Reflections on Care in Higher Education
This post is part of the year-long exploration of the theme of care in higher education. You can read previous posts in this series by HASTAC Scholars Co-Director Hilary Wilson, Director of Digital Strategy and Web Development Chris McGuinness, Assistant Director Coline Chevrin, and Fellow-in-Residence Sham Habteselasse on the blog.
For the past semester I have served as the Communications Co-Director at the Futures Initiative and have been fortunate enough to be part of the team’s efforts to support innovative pedagogy and equitable education for all. This ethos is part of our weekly team meetings, which have a collaborative agenda and are led by graduate fellows. It also informs working methods at the Futures Initiative, which are democratic and encourage all team members to contribute ideas and methods.
Importantly, this focus on education and care also infused the University Worth Fighting For event this semester, which the team organized in March. Aimed at demystifying the process of applying to Master’s degrees for CUNY undergraduate students, the leaders Coline Chevrin and Lauren Melendez assembled the FI Fellows for a panel discussion about graduate school with an introduction by Provost Steve Everett. There is a detailed recap of the event here.
Chris McGuinness and I were part of the breakout room that responded to students’ questions about applying to graduate school. It was really energizing to hear what students were curious about and to be in a position to encourage them to further their education. Notably, some students felt trepidation about approaching professors for letters of recommendation, which was a useful reminder that the power dynamics and hierarchies of higher education can cause unnecessary stress. We talked about how to identify which professors are best-positioned to write recommendation letters for you as an undergraduate student, how to reach out to those professors, and how to find people more broadly who will advocate for you as you apply to programs. Working directly with CUNY undergraduates is one of the Futures Initiative’s focuses and this event allowed us as graduate fellows to contribute to the caring environment set out by the CUNY Peer Leaders team.
It has been a great pleasure to work on the Futures Initiative team. Each person’s commitment to advocating for more equitable higher education and careful attention to the work of FI has been galvanizing. I look forward to following the program’s initiatives and events in the coming years as they continue to advocate for the importance of care in higher education.