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Telling Your Truth

Fourth-annual WUmester will study truth as the theme

Truth WUmester logo

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
By Jeremy Wangler

There is data. There is information. There are beliefs. There are opinions. Some of them are subjective. Some are not.

And then there’s truth.

“There are different kinds of truth,” said Louise Krug, associate professor, English. “There's factual truth – like I was born in 1982 – but then there's me saying I had a good childhood. That's more emotional truth. Good is very subjective. What's true for you might not be true for somebody else.”

Washburn students, faculty and staff will be studying the theme of truth this spring during the fourth-annual WUmester, a semester-long dive into a topic related to social justice. The goals include engaging the entire Washburn community in cross-disciplinary learning experiences and bridging what students study in the classroom and real-world debates and issues.

Krug is incorporating the theme of truth into Advanced Nonfiction Writing this spring, a class where students produce their own 30,000-word memoir and study published memoirs. She said many students begin her class thinking they don’t have an interesting enough life to fill the required word count.

“I can understand why they feel that way,” Krug said. “They're mostly pretty young, and most of us don't think we're that interesting. It's important that you feel safe enough and important enough to tell your story. The world becomes a smaller place when people realize others are going through similar emotions or overcame certain difficulties. It can be as small as being a broke college student – it makes people feel better when they realize there are a lot of people out there like that.”

Other WUmester-themed classes and events will help students digest the truth claims they experience from others. Jason Miller, assistant professor, anthropology, will shape his Visual Anthropology class around understanding how the media construct notions of truth. Students will gain the tools to analyze how media create messages and how audiences receive them.

“As an anthropologist, truth is often culturally constructed,” Miller said. “Figuring out what does truth mean to different people in different contexts, that's really interesting and I think will provide for some great conversations.”

There is no shortage of topics for students to study when it comes to truth claims, and there are plenty of venues to encounter these claims – from mainstream media to social media to anyone with a camera and internet connection.

“There's so much information out there, and sometimes I think it's overwhelming,” said Kelly Erby, professor, history, assistant dean, College of Arts and Sciences. “Sometimes students feel like they don't know what to trust. They don't know who to believe. Everything is equally discreditable. If we give them some tools to think about how you evaluate information, it can be really empowering and help them to see that they can enter into some of these debates. They don't have to just feel like information is washing over them. Information can become a tool to make the changes they want to make or accomplish what they want to accomplish.”

All three of these professors are on the planning committee working to schedule public events including speakers, panel discussions and exhibits centered around the theme. Albert Woodfox, a person who was wrongfully convicted of murder and held for 43 years in solitary confinement, will speak at Washburn on March 1 at 6 p.m. in a free event open to the public at the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center. He wrote, “Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement. My Story of Transformation and Hope,” and Krug’s class will study the book and meet Woodfox.

“I hope it's a rewarding experience for students to read the book and meet the author,” Krug said. “I just hope they realize they can do hard things, and telling the truth is hard. It's always hard.”

Like the three previous WUmesters, one of the goals is to get students engaged in difficult conversations.

“One of the things I think is so important about not only WUmester but of liberal arts education in general is it really provides students with space to grapple with these issues and to have dedicated time to just set aside and say, how do we see this issue from lots of different sides,” Miller said.

Key WUmester Events

Events listed below are free, open to the public and subject to change. Visit washburn.edu/wumester for more information and a full and 
up-to-date schedule.

  • Annual Harman Lincoln Lecture featuring Kellie Carter Jackson | Feb. 2, 2022 | 7 p.m. | Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center
  • Speaker and Author Albert Woodfox | March 1, 2022 | 6 p.m. | Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center
  • Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University will feature a truth-themed exhibit | Feb. 4 - April 30, 2022

 

The Ichabod Magazine Winter 2022 cover - Memorial Union with snow, pine needles in the foreground

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions

 

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