Faculty Stories: Thomas Jor-El Hardy

Thomas Jor-El Hardy

Program: Biology


Thomas Jor-El Hardy had an idea—a really good idea—that sprang from seemingly unrelated sources.

Among his inspirations was “Pipe Dreams,” a short film shot on an iPhone in Kenya by a College of DuPage student. Another was a video his young daughter watched about a typical elementary school day in Japan. And there were the entertaining Reddit livestreams he stumbled upon online that showed people cooking dishes, playing games, watching TV—living their lives, wherever they may be.

It didn’t take long for the COD biology associate professor with a Ph.D. from Howard University to realize he might be on to something big, which led to the creation of the Global Insights Video Exchange.

“My thought was we could do this in education and make an overall experience where students connect their experiences to concepts in their classes,” explained Hardy, a Connecticut native and son of educators who joined the COD Biology faculty in 2015. “We could make it valuable to the curriculum to enhance their learning beyond the borders of DuPage County and Illinois.”

Drawing from his own involvement with COD’s Africa and Africa Diaspora Committee, which provides opportunities to engage the campus community in issues regarding various African countries, and the Community College Initiative program, which brings international students to campus, Hardy collaborated with colleagues from both areas and across disciplines to launch the pilot project in spring 2021. International students from five African countries—Egypt, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa—were on board and ready to participate virtuallyStandard Inner: YouTube Embed Videofrom their homelands.Video URL

Leading by example, Hardy planned to connect his Environmental Biology students with a former COD international student from Ghana to share her insights and expertise in water management. Unfortunately, she became ill and was unable to participate.

“The bigger goal, the bigger picture for this project was never for it to just be about my course. It was always to involve multiple courses, because this is a diverse committee initiative,” he said. “Actually, it turned out much better because we ended up working with Dr. Lisa Higgins, and she put it to great use.”

Hardy called Higgins, professor of English and the director of COD’s Honors Program, the “star” of the first Global Insights Video Exchange. She included multiple international students to work with her Honors English class doing research about African countries.

“In my mind, I was even having trouble with how to do that, how to structure a global exchange with English as a topic, but she came up with a really great way of doing that,” he said.

Hardy hopes the Global Insights Video Exchange will grow with the full return to campus and as more faculty get involved. For Hardy, the possibilities are exciting, whether the program focus is business, cosmetology, sociology, justice studies and, yes, biology.

“We could have our prairie expert, Remic Ensweiler, give a tour of prairie plants and someone elsewhere could talk about the savannah,” said Hardy, adding that he has reached out to colleagues at other institutions to partner with COD to expand the program. “I believe that this project has great potential. I think there are some really wonderful things that could come out of it.”

The biggest benefactors are the students, according to Hardy.

“At a community college, one of our jobs, I believe, is to expose students to a variety of ideas so that they can better figure out their own paths,” said Hardy, who enjoys engaging, motivating and inspiring students. “We want to give students the ability to taste what’s out there and see how things are connected because that can help them make better decisions about where they want to go.”

Learn more about the Biology program at College of DuPage