By Nick Tangorra
Meet Professor Joan Digby. She’s been director of the honors program and an English professor for 50 years at LIU Post. She graduated with her M.A. from the University of Delaware and a B.A. and Ph.D from New York University. She can now add “drone aficionado” to her resumé.
Something completely new for Digby, she has been hard at work learning all there is to know about drones. “Why did this happen? First of all I’m in the English department and the [drone] class is in media arts, so how did it happen,” she asked.
Professor Benjamin Gerdes, who was scheduled to teach the course on drones this semester, is on leave for a year, so Digby stepped in. “I spent the summer learning about drones and here I am – now in my own drone class. I figured when I announced that I’d be teaching it, everybody would drop out and it would go away, but then people joined the class,” she said.
Digby has changed the course material for her students. “We actually started with the linguistic backgrounds of the word ‘drone’ which is a medieval word referring to ‘a low humming sound.’ Then for the next lesson, I followed up with music that had drone instruments in them like Indian Raga music or Australian didgeridoos,” she said.
She has also discussed bees and the “drones in the hive.” Digby is now beginning to explore actual drones and their ethical, agricultural and military uses and implications.
Lauren Gissentanna, senior musical theater major, is enjoying her time in the drone class. Digby is “a great woman and a fun professor,” she said. “What I like about her classes is that they feel more like a seminar rather than an actual lecture class. We sit and talk around the table and we’re all just on the same level.”
Gissentanna added that she enjoys Digby’s method on breaking the “student-level barrier” with her being almost student-like herself and learning this with the class. Although drones are new to Digby, she is not stepping away from the challenge. “I never like to teach the same thing again and again because then I don’t learn anything and I don’t get new ideas,” she said. “It’s been a big learning curve, but a fabulous experience. So for me, doing new things is what keeps me going. I don’t like repeating what I always have done – it’s boring, extremely boring. I need new things to do.”
Students who missed the drone class this semester may be in luck. Normally, honors electives are not often repeated, but Digby feels that with the world changing so exponentially, she’ll have a whole new lesson on drones to teach in the near future. “I could see that within another year they (drones) could be used in different ways, much different ways,” she said.