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Setting the Course

Setting The Course are stories and podcasts from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Beyond Classroom Walls. This podcast is a discussion with UW Oshkosh faculty and staff on some of the many thought-provoking classes the University has to offer.

Political Science 313: Comparative Genocide


Dr. Tracy Slagter 

By Eric Balkman
Student News Reporter

Assistant political science professor Dr. Tracy Hoffmann Slagter can be described as having one of the most positive, bubbly personalities of any faculty or staff member on campus. Of course, it’s only fitting that she teaches a course one of the most depressing, horrible topics on the planet: genocide

Dr. Tracy Slagter

Dr. Tracy Hoffmann Slagter, assistant political science professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. 
(Photo by Shawn McAfee of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies)

Political Science 313: Comparative Genocide is a study of what qualifies as genocide, a mild study of historical genocides but above all an education to students on how to stop and prevent current and future genocides.

“There’s enough hatred to go around in this world that if we ignore these tragedies as they unfold elsewhere, we do so at our own peril,” Slagter says.

One of the most unique parts of the class is the mock trial that students put on at the end of the semester. The class is divided into three groups: One represents the prosecution, one represents the defense and the other one serves as the judges who ultimately rule on the case.

In the Fall 2009 semester, the students put the Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir on trial for genocide and other notorious crimes, and Slagter said her students did a fantastic job of conducting a trial without the aid of calling any witnesses, much less actually speaking to the defendant.

“We held (the class) in Reeve 220 so it was separate from our classroom,” Slagter says. “We borrowed graduation robes from the Chancellor’s office so that their judges could all look uniform. They all looked very professional.”

For more on Comparative Genocide, please click on the podcast below. This audio-only interview is conducted by multimedia student news reporter Eric Balkman.


Setting the Course Podcast Tracy Slagter

Dr. Tracy Hoffman Slagter displays one of the most positive personalities of any faculty member on campus while teaching one the most depressing topics on the planet: genocide.

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Waste Not, Want Not

Waste Not, Want Not

Waste Not, Want Not

Feldman large tree

Earth Day 2010: Dr. Jim Feldman stands next to the pile of campus trash, which he and his students will sort to see what could have been recycled, composted or reused.

Talking Trash with
Dr. Jim Feldman

Dr. Jim Feldman is an assistant professor of Environmental Students and History and the acting director of the Environmental Studies program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. In Spring 2010, Feldman taught a Special Topics: Campus Sustainability course in which his students conducted an audit of the  university's solid waste stream. In this Q & A with COLS Special  Reports Producer Grace Lim, Feldman shares what he and his students have learned from studying trash.

1. First of all, what attracted you to the field of  environmental studies? Were you the kid always going after people who litter?

Environmental Studies allowed me to combine two long-standing interests—nature and social action. I’ve always enjoyed being outside. When I was a child, I attended a summer camp in northern Wisconsin, and returned to that camp to lead wilderness canoeing and hiking trips for many years as a young adult. Those were some of the most formative experiences of my life, and I knew that I wanted a career that would let me continue to think about—and be in—nature. At the same time, I always knew that I wanted to try to make a difference in the world. I get to do that in two ways—by teaching about subjects that I care about, and also through my research on wilderness and national park service policy. 

2. The phrase "going green" is such a catch phase these days. How do you get people to even care anymore?
You get people to care by getting them to realize that this stuff affects them personally. The food that we eat, the air that we breathe, the trash that we throw away—all of these things affect us at a personal level. When people start to pay attention to things at a personal level—to realize their own connections to the world around them—then they start to care. And then they start to take action.

3. Also the word "sustainability" is thrown about. What exactly is sustainability?
Sustainability can mean a whole lot of things. For most people, it means “being green” or caring about nature. But I think it means a whole lot more than that. At a minimum, it means recognizing the interconnections between our environmental, social, and economic systems. And I think that for a university sustainability means something in particular. You don’t go to college to learn prescriptive behaviors like “you should recycle more” or “you should buy organic food.” Sustainability needs to mean something more than this. To be sustainable, we need to learn to act in ways that are not just environmentally responsible, but also in ways that make our communities socially just and economically secure. In a university context—in a classroom—sustainability is a framework for the analysis of the complicated social, economic, and environmental problems that we face. Sustainability can provide a way to understand these problems, and respond effectively to them.

video platform video management video solutionsvideo player

In this audio podcast interview with COLS Special Reports producer Grace Lim, Dr. Jim Feldman talks trash and more trash and what the campus community can do to reduce waste.

This podcast is also available for download to your iPod through UW Oshkosh  iTunesU (requires iTunes).


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Dr. Jim Feldman is an assistant professor of Environmental Studies and History and the acting director of the Environmental Studies program at UW Oshkosh. In Spring 2010, Feldman taught a Special Topics: Campus Sustainability course.

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Lab Results

By Bradley Beck and Tom Hanaway
Student Multimedia Reporters

Lab Detectives

Hailey Thimmig pulls on her bright purple hospital gloves and puts on her white lab coat. Cautiously, she picks up a test tube filled with a blood sample. She rotates the test tube a few times, punches some numbers into a computer and pops the test tube into the Culter Counter, a cell counting machine.

“We’re counting all kinds of aspects of blood - red and white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin factors and a lot of other things,” Thimmig says, adding that med techs look for abnormalities in the blood that could eventually help doctors make diagnoses.

Lab Results
Hailey Thimmig (left) and Tyler Radke (center) learn about the Coulter Counter from John Strous, director of the medical technology program at UW Oshkosh. Photo by Tom Hanaway.

Thimmig, a third-year student in the medical technology program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, is learning the ins and outs of being a medical technologist, the professional who tests the fluids of a patient, read the results and interpret the information for doctors.

On this day in the Introduction to Hematology class, Thimmig practices using the cell counting instrument. She is one of the approximate 100 students majoring in medical technology, a program headed director John Strous since 1991.

The UW Oshkosh medical technology program began in 1956 in the chemistry department with a handful of students. The program slowly evolved from its birth in the chemistry department, and while the number of students has waxed and waned over the years, it has shown steady growth in recent years.


In the following video UW Oshkosh Medical Technology Director John Strous and student Michelle Cheslock share their thoughts about the growing field of medical technology. Video is shot and produced by student reporters Bradley Beck and Tom Hanaway and COLS Special Reports producer Grace Lim. Still photos by Shawn McAfee/UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies.




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Photo Gallery

The medical technology program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has been described as a diamond in the rough. Through professional partnerships, director John Strous and his students have propelled this program to the top.

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Prison from Inside Out


Prison header

Photo composite by Shawn McAfee

by Grace Lim
COLS Special Reports

 Taycheeda winter

Taycheedah: Wisconsin's largest maximum and medium security prison for women and the site for an innovative University of Wisconsin Oshkosh class that brings inmates and students together as peers.

No Judgment Zone

In a place where all residents had been judged and sentenced, there is one room in the Taycheedah Correctional Institution where judgment is checked at the door. This is the room where 10 female inmates and 10 University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students came together to learn alongside each other with the help of their instructor, Dr. Carmen Heider.

The class -- officially listed as a Communication/Women's Studies 316 -- is part of the national  Inside-Out Prison Exchange program that brings college students together with incarcerated people to study as peers behind prison walls. And behind these walls, the students discuss issues of crime and justice. Heider's class, which took place in Fall 2009, was the first Inside-Out program held in Wisconsin. The national program is based out of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa.

Heider says she was attracted to the program because of the working-and-learning-as-peers element. "What made me really excited about Inside-Out was the idea that that it was for an entire semester and that it wasn't a group of university students and a university professor going into a prison for a day or two," Heider says, adding that such short visits often make inmates feel like research subjects.

In this course,  the inmates are enrolled as UW Oshkosh students and receive three credit hours upon completion. The program is co-sponsored by UW Oshkosh, the Department of Communication, the Women's Studies Program and the Taycheedah Correctional Institution. Taycheedah, which is based in Fond du Lac, is the largest women's maximum and medium security prison in Wisconsin holding more than 600 incarcerated women.

To establish an egalitarian and respectful environment, Heider asked the students to refer each group as "Inside" students or "Outside" students. She also required her "Outside" students to wait until their weekly class at Taycheedah to ask questions because then "everybody had the same expectations and the same limitations."

The Outside students also are not told of their Inside classmates' crimes. Lori Pompa, founder and national director of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, says such information is not relevant to the class. "A major part of the philosophy of our program is that it is an opportunity for people on both sides of the prison wall to come together to learn as equals," she says. The withholding of such information, Pompa says, allows the students who are incarcerated to be defined "as students with abilities and assets, rather than the usual bottom-line description as liabilities, defined by one of the worst moments in their lives."


In an interview with COLS Special Reports Producer Grace Lim, Dr. Carmen Heider, an associate professor in the Department of Communication, and other participants of Wisconsin's first Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program share how this class transformed the way they view themselves and the world.


The video is also available for download to your iPod through UW Oshkosh iTunesU (requires iTunes).


Erasing Stereotypes

Heider says it was understandable for some of her Outside students to come with preconceived notions about prisoners and prison life. "If we don't know anybody in prison, we have an image of what a prisoner looks like, and it's often a monster or somebody less than human," she says.

Ambrer McCormick
Amber McCormick

Amber McCormick, one of the Outside students, says, "I did go in there having a certain stereotypical view of what an inmate would be like, but I came out to find that I was very wrong, which is a good thing."

McCormick, who is a senior majoring in speech communication, credits the course for transforming the way she views the world. "I got the opportunity, the rare opportunity, to go inside and really see what it's like to be in there," she says. "It wasn't a second-hand view or a media portrayal of it. It really made me guess how I view everything."

Her views on people in prison definitely changed, she says. "It's easy to sit in  your living room and to see someone, an offender, pop up on the (TV) screen and just say, 'Just send them to jail,'" McCormick says. "I think incarceration, in general, is a very, very small Band-Aid on a very big and slow-healing wound in America."

Sharing a laugh

Sharing a laugh: Dr. Carmen Heider (second from right) visits with her Inside students (from left to right) Jessica Wyman, Kristine Frankiewicz and Brenda Mick.

Inside student Brenda Mick said the course gave her a sense of self-worth. "The biggest thing I got out of this class was to know that just because I'm here doesn't make me a bad person, that I am still a good person," she says. "(The class) gave me the motivation and the strength to know that when I get out that I can do better and lead a fulfilling life."

Fellow Inside student Jessica Wyman echos Mick's sentiments. "Society automatically thinks that criminals are bad, that we don't want to do better," she says. "This class really showed people that we're not that different from the people on the outside. We just made poor choices."

Wyman, who aspires to be an electrician, says she'll leave Taycheedah with college credits. "This is the best thing that I've ever done," she says. "My dad is, like, all happy."

She laughs. "He's never happy, so that's good."

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In a place where all residents had been judged and sentenced, there is one room in the Taycheedah Correctional Institution where judgment is checked at the door.

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Dr. Stephen Kercher


Dr. Stephen Kercher

Photo: Shawn McAfee/UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies

By Tom Hanaway
Multimedia News Intern

History Buff

Dr. Stephen Kercher is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Dr. Kercher, who earned his Ph.D. in history and American studies at Indiana University at Bloomington, specializes in post-WWII American history. He has received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2008 and has directed history projects such as “Black Thursday,” “The Algoma Riots” and “Earth Day.” He co-founded and formerly directed the Northeast Wisconsin Teachers Academy for the Study of American History, a project funded by more than $1.7 million from the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Kercher has been teaching at UW Oshkosh since 2000.

For this Setting the Course story, we asked Dr. Kercher a few questions about his passion of history, projects he has been a part of and his love for teaching.

Setting the Course Podcast

In the following audio-only podcast, Dr. Kercher discusses his course, America in the 1960s, which follows the counterculture movement, the Vietnam War and the sexual revolution. The class will be offered in Spring 2012. This podcast was conducted and produced by multimedia news intern Tom Hanaway.
Setting the Course Stephen Kercher Podcast

1. What first got you interested in history?

I came to an appreciation of history rather late. History as it was conveyed to me in middle and
high school—with its specific attention to the rote memorization of names and dates—bored me to tears. As my intellectual curiosity grew in college I gave history another chance. In college
history classes, as I began to study how popular attitudes, political ideologies and social
movements evolved over time, the world around me became more relatable. Historical insights
were suddenly revelatory, and I was hooked for life.

2. What area of history do you enjoy the most?

I am interested in many facets of twentieth-century United States history, but I am most drawn to
cultural and intellectual history, the study of how ideas, cultural institutions and the popular arts
have reflected and influenced American life.

Stephen Kercher teaching photo 

Kercher discusses Joseph Pulitzer's role in the Spanish-American War during a History 202 lecture on February 22, 2011.Photo taken by Shawn McAfee of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies. 

3. Why did you want to become a professor?

I imagined that devoting myself to researching and teaching history would continually engage
me in the world of ideas and allow me to help others understand the importance of our past.

4. You are originally from Illinois, so why did you decide to teach in Wisconsin? What drew you to Oshkosh?

I grew up in northern Illinois, with the Badger State practically in my backyard. I partook of
Wisconsin’s natural wonders often, traveling throughout the state to fish, ski, boat and play. I
was enrolled at both UW Madison and the University of Illinois but at the last minute chose the
latter because its in-state tuition was much less expensive.

The appeal of teaching in a beautiful state, particularly one with a state university system that has enjoyed such a great reputation, was immediate. My great colleagues in the History Department were another draw.

5. You have done several projects based on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s history, like "Black Thursday" and the "Algoma Riots." Why do you feel it is important to archive UWO’s history?

I strongly believe that we can all acquire a new, more nuanced understanding of our past when
we see how historical events played out in our backyard. For students, certainly, local history
often seems less distant and more immediate. “Black Thursday” and the “Algoma Riots”
demonstrate that the American crisis of race and the campus turmoil of the 1960s were not
confined to the South or campuses such as UC Berkeley. Their stories are important and
interesting in their own right, but each relate to other, wider historical moments that interest me
greatly. And both of them were also very well documented, so I - and the students who have
worked with me - have been able to piece together their stories with a surfeit of historical


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Dr. Stephen Kercher is an associate professor in the Department of History.

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