Event Recap: Teaching and Learning with New Majority Students: Lessons Learned from the CUNY Humanities Alliance

Notes | Photos | Video (forthcoming) | #fight4edu

On Thursday, May 3, 2018, the Futures Initiative hosted a roundtable discussion on Teaching and Learning with New Majority Students: Lessons Learned from the CUNY Humanities Alliance, the final event of this year’s Thursday Dialogues series. The event brought together colleagues from departments and programs across the GC, including the Futures Initiative, the Teaching and Learning Center, and the CUNY Humanities Alliance, as well as attendees from other institutions in New York City and beyond. The event was livestreamed, and a full video (with captions) will be posted here soon. In the meantime,  read through the collaborative notes for more details.

Katina Rogers (Director of Programs and Administration, The Futures Initiative) welcomed the audience to the event and introduced the series and the next two speakers. First up was Kaysi Holman (Director of Programs and Administration, CUNY Humanities Alliance), who described the CUNY Humanities Alliance’s mission and provided an overview of the program.

Next, as the organizer of this roundtable and its moderator, I (Kitana Ananda, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow with the CUNY Humanities Alliance and The Futures Initiative) introduced the event with some remarks stating why teaching the humanities in community colleges matters.

The next hour and a half was dedicated to a wide-ranging discussion with our panel of remarkable Mellon Graduate Teaching Fellows who are currently teaching at LaGuardia Community CollegeKahdeidra Monét Martin (Urban Education), Micheal Angelo Rumore (English), Jacob Sachs-Mishalanie (Music), Inés Vañó García (Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures) and Alison Walls (Theatre).

CUNY Humanities Alliance "Teaching and Learning with New Majority Students" roundtable, May 3, 2018
Roundtable (from left to right): Kitana Ananda (moderator), Jacob Sachs-Mishalanie, Micheal Rumore, Alison Walls, Inés Vañó García, Kahdeidra Monét Martin

In their dual roles as graduate students and teachers who circulate between multiple institutions at CUNY, our doctoral students embody the Humanities Alliance’s mission and aspirations in their teaching and mentorship, research, and public writing. During this roundtable, the Fellows discussed everything from the ethical and socio-political underpinnings of their scholarship and teaching in the humanities at LaGuardia to very concrete and practical strategies for student learning. They each spoke thoughtfully with humility and insight about the value of teaching and learning in the humanities; their teaching experiences with and strategies to support ‘new majority’ students at LaGuardia Community College, at other two-year colleges, and elsewhere in the CUNY system; how they approach the challenges their students face and assumptions about community colleges; whether and how teaching at LaGuardia has shaped their positionality as scholars; and the broad lessons of this program for (American) higher education today.

In the course of our conversation, I opened the discussion to audience questions and comments, of which there were many.

Audience member asking a question

Here is a quick sample of audience questions (edited for concision and clarity):

  • Are there specific strategies or methods that you use to get to know your students better, to get them to bring themselves into the classroom?
  • Is your teaching at LaGuardia or other kinds of colleges influencing your research? 
  • I’m interested in is how we transform social relationships. What advice or pedagogical tinkerings do you have for teaching how to not only educate “the whole person,” but to cultivate another form of personhood?
  • You have faculty mentors at LaGuardia, and you have a cohort structure. What do you think about that mentorship, and what it can do?
  • What advice would you give to a new fellow of the program?
  • If and when your students go to a four-year college, will they major in the humanities? How can our students think about the humanities as being vocationally valuable?

Audience member asking a question

The discussion was so generative that it reminded me of what I love about learner-centered teaching and working with students, from community college to graduate school. It was the perfect cap to my postdoctoral work with the Futures Initiative and the CUNY Humanities Alliance, and a lovely culmination of the Alliance’s second year.

Photo of the CUNY Humanities Alliance at "Teaching and Learning with New Majority Students," May 3, 2018
A group photo from the CUNY Humanities Alliance May 3 Thursday Dialogue (from left to right): Kitana Ananda, Kaysi Holman, Jacob Sachs-Mishalanie, Inés Vañó García, Alison Walls, Micheal Rumore, and Kahdeidra Monét Martin


A final note of gratitude: I would like to end this recap with my deepest thanks to everyone who participated in this discussion, and especially to Alison, Inés, Jake, Kahdeidra, and Mikey for sharing their experiences, insights and ideas with us. I also wish to thank Katina Rogers, Celi Cuello Lebron, Lauren Melendez and Kaysi Holman for the administration and logistics that made this event possible, Jessica Murray for designing our beautiful event flyer, and Frances Tran, Jenn Polish and Mike Rifino for their help with publicizing this event. Thank you to Allison Guess for taking the lead on collaborative notes, Christina Katopodis for taking photos during the event, and Kalle Westerling for tweeting in real time.


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309