Oskar Schindler Humanities Course Makes Lasting Impact on Students
by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer
Ian Steinmann `14 has been thinking a lot about an individual’s ability to make a positive difference in the world this semester. Torrie Hoover `14 has, too.
Torrie Hoover '14.
In UNH’s Oskar Schindler Humanities course, taking a stand for justice, small or large, comes up often, in their fiction and nonfiction readings, in vibrant class discussions, during their service learning and on a trip to the Museum of Tolerance in Manhattan.
Steinmann said he will carry many stories with him long after the class has ended. “We all have power,” he said. “Learning what to do with that power to positively impact the largest number of people is what we should really be concentrating on. We are all trying to make this ‘difference’ in the world, which everyone likes to talk so passionately about. We just need to do our part.”
That type of response happens often in a course that draws students from all colleges at the University, across many majors, and attracts students who have many different passions, interests, beliefs and career goals.
Hoover, a criminal justice and forensic psychology major, said that is one of the best aspects of the course. “Not only am I learning tolerance through the readings and assignments in this class, but I am also learning tolerance through the discussions we have and the personal experiences other students have had throughout their lives,” she said.
“The Oskar Schindler Humanities course is a way to show both students and those outside of the UNH community the value that UNH places on the sacrifices and risks individuals such as Oskar Schindler made for others,” she added.
The Oskar Schindler Humanities Endowed Professorship was established through a major gift in honor of the inauguration of Steve Kaplan as the sixth president of UNH. David Schroeder is the third professor to hold the University’s Oskar Schindler Endowed Professorship. He was preceded by Mario Gaboury, dean of the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, who held the professorship first, followed by Martin O’Connor, associate professor of fire science and professional studies and University chaplain.
Schroeder said he thinks about the promise and the responsibility of the professorship every day. “Dean Gaboury and professor O’Connor set the bar so very high,” he said. “I want to do everything I can to keep that momentum going.”
Schroeder thinks too about Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist and Nazi party member who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust, employing them in his factories and taking considerable risks to save as many people as he could.
“I wanted to be part of a University that thought so imaginatively and put such an emphasis on service to name a professorship after a hero of the Holocaust,” Schroeder said. “And to disseminate this information and pass it down to our students in perpetuity, that’s an amazing thing.”
Schroeder, who also serves as an assistant dean in Lee College, is a facilitator-trainer with the Museum of Tolerance and has conducted training programs there that provide law enforcement and corrections officers with tools and “ways of thinking about themselves and the world around them that make their jobs easier when they are in positions of power.”
These tools are applicable to and useful in all of the fields his students will enter, whether police work, forensics, engineering, biomedical research or the arts. “One way this generation is certainly an improvement over my generation is that they do understand far more directly that there is a necessity to change,” he said. “Being part of the change is being part of the solution. I think this generation is more amenable to concepts of pluralism and tolerance than previous generations have been.”
As part of the course, students participate in service-learning opportunities. This semester, they had the choice of mentoring students at Carrigan School in West Haven or taking part in the MILLA project, an international organization based in Connecticut that conducts research in the Middle East, North Africa and East Asia to understand the culture of gender-based violence.
Dennis Malles ’14 said working with the MILLA Project has made him more culturally aware and that the course has changed him. “Professor Schroeder has really brought out the best in me in this class,” he said. “He’s taught me to think critically and to never take anything at face value.”