Photo credit: Stephanie Whalen, Academy Chair

Written by Stephanie Whalen, Chair, Academy for Teaching Excellence & Associate Professor, English and Interdisciplinary Studies

We know that students appreciate topics relevant to their lives, and one thing all of our students have in common is that they are all Harper students. The 50th anniversary of the college along with the ebook version of Trygve Thoreson’s Harper College: The First 50 Years make infusing Harper topics into course curriculum particularly appealing this year. Which topics are most relevant and interesting to Harper students? Perhaps hearing from Harper students who have worked with the Harper text this semester will help you to identify some topics that may connect to your discipline.

Harper Campus and Climate
Roberto Orozco enjoyed reading about how the campus was created and finds the campus features themselves to be a curiosity, explaining that, “Lake Lahti is interesting because I see it every day and wondered if it was man made and why they made it.” Didn’t realize that the lake was even named? Well, as Thoreson notes, many call it Lake Lahti after our first president, even though it may not be an official name. It was certainly more of a topic of conversation when boating was allowed on it!

The photo of Harper’s first computer center in 1983 prompted Kush Patel’s interest in studying the technological advancements over the decades through to the technology currently available on campus. Erick Navarro, a student who has been known to play video games in Building A, wrote about e-sports becoming so popular that viewership in video game finals such as for the game League of Legends has exceeded the World Series and NBA finals. Erick’s piece, E-Sports: Wanna Play?, was published in the most recent edition of The Harbinger.

After reading about early descriptions of the campus and climate and concerns that it would be too elite or snobbish or entirely vocational, Karla Munoz was interested in the perceptions of Harper in the community now. Her reflections include the reasons that Harper is not just an extension of high school, but rather an option to for students to take high quality college courses near home. Karla feels that the college has maintained the original goal of excellence and the students’ perceptions of Harper are high and that it is “interesting to learn how it used to be compared to now.”

Photo credit: Aaron Corralez, Harper Wrester

Harper Athletics and Organizations
Jesus Arriaga enjoyed researching the accomplishments of a variety of Harper teams over the decades, developing a sense of the extraordinary achievements of Harper alums. Aaron Corralez interviewed Harper Wrestling coach Professor Dan Loprieno to reveal the successful history of the Harper Wrestling team. Aaron notes that “people don’t talk about the sport as much, even in high school when a wrestling team is one of the most successful teams, it doesn’t get as much recognition as football or basketball.” Aaron’s article about the team, The Proud History of Harper Wrestling, can also be found in the most recent issue of The Harbinger.

Bryan Gambia explored the importance of the athletic programs at Harper and the value of being a student athlete as far as the skills college athletes develop such as work ethic and time management. In times of financial distress in higher education, particularly in Illinois, reinforcing the benefits of these co-curricular opportunities is increasingly important to their viability. Martha Rodriguez also uncovered the worthiness of student clubs and organizations and wants to promote student involvement because she found that “through clubs many students can feel more connected to the school, involved, and make friends.”

Photo credit: Harper College: The First 50 Years, pg. 41.

Social Consciousness Then and Now
Luis Montelongo and Jisel Delgado were inspired by the topic of non-violent demonstration after reading about Harper students lowering the American flag to half-mast and gathering to show support for Kent State students after four of them were shot and killed by the National Guard at an anti-Vietnam War protest in 1970. Luis explains that “the topic of taking a knee was trending because you see it on the news every day.” With the number of marches and demonstrations growing again, understanding the role of non-violent protests in our nation’s past is an important part of understanding their potential.

Current Harper students may recall demonstrations calling for the funding of Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants on campus last year when Illinois was at a budget impasse. Bernardo Sanchez feels that the plans to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an issue worth our attention right now because, “people are trying to have an education and stay here with their families and are being deported.” He laments that “every time I turn on the TV its DACA or deportation or other disasters.” Bernardo and his classmate Jesus Arriaga are writing about the effects of changes with DACA legislation on students and their families. Jesus commented on the urgency of making people aware of the issue, “with Trump taking it out, it seemed big.”

Jesus has also written an article about the objectification of women which was published in the latest edition of The Harbiner. Bernardo says he made the connection that the issue of featuring a calendar girl in each edition of The Harbinger was relevant to racism when he was researching the controversial Dove ad and other commercials. “I realized they were mostly promoting whiteness–every detail counts.” He has also published an article, The Subtle Promotion of Whiteness, in the most recent issue of The Harbinger.

Selfie credit: Sebastian Hernandez, Harper Student

Health and Wellness
Several students were intrigued upon learning that the Harper bookstore sold cigarettes in the early years; the campus may be smoke free now, but Luis Loza notes that “now everyone is vaping.” Sebastian Hernandez is interested in the variety of reasons people vape, whereas Celeste Calderon emphasizes the importance of knowing what is in the substances being vaped as “a lot of people do it” and the actual ingredients are “kind of confusing.” Martha Rodriguez explains her reason for wanting to research vaping as a current issue, “many of my friends vape and they are always telling me to try it, so I wanted to know about the effects.”

Aaron Corralez is exploring the recreational use of marijuana over the decades and the current controversy about legalization; although there are many potential benefits of legalization, there could be health and safety concerns that come along with greater access. As constituents in Illinois will have to decide where they stand on legalization of marijuana, Harper students must explore the issue in depth to determine the fate of this issue in their state as well as help shape local ordinances that will affect their communities. As a part of a health conscious generation, Bart Kusina plans to investigate food options on campus and quality of ingredients in the available choices. College students are not protected by legislation that regulates food sold in pre-K-12 public schools, so Harper students must evaluate the food choices provided by contracted vendors and restaurants in the area to inform their consumption.

These students were engaged in reading, researching, and writing about Harper topics because they are relevant to their lives as Harper students and community members. You can expect to see more of their scholarship reflected in upcoming issues of The Harbinger as well as some additional Harper publications this year. When Harper celebrates its 100 year anniversary in 2067, students and faculty/staff will likely look back at their work to get a sense of the college and its students in 2017. Considering infusing some Harper related issues into your curriculum next semester? Why not help your students engage in the issues that affect them most and leave something behind to capture this 50 year milestone. Remember that the ebook version of Trygve Thoreson’s Harper College: The First 50 Years is available as an Open Educational Resource that can easily be accessed online and downloaded and printed in segments or in its entirety.