A Feather in BMCC’s Cap

December 20, 2010 | Borough of Manhattan Community College

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Over the course of her career, Juliet Emanuel has amassed an impressive roster of honors and professional affiliations, including a doctorate in English literature and memberships in the Modern Language Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Guyana Cultural Association and the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars.

Now Emanuel, an associate professor in BMCC’s Department of Developmental Skills, has added a new distinction: At St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY, this past October, she chaired her first meeting as newly-elected President of the New York College English Association (NYCEA).

Fostering scholarship among professors at two- and four-year colleges
As part of the nationwide College English Association, NYCEA has as its mission “the encouragement of scholarship among professors at all educational levels, including two- and four-year colleges,” says Emanuel. Membership is open to teachers of English and related subjects as well as college administrators and independent scholars. Among other activities, the association holds two annual conferences—one upstate in the fall, and a downstate conference in mid-spring.

“Because our membership is drawn from every corner of New York, members often joke that Albany is considered downstate,” Emanuel says. NYCEA conferences often feature well-known writers and scholars as keynote speakers and presenters and draw attendees from many countries. Past themes have included “Literature and Film,” Ethnicity and Literature,” and “Reconciliation.” Emanuel has chaired two conferences at BMCC, including one on “The Anatomy of Violence” a few years after the 9/11 attacks.

Emanuel joined NYCEA several years ago, later serving on the board. “Soon after I joined the board, I pulled off what I still consider one of my greatest coups,” she says with a wry smile. “I called for a major increase in membership fees, which were then set at the princely sum of $5. Some of the other members were nervous—they thought I might suggest raising the fee, say to $200 or more. What I had in mind was a 100 percent increase—to $10.”

Two years after joining the board, Emanuel became vice president of NYCEA and, eventually, the association’s president. “While the various presidents have brought different skill sets and agendas to their role, I would like to think that we all share one thing in common—a willingness to work hard,” she says.

Top priorities: Closer cooperation, younger blood
NYCEA is recognized as one of the most prestigious and influential state-level branches of the CEA. “That makes the selection of a community college person as president especially significant—and a real feather in BMCC’s cap,” she says. As president, she hopes to encourage closer cooperation between BMCC and the senior colleges represented on the board.

“I would also like to initiate a faculty development program aimed at younger members who first join the association,” she says. “These are people with the tech savvy, creativity, and room to grow professionally that our association needs to remain relevant and vital.”

Emanuel is quick to note that not all board members become vice presidents nor do all vice presidents become president. “So this is quite an honor—not just for me, but for BMCC and for community colleges overall,” she says.