Project Recap: Counternarratives – Storytelling: The Lived Experiences of CUNY Students

Our podcast series “Counternarratives – Storytelling: The Lived Experiences of CUNY Students,” stems from the Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellowship, at the City of New York (CUNY). This series centers CUNY students’ experiences around topics such as the socialization around education, of immigration, gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, family, and mental health within multiple community settings. The goal of this student-centered project was for TLH Student Scholars to experiment with creating storylines that draw on participatory methodologies anchored in decolonial and social justice practices such as explorative narration, (auto)ethnography, and creative writing. The four episodes that constitutes this TLH student scholars produced podcast series allow insight into the way personal perceptions around pressing course topics such as education, democracy, anti- immigrants/refugees, and anti-Blackness relate to larger geopolitical power, institutional racism and violence.

The TLH Faculty Fellows featured in this series are Khanh Le, Professor of multilingual literacy at Queens College, Julie Bolt, Associate Professor of English at Bronx Community College, Popy Begum, Adjunct Lecturer of Sociology and the International Criminal Justice Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Mengia Tschalaer, Assistant Professor of Anthropology also at John Jay College.

Khanh Le’s episode features students who are in the Multilingualism course in the United States. Students in this class actively engage in discussion and assignments as they learn about the dynamic language practices of various communities. In turn, they question how language can be used to exclude other communities of color. Student Scholars Nafees, Laiba, and Trisha share with us their experiences of being immigrants/brown living in Queens, New York City.

Student Scholars in Popy Begum’s courses, Capstone Seminar in Criminology, Crime and Delinquency in Asia, and Women and Crime, engage in a dialogue by drawing on their lived experiences to discuss their socialization around education, navigating stereotypes as Black, Asian, and Latinx students, and its cumulative impact on student performance. Students also discuss the outcomes of participating in a transformative learning project featured in their courses that not only centers students’ skills and competencies, but allows them to be in charge of the assignment produced and how it is graded.

The experiences featured in Mengia Tschalaer’s and her TLH Student Scholars’ podcast concern the intersectional experiences of working women with immigrant background at CUNY. The episode illustrates how female-identifying CUNY students with immigrant background straddle college along with gendered expectations within the family and the workplace. The Student Scholars featured in this episode are enrolled in either the Sex and Culture, Culture and Personality, or American Cultural Pluralism and the Law course.

Julie Bolt’s Student Scholars enrolled in her creative writing course are free to explore multiple topics, methods and prompts in their writing. In addition to freewriting, process writing, we used TLH methods such as ungrading , upgrading, co-creation of the syllabus after midterm, and think/pair/share . Their poetry included topics such as individuating within family dynamics, learning to build a stronger queer community, critiquing institutional racism, and conflicting realities in their immigrant experiences. Students also generated topics about finding spaces for nourishment in nature and love.

Throughout the process the Student Scholars in all four podcasts, used their agency to shape the knowledge making process. They listened, shared ideas, connected content to their daily lives and co-created learning experiences that contended with difficult subjects in an environment of radical respect and acceptance. Listen to the episodes here!

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