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In the Spotlight: Ia Dübois

It was deep budget cuts during a recession that led to one of Ia Dübois’ most enduring classes at the University of Washington.

Not long after starting with the UW in 1992, Dübois brainstormed with a colleague about how to bring more students into classes in the Department of Scandinavian Studies, a part of the College of Arts & Sciences. “What is selling?” Dübois remembers her colleague asking. “Well, sex,” she replied, half-jokingly. That planted the seed for “Sexuality in Scandinavia: Myth and Reality,” which has since become Dübois’ most popular class.

It started with about 45 students that first term in the mid-90s, but “Sexuality in Scandinavia” has grown over the years, reaching 235 students for fall quarter. Throughout the term, Dübois compares and contrasts laws and legislation regarding sexuality in a handful of Scandinavian countries. “It’s a wonderful thing, to teach the differences between the Scandinavian countries, because each country has a different value system,” Dübois said.

She tries to bridge the cultural divide by screening documentaries on subjects with which students might have only a passing familiarity or faint understanding. Those films touch on subjects such as homosexuality, prostitution and trafficking — and how they impact life in Scandinavia. She hopes that students connect those issues to what happens in their own communities. “I really see our teaching as not only the facts, but also to teach the students to become good citizens,” Dübois said.

Dübois, who is a senior lecturer and undergraduate adviser today, also tries to educate students about legal developments and media portrayals that may have informed their own thoughts on sexuality. “I don’t want you to change your mind,” Dübois tells students each quarter. “But, be aware of what is forming your opinion.”

Dübois remains busy outside of the classroom, as well. In October she attended a conference put on by the Association of Swedish Teachers and Researchers in America. It was the kind of eye-opening experience that keeps Dübois motivated after 20 years at the UW. “To be in an environment where you are exposed to really new research, new thinkers, and new interpretations of literature and of culture, I still have to pinch myself at times,” Dübois said.

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