Professors reflect on COVID-19

Manuel Lopez Zafra, Ph.D., one of the event speakers
Manuel Lopez Zafra, Ph.D., one of the event speakers

To help students think about the COVID-19 crisis, New College faculty from more than 20 disciplines joined forces to participate in an innovative course this fall: “COVID-19: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Pandemic.”

Join a panel discussion with professors as they describe how this unique course took shape, and how it led students to develop a complex and comprehensive understanding of COVID-19’s impact on the world. The panel will be held from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thurs. Dec. 3. R.S.V.P. by emailing ncalum@ncf.edu. The link for the event will be emailed on the morning of Dec. 3.

The discussion will cover such questions as, How have existing inequalities affected the spread of COVID-19 cases in the Sarasota region? Why did Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City attract worldwide controversy? And how can an online course on COVID-19 encourage student engagement through personal reflections and community interviews?

Meet the speakers:

Manuel Lopez Zafra, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of religion. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Lopez Zafra is a scholar of Buddhism with a particular regional focus on the Himalayas, including Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. He teaches courses on Buddhism, Hinduism and other Asian religions. He is also interested in the intersection of religion and popular culture. Lopez Zafra’s forthcoming book is entitled Monastic Education in Bhutan: Tradition and Transformation in the 21st Century.

Queen Meccasia Zabriskie, Ph.D. is an associate professor of sociology and theatre, dance and performance studies. She is also the co-director of the Initiative on Diversity and Equity in Academics (IDEA). Zabriskie earned a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. She is the co-author of Black Theater is Black Life: An Oral History of Chicago Theater and Dance, 1970-2010. A member of the Boxser Diversity Initiative’s advisory board, Zabriskie is a recent recipient of a Sarasota Magazine Unity Award.

Jing Zhang, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Chinese language and culture, and the director of the International Studies Program. Zhang holds a bachelor’s degree from Fudan University, a master’s degree from Peking University, and a Ph.D. from the Washington University in St. Louis. She teaches Chinese language courses, as well as courses in pre-modern Chinese literature and culture. She has published research articles on late Ming fiction and theater, and English translations of early Qing short stories. Her current research focuses on the chuanqi theater, and the presence of the Daoist immortal Lü Dongbin in fiction, theater, local cult and literati communities.

The panel will be moderated by Maneesha Lal, Ph.D., associate director of faculty development, and associate director of corporate and private foundation relations. Lal received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has taught courses in the history of medicine and South Asian history at Binghamton University, Trinity College (CT) and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is the state's only legislatively designated Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in liberal arts and sciences, a master’s degree program in data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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