2016-2017 Grant Recipients

Pedagogical Grants Involving Experiential Education

Justice in Health & Healthcare
Lisa Fuller, Philosophy

I am proposing a new course entitled “Justice in Health and Healthcare”.  It will be offered as a 2000-level course without additional prerequisites, and is intended to fulfill the ethics requirement in the Liberal Arts Core. This course will focus on large-scale injustices and inequities in healthcare that occur within and between societies.  After an initial overview of the concept of justice, the course will address three distinct problem areas: (1) The social determinants of health and what these factors mean for how healthcare is experienced and utilized by minority groups. (2) The demands of social justice as applied to the provision of healthcare, both domestically and globally. (3) Justice in healthcare rationing, including the rationing of ICU beds, organs for transplant and the use of Quality-Adjusted-Life-Years to rank procedures for insurance coverage. Students will read empirical material from health economics, psychology, medical sociology and investigative journalism, as well as conceptual material from bioethics and political philosophy.  Further, the course will feature in-depth discussions of real-life case studies that reflect the struggles of various players within the healthcare system, for instance, patients who encounter bias in their attempts to obtain specific services, and administrators who must allocate scarce resources among patients who all deserve quality care.

Gender, Race and War
Debra Michals, Women’s & Gender Studies

This new, 2000-level course provides an exploration of the gendered, racial, and class dimensions of armed conflict and its aftermath. It uses war as a lens through which to explore how gender and racial biases are constructed and deployed, as well as the role of the state and social institutions in both processes. Like all aspects of society, war is influenced by social norms, specifically those of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

Students in this course will use the tools of feminist theory, critical race theory, history and social science to uncover how concepts of war and peace are racialized and gendered. While the primary focus will be on U.S. wars, the course will include global perspectives. The course will be organized thematically, addressing such topics as the social/biological debates about gender and its relationship to aggression, violence, and war; the role of race and masculinity in decisions to wage war and the manner in which it is carried out; the role of women as leaders, agents, and objects of decisions to wage war; the way notions of gender, race, class, and sexuality function to construct the enemy, decisions about who can be a soldier, and the conduct of war/s; the history and present treatment of women, people of color, and LGBTQ in and by the military; the problem of harassment and rape within the military; the treatment of women around military bases (service to military, sex work); the use of torture; the humanitarian responses to conflict regions; and the reconstruction of war zones and post-war social justice initiatives. The course will culminate with two experiential learning assignments in which students will engage directly with course themes. The first will have students interacting with a specific war memorial or museum to explore how wars are remembered, memorialized, and given meaning – and which stories and voices are included or omitted. In the second, students will conduct oral histories with veterans, ideally from Merrimack’s new veterans group. The purpose of these interviews is to explore how soldiers construct narratives about their wartime experiences and the role of socially acceptable notions of gender and race in their accounts.

Role Immersion Games for Interdisciplinary Bioethics
Autumn Alcott Ridenour, Religious & Theological Studies

Borrowing from an abbreviated version of the new Reacting pedagogy movement led by Mark Carnes, this project seeks to incorporate role immersion games pertaining to bioethical issues such as transhumanism, physician assisted suicide, abortion, and reproductive technologies. Issues such as these reflect the various moral dilemmas derived from new technologies and capabilities within the human sphere in the growing field of bioethics.  Theological Bioethics aims to integrate the discipline of theology with the field of biomedical ethics to critically evaluate the goals of healthcare and practices associated with these goals. The course will involve an examination of the Theological sources and methods used for addressing biomedical and healthcare issues in conversation with non-religious sources while also incorporating an experiential learning component that includes a few select role immersion games.

Fake News, Mis/Disinformation and Perceptions of Bias
Melissa Zimdars, Communication & Media

This course and collaborative research project explore the circulation of news, truthy “news,” and “fake news” across various websites and social media platforms to understand the connections between misinformation or disinformation, personal bias, and perceptions of mainstream media bias. The first half of this course will thus teach students about fake news as it relates to the news industry and contemporary practices in journalism, as well as an exploration of public cynicism and growing distrust in media organizations, while the second half of this course examines personal bias and perceptions of political bias across news and media organizations through survey and interview research. In order to fully understand and contribute to our knowledge of information and bias, this course and project draw on scholarship in media and communication studies, political science, psychology, library and information sciences, and other fields of inquiry. 

Grants to Facilitate Interdisciplinary Student Research

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Presidential Rhetoric and Indian Self-Determination
Anne Flaherty, Political Science

Students will work with Dr. Flaherty on original research and analyses about how presidential rhetoric results in policy outcomes in American Indian policy. The works builds on the hypothesis that the frames and biases that vary from administration to administration have significant effects on policy decisions and outcomes in federal Indian policies that range from health services to economic programs to the repatriation of human remains and artifacts. Students will assist Dr. Flaherty and conduct reviews of various disciplinary work on American Indian frames and stereotypes and their effects, including Communications, English, Sociology, Political Science, and more.  Students will have the opportunity to work on quantitative coding of presidential statements.  Students will also be encouraged and supported in developing their own interdisciplinary work on policy outcomes and connections to group stereotypes, frames, and biases.

Implicit Bias and Jury Decision-Making
Allison Seitchik, Psychology

According to the Sixth Amendment, individuals accused of a crime have the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his or her peers. However, there are several examples in the popular media where biases based on race, gender, sexuality, or some other characteristic of the accused have influenced a verdict. Larson (2009), among other attorneys and judges, suggests that a measure of implicit bias, such as the Implicit Association Test (IAT), should be used in the voir dire, jury selection, process to assist in creating an impartial jury. There have been times where an explicitly impartial jury has come back with biased decisions based on the defendant’s race, gender, or sexuality, suggesting a need for change. However, there is very little evidence to suggest that using the IAT would be useful in voir dire. I will be conducting a series of at least two studies combining Psychology and Criminology to gather evidence about using the IAT in voir dire. I will examine the relationship between implicit bias, race, and verdicts of mock juries and try to understand how race, or other biases, may influence the jury decision-making process.

Grants to Facilitate Interdisciplinary Team Teaching/Cohort Model

Living a Meaningful Life: Identity, Purpose and Reflection
Bryan Bannon, Philosophy
Christina Hardway, Psychology

Professors Bannon and Hardway propose to teach their courses, Philosophy 1000 and the Psychology of Identity and Purpose using the cohort model employed in the Fall of 2016. These courses will explore the topics of meaning and purpose with a group of the incoming, undeclared Freshmen in the Fall, 2017 semester. Because these two courses will share the same general topic, while offering different viewpoints on its exploration, it is anticipated that it will scaffold undergraduates’ abilities to consider the meaningful connections between these two disciplinary perspectives. Not only does the proposed program reflect Merrimack College’s mission of enlightening minds, engaging hearts, and empowering lives, it also addresses several of the expected outcomes of our Agenda for Distinction.  Professors Bannon and Hardway will meet regularly throughout the semester to coordinate the teaching of the class and discuss the progress of students.