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ULM students, faculty, and graduates speak at national humanities conference

Published April 20, 2016

MONROE, La. — Eight students, faculty, and graduates from ULM’s Creative Systemic Studies (CSS) online doctoral program presented at the 2016 Humanities and Education Research Association (HERA) Conference in New Orleans last month. 

Dr. Jocelyn Chapman, instructor in the CSS program, sought participants to showcase how the program’s foundational teaching of cybernetics and systems thinking can be utilized to take a systemic view of any topic or issue, improving understanding and affecting lasting change. She demonstrated this in her own presentation, “How Math Instruction Can Be a Catalyst for Personal Transformation.”

According to Chapman, “When we learn to think in more relational, systemic ways, we can transfer this know-how to whatever discipline we teach in to teach more creatively and to foster students’ changed thinking about self and learning.”

Presenters Dr. Karen McClendon and Roxanne Speer, doctoral candidate, testified to this core value of the Creative Systemic Studies program in their presentation “Pedagogy and the Poetic: A Humanistic Approach to Online Learning.”

One of the cybernetic principles ULM’s CSS program was founded on is that objectivity is a myth; instead, we can gain insights by interrogating and honoring subjectivity.

In discussing her doctoral work in her presentation “The Nature of Women’s Creativity,” Dr. Julie Hanks shared how reflecting on her own creative process in developing her dissertation helped shape the dissertation itself and also led to personal growth.

Similarly, in her presentation “Storytelling: Utilizing culture of testimony as voice for love-charged healing,” Laverne Dunn augmented her assertion that love is necessary to actualize the therapeutic potential of storytelling by sharing how her transformative journey on a spiritual path of love lead her into a world of activism in education, the arts, homelessness, missions, and everyday living that nurtures others’ healing.

Robyn Jordan’s presentation, “Private Nature: A Union Soldier’s Search for Spiritual Support,” addressed the struggle Civil War Union Private Edmund Naylor had with patriotism and his longing for spiritual connection while part of the occupational force in Plaquemine, Louisiana. Another cybernetic principle the CSS program was founded on relates to the significance of the distinctions we make and our responsibility for making them. Jordan’s analysis of the distinctions Private Naylor made in his war-time diaries revealed his beliefs and biases. Jordan also noted that the researcher makes distinctions, too, which reveal something of the researcher herself.

The theme of this year’s HERA conference was “The nature of our humanity.” A systemic view of any issue or topic would ultimately include those dimensions of our humanity that we might refer to as ethical or spiritual. Joan Harwood addressed this in her presentation “Searching for Spiritual Fire: Infusing Love into the Discourse of Family Therapy. In the field of Marriage and Family Therapy, discourse on the therapeutic value of a therapist’s loving regard for clients is rare and brave. Kristi Anderson’s presentation, “Grieving Away the Grief:  Humanity’s Approach to Death and Dying,” took a systemic view of one family’s responses to several unexpected deaths of close family members. By linking family, humanity, and the culturally structural designs of death Anderson showed how death could be reconceived and celebrated, a movement toward spirituality and freedom.

Chapman commented, “The HERA conference provided an excellent forum for sharing the principles, practices, and transformative learning that occurred in ULM’s Creative Systemic Studies program. It was great to meet so many of my online students in person. I am proud of their accomplishments and the ways they have become systems practitioners.”