Aug 12, 2020

Fresno State Talks ends with lecture from Dr. Martin Shapiro

When psychology associate professor Dr. Martin Shapiro learned that the world’s bumblebee population was disappearing, he spent several years trying to keep a beehive on top of one of Fresno State’s engineering building intact in order to keep the insects alive to pollinate the plants that need them to survive.

“He is the kind of professor that doesn’t just emphasize learning,” said economics student Kaitlyn Sims. “He emphasizes learning how to act and how to make change. These are the qualities that inspired us to nominate him to do a Fresno State Talk.”

“Elephants, Glowing Mice and Flying Robots: Interconnected Forces Shaping the World” was Shapiro’s topic for the third and final lecture in the Fresno State Talks series on Wednesday evening in the Satellite Student Union.

Sims and physics major Anthony Farnesi nominated Shapiro, and they introduced him at the talk. They spoke of why they considered Shapiro a distinct professor.

“Kait and I are both seniors and have seen our fair share of professors during our four years here,” Farnesi said. “I have studied physics while she has studied economics, and when we each finished our first month with Dr. Shapiro last semester, we both agreed that he has far surpassed our expectations of what a great professor should be. His class and his teaching style were refreshing and showed us both that he is the perfect candidate to be speaking on distinction.”

Shapiro specializes in neuroscience, animal behavior and theories of decision-making.  He has been a member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Global Challenges Initiative since 2007, Farnesi said.

Sims said one distinct thing about Shapiro was how much he emphasized high-impact learning.  She said that in their global challenges class, Shapiro had students complete a service-learning project in which they chose an issue that they cared about, made a change toward a solution and educated others about what they had done.

“It is learning like this that inspires students to follow their passions, by learning through doing,” Sims said.

Shapiro has taught courses on global challenges for the Smittcamp Family Honors College since 2008 and helped to develop new interdisciplinary courses at Fresno state on big global issues, Farnesi said.

Shapiro said that he helped to establish Interdisciplinary [INDT] 50: critical thinking on global issues and INDT 177: global challenges.

“I have to say, teaching this class is really important,” Shapiro said.  “Students tend to like this stuff.  Students try to make that preferable future they want.”

Shapiro said that he hoped students who were interested in global issues would take some of the interdisciplinary courses.

Farnesi said that when he took Shapiro’s class, he realized that it was different than any other class he had taken.

“It’s about everything,” Farnesi said.  “It’s about the world you live in, and it really stands out as different than anything you’ve ever done. Dr. Shapiro does a really good job at making it extra-engaging and focusing on high-impact, out-of-the-classroom learning as well as strong in-classroom learning and really just makes it an above-and-beyond classroom experience.”

Sims said that she was passionate about nominating Shapiro because she felt that she got so much out of his global challenges class, and she wanted to give others a chance to know what it was about.

“Everything that he does outside of teaching and outside of being a professor is in some way related to trying to change the world, even on the most small scale,” Farnesi said.

Sims said that when she went to Shapiro to talk about her service-learning project on women’s reproductive health initiative, he was very supportive of what she was interested in.

“He’s really supportive of his students,” Sims said.  “He’s really passionate about all of these issues, but also passionate about helping students find what they’re interested in and helping that come to life.”

The Fresno State Talks was a synopsis of the whole semester of the global challenges class and introduced the complexities of global issues and how they relate, Farnesi said.

“As student leaders on our own campus, we were inspired by his class and the passion that he has for learning,” Sims said. “Any person who listens to Dr. Shapiro speak is likely to leave caring more about their impact on the world around them, and to us that is a huge step in the right direction.”

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