Learning from fellow attendees at the 2018 CUNY Humanities Alliance Conference

I had the distinct pleasure of learning from fellow attendees at the 2018 CUNY Humanities Alliance Conference, and I was struck by the thoughtful educators, graduate students, undergraduates, staff, and administrators who convened over two days to discuss the promise and possibilities of the humanities in community colleges.  In a session on transformative development within a small learning community, for instance, former and current LaGuardia Community College students spoke to the power of community healing in educational spaces that centered students’ emotions, lived experiences, and structural needs.  Based on their testimonies, it became clear that when students feel that they belong and that their realities matter, they can begin to effect social change at individual and institutional levels.  When students are tracked into less advanced courses, feelings of inadequacy and anxiety can build, so finding spaces that acknowledge their full selves is critical for their (and their colleges’) futures.  In addition, I had the privilege of speaking with instructors and students about adult learning, and we touched on the interconnected challenges that reentering adult learners face, such as a need for social belonging, the burden of financial obligations, perceived gaps in technological literacies, and struggles with feelings of self-worth.  From our conversations, it seemed important for educators to help all students understand and access different institutional pathways for success.  Even through encounters with new language patterns, cultural norms, and systems of knowledge, adult learners benefit from instructors who honor the richness of their vast lived experiences.  Conference attendees were also treated to a preview performance of Elektra by students in the theatre program, followed by a Q&A.  The actors spoke to the profound experience of learning how to inhabit characters’ vulnerabilities in order to become stronger as individuals themselves in the real world.  I had an incredible time connecting with so many thoughtful students and educators, and I thank the many organizers and students who contributed to the success of this event.

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