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Holocaust & Genocide Studies Certificate Helping Students Learn About ‘Human Experience’

Penn State associate professor Eliyana Adler has taught about Judaism for years.

In doing so, she’s inevitably focused on the Holocaust and how its events affected the Jewish community and shaped what it is today. However, she knows it was far from the first genocide to have a profound impact.

Now, Adler is trying to educate Penn State students on these events through the university’s new Holocaust and Genocide Studies Certificate. The certificate, which acts similarly to a minor with fewer classes attached to it, encourages students to learn about different genocides to gain a broader knowledge of the human experience.

“We’d like [students] to know some history, so they can learn a little bit about the Holocaust,” Adler said. “But we’d also like them to begin to think about genocide as a part of the human experience, as well as what it means and the different genocides that have taken place historically, and how might we as a society think about what they have in common. Then they can figure out what they may be able to do regarding this persistent and very serious problem.”

The certificate also investigates several other notable genocides, including the Armenian Genocide and the Rwandan Genocide, among others. Adler also hopes to educate students on many lesser-known genocides ranging from the age of Rome to the 21st century.

However, one problem she and her colleagues run into is that these conflicts aren’t often well-known to students. Adler hopes the Holocaust’s familiarity will provide a jumping-off point for students to dive into the curriculum.

“The Holocaust is sort of an entry-way in because it is familiar. People are, generally, rather interested in the Holocaust,” Adler said. “Therefore, it might open their eyes to other genocides and thinking more broadly about the destruction of the Jewish community and Europe, but also as a historical phenomenon.”

The Holocaust and Genocide Studies Certificate consists of four classes and a minimum of 12 credits. Hist 121, or “The History of the Holocaust,” is required for every student who wants to pursue the certificate. The other three classes are up to each student as long as they relate to the Holocaust or another genocide in one way or another.

“We’re able to be pretty flexible because it’s not that big of a program,” Adler said. “We have a list of classes that are already approved, and students can simply look at that list and pick their classes and maybe meet with our advisor once. But what I would love for students to do is to find other classes, which does happen. Maybe they took some fantastic class in the English department that we didn’t know existed! So we’re very pleased when students come to us with new classes that fit the certificate.”

Adler added students should speak to their advisers about taking courses not currently on the list before enrolling.

The Holocaust and Genocide Studies Certificate also provides students with experiences outside of the classroom. If all goes as planned, students will have opportunities to travel to France to see imprisonment camps or visit Poland and its many World War II sites.

Although genocide can be a tough subject to digest, Adler hopes students realize they didn’t start and stop with the Holocaust. She believes the more people who know about these attacks, the more likely they can be stopped in the future.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey is a senior from Annapolis, Maryland, majoring in secondary education and minoring in social justice in education. When he is not writing for the blog, he enjoys rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor", and yes mom, actually doing school work. If you would like to talk about sports or "Survivor", the best way to reach out is on Twitter @theowenabbey. All other compliments may be sent to [email protected]

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