Between classes, tests, studying, finding time to eat and socializing, students in today’s world are finding it difficult to stay “plugged in” to current events.
While many college students’ mornings begin with rolling over in bed and immediately using their phones to check social media, this does not mean that the content they are engaging with is keeping them up-to-date on what really matters.
Many students rely on the campus, their classes and their professors to keep them in the know about what is going on with the world around them.
Even though Elizabethtown College has a small student body, it is still incredibly important that every student on campus is informed and ready to tackle the real world after they graduate.
Does Etown do an effective job of ensuring that the campus community remains updated on current events?
Some students feel that the responsibility of keeping students informed falls onto the shoulders of professors.
“I think that the biggest influence for students to keep up with current events is their professors,” sophomore business major Kira Kuhar said. “If professors stress the importance of current events in their classes, I think that makes a huge difference on students.”
Kuhar feels that specific departments, like the business department, do a really good job of keeping students informed and up-to-date on news and current events.
“In my first semester here at Etown, I had to read The Wall Street Journal and write an article reflection on what I had read each week for one of my business classes,” Kuhar said. “I felt like I actually knew what was happening in the world.”
In the spring semester, Kuhar stopped reading The Wall Street Journal because it was no longer required for her class. During that time, Kuhar admits that she felt a lot less informed and knowledgeable about the issues going on in the world around her.
This semester, Kuhar is back to reading every issue of The Wall Street Journal for another business class. While she feels that skimming the whole paper can be “very tedious,” Kuhar is happy to do it not just for class, but for herself as well.
“If something that you read a few weeks ago becomes headline news, you already know the background to the story and you can easily follow it as opposed to being completely surprised by it,” Kuhar stated.
First-year engineering major Brandon Huey doesn’t believe that discussions concerning news and current events belong in every classroom.
“Current events apply more to certain classes than others,” Huey said. “To me, it’s irrelevant to teach you stuff like that in an Engineering course or a Physics course.”
For Huey, it is more important that his professors spend class time covering topics outlined in the curriculum because he feels that curricular material is what will help him most in the real world.
“We only have so much time to learn the curriculum,” Huey stated. “By discussing current events and other things that are not necessarily relevant to that course, we are taking away from the amount of time we have to understand the subject matter we are supposed to understand.”
On the other hand, Dr. Peggy McFarland, professor of social work and director of field instruction at Etown, argues that it is critical that students be exposed to conversations about current events both inside and outside of the classroom.
“I am a big news watcher, so I am always surprised when I come to class and the students have no idea what is happening in the world,” McFarland said. “The only advantage students have is their connection to social media, which often has little pieces of information but not the whole story.”
For McFarland, true learning takes place when students are able to research and understand what is going on in the outside world and relate that information to what they are learning in the classroom.
Besides simply having discussions in the classroom, campus programming can help students stay informed on current events.
“I think we attempt to offer a well-rounded schedule of activities, but students do not always realize the relevance of a speaker related to their education or knowledge of world events,” McFarland said. “Students are so busy with classwork and activities that they have to make choices.”
Huey believes that students are more likely to attend a news-oriented lecture or program if they can personally connect to and engage in the topic.
“I think they are stimulating to some people, but none really piqued my interest this semester,” Huey stated.
Kuhar feels that the campus doesn’t promote lectures and other events on national and world news in a way that makes them stand out to students.
“Everything that they throw at us looks the same, so it all bundles together,” Kuhar said. “Sometimes I will miss interesting details about the event because they all just blend together in my head.”
Some students are wary to attend lectures or events regarding current event topics if they know that the presentation will be interactive and call for audience engagement.
“I don’t like when people give an opinion on a matter in which they have no real information on,” Huey remarked. “People will debate a topic passionately, when they have no idea what the topic even is. I get annoyed quickly at stupid commentary.”
McFarland noted that students are not always that eager to show up to a lecture or attend an awareness program for a multitude of reasons.
She still believes that if professors make the effort to place a certain level of emphasis on the topic that is to be discussed and stress the importance of attending these events, students will be more likely to attend.
“I find that as a professor the best way to encourage students to attend events is to make the connection to the course material and to demonstrate my own excitement about potential programs,” McFarland said. “Overall, it demonstrates the importance of a well-rounded liberal arts education. “