With the generous support of the Transformative Learning in the Humanities Initiative, the Roberta S. Matthews Center for Teaching and Learning ran a Pedagogy in Practice intensive from January 10-12, 2023. The 3-day practicum offered hands-on workshops that showed participants how to put pedagogical ideas to practical use in areas such as syllabus development, assignment design, student engagement, building classroom community, and more. Anti-racist pedagogies were emphasized throughout, allowing participants to gain an understanding of the breadth and depth of this approach. Participants who completed at least five of the six workshops received a stipend and certificate of completion. Workshop leaders also received stipends. The full description of all workshops offered can be found in the addendum below. Continue reading
Event recap – The Transformative Power of Meaning: Poetics & Pedagogy
– by TLH Faculty Co-Director, Matt Brim
On April 27 Transformative Learning in the Humanities welcomed poet, scholar, and performer Tracie Morris, MFA, PhD, to the CUNY Graduate Center for the final event in our 2022-23 speaker series. For Morris, the first Black tenured professor in the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the moment was also a homecoming. She is a double CUNY alum and native New Yorker. Speaking to an audience of CUNY students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the local community, Morris explored the ways Black Studies professor Myrna Bain and other Hunter College faculty shaped her, linking affordable public education to the love of learning for its own sake. “CUNY allowed for a merging,” she reflected, the creation of “a philosophy of life.” Invoking artistic influences Sonia Sanchez and Sweet Honey in the Rock, Morris infused her talk with poems from her new collection, human/nature poems. One of the few sound poets working today, Morris concluded by voicing a new sound poem, “apple,” in collaboration with the event’s American Sign Language interpreters. A question and answer period was followed by a celebratory reception for the diverse TLH community built over the past three years of the Andrew Mellon funded initiative.
Event Recap – Life after CUNY: 5-Minute Lessons
– by TLH Faculty Fellows Nina Hien, James K. Harris, Anna D’Souza, Meghan Gilbert-Hickey, and Elizabeth Alsop
This virtual event featured four CUNY alumni who responded to current CUNY students’ questions about life and career after college. The presentations were showcased at a Zoom event, hosted and framed by CUNY students.
Celia Au, a recent alumnus of Berlinale Talents 2023, is well known for playing a variety of characters across Netflix’s Wu Assassins, Comedy Central’s Nora from Queens, and AMC’s Lodge 49. Au believes the power of storytelling is to change perception and her producorial slate is centered around uplifting AAPI voices. Her current projects include an untitled cooking show in co-production with Hearst Media Productions, a TV show and 3 feature films in development. She recently produced a Music Video Don’t Give Up by artist Calistar and directed by Ron Yuan. Her films were nominated at the SoHo International film, Asian on Films and her VR project premiered at Cucalorus film festival. In addition to acting and producing, Au has been an outspoken activist in the AAPI community and has spoken at engagements with Goldman Sachs, IPG group, AEG Studios, Wash the Hate, Act to Change, and others. In 2020-2022 Celia was named the “Ambassador of Hope” at the Rise Above the Storm Gala. Celia is a graduate of CUNY Baruch. Continue reading
The CUNY 1969 Project: Teaching and Learning the Struggle for Black and Puerto Rican Representation (TLH CTL Project Recap)
In 2021, the Baruch Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) launched the CUNY 1969 Project, an interactive Open Educational Resource (OER) platform that explores the history of the 1969 Five Demands student protest movement, which fought for policies to reconstitute the racial composition of incoming CUNY students. Through the curation of historical texts, recordings, and interviews, the project provides an applied showcase of CUNY’s institutional archives that can be used in classrooms across CUNY.
From the student movements of the 1960s to the recent demands for antiracist classrooms and pedagogies, CUNY’s history of activism often remains frozen in archives and does not get passed down to its undergraduates. The work of the CUNY 1969 Project seeks to grapple with this problem by engaging CUNY stakeholders to reanimate the history of student activism at the university, re-engage with the archives that store it, and pass this knowledge down to students.
On February 8th of this year, with support from the Transformative Learning in the Humanities Grant (2023), we hosted and recorded a panel of three experts who have used the CUNY 1969 Project in their teaching and research. Panelists and attendees were invited to reflect on this history, teaching opportunities across disciplines, and the possibilities of students’ own agency within the university.
You can view the panel here:
And thanks in part to funding from the Transformative Learning in the Humanities Grant (2023) and the OER Initiatives Grant (2022, 2023), the CTL has been able to host a June “CUNY 1969 Teach-in and Retreat” program, first in 2022 and again this year. The retreat brings together CUNY scholars to closely examine the narrative, debates, and histories of open admissions at CUNY and the lasting legacies of student and faculty activism.
Over four weeks in June 2023, the second CUNY 1969 Teach-in will host a cohort of subject matter experts in CUNY institutional history, using and teaching with library archives, Creative Commons licensing, and undergraduate student research. Following the format of our successful (but Baruch-focused, due to more limited resources) Summer 2022 Teach-in, our Summer 2023 programming will facilitate synchronous and asynchronous instruction, discussion, and presentation on CUNY history, with a particular focus on student activism towards a more just and equitable university.
Teach-in participants will collaborate over open-access educational resources associated with the CUNY 1969 Project that interact with their interests, such as a lesson plan or assignment for future instructors using CUNY 1969 Project material.
Community partnerships—among departments, organizations, CUNY faculty and staff, and alumni—have been essential to the CUNY 1969 Project. The previous Teach-in created needed space for mindful conversations about CUNY’s history and future. Receiving the TLH grant has allowed us to scale up this project’s reach to a CUNY-wide community of teachers and scholars in the humanities and social sciences. We seek to support and develop instructors across CUNY who want to engage their students and peers in conversations and activities related to the activist history of our institution as well as, more broadly, transformative learning in higher education.
We invite you to check out the CUNY 1969 Project and join our efforts to center the university’s own complex history of students, faculty, staff, teaching, and learning.
—Hamad Sindhi and Seth Graves, CUNY 1969 Project Managers
Illustration by Jojo Karlin Sign up here for future updates about the CUNY 1969 Project.
Event Recap: ‘Language, Hegemony, and Power’: Student Perspectives from and for CUNY
Our virtual panel was designed as a safe space for students across CUNY to share their experiences using language in their academic careers. Students reflected on the languages they speak and blend together, what the expectations for expression and communication are in the classroom setting, and how they navigate linguistic standards that may or may not apply to them.
Students also shared ideas on how to support and embrace linguistic diversity and creativity with language among CUNY students. A question which sparked debate was that of ‘standard’ English: is it really a pertinent concept, and why? While students expressed their respect for such a concept – in appropriate contexts – they also called for more respect of their linguistic diversity and their own ‘Englishes,’ in light of Jamila Lyiscott poem ‘3 ways to speak English’. Continue reading
Showing Care in the Classroom
This is the second of a two-part post, synthesizing our final faculty seminar, with our final cohort of faculty fellows. These seminars have been at the heart of the TLH program, as we have aspired to cultivate agents of change in the classroom and beyond. During our 18 seminar sessions over the past two years, we’ve also tried to practice what we preach by fully engaging all participants in the co-learning and teaching process. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using an inventory method to make sure everyone is heard. It’s also an especially generative process for coming up with ideas that others can draw on in their teaching. For part one, check out Ideas for Teaching (and Teaching Outside) the Canon.
The second half of our seminar was dedicated to topics of care in the classroom. I spoke about disability and ableism, a pervasive force in our society, and especially in higher education. I also touched on the ways universal design can not only help students with disabilities, but has been proven to benefit all students. Accommodations for disabled students in higher ed are typically given when students show proof of a disability and make formal requests through an accessibility office. While the system is set up to make sure that their federal rights are guaranteed, it also inadvertently creates more work for disabled students. They may feel stigmatized by the process, or by a system that expects people to “game” the system.
Therefore, I invited our fellows to think about accessibility as care. Drawing on universal design principles, accommodations like having written materials in alternative formats for people who are blind or have low vision (i.e. someone who needs screen-readable text) also benefits the student who might want to read on a smart phone during their commute on the subway. It’s more common for students to request accommodations like extended time on assignments or exams, testing in alternative locations, or simply having breaks during exams. These types of requests can also benefit other students, by reducing anxiety associated with testing and grading, and by acknowledging and making time for universal needs. With that understanding, why not just make accommodations for all students? For anyone who might want to try it, I drew on Shelly Eversly’s idea for a care and community statement (below), which includes all of the resources Baruch students might need but not know about.
We all learn differently and may need help or support in different forms. I do my best to make sure course materials are available in formats that can be printed or read on computer or smartphone before and after we meet as a class. I also strive to make sure our synchronous sessions are accessible. If anything about this course prevents you from learning or participating, please let me know. Your input makes sure I can develop a plan to make sure everyone succeeds. I also encourage you to visit the Accessibility Services Office to see if there are additional accommodations, tools, or supports you may not know about but could benefit from.
You might link to your campus accessibility office for additional support. Shelly also puts a version of this at the top of her syllabus each semester:
Statement of Care and Community
We care about you. We also know that you have a life outside of school, that everyone learns differently, and that you came to college to succeed. For all of these reasons and more, it is important for you to have ready access to the resources and services that are free and available to you as a student at Baruch. The college’s Student Services includes counseling services, services for veterans and for families, services for people with disabilities, and services for financial and housing emergencies. Healthy CUNY has food pantries accessible to all CUNY students in every borough. The college also offers free COVID testing.
As a Baruch student, you also have free access to Starr Career Development Center. The Writing Center offers one-on-one help with your writing. The Newman Library provides consultations on your research projects and online tutorials, as well as short term use of computers and other technology. You also have free access to study spaces and places to take your online classes.
In order to build and sustain our own community, let us collectively contribute to our shared class notes and resources. Everyone in this class is welcome to join our Whatsapp group for sharing information, course-related news, and positive vibes.
To close out our final session, we created a padlet and invited fellows to give us their final thoughts on taking what they learned from TLH forward with them. They gave us their thoughts anonymously and in the chat:
“vulnerability–both sharing my own and creating space for students to be whole, flawed humans.”
“re-read Bettina Love! Audre Lorde! Toni Cade Bambara!”
“create new canonical texts from more marginalized ones.”
“design my syllabus to allow more spaciousness for my students and for me.”
“talk to my colleagues about active learning tools”
“co-create more of my courses”
“aspire toward total participation in every class session”
“Make accommodations available to everyone”
“rework syllabus to include words that are less institutional and that show more care.”
“using more invitations in my Syllabus for community, care and recognition”
“make room to disrupt groupthink!”
“Be flexible and when in doubt, ask the students”
“Just inclusivity in general! awareness”
“Inclusivity means so many things. Syllabus diversity, inclusivity in the way we teach and include students who don’t participate in conventional ways, inclusive language on the syllabus, etc.”
“Emphasize the importance of creative thinking not only as a problem solving tool, but as a life strategy. Let’s not follow, let’s lead!”
“I’m participating in an innovative pedagogy reading and discussion group on my campus and I’m bringing everything you all share into that space!”
“I will carry forward the practice of fostering student-to-student engagement”
“Syllabus creation as a political act: I’m really invested in rethinking how the syllabus can be a place to articulate priorities beyond course content”
“Emphasize student-centered approaches”
“I allow my students to miss two of our ten modules without penalty (nor excusing themselves) so that they can make a choice about when to prioritize other things”
“I hand out index cards at the beginning of class to let students pose a question to me that they don’t feel comfortable asking during class regarding lesson or coursework”
“This semester, I’m doing a lot of individual reflection on how we like to learn, where we like to read and/or write, and how we do our best thinking. We’re analyzing ourselves and sharing what we learn, what we already knew, and what surprises us. Just normalizing that has been super powerful for the class and for me!”
“I feel like there’s been a paradigm shift towards faculty being more in that quasi-counselor role – it would be great to have more training provided. Often doctoral students at the GC are not offered much training, if any, on how to teach, much less support mental health awareness in their classrooms.”
“And when I hear about personal difficulties (which I always emphasize they should only share with me if they want to), I give them as much flexibility as I can in my course, but also try to identify when and how I should refer them to counseling or other relevant CUNY services.”
Thank you to all of our amazing and caring faculty fellows!
Ideas for Teaching (and Teaching Outside) the Canon
This is the first of a two-part post, synthesizing our final faculty seminar, with our final cohort of faculty fellows. These seminars have been at the heart of the TLH program, as we have aspired to cultivate agents of change in the classroom and beyond. During our 18 seminar sessions over the past two years, we’ve also tried to practice what we preach by fully engaging all participants in the co-learning and teaching process. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using an inventory method to make sure everyone is heard. It’s also an especially generative process for coming up with ideas that others can draw on in their teaching. For part two, check out Showing Care in the Classroom.
We started the session by discussing the introduction to Tracie Morris’s Who Do With Words (pp. 11-23) in which Morris challenges us to think about approaching the canon through “what we, those of marginalized status, have always done when the barrage of the status quo asserts itself. We find a way shape shift cursed words, to make the onslaught of actions meant to harm, in some way meaningful, affirming, to us in another way. ” (p. 21).
Drawing on Morris’ idea of changing her relationship to harmful texts, faculty co-directors Matt Brim and Shelley Eversley, and Pedagogy co-leader, Khanh Le offered the prompt:
If an instructor is handed a syllabus and they can’t change it? What does one do?
Matt summarized Shelly and Khanh’s remarks, and encouraged everyone to start thinking and writing down their strategies for teaching canonical texts:
“Shelly transforms canonical texts by citing Black women and by referring to Black cultural expression. This is the politics of citation. Khanh redefines the terms being used: “What is standard? What is a canon?” And by choosing texts his students can connect to. Center students’ experience even with required texts.”
This modeled the exercise for everyone on the call and opened up space for dialogue through the chat, and in reading the responses out loud. Everyone shared both general strategies and specific examples of how they teach required readings (responses have been lightly edited to correct errors and provide clarity when needed):
“I am required to teach Shakespeare in my college composition class at Hunter College so I teach Taming of the Shrew and use it as a time for us to reflect on domestic violence and sexual harassment and assault on college campuses.” – Christina Katopodis
“When dealing with mainstream/canonical texts, I often put them in historical context to add color and inclusivity to the conversation. Or, I cite a lesser-known BIPOC contemporary text/author to ask how the mainstreamed author might engage the lesser-known/obscured author. Sometimes I teach a “canonical” text and point to the moments (however brief) that indicate the presence of Black people. Think about Medusa in Greek mythology: was she so stunning that men only metaphorically turned to stone? Were the snakes as hair, dreadlocks?” – Shelly Eversley
“I identify with Khan’s way of teaching a canonical text by relating it to a culture that speaks to students nowadays. This is actually the only way a canonical text can survive and be read, in my opinion. I teach Great Works of Literature, and I base my syllabus off of an anthology, but I am allowed liberties. For the part of my syllabus which is formed by classics (Voltaire, Rousseau, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Ibsen, Woolf) I always find that the students identify with the texts because of the universal and timeless dilemmas they raise. Sure, they may see Candide’s optimistic determinism as mere optimism, but then it’s my job to give them context, and they have no trouble differentiating their 21st-century experience of a text from the contemporary context of that text’s publication time. [in response to a later comment] My students sometimes ask why we read ‘depressing’ texts, and I tell them we can derive satisfaction from unpacking texts that have shaped our world in bad ways as well” – Manon Hakem-Lemaire
“I am lucky in that I get to select which texts I assign to students and I rarely (if ever?) choose from the canon. But I used to have to use an anthology, so I used assignments to create space for students to write back. Students have written an analysis of the anthology intro, thinking about bias and editorial choices. They’ve also written proposals for additions to the anthology or to an altogether new anthology.” – Meghan Gilbert
“For the final unit/assignment in my American Literature Survey course, I ask students to design their own courses and course reading lists choosing texts that “speak back to” or “reconstruct” the canon and some of the canonical works we’ve discussed together. They’ve designed courses centering Black Women Writers, LGBTQIA writers, immigrant writers, and nonstandardized Englishes—such cool projects!” – Melissa Dennihy
“I think about this question in terms of my ever- (and quickly-) evolving field of queer studies. Do I still have to teach Gender Trouble, a book that transformed the field? When do newer texts displace older, canonical ones? A hurdle here is that most of the great new texts refer to the older canonical ones. This is a question I struggle with, because getting the intellectual history in place is important. I try to honor the past without getting stuck there.” – Matt Brim
“One thing I do in my memoir class is to have the class generate a reading list as a group, so that they can share and recommend texts to each other that I may not even be aware of. This decenters me as the sole creator of the syllabus. It’s very fluid. We read contemporary work by writers from the communities the students come from, and don’t think about canons. We read Ly Tran because she was part of this TLH project. And Ocean Vuong.” – Emily Raboteau
“There is a certain regard for the text that makes its way to the syllabus. It’s the bible, canon, the text(s) that matter for this course. I think about a student, M, who composed her final project for my class in response to Chavez’s Decolonizing the Writer’s Workshop (a required text for my course). She wrote at length about her alienating experiences as an Southeast Asian woman of color in her other courses at our so called liberal, progressive, diverse urban college in the heart of Brooklyn. A point of inquiry was one Prof’s syllabus. The texts were included in her final project – all white men, all cis, all canon. She composed her rage in comic book strips – the scenes were animated and screenshots of texts and emails between her and this Prof found their way too. How do I make space for all of us, to try to “do” justice? Mostly by inviting in the rage, the anger, what bell hooks describes in her talk on Thich Nhat Hanh as the ‘compost for your garden.’ What is it that we don’t want? What is it that we resist? That’s what I hope finds its way to my course and syllabus.” – Natalie Nuzzo
“I teach a sculpture lesson where students use linear, planar and geometric objects to reimagine a chapter from Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities. Even though the book is centered around conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan I ask students to think of the deeper meaning of the text and to use abstraction to suggest, rather than illustrate the meaning of the city described within. Once students have chosen a chapter that they want to recreate as a sculpture, they have to translate common materials (cardboard, wire, bamboo skewers, Styrofoam and plaster) into something meaningful to them. But the act of translation is more meaningful than just the materials they are using. It also refers to their reinterpretation of the text as well, and allows them to reimagine themselves within the cities they create.” – Roberto Visani
“1. Role playing with characters from a text but the students are allowed to make different situations and different outcomes. 2. Introducing modern-day and more relevant artistic interpretations of the text and 3. Give students power over the text with an assignment like, ‘If you were the publisher, how would you market this text; would you even publish it?'” – Laurie Lomask
“I assign a text that will challenge the canonical one and have students historically contextualize both of the texts and see them for the time in which they were produced. Then students pull out strands of conversations between them and discuss these viewpoints. So for instance, John Berger’s Ways of Seeing with Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation”. – Nina Hien
“I teach Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), which are structured to reinforce whiteness, hetero masculinity, settler colonialism, and very clearly “other” women, queer folks, people of color, indigenous people…everyone who isn’t a straight white christian male in the US. Since most of my students don’t start with any knowledge of LCSH, I introduce it to them through the documentary film Change the Subject about a group of undocumented Latinx college students who organized to get the subject term ‘illegal aliens’ removed. So from the jump we’re talking about the power of people to organize and effect change.” – Sarah B Cohn
“So many good ideas here! I think this has already been alluded to, but one idea when teaching canonical texts (often in film survey classes) has been to pair w/ another non-canonical text that challenges or “responds” to text in some way, and opens up the opportunity to question the constructed nature of canons. E.g. pairing a week on classical Hollywood cinema with Julie Dash’s Illusions, Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and with bell hooks’s Oppositional Gaze” – Elizabeth Alsop
“I’ve been thinking a lot about intellectual violence and the ways in which ‘bad’ ideas seem to persist. I think my approach to teaching difficult texts is informed by a sense that some ideas are inevitable and part of being a trained critical thinker is knowing how to both encounter those ideas on their own terms and not be afraid to speak out against what feels like inherited wisdom. In the literature classroom, racism is easy and frankly trendy to call out, everything else seems more open to debate. Using difficult texts as a way to force a conversation about complex ideas feels like a way to both foreground the ‘canon’ while also unpacking it.” – James Harris
“If it’s a western canonical text, I’m looking for a source that is BIPOC that demonstrates for students that similar thinking for students to locate their experiences, observations and thoughts in it. I try to create an atmosphere through questions and reflection for students and myself to see how such a text is myopic in choice to ignore experiences and identities familiar to me/them. If it’s a western text talking about language then I’m using texts like Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Amy Tan, James Baldwin, Natalie Diaz, John Keene, bell hooks, June Jordan, Doreen St. Felix and Toni Morrison to demonstrate that language and rigor or thought about power and language exists too. The hope is that they see the lineage of thought and are empowered by it rather than thinking these terms and ideas are dictated, ossified, or rarified.” – Syreeta McFadden
We hope you’ll be inspired by some of these ideas to make required readings relevant to students by connecting them to contemporary issues and other points of view. Thank you to all of our faculty fellows for bringing so much to our seminars!
Event Recap: Universality in Specificity, a conversation with Ly Tran About Language, Identity and Love with Khanh Le
On March 28th, 2023 TLH welcomed author of House of Sticks Ly Tran for an interview and interactive workshop, facilitated by TLH Pedagogy Co-Leader for Spring 2023 Dr. Khanh Le. Associate Director of TLH Dr. Christina Katopodis welcomed the pair and introduced the rest of the team.
Ly introduced herself, and shared some of her Vietnamese refugee family history and memories of performing sweatshop labor upon arrival in the U.S. as a child. She then read a brief excerpt from her memoir House of Sticks. Khanh thanked Ly and shared he relates as they share a similar background of Vietnamese refugee history. He emphasized the importance of centering the lived experience of Vietnamese refugees, instead of letting U.S. institutions remember the war and shape the narrative.
Then two members of the TLH Student Advisory Board asked Ly questions. Capellan asked, “How have your experiences and your relationship to water influenced your literary journey?” Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading