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Setting the stage for summer learning: Transylvania offers variety of courses, including theater

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Teaching the class Introduction to Theater on digital platforms may be new to Tosha Fowler, the Lucille C. Little Endowed Chair of Theater and program director, but she’s feeling prepared after the experience of moving online during Winter term. As part of the process, Fowler has been communicating with theater professionals and educators throughout the country. “We are all sharing innovative and exciting ideas to spice up teaching remotely,” she says.

Fowler’s class is one of 12 that Transylvania will offer this summer beginning June 1 — far more than normal, says Sarah Bray, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of biology. Registration was prioritized by class year to keep students on track for graduation. Most students can take one summer course for free as an “overload course” that will make up for May term 2020 classes that were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We tried to get a mix of classes at all levels that fulfill a variety of general education credits,” Bray says of the interesting array of liberal arts classes, as well as specific offerings geared to majors who may have lost an important sequencing course during this period. 

In some cases, the summer courses are asynchronous, meaning that work can be done outside a specified class time. This helps students whose access to technology may be limited. Also, as Bray notes, it allows students “to be at home or pursue other academic and career development while still taking a course.” And these classes have been designed as “remote” from the beginning, with faculty “choosing texts, assignments and learning opportunities that make sense in remote learning.”

For Fowler, it’s an unusual opportunity to share some of the best theater in the world with her students. As theater companies relax public access restrictions and stream their performances, her students are able to sample a variety of productions and determine what interests them most — just as they would on a theatrical version of Netflix, Fowler points out.  

Fowler working with her acting class on campus

Although the platform for interacting with her students may be different, her goals and activities remain very much the same. “I hope to instill a passion or at least an appreciation of theater through this course,” Fowler explains. The class will explore theater history and “how theater has shaped our culture socially, politically and artistically,” as well as introduce students to theatrical elements — from acting (for the camera) to sound design. 

As with the entire slate of summer courses, Fowler’s class will develop with long-term goals in mind, with lasting impact. “At its core,” she notes, “theater teaches us to work creatively and collaboratively. This helps students be better employees, leaders, inventors, thinkers and humans.” 

Each of the 12 classes on offer this summer is meant to achieve more than simply helping students meet requirements and keep them engaged in a life of learning. As Bray explains, they’re also intended “to give faculty and students a sense of community, connection and normalcy in a tumultuous time.” 

Students may register here or email registrar@transy.edu for assistance.