Paths to Equity Explored in Faculty Convocation

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The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) Office of Academic Affairs hosted the College’s first annual Faculty Convocation on January 27 in Theatre I at 199 Chambers Street.

BMCC President Antonio Pérez opened the event attended by hundreds of full-time and adjunct faculty. “As we assess and measure student success, we have to take into account things that are constantly changing in our city,” he said, referring to the economic climate and social issues. He also emphasized, “What happens in the classroom is at the heart of student success.”

Karrin E. Wilks, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, presented a talk on challenges in the community college classroom and evidence-based strategies for addressing them.

“It is our goal to bring faculty together and have a collective conversation about teacher and student success,” she said, one that creates “a collaborative culture; a culture of inquiry based on shared guiding principles.” She referred to guiding principles such as, “Students can learn anything under the right condition” and “Access to success is fundamental to advancing equity … but access is not enough.”

Wilks shared her early career experience as a new teacher of English in a “heavily tracked” high school where students were “mortified” to be in the lowest-level class. “How do we go beyond passing, as our goal, to deep learning that leads to change?” she asked, acknowledging that the answer to such questions must include student input.

In a recent survey of 499 BMCC students, she said, students defined success as earning their degrees and passing their classes, and factors predictive of those goals include passing all their first-fall semester classes and being exempt from remediation. Closing the academic success gap, she said, requires a pedagogical, curricular and structural strategy, and should address student needs from college readiness in their first semester, to graduation and transfer to a bachelor’s degree program, or embarking on a career.

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Jim Berg, Associate Dean of Faculty at BMCC, introduced the recipients of the 2016 BMCC Distinguished Teaching Awards: Nicholas R. Marino, Adjunct Lecturer, English; Chamutal (Tali) Noimann, Assistant Professor, English, and John Beaumont, Associate Professor, Academic Literacy and Linguistics.

In Tali Noimann’s talk, “(Em)power in the Classroom,” she examined the importance of creating an environment in which students have the freedom to self-teach and peer-teach. “Student centered means relinquishing the power that we think we have in the classroom,” she said. “The less I do, the more they learn.”

Nick Marino described four concepts for student success in the classroom: unity, compassion, authenticity and discovery. “Yes, model the rigors of scholarship,” he said, “but revisit, revalue and revise what we say in response to the world of our students, as it changes around us.”

John Beaumont talked about faculty’s role in student success, with a focus on “how to stay aware, and in tune with what is happening in the classroom.” He questioned the validity of assigning labels to the learning environment; for example, “labeling our classrooms as ‘interactive’, or our students as ‘communicative’,” and challenged teachers to look closely at whatever labels they assign to themselves, as well.

Dean Berg closed the event, and thanked organizing committee members Helene Bach, Laura Burrell, Margaret Carson, Gina Cherry, Anna Krupitskiy, Ruru Rusmin and George Stevenson.

Afterwards, participants attended faculty-led, small group sessions.

Editors Note: Nominations are open through February 15 for the 2017 Distinguished Teaching Awards. To nominate full-time tenured professors, full-time lecturers with CCE, and adjunct faculty who have taught for 10 or more semesters at BMCC, contact Lisa St. Hill, lsthill@bmcc.cuny.edu.