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Meeting EDI goals: Wendy Makoons Geniusz

| Denise Olson

We know that the semester just started, but as you think ahead to planning your spring 2020 course registration, some coverage in recent Midwest media points out what kinds of gems are among the unique course options available.

Growler magazine, a Minnesota publication highlighting resources for those interested in fresh perspectives on the world of craft beer, food, spirits, arts, the outdoors and makers of all varieties, published a spring story about the herbal teas created by Dr. Wendy Makoons Geniusz, UW-Eau Claire associate professor of languages.

The interview by James Norton explores Geniusz's book, titled "Plants Have So Much to Give Us, All We Have to Do Is Ask,” which according to Norton is "botany, history, and sacred stories, all wrapped up in leaves." The book is subtitled "Anishinaabe Botanical Teachings" and serves as a backdrop for a major component of Geniusz's LANG 160 course, "Ojibwe Culture and History." A highlight of the class, according to students, is the regular making of herbal teas in the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) traditions, following course topics such as alternative medicine traditions and the impacts of assimilation and colonization on culture.

"In the Ojibwe Culture and History classes, we have a new tea nearly every week. The teas compliment the plant(s) we are studying that week," Geniusz said. "Drinking the teas in class is part of the Anishinaabe way of learning about plants: use as many senses as possible to familiarize yourself with this being so that you will know how to recognize this being in the future."

This course from Geniusz is a great example of how UW-Eau Claire strives to use interdisciplinary approaches to teaching more inclusively and with a goal to expand worldviews.

"All disciplines at UWEC and in academia globally can benefit from teaching more inclusively," she said. "If we all look at the world the same way, if we all speak the same language and practice the same culture and religion, then we are greatly limiting our capacity for creative thought and problem-solving. With such limits, we are in danger of never solving some of our greatest obstacles like access to clean water, renewable and sustainable energy, and institutional racism."

See the course catalog for details about LANG 160 and other classes.

Read the Makoons Geniusz article in Growler.

Photo caption: Dr. Wendy Makoons Geniusz enjoying swamp tea after foraging near Canard Lake. (Photo by Tj Turner)