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La Salle News

April 1, 2020

“Teachable moment”: La Salle professors incorporate coronavirus pandemic into coursework

Student taking notes

The COVID-19 outbreak has prompted colleges and universities across the country, including La Salle University, to change the way they deliver academic instruction. It also has given rise to coursework shifts and project adaptations.

A number of La Salle faculty members have adjusted their syllabi to include COVID-19 into the curriculum of their courses for the balance of the Spring 2020 semester.

“The extraordinary situation we are witnessing, living, and experiencing daily has the ability to serve as a teachable moment for students and faculty,” said Lynne A. Texter, Ph.D., La Salle’s Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. “Our faculty acknowledge this, and they are working quickly to adapt their coursework—not only to accommodate students through remote instruction, but also to reflect the ever-changing circumstances around this pandemic and align with the Lasallian mission of providing a practical education.”

Here are a few examples of La Salle professors who have incorporated COVID-19 into their Spring 2020 instruction:

Social Work

How do pandemics affect those in already vulnerable communities in more profound ways? And what issues of racism are surfacing amid this current global health crisis? Rosemary Barbera, Ph.D., associate professor of social work, will urge her students to reflect on and answer these questions in two of her Spring courses.


Cornelia Tsakiridou, Ph.D., professor of philosophy, introduced a new book for students in her course “Ethics and the Good Life,” which studies classic and contemporary ethical theories that aim to answer the question, ‘How should I live my life?’

The reading, “The Meditations,” is a series of personal writings and essays from Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor who lived during an age of devastating plagues.

“Today, we may use the Stoic method to keep calm and have a clear mind as we face the rapid changes associated with the impact of COVID-19 on our families, communities, nation and the world,” Tsakiridou said. “We are therefore fortunate to come to know Stoicism at this time. Remember that the ideal Stoic life is a cosmopolitan life. This means not traveling in luxury around the world, but thinking and acting like a citizen of the world, a full-fledged member of the human community.”

Public Health and Nutrition

In a research methods course, Meredith E. Kneavel, Ph.D., typically asks her students to conduct a qualitative research project where they consider and analyze a health-related issue. This semester, students will ask those around them about COVID-19, self-monitoring and social distancing, and other related issues, said Kneavel, professor of public health and nutrition and associate dean of the School of Nursing and Health Students.

Daniel Rodriguez, Ph.D., also a professor in the Department of Public Health and Nutrition, has turned to YouTube for an added wrinkle in his instruction. Rodriguez is filming daily COVID-19 update videos that analyze the latest outbreak data. He intends to ask his students to contribute data to his video logs and incorporate them into his epidemiology lectures.


Coronaviruses are not new material for courses led by Brian DeHaven, Ph.D. An assistant professor of biology, DeHaven briefly covered them at the start of the Spring semester in his virology course. DeHaven is shifting his syllabus and spending more time on comparative pandemics. His students will discuss COVID-19 updates, review publications on potential new treatments for the disease, and consume “The Great Influenza,” a book on the 1918 flu pandemic, and “And The Band Played On,” a film on the early HIV epidemic.


The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak already is being felt by economies around the world. Domestically, an unprecedented number of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits. Adam Pellillo, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics, will consider and discuss COVID-19’s impact on Eastern Europe in his Political Economy of Eastern Europe course. Pellillo said the coronavirus disease will also factor into a health economics course he leads.

—Christopher A. Vito