UI to take aim at online lives

Beginning in January, the University of Iowa will explore the theme of Our Lives Online as the spring 2017 Semester Theme.

By Elianna Novitch

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A program at the University of Iowa is providing collaborative opportunities for teaching, engagement, and learning both on campus and throughout the state of Iowa.

The Theme Semester program picks a topic of importance to focus on in the spring semester and plans a variety of educational activities around the theme. The spring 2017 Theme Semester is Our Lives Online.

“With every Theme Semester, we aim to create an introspective Iowa that can objectively discuss and deliberate topics,” said Erika Christiansen, the director of campus initiatives in the Provost’s Office in an email statement to The Daily Iowan. “Teaching and learning occur both inside and outside the classroom, with the campus and community.

“The Theme Semester experiences this spring have the common topic of Internet and technology but with different essences. Some activities may focus on big data while others focus on social media, so we can dive deeper into exploring what Our Lives Online means.”

The Theme Semester program has been around the UI for three years. The idea for the program stemmed from the University of Michigan, which has had a similar program for many years.

Many in the UI community believed a similar program could flourish here and were eager to make it a reality.

“To me, what I really enjoy about [the Theme Semester program] is the spirit of collaboration it fosters,” said Theme Semester advisory board member and Hancher Director Chuck Swanson. “It makes people work together on a common theme to make this world a better place.”

Previous semester themes included Food For Thought and Just Living.

“We try to choose themes that are far reaching and can really help to make a difference in our world,” Swanson said. “We want to pick themes that are important to Iowa, to the country, and to the world.”

Each spring, theme topics are explored with a series of lectures, discussions, performances, and other campus and community events and activities.

Beginning in January, the Our Lives Online will take over Iowa’s campus with a series of planned activities.

One of the first activities, scheduled for Jan. 17, is a presentation by the UI International Programs’ WorldCanvass that will explore topics related to Our Lives Online with campus and community experts.

Following the presentation, award-winning author Luvvie Ajayi will present a lecture on her intersection of comedy, technology, and activism as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week on Jan. 18.

Another event will be an appearance by speaker and activist Patrisse Cullors, who will talk about her work as a social activist and co-creator of the #BlackLivesMatter movement on Feb. 6.

“Through this semester, we can take a new look at what online technology has accomplished in our everyday lives and how we have changed as our relationships have been driven by this means of communicating,” said UI Associate Provost Linda Snetselaar in an email statement to the DI.

The Theme Semester program is housed in the Provost’s Office of Outreach and Engagement and made possible by the Theme Semester Advisory Board, Planning Committee, Student Ambassadors, and many collaborators across campus and in the community.

“It will be great to see the third year come to fruition,” Christiansen said in an email statement to The Daily Iowan. “The hard work and collaboration of so many committee members and students will be celebrated, and those moments are always the best.”

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