Q: How has the shift to remote learning presented opportunities for creative teaching?
A: The spring jump to Zoom was an unexpected interruption for all. We recalibrated courses with an emphasis on care, flexibility, and empathy, and doing the best we could to continue as a vibrant learning community. We were able to directly incorporate some readings and engagement with the crises that have rocked our world. Using the amazing book written by our colleague Nancy Bristow, we compared the current pandemic to the flu pandemic of 1918. That’s what historians do: historically contextualize events. Rarely do we think that we’ll be living through such intense history ourselves.
Q: You’re an avid cyclist and do some of your best thinking in the bike seat. Any favorite memories?
A: I was doing a charity ride on Vashon Island, where I live, called the Passport to Pain. You gain 10,000 feet of elevation over the ride and go through 18 checkpoints where volunteers stamp a "passport." I barely made it up the last hill to the last checkpoint and was slouched over my handlebars. Then I hear a cheerful, “Professor Sackman!” Cat Shank ’20, who was a first-year student in my Ecotopia class, was volunteering. I was dead, but put on a smile, and she helped put colorful streamers on my bike for the last few miles. I guess you can take that as a metaphor for teaching and how students keep me going.
Doug Sackman is the author of Wild Men: Ishi and Kroeber in the Wilderness of Modern America and Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden, and serves as editor of A Companion to American Environmental History.