Author Archives: Jessica Murray

About Jessica Murray

Jessica Murray received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at The Graduate Center, CUNY in 2020. She is the Director of Digital Communications for Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH), a three-year initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She is also working on a web project with teaching materials about civil rights struggles in New York City, including disability rights history. She advocates for improving public transit accessibility in New York City for people with disabilities and chairs the Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility for New York City Transit.

Reflections on Women Rewrite America: Transformative Learning in the Humanities Series

This post was written by Sarah L. Hoiland, Associate Professor of Sociology, Hostos Community College, María Julia Rossi, Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literature, John Jay College, and Ria Banerjee, Associate Professor of English, Guttman Community College

Introduction

In late May 2021, our Women Rewrite America series ended and we wanted to provide a way for our participants to contribute to the Transforming Learning in the Humanities (TLH) Blog. What did our fellow readers get out of reading three novels in the last three months of an exhausting academic year? One would have to be crazy to volunteer to write a reflection in the summer, but several of our participants enthusiastically did just that and submitted their reflections.

Gita Pai points out the importance of “hearing voices” as a form of authorial activism common to authors Yaa Gyasi, Valeria Luiselli, and Kiley Reid, and one that is critical to a peoples’ history. For Anne Connor, the experience was personal, and provided space to “read emotionally,” something not often afforded to academics. Astrid Lorena Ochoa Campo pointed out the fun and refreshing aspects of reading and discussing at the end of her first year in a tenure-track position. Doctoral candidate Sonia Adams submitted pedagogical materials including one activity that examines Homegoing within the context of the global #BlackLivesMatters Timeline on her campus.

Book cover, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi Book cover - Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli Book cover - Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

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Website screenshot showing five student group projects

The Museum of Us: Student Projects from Arts in NYC at Baruch College

TLH Faculty Fellow Cheryl Smith (English, Baruch College) teaches a course called, Arts in NYC, which is a humanities seminar for first-year students. The final project for the course was a group curation project of an online exhibit around a theme of their choice. Their exhibits are gathered together in what the students chose to call “The Museum of Us.”

Professor Smith tells us,

“This project was profoundly shaped by our work together in the TLH Seminar—our discussions and readings. I see the focus on empathy, care, creativity, voice, and representation emerge in these projects. I’m proud of the work my students did and grateful I could provide a space for nurturing it; I think they were genuinely proud of their work, too. It’s been a long, hard semester for many of us, and it’s so nice to end on this kind of positive note.”

You can view the student group projects on their website (opens in a new window). Projects are titled, “Plugged In: The Playlists of the Pandemic,” ‘“I”dentity,’ “Baruch 25 Student Journal: New Beginnings,” “Pandemic-Centric Inclusivity,” and “Tranquility in a City that Never Sleeps.” Thank you, Dr. Smith and students for sharing your impressive work from the semester!

Community Access and Equity in Health Education – Video from Student Projects

How do we define health? How do we access resources to maintain and promote healthy lives in our communities? This project explores these questions through community maps created by Urban Community Health students from Guttman Community College CUNY, which explore both resources and barriers to health in their home communities around the city. Challenging the model of individual responsibility and behavior change often prevalent in public health approaches, the maps provide a more equitable approach to health understandings and health education.

The opening event premiered this video featuring the students’ narration of their maps, in addition to a display of the maps themselves, both video and exhibit invite consideration of intertwined issues between political, educational, and media environments. We are evolving design for displays of information to facilitate dialogue and understanding between policy makers and stakeholders, to educate about inequities in health resources around the city, and expand ideas of how we might define and promote health more holistically in all communities.

08 community health mapping

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Thank you to TLH Faculty Fellows, Kristina Baines (Social Sciences and Anthropology, Guttman Community College), Anita Cheng (Film & Media, Art, Hunter College and Brooklyn College), Helen Chang (Behavioral and Social Sciences, Hostos Community College) and Kathleen Tamayo Ales (English, Queensborough Community College) for sharing the potential of community mapping for teaching about social structures that impact our health and wellbeing.

A whiteboard and video display showing student community mapping projects A video display screen showing the video linked in this blog post. Several people are in the background. Visitors to the exhibit view the student community health mapping projects Students from the class pose in front of their presentations Dr. Anita Chang stands next to the video display monitor and speaks with her arms outstretched. She is wearing a face mask and winter coat. Several students for the class pose for a photo. They are all wearing face masks and winter coats. A student poses in front of the video monitor, where they are also on the screen.

Exploring Bravery in the Classroom

Bravery is not often discussed in the classroom, but it takes a certain amount of bravery to overcome fears that students and teachers may feel. How are supportive and inviting classrooms cultivated to help students overcome their hesitation to participate?

On December 2, 2021, TLH hosted this 1-hour interactive panel discussion with four Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows, Heather Huggins (Queensborough Community College), Alyse Keller (Kingsborough Community College), Susan Phillip (New York City College of Technology), and Tom Zlabinger (York College). In the first part of the event, each panelist shared their unique experiences and expertise cultivating bravery in the classroom followed by open dialogue with attendees, which was not recorded.

The presentations incorporate feedback on the topic from Huggins, Keller, Zlabinger, and Phillips’ students, and provide a breadth of perspectives and ideas for how to encourage courage. Thank you all for organizing this thoughtful and thought-provoking event.

Bravery in the Classroom

On December 2, 2021, Transformative Learning in the Humanities hosted this 1-hour interactive panel discussion with four Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows, Heather …

Video screen grab showing a student's essay and illustration of a tree in the palm of a hand and the title, Change Within"

Engaging students in the larger conversation

The team at TLH was thrilled to receive an email from Faculty Fellow Lara Saguisag (College of Staten Island, English), who wanted to share her students projects from the semester. Connecting the work in the classroom to what’s going on in the outside world had a big impact on her students, who completed their final projects with passion and excitement. Dr. Saguisag co-led the recent event, Creating Communities of Care in our Classrooms, a must-see presentation and conversation with TLH Faculty Fellows Jason Hendrickson (LaGuardia Community College), Reiko Tahara (Hunter College), and Cheryl C. Smith (Baruch College) and students about building community to support student success.

The theme of her ENL 323 section was was Narratives of Adolescence and Environmental Justice. Students produced a website that aims to engage young people in environmental justice. It includes reviews of books/films, profiles of youth activists, environmental justice actions young people can take, and much more. Check out the website, titled Call for Change (opens in a new window).

Her ENH 209 course theme was Literatures, Technologies, and Environments. For their final project, students had a public reading of poems, letters, and research projects which you can view here:

Public Reading: ENH 209 Culminating Activity

Final projects by the students of ENH 209: Literatures and Global Cultures (Fall 2021), College of Staten Island-City University of New York. These presentat…

She writes:

“Being part of TLH has really transformed my teaching and helped me think about designing assignments that allow students to become part of larger conversations. My students drew from their experiences and knowledges and were very passionate and excited about these projects. I just wanted to share these links with you as a way of thanking you for everything you do, for all you do to advocate for transformative learning.”

Thank you, Lara, for transforming your classes!

TLH Faculty Fellow-Led Events, Fall 2021

Join us for our three remaining TLH Faculty Fellow-led events for the Fall 2021 semester, which highlight the innovative work our Faculty Fellows are doing at their campuses and in collaboration with each other. Check out the registration links below for full details.

Imperialism, Education, and Resistance: Experiences from Puerto Rico, The Philippines, and The Dominican Republic
Wednesday, December 1 @ 6-7 pm (EST)
Online (via Zoom)
Register Here (opens in a new window).

Bravery in the Classroom
Thursday, December 2 @ 4-4 pm (EST)
Online (via Zoom)
Register Here (opens in a new window)

Community Access and Equity in Health Education
Guttman Community College
50 West 40th St.
Wednesday, December 8 @ 6-8 pm (EST)

And, in case you missed it, be sure to check out the recap and recording from our first Faculty Fellow-Led event on November 10, Creating Communities of Care in our Classrooms.

Creating Communities of Care in our Classrooms – Event Recap and Recording

This 1-hour interactive, peer-to-peer workshop featured four Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows, Lara Saguisag (College of Staten Island), Jason Hendrickson (LaGuardia Community College), Reiko Tahara (Hunter College), and Cheryl C. Smith (Baruch College). It was an opportunity to have an honest dialogue with students and colleagues about some of the experiments the fellows have been doing to create communities of care in their classrooms. Presentation titles are: “Students Perception of Care in the Classroom” (Saguisag); “Language as (Em)Power(Ment)” (Hendrickson); “Student-led Classrooms as a Practice of Care” (Tahara); and “Poetry as a Practice of Care” (Smith). After the the presentations (10min each), the rest of the hour was spent hearing from participants and engaging in student-centered discussions about creating learning communities of care.

Watch now:

Creating Communities of Care in our Classrooms

This 1-hour interactive, peer-to-peer workshop featured four Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows, Cheryl C. Smith (Baruch College), Jason Hendrickson (LaGuardia Commu…

Accessibility in the Classroom – Insights and Questions from TLH Faculty Fellows

On September 28, our Fall Cohort of TLH Faculty Fellows convened for the first meeting of the semester to plan public events and contributions to knowledge. I also led a discussion about accessibility in the classroom by talking about why it’s important, what the institutional process is like (i.e. students request services through their campus disability services office, which acts as a liaison between student and teacher) and how that may or may not be effective. According to the National Center for Education statistics, nearly half of students with disabilities end up dropping out before they finish (link opens in a new window). According to one study, stronger self-advocates were more likely to complete their degrees (link opens in a new window), but that puts the onus on students to advocate for their needs semester after semester, which can become a barrier to success.

We started the discussion by first polling our fellows on their knowledge of accessibility accommodations, current experiences teaching disabled students in their courses, and types of accommodation requests.

The fellows rated themselves as generally having average experience with accessibility issues and no-one considered themselves to have very limited knowledge or to be very knowledgeable.

Question 1 results (image link opens to interactive chart)

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TLH Office Hours Recap: Accessible Course Design and Hybrid Teaching

On August 31, 2021, TLH held the first office hour session with 9 of our faculty fellows. We kicked off the session with a short, high-level presentation about accessible course design which was followed by a discussion about challenges that professors have encountered while teaching online during the past year, with making their course materials accessible on short notice, providing other accommodations to students, and with technology platforms that are not always accessible or user friendly. During the discussion, faculty fellows shared some of the tools and techniques that have worked well for them and bringing up questions that also informed the topic. Overall, it was a productive hour and we really enjoyed the knowledge-sharing! We added 3 more slides to our presentation with some of the resources. 

Stay tuned for our next TLH Office Hourse, on September 14 at 4 pm. TLH Executive Director, Christina Katopodis will lead a discussion on ungrading and peer review.

Accessible Course Design and Hybrid Teaching after COVID

Image: CUNY mascots pose with members of the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD) at the 2018 NYC Disability Pride Parade.

The pandemic forced a rapid shift to online teaching, but what will we return to and what will we adapt in the future? Some students have benefited tremendously from a move to online learning, especially those who have difficulty with public transit due to a disability, difficulty affording transportation, or a long commute to class. Other students have struggled with having only online or asynchronous courses and learn best with in-person instruction. Educators have been forced to innovate during the past 18 months under the cloud of the pandemic and its related crises, and with the larger systemic problems that higher education was facing before COVID.  Continue reading