Workshop Recap: “Equity through Creativity: Examples of Transformative Teaching Across Disciplines”

We had the opportunity to present the workshop Equity through Creativity: Examples of Transformative Teaching Across the Disciplines, in which each of our colleagues and their students collaborated in multiple ways. The main goal of this workshop was to highlight, communicate, and share the ways in which we engage with our students in the classroom, particularly using multiple creative outlets, such as visual arts, film and documentaries, inclusive pedagogy/teaching, and literacy narrative. Our workshop brought experiences centered in multidisciplinary approaches, and student-centered pedagogy, with the ultimate goals of fostering equity, inclusivity, and critical thinking when centering student voices in our classrooms.

Prof. Noëlle Warden King (Department of Art & Music, Bronx Community College) presented an artistic project that centers the creativity, voice, and joy of students in her classroom. The project 3 Letters of My Alphabet showcases the students and that which is of great importance to them. Each student chooses 3 letters (not limited to the English alphabet) that are the first letter of a word of significance to them. They then make a short PowerPoint of four slides; the first a self-introduction, followed by their three letters and a short paragraph explaining the meaning of each word for them. Some of the samples of their projects can be found in this short blog post.

Dr. Stephanie Hershinow (Department of English, Baruch College) shared at the workshop an assignment she provides students with in her class so they can get to know each other better, to make them feel valued as individuals, and to teach them writing. This assignment is a literacy narrative—a common assignment in many first year writing classrooms. Since 2018, Dr. Hershinow has centered the First Year Writing course on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – highlighting the history and theory of the novel, and 2018 marked its 200th anniversary, resulting in a trove of fascinating responses and connections to contemporary events that Dr. Hershinow has been able to take advantage of her course. For their first assignment, students write an analysis of the novel, and the second assignment asks them to think of the novel more as inspiration. Many of the students wrote about their lives, their families, and their heritage. Dr. Hershinow shared in the workshop the audio clip recordings of students reading their inspiring essays.

Image obtained on Flickr

Dr. Asrat Amnie (Department of Education, Hostos Community College) presented The Power of Inclusive Pedagogy: The Application of Inclusive Teaching-Learning Practices To Foster Equity, Inclusivity, and Diversity in the Classroom. Dr. Amnie described his inclusion of TLH principles in the courses he taught this semester: curricular revisions, intentionality of including diverse set of materials in his course (multimedia), OER textbooks, among other adaptations. The instructor made sure the course reflects historical and current perspectives of diverse societies about addiction (War on Drugs, racial disparities on the criminal justice system, among other important societal issues). Dr. Amnie also highlighted other aspects that demonstrate the inclusion of aspects that fostered equity, and a comprehensive classroom: person-first language, online etiquette, and using Blackboard Ally, which helped increase accessibility to alternate versions of the course materials. All these aspects fostered an inclusive environment, which resulted in higher student-faculty participation in the course.

Prof. Joseph A. Torres-González (Department of Anthropology, Brooklyn College) presented Documentaries, Videos, and Podcasts: Fostering critical thinking & creativity in the virtual classroom. Prof. Torres-González highlighted how he used audiovisual materials – documentaries, videos, podcasts – and Open Educational Resources (OER) to foster critical thinking and creativity. He mentioned how he integrates multimedia as a teaching tool in relationship to the themes discussed during the semester. Audiovisual resources present opportunities to foster critical thinking, engage in creativity and reflection, along with providing a space to create empathy, and having a voice about present and future. One student mentioned: ““The documentaries we have watched in class this semester […] allowed me to better see a variety of topics through other people’s perspectives.”

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!

Call for Proposals: Student Summit on the Role of Humanities in a Just Society

May 5, 2023 @ 9 AM-5 PM ET (Zoom)

What is the university you want? Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH) calls for creative, multimodal presentations from 50 CUNY students. Accepted applicants will receive a financial aid scholarship of $300 and a tablet. Applications are due Friday, March 3, 2023. 

We invite you to think about what your college community needs most to better support its students, and to imagine resources that would improve your social learning experience and academic life. To dream of safe spaces where respect, communication, and transparency are valued. To envision a stripped-down version of the faculty-student relationship, where faculty are better resourced themselves to be able to put students’ needs first. To conceive of concrete ways in which CUNY administration can better respond to issues raised by students. For the Spring 2023 Student Summit, a one-day virtual gathering, CUNY’s TLH program will provide a platform upon which students from all backgrounds can speak freely about what their institution is missing, and can talk back to their university.

The summit is being organized by a student-led Advisory Board. The Board encourages CUNY students to speak about real and tangible student needs, including mental health and childcare resources; issues faced by commuters, students on academic probation, and nontraditional aged students; racial equality, diversity, and representation; accessibility; community and belonging; and more quiet, reflective spaces provided for spirituality and self-care. A student-centered vision and student-run summit (a gathering to share creative works, reflections, manifestos), the Summit will allow you to take back the power and find your voice within the university to call for an answer to these unmet needs. The Summit will engage students, faculty, and staff in conversation to find common interests and begin transforming the larger institution to be more just, equitable, and student-centered. To remind CUNY administration that we are here, first and foremost, to learn and improve ourselves, and that we need a community that cares for us. 

The summit will utilize transformative, active learning methods, sparking a collaborative space of brainstorming and free thought with workshops, anonymous idea boxes, open discussions, presentations, and more. The Student Summit accepts applications in any form for 10-minute individual presentations or 1-hour panels (4 or more presentations to be delivered together in the same session), on Friday, May 5, including but not limited to:

  • A manifesto, call to action, or persuasive speech
  • An interactive activity
  • A poem or spoken word
  • A video you plan to make (or have already made) yourself
  • A performance (with or without co-performers, or an invitation to the audience to perform a script or interactive activity with you)
  • A work of visual art
  • A podcast, recorded interview (with permission to share), or sound recording
  • A dream syllabus or assignment for a class that does not yet exist
  • A modified syllabus or assignment for an existing class

The Student Summit invites students to respond to one question below or to another question of their own making:

  • How does a professor’s way of teaching influence the way you learn?
  • How can students or faculty incorporate social justice in the classroom? 
  • What do antiracist teaching methods look/feel/sound like?
  • If you could build your own syllabus/develop your own curriculum, what would it look/feel/sound like? 
  • Describe your university experience; what are some extraordinary experiences you’ve had in and out of the classroom?
  • How can you incorporate student advocacy in the classroom and beyond?
  • How has transformative learning affected the way you learn in class and beyond?
  • How can faculty better respond to issues raised by students in class and beyond?
  • How can we move beyond inclusivity to actual antiracist praxis in the university?
  • What could the university do to…
    • Be more environmentally aware?
    • Increase LGBTQI+ equality?
    • Be more accessible?
    • Make education more affordable?
  • What on-campus resources do we need right now?

Proposals from all CUNY students taking courses for credit in the Spring 2023 semester will be considered, including those on academic probation, those studying part-time, and those commuting to campus. 

If you would like to apply, please fill out this Google Form. If you have any questions about the application process, please direct them to Yuma Carpenter-New, Student Summit Coordinator, at Yuma will also hold open office hours, during which you can speak about ideas for proposals and the application process together. 

Who Has the Power? 

Shifting Mindsets Through Assessments: A Two-Part Dialogue

A TLH podcast project by: Carolina Julian, Jessica Nicoll, Luis Feliciano, and Theodore Kesler

As a group, we were curious about shifting assessment practices in our classrooms. Whether in psychology, math, early childhood education, or dance courses, we aligned in our goal to encourage students to take ownership of the learning. To this aim, we focused our energies into creating classrooms that foster deep listening, observation, responsiveness to our students, culturally-responsive teaching practices, self-evaluation opportunities, and co-construction of course content. We learned more about what each individual brought into the classroom–from names,  to lived experiences, and areas of curiosity–and emphasized the need for our students to learn from one another and build a dialogic community through practical, active approaches. We also consciously structured our courses to include student leadership opportunities, through which students developed their capacities to ask “who has the power?”, and to take greater responsibility for their learning.

We chose a podcast as the best way to represent both our voices as instructors and our students’ voices as participants. Our first podcast episode delves into the underlying motivators for changing our practice, the conditions that allowed us to produce change, and the strategies we implemented to reconceptualize assessment. Some insights include: implementing a spiraling curriculum that enables us to return to key concepts with a deeper dive in our understandings; using methods of the “flipped classroom” for students explore content in accessible ways for homework, which opens class sessions for more exploration and workshop structures; and engaging students in co-constructing criteria to self-evaluate their performance and raise their awareness of their learning process. In our second podcast session, we feature our students as “critical witnesses.” They addressed two inquiry questions: 1. What has been their experience as a student in our courses? and 2. What have they learned about themselves from the assessment processes utilized in our classes? Our students’ testimonies also gave us important insights. They spoke of being more engaged in their learning and motivated to pursue their interests. Not all of them approached this shift in learning easily. Some of our students were so used to education as something that is imposed and done to them that they were more comfortable with a passive stance of “just tell me how I’m doing so I know what grade I deserve.” Active learning takes effort and commitment.  Ultimately, as they engaged with our course expectations, they all expressed much deeper understandings of course material and bigger impacts as lifelong learners. 

Episode 1 : “Who Has the Power?” Faculty Discussion by Carolina Julian

Listen to Episode 1 : “Who Has the Power?” Faculty Discussion by Carolina Julian on desktop and mobile.

Episode 1: Faculty Discussion

Episode 2: “Who Has the Power?” Faculty and Student Dialogue by Carolina Julian

Listen to Episode 2: “Who Has the Power?” Faculty and Student Dialogue by Carolina Julian on desktop and mobile.

Episode 2 : Faculty and Student Dialogue

Not the Master’s Tools: Building Community in the Classroom TLH Event Recap

Inspired by  Lorgia García Peña’s book, Community as Rebellion: A Syllabus for Surviving Academia as a Woman of Color, our group (Karanja Carroll, Tara Coleman, Alexis Jemal, and Erica Roe) elected to explore community-building as our public knowledge project. The purpose of this project was threefold: 1) We aimed to center for the voices of our students. 2) We wanted the project to build community through the discussion of community building and the sharing of community-building strategies. 3) We wanted to create a repository of community-building techniques, suggestions, critiques, and offerings. The project consisted of creating an Instagram account for people to post their responses to questions and organizing a virtual launch on zoom on 12/6/22, 4 – 5 PM.

We asked our students the following questions: 

  1. How Do We Create Community in Education (the classroom)?”
    • What is one thing your professor does that you would imitate or change if you were teaching this class? 
    • If you were leading a group, what is one community-building strategy from your classroom that you would adapt and how? 
  2. “How do we hold each other accountable for building community?”
  3. What does accountability look like when building community in the classroom?
  4. What are the challenges to creating community in the classroom?

The organizers invited their students to post responses to the Instagram account handle Notthemasterstools or using the hashtag #Notthemasterstools. Approximately 30 people from the CUNY community (including about 5 of the organizers’ students) attended the Zoom meeting. 

The Zoom meeting began with Karanja opening with a warm welcome. He introduced TLH and the team. Importantly, he introduced our project and gave context for our project on community building. Lastly, he discussed examples of his methods of community-building. Erica and Tara presented the community building project. They displayed the Instagram posts and discussed community building methods in their class. Erica displayed a powerpoint with her students’ thoughts on community building. They discussed strategies such as pair share, mentimeter, and charades. Tara also introduced her student’s comments using Jamboard. Tara opened the discussion for comments from the audience and several people shared. Many of the comments provided a smooth transition to the last section of the session on accountability facilitated by Alexis. Alexis introduced herself and gave examples of community-building strategies that she uses. After a brief introduction on accountability, Alexis led the attendees in an activity wherein the attendees used Jamboard to answer the questions originally posed to the students. While participants answered the questions, two songs by Nina Simone were played. After about 10 minutes, the attendees debriefed the Jamboard and shared what resonated for them from the postings. After a generative discussion, we asked if anyone had questions or comments. We encouraged participants to continue using the hashtag and we thanked the guests for coming. 

From the Classroom to the Workplace: CUNY Alumni Speak on their Experiences TLH Event Recap

Our event (fellows Alcira Forero-Pena, Ted Gordon, Bertie Ferdman, Jessica Yood and Lori Ungemah) pulled CUNY alumni from BMCC, Baruch, Guttman, and Lehman to serve on a panel entitled “From the Classroom to the Workplace: CUNY Alumni Speak on their Experiences” and was held via Zoom on Thursday, December 1st, from 4-5pm. We wanted to hear from students how their educational experiences across CUNY campuses had informed/translated to their professional lives. Given the many conversations on the value of a college degree in the “real world,” we were curious what the students had to say about their time in our classrooms and in our colleges, and how they could reflect on their time at CUNY.

We gave the alumni panel three questions ahead of time so that they could come to the panel prepared (and so they wouldn’t feel that this was an interrogation!). These questions were:

1. How did college—and specifically CUNY—prepare you for your professional experiences? What expectations going into college did you have about what your education should do, and did your education meet those expectations?

2. What advice would you give to undergraduates about getting the most of their education while at CUNY?

3. What advice would you give to faculty about teaching and learning in preparation for the workplace?

It will come as no surprise that the students’ answers were heartfelt, honest, thoughtful, and intelligent. We will summarize their responses for you:

Q1: Alumni reported that the mentorship they received at their respective CUNY institutions are what most prepared them for professional life. They said they were encouraged to explore, to volunteer, and were advised by their faculty who forged personal relationships with them. That the intimacy they felt with their faculty—that their faculty saw them for who they really were—was what pushed them into new spaces (clubs, classes, majors) that prepared them for work. One student mentioned that the advising from their department and by departmental faculty had made the biggest impact.

They also valued opportunities to be leaders on their respective campuses, and in these leadership roles to be involved and to be heard both by peers and faculty.

The appreciated CUNY for the second chances they felt like they received from our colleges—regardless of past academic failures, documentation status, accents—they felt CUNY welcomed them and valued them for exactly who they were.

Q2: All alumni encouraged current students to GET INVOLVED. Recognize your own agency. Ask for what you want. Get to know your faculty. Everyone is a commuter at CUNY, so you must create a community for yourself. Don’t limit yourself to what you have done before, try something new. Make college fun because the work is hard. Be your best academic self (this might be our favorite quote from the event!).

Q3: Alumni asked that faculty be more inclusive in their teaching methods; that sometimes how they teach excludes students from certain backgrounds who aren’t familiar with how to learn that way. The asked faculty to extend the hand, to mentor students, to form relationships with the students they connect with and support them. They asked for explicit reminders to come to office hours (constant reminders!) and to say that you can come to office hours just to talk, it doesn’t have to be for help or because you are not doing well. They reminded faculty that many students are nervous or scared of us because we are adults and their faculty, and that we need to find what we share with students so we can advise and mentor them effectively.

If you are picking up the overall theme to this event, it was that FACULTY MENTORSHIP was the greatest asset for student success professionally. It wasn’t any one subject we taught, or any sort of skill, or any type of pedagogy—it was the human relationships that we forged with our students that made the biggest impact. They noted that they loved feeling supported by us, but they also appreciated feeling celebrated by us as they left CUNY and went on and were successful in life. They loved knowing we were still in their corner and cheering.

As we all recalibrate post (ish)-Covid, we appreciated hearing that what students want from us is simply for us to see and support them as mentors. They want that human connection. That is what prepared them most to be successful in the world of work.

Ajay Kalladeen (he/him) is from rural Guyana, South America, and came to the United States by himself in his early 20’s. He is a graduate of BMCC and Baruch College and worked at Apple for eight years before switching to the public sector to work for New York Empire State Development Corporation where he provides IT support to all levels of the organization. He says he is the true example of BMCC’s motto “Start Here. Go Anywhere.”

Leo Gonzalez Dominguez (they/them) is a Mexican Indigenous Queer playwright and performer who began their education at BMCC and transferred to NYU where they are pursuing their BFA in Dramatic Writing. They are also an Artistic Fellow at the Signature Theatre. Their most recent work, Parole In Place,received a public reading in collaboration with PEN America, New York Theatre Workshop, and the National Queer Theatre for the World Voices Festival.

Neisha-Anne S. Green is Director of Academic Student Support Services and The Writing Center at American University in Washington, DC and is a PhD candidate in Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She has been the keynote speaker at multiple international and national conferences, in talks addressing writing center work, literacy, antiracist pedagogy, and multilingualism. Neisha is a multidialectal orator and author, proud of her roots in Barbados and Yonkers, NY and as a CUNY grad! An accomplice always interrogating and exploring the use of everyone’s language as a resource, Neisha continues to collaborate on workshops and publish on anti-racism and anti-racist pedagogy and is working on her book Songs From A Caged Bird.

Hector Carvajal (he/him) is a graduate of Guttman Community College and student at the University of Rochester, and he is the founder of Don Carvajal Café, a coffee business that pulls from his Dominican roots to build a business model that is both fair to producers and inclusive to customers. In just two years, he’s taken the brand from operating out of his dorm room to a city-wide distribution network.

Jennifer Cachola (she/her) is a higher education professional who has earned an Associate of Arts in Communication Studies from CUNY’s Borough of Manhattan Community College; a Bachelor of Science in Media, Culture, and Communication from NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; and a Master of Arts in Youth Studies from CUNY’s School of Professional Studies. Prior to her path in higher education as an academic advisor, Jennifer worked in retail/customer service for 15+ years and was super grateful for the opportunity to start her career and pay it forward to the institution where she earned her first degree and now six years later, has recently advanced to a senior academic advisor role at BMCC.

From Dilemma to Decolonization: Higher Public Education as a Site of Repair

Greetings from TLH Cohort 5, Group 3! Our Public Knowledge Project, From Dilemma to Decolonization: Higher Public Education as a Site of Repair, engages our CUNY campuses, classrooms, and curricula as sites where we can unmask, unmake, and help to free students of the ingrained assumption that educational gaps belong solely to them and not to the institutions they trust to educate them. Considering the concrete realities of our campuses, our working-class students’ racialized injuries, and their everyday life demands and priorities in work and care, our project seeks ways in which teaching and learning can originate from the grounds of students’ lives and experiences. Our project is about collectively rethinking and reimagining education as a set of common goods that are a part of striving for and earning a decolonized future. 

We, as a 2022 TLH cohort, (1) identified a gap between students’ life experiences, priorities, and conventional rubrics of academic excellence, and (2) engaged and addressed this dilemma/gap by centering students’ needs. By sharing our creative and interventionist approach to learning and teaching, we hope to generate a dialogue and illustrate approaches for decolonizing higher education curricula. 

Inspired by the ongoing prevalence of student achievement gaps and the somewhat cheeky title of bestselling book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Victoria’s podcast, “Filling in the Gaps,” features three fall 2022 Composition students discuss their writing about a topic that they wished had gotten some or any airtime in an academic setting. Victoria’s conversations with students focused on patriarchy in a Pakistani family, the invasion of the state into a ten-year old’s home, and the links between language and love, respectively. 

In a similar vein, Madison identified musical traditions sourced from students in her music appreciation classroom, considering their cultural knowledge as a valid contribution to the sonic space of the classroom. The four students interviewed shared musical traditions including Jewish Acapella, Peruvian Psychedelic Cumbia, Karaoke, and Desi Music. Each of these traditions was then researched and worked into lectures for inclusion in Madison’s teaching. 

Hosu Kim’s The Afterlives of Willowbrook proposes the campus land as a critical and fertile site where we can interrogate underlying principles of academic excellence, rigor, mastery and imagine a decolonizing curriculum and a decolonized future for the public university. By carefully considering how the College of Staten Island and the history of the Willowbrook State School are entwined, this public knowledge project seeks to demonstrate how teaching and learning can be organized from piecing together on our literal campuses the intersections between the past and the present. 

We hope you enjoy exploring our commons site,, where each of our projects is housed. Thank you to the TLH team for this opportunity and for your guidance through the creation of our Public Knowledge Project!

Writing The World One Student at a Time

Bringing Freire to CUNY:

“Reading the word and learning how to write the word so one can later read it are preceded by learning how to write the world, that is having the experience of changing the world and touching the world” (Freire & Macedo, 2005, p. 12).

The year was 1947. 

The place? Northeastern Brazil. 

Young Paulo Freire faced a seemingly impossible task–teaching illiterate peasant workers to read. 

Freire empowered them beyond simply acquiring the life-changing ability to read. He also wanted his students to push against oppressive structures circumscribing their lives.

Freire was incredibly successful–by the 1960s, he inspired a movement to eradicate illiteracy across Brazil.

Freire’s efforts further benefited learners worldwide. This includes those we are incredibly fortunate to work with through CUNY and the Mellon Foundation’s Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH).

Transforming Classroom Practice:

Late-capitalism diminishes education, lessening its impact. Teaching can become narrow, desiccated, even detached from the world when we have little time for reflection. 

Imaginative scholars like Freire and Macedo (2005) broaden educational possibilities. They invite us to expand our conception of learning, whether in Brazil or New York.

Inspired by Freire and other educators we have studied collaboratively through TLH’s insightful seminars, we focused on writing the world. In short, how could we widen narrow classroom confines to positively impact the broader world our learners inhabit?

Manifold Folds in Many Media:

Our TLH scholar cohort is sharing student work on Manifold–a fantastic platform for multimedia:

Shawna Brandle–Choosing How to Write the World: Choose Your Own Adventure Assignments with public-facing outputs. It explores several options students can elect–from blogging on CUNY Academic Commons or personal websites, to teaching their own classes, and translating course materials. Privacy, safety, intellectual property, and licensing are discussed, so anyone adapting these assignments will be able to address ethical questions in their classes. 

Kate Culkin–Writing the World Through Memorials: Students develop projects that memorialize and teach the public about a person or group they identify as critical to understanding American history. This assignment is part of a semester-long investigation of the idea that history is an interpretation, not repetition, of facts and the power dynamics at play in those interpretations. 

Dino Sossi–Institutional Advocacy: Students share government petitions supporting crucial social movements and improved corporate practices to benefit the world.

Yan Yang–Art from My Perspective: Students research artwork from their culture and introduce them in an informative explanation in the style of Smarthistory, the leading art history website. Student writings serve as knowledge sources and example projects for future BMCC art history students.

Writing CUNY, Writing the World:

Talented CUNY learners produce incredibly thoughtful work despite demanding lives. Manifold amplifies vital student voices, celebrates their genius, and inspires them to write the world in their own fashion. Empowerment through the power of words. Hopefully Freire would be proud.


Freire, P., & Macedo, D. (2005). Literacy: Reading the word and the world. Routledge.

Revisit Manifold as students continually submit new resources.

Prof. Lynn Lu, Lawyering Seminar Fall 2022: Student Reflections on Community Inside and Outside the Classroom

Courthouse at Court Square, Long Island City. Photo by Lynn Lu

Christopher Alford:

What I seek (from law school) is the proliferation of a community that is guided by more than just monetary gain. I believe there is an issue with many traditional schools wherein subjects of law are taught at face value, ignoring historical and political analysis behind the way things are—and the way things ought to be. Law school should be a means of birthing individuals that are people-centered. Further, it should create a means of creating individuals that seek to better the world they participate in.

Ranjana Venkatesh:

To create a professional community, as a 1L, [I] would love to see more community spaces/times for us as a cohort to meet in person, and discuss freely/openly. We need an opportunity to discuss our classes, court decisions, the profession, social movements/protests, etc. in an open forum that anyone can attend and is not directly related to our class times. A space & time just for us.

Ben Fisher:

I believe in the notion that a person is a person through other people. Therefore, in regards to the value or purpose of community in & out of the classroom I seek sources that are helpful in the development & expansion of my personhood & hermeneutic horizon. I seek diversity of knowledge, perspective, experience & culture, so that I can learn & grow through any community & hopefully contribute to positive growth for those around me.


How can lawyers cultivate build create community?

Listening. Learning. Organizing.

Lawyering is a tool that can be wielded to shore up power. Historically, it has been used to shore up power on the side of white supremacy & capital. I believe it can be used in the interest of equity, prying the hands of racism/white supremacy culture off of community, humanity, and mutual aid.

By meaningfully LISTENING to our clients and those around us a lawyer can LEARN how harm is perpetuated and also how healing can be enacted & helped to flourish. By not simply helping clients one by one in a vacuum but by connecting clients to a movement. Lawyers can participate in the formation of NEW communities & NEW futures. In law school this looks like listening & learning from our classmates & professors. Being willing to be wrong & being loving towards each other.

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. 

Event Recap: Community Inside and Outside of the Classroom

On Dec. 1, 2023, Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH) hosted a Zoom panel discussion on “Community Inside and Outside of the Classroom” featuring student perspectives on learning with TLH Faculty Fellows Sarah Pollack (College of Staten Island); Sharon Jordan (Lehman College); Joseph Cáceres (Graduate Center); and Lynn Lu (CUNY School of Law). Each faculty fellow shared methods they used during the semester to empower students to share ideas, work together, and facilitate conversation and mutual learning. Students from each course shared their perspectives on the meaning and value of community in relation to their classrooms.

In her courses Spanish for Heritage Speakers andthe Contemporary Spanish American Short Story, Pollack invited students to engage in the global community through online video dialogues with native Spanish speakers across Latin America. In class, she explained, “I tried to focus on establishing a safe and caring and open learning community by giving students tasks to get to know each other and me well and really feel comfortable opening up about themselves and their experiences.” One of the students, Jessica, said: “It was easier for us to relate to each other. I feel like our professor was open to us.  That made us be open to her and to our classmates.”

In Jordan’s online asynchronous course Public Art in the United States from the Civil War to the Present, ungraded discussion board prompts that foregrounded conversation and dialogue encouraged students to engage with differing opinions. One student, Mabel, explained: “When I started this class I immediately saw the difference between past classes where the professor’s focus is on discussion boards, but it is not really a way to communicate or relate with each other. That immediately surprised me, that it was highly encouraged to have a conversation. It showed me that it is okay to get out of your comfort zone and communicate with other people.”

Students in Cáceres’s Evolution and Expression of Racism classat Baruch Collegecollaborated to plan an imagined public protest on behalf of a literary figure whose internalization of systemic anti-Blackness and misogyny demanded action. A “major purpose [in] creating this campaign was having students do work in the classroom that is practical and useful in their every day lives, including how to advocate for themselves. Students learned that a powerful way to begin to solve and address problems is by building coalitions and solidarity for others.” According to one student, “This class as a whole got me to think about things we can do to change communities for the better …. The Bluest Eye [by] Toni Morrison … talks about how internalized racism can really impact and affect the most vulnerable person in society.”

Lu’s version of the required introductory Lawyering Seminar encourages students continually to reflect on how lawyers—and legal educators—can create and support alternate visions of community while learning the professional responsibilities attached to every effective attorney-client relationship. This requires a focus on people and a capacity for shared understanding.

Student Christopher Alford shared: “What I seek (from law school) is a community that is guided by more than just monetary gain. Law school should be a means of birthing individuals that are people-centered. Further, it should create a means of creating individuals that seek to better the world they participate in.”

The panel extends thanks to ASL Interpreters Dane Lentz and Amanda Shook and CART Captionist Joanna Kostappapas for their services.

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