Art To The Rescue

Guest post contributed by Dr. Shoshanah Findling, Graduate School of Education. 

Artist: Julia Rand, “Untitled”, Oil.

Building off the success of our school-wide faculty art show called “Art After Dark”, I saw the need to keep the momentum going. But how do you do that during a worldwide pandemic? We had to get creative (pun fully intended) regarding how to keep art alive. Although we could not gather in person to curate or gather for a live artist reception, it did not mean that people didn’t want to. We were determined to try.  

Covid-19 had us scrambling for ways to engage our students. As a self-trained artist, I know that artists have a need for solitude and reflection to make uncover the meaning that will translate into their art. But we also crave social interactions with fellow creative souls for validation and inspiration. Artists will seek a tribe where they can discuss themes, mediums, techniques and “play off each other”. When I need a spark of inspiration, I can turn to my art league for all this.  During the pandemic they could not have live meetings. They made use of Zoom and PowerPoint presentations to have virtual shows. Here at Touro, we were doing this for our courses. I knew I could make this work. What did I have to lose?   

I always say “when you make a wish, the universe will conspire to help you”. I made a passing comment to a colleague about the need to deal with all the uncertainty surrounding Covid with a new art show. Annecy Baez, of the Graduate School of Social Work suggested an Art Museum Gallery template she used to enter a different show. All I had to do was keep the format and give credit to the designer.  I also had an amazing group of school counseling students in the Graduate School of Education that semester who enjoyed art as a hobby. They wanted to participate and even offered to co-curate with me. Samantha Marinello, who holds a Masters degree in Art Therapy and attends the School Counseling program was a tremendous help.  I also have to thank Inna Smirnova for her help promoting the two shows on Touro’s website. She discovered an unusual virtual gallery called Artsteps and designed another 3-D virtual art show with the images I sent her.   

The first faculty-student virtual art show was held from November, 2020-January, 2021. The show was called Covid Creations: The Art of Uncertainty. We also held a virtual workshop to design Mandalas on glass bottles. In spring of 2021, flowers were not the only things to come out of dark. In some ways we all bunkered down into our own cocoons. When the Covid vaccine was approved for emergency use, we too could have a sense of hope and renewal.  Looking for signs of change and hope inspired me to create a second virtual show.  There is still time to see the second virtual art show which is titled “Hope Blooms”.  When we reopen in September (with the Lord’s help) we will complete our indoor Garden of Hope as a green reminder of our shared experiences during the pandemic.    

Everyone has their own coping mechanism. Mine has always been art. It is a way to make sense of what is happening to me and all around me. It can form community, draw people to a cause or bring their innermost dreams to life. Art has the power to transform lines, shapes, colors and patterns which adds beauty into the world.  

Artist: Annecy Baez, “Grief”, Digital Collage. 
Artist: Samantha Marinello, “Saying Good-Bye”, Acrylic. 
image: Hope Blooms exhibition announcement

The virtual art show, Hope Blooms, can be viewed here through 8/10/21.

-post contributed by Dr. Shoshanah Findling, Graduate School of Education 

Textbook Heroes: Neil Normand

Welcome to our series recognizing champions of free and affordable course materials at Touro! These “Textbook Heroes” have made a difference in the lives of our students by lowering the cost of their degrees. Do you know someone who fits the bill? Nominate them (or yourself) by contacting the Libraries.

image: Neil Normand (provided)

Neil Normand is Lecturer and Lab Director at Touro’s Lander College for Women. He is also a Fellow in our Health Sciences and Allied Health Open Educational Resources (OER) Faculty Fellowship 2020-2021. 

[refresher: Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are free to all users. They reside in the public domain, or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.] 

The Touro College OER Faculty Fellowship, sponsored by Touro College Libraries and funded by a grant from the Network of the National Library of Medicine Middle Atlantic Region, supports faculty in the health sciences and allied health fields in developing Open Educational Resources for their undergraduate and graduate students. The fellowship was awarded to five Touro Faculty members to support adopting, or creating OER for use in their courses. 

Neil’s fellowship project, the Lander College for Women Microbiome Project, takes the form of a collection of OER modules (textbook chapters, articles, videos, etc.), adopted from several sources, and hosted in Canvas. It was created for his Principles of Biology I course and lab. With this course taken by roughly 600 students a year, Neil’s fellowship project has the potential to save Touro students around $70,000 a year in textbook costs!  

Here, Neil answers a few questions about his OER fellowship project: 

Why were you interested in OER in the first place?  

There is a wealth of helpful information in the form of Open Educational Resources. In the recent shift to remote-based learning, I feel that is important to take advantage of the online resources that are available.  

How was your experience finding tools and resources for OER?  

It was pleasantly surprising finding many online resources with OER. Through TouroOne, the online Library resources were very helpful. Several different OER Biology textbooks were available as well as OER course material. The OER library staff was extremely helpful in helping myself and the other fellows. We met regularly and we were made aware of different resources. 

What were your goals? Did you achieve the goals you had set out for your project?  

My goal was to create an online resource for students to access information on the Human Microbiome project. Thanks in large part to the Touro Libraries OER resources I was able to achieve that. 

Can you give us a description of your OER fellowship project? 

My project was to develop an online resource to learn about the Microbiome, loosely defined as microorganisms, such as bacteria, that are found throughout the human body. It plays an important role in our understanding of our interactions with microorganisms and can help better understand which microorganisms are associated with clinical conditions and can help to improve the overall state of human health. I have used OER to first provide some background information on microorganisms in general. Also, the term Biome is an Ecology term that describes the interactions with organisms on a particular habitat, so I have provided some background information on that as well.   

The idea of the microbiome is the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies, which is the habitat so to speak, in an ecological sense. There is a lot of Microbiome information provided. Some in the form of informative video content, some in the form of an open online course at MIT and links to papers and online books and other important websites that inform a lot about the microbiome. Finally, since this is intended to be a resource for Lander College for Women, a Womens Jewish College, there is also information about the impact of the human microbiome on women’s health, as well as information regarding a parallel concept in Jewish Philosophy, that a human being is a microcosm of a world. 

Thanks, Neil!

see our other Textbook Heroes posts   

-post contributed by Kirk Snyder, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian 


2020-2021 Library Statistics are in!

As we close out another academic year (this one like no other) we take a look back at the library services we delivered to the Touro community.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, almost nothing was normal about this year. The Fall semester began in the thick of the pandemic, with much, but not all, of our work shifting to remote service as Touro transitioned most classes to online learning. Some of us remained working in our libraries, in-person, throughout the year, some worked remotely the whole year, and some did a combination of both. We had to learn new skills, new technologies, and adjust our workflows for just about everything we did. Yet, Touro Librarians and Library Staff found new ways to connect with our students and faculty and continued to provide the same great library services that we always have, pandemic or no pandemic.

As we had relatively few students and faculty on our campuses this year, most of our reference service moved to being remote. We had the most reference activity via email and phone, with our Chat and Ask-a-Librarian services fielding a steady stream of inquiries as well.

Our librarians regularly teach classes on research methods, and this year was no exception, only that all of these classes were shifted online and carried out via zoom. Through the year, we taught 136 classes over zoom, and had 2131 students attend our library classes. Our asynchronous educational efforts were successful as well, with 408 students and faculty using our many libguides this year. Our librarians and library staff also continued to educate ourselves, attending webinars throughout the year, with a combined total attendance of 544.

Let’s take a look at all the numbers!

We are still hard at work over the summer and are looking forward to what the next academic year will bring, with the start of the Fall 2021 semester.

Until then, see you in the library (call first to verify hours) and online!

post contributed by Kirk Snyder, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian.