GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 244-6
Presentation Time: 3:05 PM


SEMKEN, Steven, Arizona State University, School of Earth and Space Exploration, POB 871404, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404 and ADAMSON, Joni, Arizona State University, Department of English, POB 871401, Tempe, AZ 85287-1401

Southwestern North America is a unique and storied natural and cultural landscape of colorful rocks and cosmological narratives that encode ancient and current scientific literacies about geological, climatic, and human change over eons. “The Storied Southwest” is a place-based, transdisciplinary seminar course co-taught by English and Geology faculty. It is designed to interweave the humanities and sciences through study of ways that Southwestern literary writers and Earth scientists have different but complementary means of reading and interpreting these narratives. Students from all majors were welcomed; most but not all were either Geological Sciences or English majors.

Students read, discussed, and analyzed (in eight assigned critical essays) a set of comparative readings by novelists, poets, nature writers, educators, and Earth scientists (many of them Indigenous) that focus on storied places in the Greater Southwest. The course also hosted visits from several of the writers who were studied, and other Southwestern scholars who added depth and context. The syllabus was organized by geography as a circular journey from the Colorado Plateau to the Río Grande Rift and then to the Basin and Range.

The course offered in spring 2021, was originally planned as in-person, but was pivoted to online meetings because of the covid-19 pandemic. Two optional half-day field trips to places of geological and cultural interest in metro Phoenix, adhering to covid protocols, did take place and were well attended. In anonymous online post-course surveys, students largely reported that the course successfully bridged disciplines, deepened their senses of place, and broadened their understanding of diverse ways of knowing and living in the Southwest. Visiting speakers were warmly appreciated. Some students expressed some dissatisfaction with certain technological aspects of the online course, but overall the consensus was that the place-based transdisciplinary course was effective and met expectations of students and instructors alike.