Two professors and three Honors students have teamed up to explore race as a social construct through DNA testing and plan to apply their findings to the CORE 210 class.
Trevor Thompson, Ph.D candidate and instructor, and Dr. Jonathan Camp, associate professor of communication and director of the Organizational Development Program, and the three honor students will interview and attempt to quantify the way each student was impacted and changed through the DNA testing.
Thompson and Camp have taught CORE 210 for three years and believe DNA testing will directly relate the topic of race and identity to their students. The two professors hope to facilitate an experience that transforms the manner in which students communicate about race and shape their identity.
“We hope that CORE can be a transformative experience,” Thompson said. “Many of our sophomores are very ill-informed about genetics and how that plays into their basic understanding of themselves.”
Camp reinforced the message of understanding of self. He wants to strip away visual cues that have structured students’ interpretation of race.
“We are questioning the biological categories of race, and how these are untenable,” Camp said. “But race as a social category is very powerful, despite not resting on any biological underpinning.”
Camp and Thompson are excited to see how the class is genetically related, which will be in ways closer than students imagine. Students are also looking forward to getting their results back from the DNA testing.
Lily Auker, public relations major from Prescott, Arizona, said the real meat of the study will be the correlation between the participant’s genetic makeup and who he or she identifies with daily.
“We’ll see how this affects the way we treat other people and how it affects the way our culture shapes us,” Auker said.
Camp is also conducting a phenomenological study with the class. In other words, he will attempt to determine how the results of the DNA testing affect each individual’s experience with his or her identity. He is particularly interested in the conversations with family members that will result from this class.