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Wesleyan/Westminster Partnership Promotes Cross-Generational Dialogue

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Students share perspectives on politics and society with members of Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay

University News | March 5, 2019

The adventure of learning continues at Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay, a Virginia Beach life-care community for active retirees. This spring, members can once again engage in Virginia Wesleyan University course offerings in religion, history, political science, and more through the Westminster/Wesleyan Lifelong Learning Institute.

The eight classes offered this semester bring non-credit courses to the members at no cost to them. The courses are taught by Virginia Wesleyan faculty through a unique partnership between Virginia Wesleyan and Westminster-Canterbury that began in 2017.

One of the spring semester courses is taught by Associate Professor of Political Science Leslie Caughell. Caughell’s course, “Our American Future: How College Students Perceive Politics and Society,” brought students who are political science majors to Westminster-Canterbury to share their perceptions about recent elections and contemporary politics.

"While teaching courses last year, members of the Westminster-Canterbury community asked me how my students perceived contemporary politics and past elections. At the same time, traditional college-aged students in my classes at Wesleyan had perceptions about how older Americans perceived politics that didn't always line up with what I heard at Westminster-Canterbury. This series of classes was an attempt to bring students to Westminister-Canterbury, hopefully beginning a longer inter-generational political exchange.” 

Seniors Storie Cook and Bayli Foley, sophomores Jennifer Vega and Asha Richards, and freshman Kameron Clarke discussed their concerns about America’s future, during one of the sessions. The students talked about the possibilities for America that make them optimistic and challenges about which they feel anxious.

On the agenda during their recent discussion were topics such as the 2020 presidential candidates, social spending, national debt, taxation, immigration, gun control, hate crimes and fact-finding and misinformation.

Most of the dialogue centered on national politics; however, students also noted that they were interested and active in local politics as well. Jennifer Vega took great pride in being an active citizen and exercising her right to vote as soon as she could.

“On my eighteenth birthday I registered to vote,” said Vega. “I still have my ‘I voted in Chesapeake’ sticker.”

Students were in agreement on many of the issues discussed. On immigration, they expressed that there is a lot of misinformation that clouds the issues and that contributes to misunderstanding. They agreed that people need to have the facts in order to understand the issues and make good decisions.

“I think people sometimes fear what they don’t understand,” noted Vega, “and they don’t want anything different than they themselves know.”

The students had differing views on Bernie Sanders’ announcement that he is running for president in 2020. Opinions ranged from “I think it’s great—he has touched on issues that others have not,” to “it’s selfish and egotistical of him to run, he’ll only hinder the Democratic party,” and “everyone brings something to the table.”

When asked by Westminster-Canterbury member Pat Hayward if we should already be talking about the next campaign when more time could be devoted to legislation and governance, Vega had a quick response.

“Working in politics means you are always running a campaign,” she said.

Caughell says that these classes are another great way to connect the classroom to the community.

“In my opinion, these sorts of community activities represent one of the things that VWU does best: drawing connections between the academic world and the larger community." noted Caughell. "Our faculty who are engaged in research are excited to share their work and we do that in classes every day, but having the opportunity to speak to other audiences is an enriching experience. It's been a pleasure to lead discussions at Westminster-Canterbury, where the residents are so engaged and knowledgeable.”


The full  spring 2019 schedule for the Virginia Wesleyan/Westminster-Canterbury Lifelong Learning Institute includes the following courses:

Seeing Through the Social Media - Dr. Benson P. Fraser, Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning and Adjunct Professor at VWU

The Course and The Constitution: A Quiet Revolution in the Making?  - Dr. Timothy G. O’Rourke, Provost and Vice President, VWU

Oral History: A Study into Qualitative Research - Dr. Benson P. Fraser, Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning and Adjunct Professor at VWU

Germany: 1918-1933  - Dr. Sara Sewell, Executive Director of The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration and Discovery and Professor of History, VWU

Telling the truth: The prophetic voice of Flannery O’Connor  - Dr. Benson P. Fraser, Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning and Adjunct Professor at VWU

Studies in the Early Church - Dr. Terrence Lindvall, C.S. Lewis Endowed Chair in Communication and Christian Thought and Professor of Communication, VWU

Our American Future: How College Students Perceive Politics and Society -  Dr. Leslie Caughell, Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Political Science Department, Chair of the International Studies Program, VWU

Religious Historical Films - Dr. Dennis Bounds, Writer, Author, and Adjunct Professor at VWU and Dr. Benson P. Fraser, Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning and Adjunct Professor at VWU