BMCC Professors Apply Global Competencies in Classrooms


Borough of Manhattan Community College English as a Second Language Instructor Denizo Gokora recently instructed her students to go out into the community where they live and find newspapers, poems or songs that contain two languages and bring them to class.

“I am working with my students to recognize the richness of having two languages in a culture,” she said.

Gokora says she got the idea for the exercise when she attended the first of four workshops that are part of the Global Competencies in a Diverse World program.

A faculty cohort of 15 BMCC Professors and Instructors attended the September 11 session that featured a spirited discussion led by New York University Spanish and Portuguese Professor Mary Louise Pratt, the author of the book Toward a Speech Act Theory of Literary Discourse.

“My objective was to present some thoughts about how we think about globalization from the perspective of language and how we think about language as a force in globalization,” said Pratt.

The one-year-long Global Competencies program is being funded through a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that was announced last December.

BMCC was one of just three two-year colleges nationwide to receive a humanities initiative grant awarded during 2015 awards cycle according to NEH spokeswoman Paula Wesley.

Three more workshops are scheduled for Fall 2015 including: October 16; November 14 and December 4.

The BMCC program’s primary co-investigators are BMCC Speech, Communication & Theatre Arts Professor Vincent (Tzu-Wen) Cheng and Social Sciences, Human Services and Criminal Justice Professor Alex D’Erizans.

By Spring 2016, participating faculty members will be encouraged to revise their curricula and incorporate at least three assignments or activities that cultivates at least two or more of the global competencies they cover in the workshops.

The competencies include cultural understanding, responsible global citizenship, effective intercultural communication and integrated reasoning.

Professor Cheng said one of the big takeaways from the first workshop was that language is intrinsically important in the larger discussion surrounding global competencies.

“It’s the one thing that’s usually missing from the discussion, people take language for granted,” said Cheng.

He used the example of an intercultural communication class he teaches at BMCC.

Many of the students who enroll in the speech class already have the minimum speech competencies necessary to be successful in a global economy, Cheng said. The students who might actually need an intercultural speech class are not likely to sign up, he says.

The workshops seek to infuse at least some of those skills, including language and linguistic skills, across a wide range of departments and disciplines.

“Participating faculty members, regardless of the courses they teach, will be better able to use language, in various cultural contexts, as an entry point and an opportunity to enhance their students’ global competencies,” said Cheng.

In addition to Cheng and D’Erizans, the program’s steering committee includes: Megan Elias Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship at BMCC; Eva Kolbusz, Professor, Speech, Communication, and Theatre Arts; Phyllis Niles, Professor and Deputy Chair in the BMCC Library; Cynthia Wiseman Professor Academic Literacy and Linguistics and Jane Tyrus, Professor Italian Studies and Comparative Literature.

The 2015-2016 faculty cohort includes:Margaret Carson, Modern Languages; Damele E. Collier, English;Erik Eliav Freas, Social Sciences & Human Services, and Criminal Justice; S. Deniz Gokcora, Academic Literacy and Linguistic; Lori Hoepner, Health Education;Michael Kent, Mathematics;Charles McGill, Music and Art; Yolanda Medina, Teacher Education: Alicia Perdomo, Modern Language: Hemalatha Navaratne, Social Sciences & Human Services, and Criminal Justice; Patrizia Comello Perry, Modern Languages; Rochelle Rives, English; Mohammad Soleymani, Social Sciences & Human Services, and Criminal Justice; Sylvia Roig, Modern Languages; Ilgin Yorukoglu, Social Sciences & Human Services, and Criminal Justice.