic is so important for students to understand, Central College has made the course and all course materials free for all enrolled and deposited Central students. Students will need internet access in order to join the weekly course sessions via Zoom.

Course Schedule

The Science of COVID-19

Instructors: Professor of Biology Ellie Du Pre and Professor of Chemistry Jim Shriver


  • What is COVID-19?
  • How is it spread?
  • How does it get into cells?
  • How can we develop a vaccine? And why are we arguing about hydroxychloroquine?
  • What is the difference between a COVID-19 test and a serological test for antibodies? Why are both important?

Can We Combat COVID-19 Individually?

Instructors: Assistant Professor of Exercise Science Sara Shuger Fox and Lecturer of Exercise Science, Pre-Health Advisor, and Post Graduate Fellowship and Awards Advisor Katelin Valster


  • Nutrition and physical health: Why do they affect some more than others?
  • Optimal nutrition
  • Understanding “the silent killer”
  • Move naturally in an unnatural environment

COVID-19 and Environmental Change

Instructors: Director of Sustainability Education Brian Campbell and Associate Professor of Biology Paul Weihe


  • How do environmental change and human activity affect spread of pandemics?
  • What does this pandemic teach us about environmental challenges like climate change?

Mapping the Spread: A Computational Approach

Instructor: Professor of Biology Anya Butt and Ruth & Marvin Denekas Endowed Chair in Science and Humanities and Professor of Mathematics & Computer Science Mark Johnson


  • Understanding how maps convey information
  • Understanding spatial statistics
  • Mapping outbreak hotspots with GIS
  • Modeling the spread of the virus

A Brief History of Pandemics

Instructors: Assistant Professor of History Tim Olin


  • Previous pandemics and responses
  • Influenza outbreak in 1918, cholera and the Black Plague

Communicating About Pandemics

Instructors: Assistant Professor of Physics Liz Golovatski and Director of Writing Sue Pagnac


  • How to parse scientific from non-scientific information
  • Combatting the “infodemic” (fighting bad information)
  • Analysis of rhetoric used to describe pandemic and responses
  • From “social distancing” to “physical distancing”
  • Lack of transparency in national response and general information

International Responses

Instructors: Associate Professor of German and French Maria Snyder and Vienna Study Abroad Resident Director Ruth Verweijen


  • Disparities in access to health care
  • Disparities in response across countries

The Pandemic in Poetry and Music

Instructors: Assistant Professor of English Valerie Billing, Assistant Professor of English Kate Nesbit and Professor of Music Ian Moschenross


  • Quarantine art and poetry
  • Quarantine music

The Ethics of COVID-19

Instructor: Lecturer in Philosophy Anna Christensen


  • Who decides how to ration health care?
  • How do we live a meaningful life while quarantined?
  • How do we respond in a crisis?


Instructor: Assistant Professor of Economics Tuan Nguyen


  • The economics of recession and unemployment
  • Individual rights vs. public good

Pandemics and Education

Instructor: Associate Professor of Education Jen Diers


  • Disparities in access to internet services for education
  • Resilience of communities in responding as a group