Kent State Grad Turned Honors Colloquium Professor

Freshman Honors Colloquium Professor Explores Instructing Remote Honors Course During Pandemic
Freshman Honors Colloquium Professor Hagan Whiteleather
Hagan Whiteleather, a Kent State University graduate, is in her second year with the Kent State Honors College as a Freshman Honors Colloquium professor. 

Whiteleather graduated in 2015 from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Arts in both English and Psychology as well as minors in writing and teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). She followed her undergraduate work by earning her Masters of Fine Arts in 2019 in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University.

During her time at Iowa State University, Whiteleather taught for three years. She taught courses including English 150 and 250 (equivalent to College Writing I and II at Kent State), creative writing focused on fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and a creative writing course focused specifically on nonfiction writing.

Whiteleather has been at Kent State University as a faculty member for two years and has taught with the Honors College the entire time.

Her particular colloquium section covers the topic of death. Whiteleather has students focus on the association of death with the body in the fall academic semester and death with the soul in the spring academic semester.

During the fall semester, honors students learn what happens to the body after death, the stages before death including the diagnosis, death in disproportionate populations with higher mortality rates and the association with Black Lives Matter, and how to have a good death. She accomplishes this by utilizing texts including Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, and The Body by Stephen King to name a few.

In the spring semester, honors students look at grief, loss, the afterlife, what it means to live a life, how to live a good life, how to overcome anxiety and depression, and other related topics associating death with the soul. Spring texts include, but are not limited to Hamlet by William Shakespeare, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and Lost Connections by Johann Hari. Whiteleather also uses an episode from the television series “Black Mirror” and has students study the musical “Beetlejuice” during this semester.

“I just love that I get to expose students to books and movies and podcasts that I think are truly inspiring and enlightening,” Whiteleather said when asked to share her favorite part of being an Honors College professor. 

Whiteleather comes from a family of teachers so she always knew she wanted to teach. Her favorite part of teaching is when the texts she introduces to her students go beyond the classroom and resonate in their personal lives. 

“The greatest lesson I have learned as an educator is to constantly be aware of every person’s experience in the class,” Whiteleather said.

She believes in creating intimate connections with all of her students in order to make everyone comfortable in the classroom. One-on-one conferences are one of the methods she has implemented to try and accomplish this.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Whiteleather has been teaching completely remotely. All her classes are synchronous in meetings to try and foster a sense of community between students. She believes this is what was lost the most with virtual classes and uses breakout rooms at the beginning of class to try and allow students to still build connections and friendships.

When she is not teaching, Whiteleather enjoys reading, watching television and other forms of media, going for walks and baking. She is also the adviser to the Kent State English department book club. She was co-adviser with the late Kim Winebrenner who she said was her mentor and a close personal friend.

If Whiteleather could give her college age self one piece of advice, she would say to take as many classes as you can. “It is a lost opportunity when students cling so closely to their subject matter or major,” Whiteleather said.

Whiteleather states that you should explore your passions, not just classes associated with your major. She also urges her students to travel as many places as they are able to visit in college, as well as study abroad. The Freshman Honors Colloquium professor ends with advice to honors students, explaining that they should take advantage of every opportunity they are given at this time in their life to gain valuable experience and knowledge.

 

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PHOTO CAPTION 1: Hagan Whiteleather's Freshman Honors Colloquium class on Zoom during the spring 2021 semester.

PHOTO CAPTION 2: Hagan Whiteleather, Freshman Honors Colloquium Professor.

 

Media Contact: Stephanie Moskal, smoskal@kent.edu, 330-672-2312

POSTED: Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - 5:24pm
UPDATED: Friday, March 5, 2021 - 12:57pm
WRITTEN BY:
Alex Jones, Kent State University Honors College Intern