Teaching Outside the Box

SU faculty members find innovative ways to engage students in their subject matter, both in and out of the classroom

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Dellorfano was released from prison in 2001 but continued visiting Susquehanna to tell his story to future business leaders. In 2003, he even authored an article in The Opening Bell, a business and economics newsletter published by the Sigmund Weis School of Business. In it, Dellorfano said hubris led to overconfidence and imprudence.

“I thought I could do no wrong,” Dellorfano wrote. “In reality, my pride got in the way of good judgment.”

Porro, a successful attorney and business owner who allowed greed to turn him into a Mob-affiliated scam artist, conveyed similar messages to students through the years. In 1999, Porro and his wife, Joan, were convicted on 19 counts of fraud and tax evasion. They served prison terms of five years and four years, respectively. Like Dellorfano, Porro visited Susquehanna while incarcerated and then returned after his release in 2004.

“You can rationalize doing almost anything,” he told a group of students in 2005. But people do so at their own peril, he said. Porro advised students to keep their egos in check, choose their business partners wisely and always heed their conscience.

Davis says he developed the white-collar-criminal program to help students internalize the ethical behavior he was teaching them in the classroom. He believes it’s critical for faculty to weave experience-based teaching methodology into their classes. “Textbook learning is quickly forgotten,” Davis says. “I think we can all look back to our college days and remember the experiential things so much more clearly.”

 

A BUDDHISM CLASS taught by Associate Professor of Religion Jeffrey Mann takes experiential learning to new heights of consciousness. “Within the traditions of Buddhism, specifically Zen Buddhism, there is a distrust of the written word and direct communication in conveying its worldview,” Mann says.

So in addition to learning the history and beliefs of various Buddhist sects, students spend time practicing zazen, or seated meditation. Meditation is practiced both in class and during a trip to a Zen monastery in nearby Pennsdale, Pa. “By moving beyond an objective communication of facts about Buddhism and incorporating the experiential component of meditative practice, students’ understanding of this religious tradition is deepened considerably,” Mann says.

So, too, is their understanding of the religious traditions that shape their own lives, says Cameron Karl ’10. “Giving every religion the respect it deserves, Dr. Mann provided us the opportunity of not only diving deep into the Buddhist religion, but into our own faiths as well by establishing a classroom setting that was both comfortable and intellectually stimulating,” Karl says.

Students who participate in Mann’s PLUS (Philippines: Learning, Understanding and Serving) program also obtain deep insight into their subject matter through experience. Students in this service-learning course study Filipino history, culture and language before taking a two-week trip to the country to work on construction projects in Lipa City and volunteer at a shelter for physically and sexually abused children in Manila.

“What they find, without exception, is that learning about the Philippines through books and lectures has not permitted them to understand and appreciate how life is lived in a nation so different than our own,” Mann says. “It is one thing to read about people living on less than $1 a day. It’s quite another to sit in their homes, share a meal, play with their children and experience our common humanity.”

Jordan Musser ’11, who participated in the program this year, says the cultural immersion provided students with a different perspective on the issues they discussed and contemplated before the trip. “We attained an understanding of the culture through direct contact and conversation with residents of the Philippines without the detachment of studying at a secluded university in central Pennsylvania,” he says.

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