From a Social Distance: UC Faculty Recommend Books, Music, Movies, Podcasts

Social distancing

What UC faculty members are reading, watching, and listening to as we practice social distancing and transition to online learning. 

Today, March 23, 2020, marks the first day of Utica College’s virtual semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. Just like UC students, faculty members are finding ways to connect with others and stay productive at home as the College transitions to online learning. We asked three favorite professors for their recommendations---and some wise words about making the best of these uncertain times.

Communications Professor Ariel Gratch

Ariel Gratch, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts

What are you reading? I recently finished Parable of the Talents and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (especially if you're interested in dystopian futures... or presents?), and This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins; Currently re-reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld series (especially good if you want to laugh and lose yourself in fantasy for a bit), and Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell (part of the Saxon Tales). Many libraries now use Overdrive to virtually check out e-books and audiobooks!

What TV and movies are you streaming? As a communication professor, I suggest Buffy for a series that tackles some really complicated interpersonal relationships, and Dead Poets Society for a classic movie about why literature and performance matter.

What are you listening to? I have a small kid, so we've been listening to Disney radio on Pandora. We have a game where we each guess a Disney movie and if a song from that movie plays next, we win a prize (either stickers or those who guessed incorrectly have to do one of our chores :-)

Other activities you’re enjoying? Lots of walks and spring cleaning! We've been using Facetime a lot to have virtual playdates for our son and are using Zoom to have a "happy hour" with friends.


Gary Leising

Gary Leising, Assistant Professor of English

What are you reading? Apeirogon: A Novel by Colum McCann. The title refers to a shape with infinitely countable sides, which is symbolically apt for this book about fathers of lost children in the Israel-Palestine crisis. It's available as an e-book. And I'll recommend—a website to connect readers with independent bookstores, as small businesses need support at a time like this.

What are you listening to? The podcast “Six Minutes.” We started listening to this on road trips with my kids, as the story is aimed at a young audience. It's good for families, it's a compelling drama in small bits with cliffhanger endings that drive you to the next episode.

Other activities you’re enjoying? On Twitter, novelist Rebecca Makkai (@rebeccamakkai) has been sharing daily writing prompts all year. Some a pretty weird ("Describe eating a scented candle" or "There are thirty tiny polar bears living in the refrigerator") and could provide a fun, imaginative journaling exercise, or maybe a story or poem you'll want to try publishing somewhere. I've also been following, on Twitter, the hashtag #InternationalPoetryCircle. Poets around the world are recording themselves reading their own and others' poems. I love the "live" connection with others here, and since they're mostly under three minutes long, it's easy to fit into a quick break.


Brett Orzechowski

Brett Orzechowski, Associate Professor of Management and Business Analytics

What are you reading? It's appropriate for the current times, but I finished The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact two weeks ago. You can get it on Kindle or free from Audacity if you sign up. It will resonate with everyone -- faculty, students and administrators -- and allows you to think about the promise of the future.

What TV and movies are you streaming? If you have Apple TV or Firestick (or your phone), get the Bloomberg app. As I watch my retirement disappear via real-time stock updates, they have some phenomenal short documentary programming that you can binge. They have a section on innovators that focus on global entrepreneurship. There's a team of scientists rebuilding coral reefs via recyclable materials in Tel Aviv and a former gamer in Oregon who's mass producing a three-wheel electric vehicle called the Arcimoto. Watch one a morning or binge.

What are you listening to? They've been around for a while, but I discovered the Hot 8 Brass Band in New Orleans in January when I attended a conference. They covered everyone from Snoop Dogg to Joy Division to Marvin Gaye while staying true to New Orleans jazz roots. You can't beat horns. Make sure you turn it to 11.

Other activities you’re enjoying? I've shifted my distance running from late afternoon to the early morning, right around sunrise. It's getting warmer. The moon is still out. Long-distance running is very much a solitary pursuit, but even when you pass other runners, you know they're thinking the same thing. We keep our six-foot distance, but say good morning in a more appreciative way. It feels different -- perhaps more important.  

How about some words of wisdom? Be a mensch during these times. Karma is pretty powerful.


Need help making the transition to online learning? Reach out to a Student Success Coach via their direct lines here. Tutoring also is available online here. 

For more on Utica College's response to the coronavirus pandemic, visit

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