UP Profs Keep Learning and Connections Going | University of Portland

UP Profs Keep Learning and Connections Going

Fr. Dan Parrish holding a guitar with logo that reads University of Portland Pilots Give Back Spring 2020

University of Portland faculty handled the immense and lightning-speed challenge of moving their classes online with characteristic grace and focus on their students.

An example: Fr. Dan Parrish, C.S.C., a 1996 UP alum who previously worked in prison ministry, is now assistant professor for the Pamplin School of Business and pastoral resident at Lund Family Hall. His challenge: to figure out how to adapt his Cross-Cultural Management and Ethics class—which is largely driven by discussion and interaction—into the digital space.

“It has been much harder to conduct discussions online than I would have imagined,” he says. “It can be frustrating and challenging, trying to maintain a sense of community when we are separated and not able to see each other physically.”

But connection, being at the core of his teaching philosophy, is still the thing he looks forward to most, even if it’s not the same through a screen.

“Despite the challenges, however, people have been in relatively good spirits and genuinely look forward to seeing each other online. I find my spirits lifted as soon as students join the online meetings. It has really driven home to me how important human connection is—and how technology can never replace it.” 

Human connection is at the core of Fr. Dan’s faith as well. When he was an undergrad at UP, a campus minister once said to him, “No one can be a Christian alone.” He thought about this statement for days. Fr. Dan believes that the idea can be taken even further to: “No one can be a human alone. Yes, one human could technically survive alone. But to fully thrive as a human being—to be our best selves as God created us to be—we need each other.

“I pray daily that God delivers us from this pandemic and that we can return again to abiding more closely together, as is our nature.”

Given the new nature of the classroom, we’ve heard stories of children and pets making appearances in class. Fr. Dan’s newest class member is his guitar.

Now students in Fr. Dan’s class look forward to his weekly song. When Fr. Dan played for the first time, students began flooding the chat with gratitude and compliments. Quickly after Fr. Dan finished playing, the students decided that this was going to become a regular part of the class structure. He has kindly obliged.

Little things like listening to Fr. Dan strum his guitar make a difference.