Sarah Pessin's Philosophy Class Uses the Innovation Labs

Sarah Pessin
Professor of Philosophy, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Interfaith Chair; Director of Spiritual Life

Sarah Pessin teaches philosophy and interfaith studies at DU, and recently began a new role as director of spiritual life for the University’s Office of Student Affairs and Inclusive Excellence. According to Pessin, the Innovation Labs have expanded the ways her students engage with their theoretical and historical curriculums. “In my areas of study, so much is abstract,” Pessin said. “Turning these abstract concepts into something concrete has opened many opportunities in my teaching.”

For example, Pessin’s class on coexistence explores Kintsugi, a Japanese art form that conveys imperfection as part of the human condition. Kintsugi artwork takes broken pottery and mends the pieces with lacquer mixed with powdered gold (among other materials). Pessin teaches Kintsugi as a metaphor for larger complex topics, such as modern-day pluralism and liberal democracy.

Pessin worked with the Innovation Lab team to put together a special Kintsugi-style project for her whole class: Students broke salad plates inside canvas bags and then worked for over an hour to put the pieces back together with a special mix of glue and faux gold powder. “It helped me and my students think in new ways about—and experience new reactions to—the difficulty, imperfection, but also deep importance of navigating differences with our neighbors,” Pessin said. The student employees worked with Pessin and her students every step of the way, ensuring they had the proper tools and support to effectively complete their project.

Pessin’s engagement with the Innovation Labs goes beyond her in-class curriculum. As director of spiritual life, Pessin is undertaking another project that will be seen by the entire DU campus soon. In fact, her project relies on both the Labs’ equipment and the COVID-19 plexiglass barriers Thaddeus Driscoll helped produce in 2020.

“We are going to convert the COVID barriers into ‘hope mobiles’ that will be displayed across campus,” Pessin said. The project will start by using the Innovation Lab’s laser engraver to etch uplifting messages onto the plexiglass, and Pessin will then work with students to assemble the mobiles and install them around DU.”


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