In the (Virtual) Classroom: An Interview with Professor Krizek

Female student with thumbs up in front of kitchen counter with homemade gnocchi

Headshot Katherine Krizek Professor Katherine Krizek‘s course entitled “Eating Cultures” typically explores Slow Food and Italian food culture, while also incorporating global topics such as hunger and food security and giving students an insightful, hands-on experience in the classroom. Despite the course being held 100% online this summer due to Covid-19, Professor Krizek was able to replicate the experience for learners at home, including discussions also on how Covid-19 affects the food supply chain. Read the full interview below to learn about the course and the adjustments made for Summer 2020.

Female student with thumbs up in front of kitchen counter with homemade gnocchiQ: What were the greatest impacts that your course had this summer?
I think the greatest impact was felt when students began to think in depth about all that goes into their meals and stop taking food for granted. In class, we discussed how, from the field to the plate, every step of the way is filled with choices and a way [for them] to make a difference.

One of the assignments asked students to research local farms and farmers markets near them and share the information; they found many good local sources for fresh produce and other foodstuffs, and many changed their buying patterns, helping to promote the small farmers, who will disappear soon if we don’t get busy supporting them.
Q: What was the most successful project and why?
There was a such a great variety of projects and these were all successful in different ways. Perhaps because I am an artist, the “Museum Treasure Hunt” was enjoyable. We looked at food through the lens of art. In teams’ students chose artworks that featured food (for example Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Can”, or a 17th century Dutch still life painting and researched what role the food played in the works.

Another great project that I introduced this summer was the “Family Food Portrait”, which looks at the changes in our ways of eating, and our food system over time. Students interviewed family members (or family friends) from their parents and grandparents’ generations to investigate what changes have taken place in food. Since we used Voice Thread to support learning, the students were able to narrate the history of their own family’s cultural traditions.
Q: What were some challenges that you had?
The class was asynchronous, so it was a challenge to invent assignments that were engaging and community driven while being flexible to everyone’s schedule. Collaborative work was really crucial to promote a feeling that this was a real class, filled with students who were interested in each other. The optional weekly sessions I held were also useful for encouraging community.
Q: Based on your experience, what are some benefits of online learning?
One of the benefits was that students can work from anywhere, they are mobile. Some students had to travel during the course but were still able to participate in our group discussions and share insights about each other’s work. Sometimes the variety of location really helped develop a larger view of the topic we are examining.
Q: What growth did you notice in your students?
Since one of the things we look at is how food relates to culture and tradition, it was great to see the appreciation for the variety of experience within the class itself grow. There was a lot of interest and respect for each other’s diverse life experiences and family backgrounds. The “Family Food Portrait” really highlighted this. I am also confident that after this class everyone was more discerning in their food choices, and most became avid label readers conscious of how far the food traveled to reach their mouth.