New Textbook by Professor Alatriste Fosters Students’ Civic Engagement in Urban Settings

April 2, 2012 | New York City College of Technology

Brooklyn, NY — Urban Reader for College Writers, edited by New York City College of Technology’s (City Tech’s) Lubie Grujicic-Alatriste, contains a component unique among writing textbooks — suggestions for civic engagement activities.

“It offers an education that can be applied immediately,” says Grujicic-Alatriste, assistant professor of English at City Tech. “Students get passionate about topics if they think they can change things.”

With her book as a guide, students learn to think globally and act locally by conducting on-campus surveys and participating in activities such as community actions around sustainability issues and the use of public space. Rather than keeping a traditional journal, they blog about their experiences on a website called Blog It!

Grujicic-Alatriste’s book is a reading and composition textbook for both writers who are native speakers of English and those who are language learners. Unlike the vast majority of college composition books, the Urban Reader is not text-heavy; it employs visuals, tasks and clear, crisp language to address those whom Grujicic-Alatriste calls “21st century students raised in the electronic age.”

Urban Reader for College Writers (Kendall Hunt, 2011) has already come to the attention of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who has invited Grujicic-Alatriste to bring students to visit his office. Also, the editors of WestView News, a monthly West Village of Manhattan publication, have invited her students to write about their civic action initiatives while taking the course; the newspaper will print the students’ work.

Though much of the material in her textbook is New York-based, says Grujicic-Alatriste, “The topics and themes covered are relevant to most cities across the U.S., As examples, she cites “Interest Grows in Urban Farms: City’s Green Movement Has Ear of Wall Street” and “A Safari on No. 7: Podcasts Explore Natural Wonders Along Train Lines.”

Already in use at City Tech and two other CUNY schools –York College and LaGuardia Community College — the book introduces various genres of writing through contemporary material. Newspaper articles, government reports, a New York State Union of Teachers statement, open letters to public figures, among others, discuss the problems, complexities and solutions found in any urban environment.

Grujicic-Alatriste, an expert in applied linguistics, has contributed several essays to the book. Other contributors include Andrea Batista Schlesinger, former executive director of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a New York City think tank.

Grujicic-Alatriste, a resident of Manhattan’s West Village, grew up in Belgrade, Serbia and London, and speaks several languages. In addition to her teaching responsibilities at City Tech, she is ESL Program coordinator, Language Lab supervisor and chair of the ESL Task Force.

Although she also has taught at Columbia University and The New School, says Grujicic-Alatriste, “I’ve always come back to CUNY because I want to have a public mission.”

New York City College of Technology (City Tech) of The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest public college of technology in New York State. Located at 300 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, the College enrolls more than 16,000 students in 62 baccalaureate, associate and specialized certificate programs.