Happy Birthday to Us!

Arcadia University CTLM Newsletter Issue #6

Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring

Help Us Blow Out the Candles!

By Daniel Pieczkolon

After 5 issues, I imagine (or maybe hope) that readers of this Newsletter are starting to form expectations for it. For me, the hallmarks of the Newsletter so far have been our willingness to experiment with tone & form in the various pieces AND the generosity & warmth of our fearless leader Ellen Skilton’s introductions. To that point, I would like to use the former as justification to circumvent my charge to fill in for the latter. In lieu of an essay introducing this issue--which will include essays from CTLM Fellows reflecting on our first year as a Center--I would like to submit the following video yearbook, which, like so many things at Arcadia, is the product of Lindsay McGann’s kindness, intelligence, & hard work:
Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring (CTLM) Our First Year 2020-2021

Falling with Style!

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By Ryan Hiemenz

It feels surreal to think that I have been a CTLM Student Fellow for an entire year. I still remember getting that email from Daniel, asking me to be a part of his team for the newsletter. From there I got to meet an incredible group of people who I am proud to work with to make our school a better place. I have been able to do so much to help many different branches of the CTLM, which in turn helps many different people on campus and beyond. The CTLM has without a doubt been the highlight of my last year, and at times it has felt like the only useful work that I was doing.

That being said, there were still so many times in the last year where I felt like doing absolutely nothing. Like many others, I embraced my inner sloth and struggled to get started on various projects I worked on. There were a bunch of small reasons and excuses I would make to forgive myself but it all boils down to it just feeling insurmountable. However, I came to learn that that feeling was a lesson in and of itself.

Thanks to this incredible group of people at the CTLM and our fearless leader Dr. Ellen Skilton, I learned the power of just starting. It’s as simple as that. Just start. From the very first meeting I went to as a Student Fellow, Ellen used her now infamous metaphor of “building the plane while flying”. At first I thought “this is a recipe for disaster,” yet here we are. One year later, with so many different accomplishments and projects under our belts.

As I sit here and reflect on my last year with the CTLM, I truly cannot think of a better message than that. Every single one of us, at Arcadia and beyond, has pushed through what was a historically terrible year (to put it lightly). As much as I don’t want to look back on last year, I would be lost without the simple lesson of beginning and what it has meant to me over the last year.

I think it is important to extend Ellen’s metaphor even further. If we think about building this plane while we are already flying it, that does not mean that we have the wings finished yet, and that is okay! That’s the most important point of the whole metaphor. Without wings, a plane is just a giant metal tube falling from the sky, right? Well, falling is still movement. And movement is progress. Sure, falling might be scary at first, but like all baby birds, we find our wings and take to the sky eventually.

This fall, we will be met with a new set of challenges as we return to campus, but I am not afraid of tackling them. This summer, we at the CTLM are excited to begin building another aircraft for all of us to enjoy when we return to campus. My advice to everyone out there is simple: start! Whatever you have on your mind, whatever you’ve been putting off for a while, anything. Just begin, and the rest will come!

Growing in the Moment

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By May Their Aye

I sat in front of the pink-covered laptop, nervously opening up and logging into zoom, on October 8th, 2020, at 7 p.m. to meet the the rest of Just Act—the Center for Teaching, Learning, & Mentoring’s community arts-based partner. Although I was fortunate enough to be part of the Center for Teaching Learning and Mentoring for the Fall 2020 semester, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, including myself. I remembered thinking, what if I was too old, too foreign, and didn’t have enough to offer the ensemble. I wasn’t going to be a failure throughout the process, nor did I want to be. Everything that I thought that evening was slowly but surely proven wrong as I got invested in the work that occurred.

The handkerchief exercise, amongst other grounding exercises, was one that I will always remember. Passing the handkerchief through zoom is no joke; it takes a special kind of energy and momentum. I took the nearest handkerchief closest to me, and the rest of the group did too; each had their own. We paid attention through our zoom boxes as we called out the name of the person we were passing the handkerchief to. The fun part was we didn’t know where it was going to come from. Was it going to drop from the top and into my lap, or was it going to rush in from the left and hit me on my face? I never knew. But that was the fun part. Such energy and exercise helped me to be present and to be in the moment.

The story circles were one where I indeed was vulnerable. Story circles were when we were put in small groups, and each participant had at least 10 minutes to tell a story, but the facilitator would give us a prompt to follow. As a facilitator, their job was to be Receiving, Receiving, and Receiving the story. There were no talkbacks and no interruptions as the teller told the story, and if moments of silence happen to occur during the 10 minutes, we learn to sit still and embrace. As I told my story, I was in the moment, and so was the rest of the ensemble as they listened. A facilitator was responsible for discovering, listening to pivotal points and moments of magic and synchronicity in the story. As members of the Just Act ensemble, they can give back the report to the teller after everyone has had their chance to participate in telling their story. Some people might view this as “oh, that’s cool,” and leave with that thought, but there was more than an “oh, it’s cool” notion for me. There was something about other people acting out my story; I felt seen, I felt like I was listened to without judgment, and the giveback from the ensemble was one that I will carry with me as it was powerful to watch my story presented to me.

I was never and still am never the one to so-called put myself out there; I mean, do I want the students in the ensemble to look at me differently? I have worked hard to build up the persona of May, who works in higher education where professionals were professionals and students were students. I learned that such barriers could only hurt me if I were carrying on like this; I needed to let the students in the ensemble know that I, too, as human, have flaws and have areas I need to improve on, but am working and learning to be better. Being involved in Just Act not only taught me to be in the moment, but it allowed me to work with a group of people, faculty, staff, and students that I might not naturally have if I were to have stayed in my cocoon.

A Fun Chaotic Year

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By Barbara St. Fleur

This year being a student fellow for the CTLM has been very chaotic (in a good way) and fascinating. I had so much fun and a lot of great opportunities to grow in many different skill sets. I enjoyed bringing my authentic self to any meeting that I did with the CTLM. Reflecting on this past year, I am happy that the CTLM stayed true to our mission statement of bridging the gap between students, faculty, and staff. I entered any meeting space on zoom with other CTLM fellows and found a place where I can speak as a student and view other fellows as colleagues and partners.

With my unique experience as a student fellow, I shared my concerns as a student and considered the student viewpoint. I was able to contribute to many different projects and see my peers also contributing. Through the CTLM newsletter, I had a medium to share my voice. Working on the Student Pods initiative, I shared past experiences as a first-year student to reveal what students needed. One big project that did take a lot of my time this semester was a love pilot program, and I was able to see the LOVE Pilot program grow from the summer of 2020 to what it is right now. I aid in the decision-making process of the program and helped plan participant meetings. I was able to learn different perspectives on anti-racism and also share my viewpoints.

Through the love pilot program, I co-facilitated a conversation between the first-year students and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How to be an Antiracist. Through this event, I was able to see how powerful the student's voice was and how influential it was to have a student facilitate an impactful conversation.

This year was strenuous and included a lot of needed work. I was able to use the CTLM as a haven to share my experiences with virtual learning. I heard other individual's experiences about the different learning/teaching modes. CTLM has helped me through this academic year and allowed me to stay connected with the campus community. I've done work that would benefit the Arcadia Community.

Pulling Ourselves Up

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By Daniel Pieczkolon

We’re a year old!

I’m not sure I know what that means though. I mean, I understand the passage of time. My knees creak when I get out of bed in the morning; the clerk at the wine & spirits store no longer asks to see my driver’s license; the promise of trusting the process becomes the desperation of compulsively checking the internet for favorable Ben Simmons trades. Sunrise, sunset.

I’m having trouble conceptualizing though what it means to be a year into creating, sustaining, & growing something as potentially meaningful as a Center for Teaching, Learning, & Mentoring at Arcadia University. I can point to things that we’ve done & accomplished, but so much of this experience seems genuinely ineffable and, maybe more to the point, part of understanding what we are at a year old feels innately connected to what we could be in the future. How can where we’ve been help us get to where we’d like to go?

In trying to find a way into this essay, I asked Jeeves “what milestones should one-year-olds achieve.” A consistent entry on the child-rearing blogs I encountered was “pulls self up to stand.” That feels about right. I think it’s fair to say that as a Center for Teaching, Learning, & Mentoring we have spent the last year pulling one another up so that we can stand as a unified entity. We’re still a little wobbly, but we’re no longer on our knees and, from this vantage point, things look a bit more hopeful.

From finding ways to engage students in the construction of pedagogy to creating safe spaces for difficult conversations around race & racism to fostering collegiality & collaboration amongst faculty members--all in one of the most difficult years in the history of higher education--we have certainly done a lot. I’m not sure that these are the things that “pulled us up” though, as much as they are initial byproducts of the pulling.

In thinking about and trying to articulate what constitutes this “pulling,” I keep returning to the feeling of logging into our bi-weekly CTLM Fellow meetings. For me, there was no anxiety, no hesitancy, no need to pause for a moment to steel oneself away before clicking on yet another Zoom link. Inexplicably, these meetings--comprised of students, staff, & faculty--felt like respites from the rest of life on Zoom where classes & meetings & workshops & virtual social events all seemed to blur together.

They would start with music. That was not a metaphor. The meetings would literally start with music. Ellen would let us wade into the meeting’s water with a musical selection and a reflection prompt that demonstrated her preternatural ability to welcome. Then we would find ourselves in deep and meaningful discussions, spurred along by Jodi’s subconscious gesticulations of affirmation. As we inched toward certitude, Mim, in their fiercely compassionate way, would force us to consider any and every issue from the point of view of the most vulnerable stakeholder. And a thousand other acts of brilliance and kindness would occur before the hour and a half was up. These meetings felt both generous and generative; they felt somehow limitless and focused; they felt like a group of people pulling themselves up to stand.

There’s so much work left to do for us, as a university, to meaningfully & sincerely live our values and to create the teaching & learning environments that every community member deserves--particularly those community members who have been marginalized for so long--and we shouldn’t view the CTLM as some kind of panacea. But we’re standing, which seems like a great place to be after one year.

I’m eternally grateful to each and every CTLM Fellow for sharing your unique intelligence, resolve, & empathy with me. (And I feel especially indebted to Barbara & Ryan for realizing this Newsletter with me.) Thank you. And I’m excited to see what our terrible twos will bring.

Glass Half Full

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By Keisha Robinson

To be completely honest, I never imagined meeting new people and making new friends as a doctoral student...but here I am a CTLM fellow with a tribe and a doctoral student with the most amazing cohort.

The pandemic has caused most people to live off campus, and as a doctoral student the only chance I ever had of meeting my cohort was turned into zoom meetings. But despite never having the opportunity to meet my cohort in person, something amazing happened. Arcadia University accepted a group of individuals into their Educational Leadership doctoral program, who seem destined to be together, “Cohort 11”. We not only talk during class, but we also group chat during the week...okay and the weekends. We send reminders, resources, answer questions, lift spirits and act as a family. My cohort is something I did not know I needed until I did.

Some would think that as an adult student, with children, work, and other obligations that there would not be any room for new friendships, but here I am writing about how 12 individuals have affected my life, career, and education in the most special way. The people in my cohort are seriously amazing and I am not just referring to the abundance of intelligence they all have, but their empathy, kindness, hard-work, and dedication. They are often my biggest cheerleaders and supporters when I do not recognize things myself, how great is that?

And then there’s CTLM. My experience as a CTLM fellow has allowed me to grow and use my voice as an advocate for change. Working in the LOVE pilot program has been one of the most amazing experiences I have had as a doctoral student. I have also realized that the work is not easy, but it is necessary. I was fortunate to be surrounded with other amazing planning team members as well as Dr. Skilton who has been one of the most inspiring people I have met. I often refer to the LOVE pilot planning team as my tribe, because we have experienced some of the hardest yet most meaningful things any group of individuals could face while advocating for change.

This year has not been easy, and I recognize that despite starting a doctoral program and fellowship during a pandemic, I was still able to grow in so many ways. I see the glass half full, and for that I am grateful!


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Ellen Skilton (left) wearing doctoral regalia and sunglasses, snaps of selfie on the Walk of Pride with Mim (right), who wears glasses and an unzipped robe with a polka dot dress, Italy stole, and lavender cord

By Ma'ayan Meder

On the evening of 12 October 2020, Barbara St. Fleur and I received a separate email under this heading after interviewing Professor Kendi (his preferred address from students) for the First Year Seminar on his book, How to Be an Antiracist. I've kept this email pinned at the bottom of my inbox since received, and whenever I managed to clear the insane amount of university emails, Ellen's words greeted me.

"You were so great - so much yourselves, asking thoughtful probing questions, meeting his intellect and vulnerability with your own."

I managed many successes this year that were big for me, and I'm grateful that I built a support network that could be as consistent as possible in a pandemic. But I found myself scrolling down to that email throughout the year whenever I felt particularly down on myself or isolated. Ellen's words to us helped me push forward when I could not talk to someone for support - too intellectually and socially exhausted because of how long things took me to complete this year. Inviting this little dude to be my +1 helped quite a bit:
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Mr. Darcy, a very poofy medium-haired cat, soft as a rabbit with a fluffy tail and very big, warm eyes, peacefully half-closed. He lays supine beside a copy of the book, The Boundaries of Eros, on a single bed covered with a crocheted wool blanket.

During the Spring, though, I faced an autistic shutdown and spent a portion of the semester off-camera, recovering. Many students didn’t have anyone or thing supporting them this year. Academically, having an IEP for my neurodivergence certainly helped me feel more empowered in the classroom, but it also means I struggled with virtual learning in a way that my grades might not adequately reflect. This year, DSS became overwhelmed by the sudden influx of support required during the pandemic. Many of my peers struggled without having the paperwork necessary for accommodations. Recently I had the privilege to attend NCORE, where I listened to Talila "TL" Lewis (no gender pronouns), an abolitionist community lawyer, discuss Critical Race Disability Theory.

TL, alongside a group of BIPOC disabled scholars, have defined Ableism as:

"Excellence, Desirability, and Productivity. These constructed ideas are deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, eugenics, misogyny, colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism. This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable and wealthy based on a person's language, appearance, religion, and/or their ability to satisfactorily (re)produce, excel, and 'behave.' You do not have to be disabled to experience ableism."

Why does a paper hold so much weight on success when faculty can recognize that same struggle in their students? What makes their circumstances less disabling in a classroom than mine? Why do we rely on paperwork to use compassion with our students? One of Merriam-Webster’s simplest definitions of Disability: 3) a disqualification, restriction, or disadvantage. Many of us might consider women, after becoming mothers, as not able to achieve the same success as their male counterparts - that’s the glass ceiling - it’s a social barrier that makes women in this instance, not able to achieve the success they know they’re capable of. TL’s new definition of Ableism considers the intersection of Critical Race Theory and Critical Disability Theory - two theories that, really aren’t theories at all - rather they rely on perspectives and experiences that people on top of the hierarchy do not hold themselves. Higher Education has built a culture of shame around disability, modeled after European "Enlightenment," to which its visual precedence promotes societal exclusion of difference.

Students note peers absent from exam days and those that challenge educators with different needs, and often assume intellectual incompetence - I’ve had to check my own implicit bias against others, even as a disabled person. To provide adequate support to students impacted by educational neglect means that professors must make their classrooms more inclusive towards all students who experience disabilities and simultaneously decenter policies sustaining white supremacy in Higher Ed. As a student and fellow, I’ve observed many professors struggle to let go of their institutional models for more equitable ones, while certain individuals, mostly BIPOC personnel and their white colleagues already engaged in The Work, recognized, decentered, and accommodated this wide spectrum of disability in ways that appeared entirely effortless.

As I watched TL sign the lecture to the room during NCORE, I recalled the field of absent video feeds in my classes this past year. Arcadians watched children, were BIPOC and exhausted, needed to work in-person jobs during class, struggled with mental and physical illness, grieved, and lived lives that generally felt like too much to share at a private college where appearance has always mattered first - right down to the lawns. To me, these students were not able to turn on their cameras and not able to turn on their microphones. Like TL, I saw them as disabled from participating in class. Meanwhile, students with IEPs had paperwork in place to accommodate their lack of participation. Getting a diagnosis takes time and can be expensive; it requires health insurance, often a referral, transportation, and waitlists typically.

Coined Human Accommodations, TL employed this strategy successfully in Higher Education classrooms without student IEPs. It's the concept that everyone at the beginning of the semester is invited to ask for accommodations even without the disability paperwork. When Graciela adopted a similar policy in her own course, I felt more comfortable addressing my disability than I ever felt with an IEP. TL explained that professors - from assigned seating to more time on tests - are not necessarily required only to accept IEPs. Professors requiring an IEP further exclude BIPOC students, who are more likely to have experienced the effects of systemic poverty in a way that would have impacted their ability to obtain a diagnosis.

I’m not able to turn on my camera during class because I have to work, becomes perfectly acceptable beside, uh; I am homeless and don’t want my peers knowing, or uh; I am feeding my baby right now. My, uh; I am autistic, suddenly means I no longer get excluded because the professor already accepts that all students deserve to succeed - “uh; I am ____” stops feeling like a gross deficit among students (student-athletes don’t usually say “uh; I am,” before announcing themselves, it’s a privilege versus deficit, and that stating ‘uh; I am” is not a requirement but more of a statement for how society perceives something as a deficit).

Professors who employ this strategy recognize that, situationally, everyone faces this “uh; I am ___” in their lifetime. The disproportionate inequities of the pandemic have forced us to recognize that, frankly speaking, being a BIPOC student can be more disabling with intersectionality than I have felt as white and disabled. Inviting each student to approach faculty with their classroom needs at the beginning of the semester fosters an open dialogue of support. It enables the most marginalized students to learn beyond a limited potential, which should be a Learning Outcome for everyone.

“Fantastic!! Hope you can really breathe deeply now. So proud.”

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Mim’s graduation cap decorated in the different found-object paper; the Latin phrase in scarlet serif lowercase letters reads, et in arcadia ego - a phrase popularized by Nicholas Poussin during the European Renaissance to mean “Even in Arcadia, there am I.” In his example served as a metaphor for mortality (momento mori) for the idyllic world of Virgil’s Arcadia, Greece. In Mim’s context, fitted with Arcadia’s colors it means, “I too, am Arcadian.” The letters are pasted to a black and white field of dictionary definitions, with a gold and scarlet brocade border.

Personally, working for LOVE Pilot and the CTLM has been an exciting opportunity for me to learn and grow; my fellows' willingness to grasp my hand and invite me into this world has taught me so much about my own. My time with Ellen helped me understand that enabling others to succeed is how I wish to spend the rest of my life, and I'm excited to see the different shapes this takes. However, to get here I needed a network of support, faculty, staff, and employers willing to invite me to learn and support my inquiry, meet my challenges, and enable me to overcome them. What I learned this year is that each student requires a network of support to succeed in college, and without it, they struggle to pursue education.

While policies became relaxed in many instances at the university throughout COVID, educators must now consider returning to their preferred classroom orders and restricting accommodations to only IEPs again. When I look at Arcadia, I see that it could very well become the first 4-year institution to systemically accommodate differences as a whole. After a decade of struggling through a 4-year degree and succeeding at Arcadia, my last burning question for you to answer is this:

What happens to BIPOC student success when we stop holding a standard that only white students enabled by a network of support can obtain?


Faculty Director

Dr. Ellen Skilton, Professor of Education

Faculty & Staff Fellows

May Their Aye, Coordinator, Office of Institutional Diversity

Dr. Jodi Bornstein, Associate Professor of Education

Lindsay McGann, Student Success Projects Manager (Division of Student Success) and Professional Faculty, Public Health

Dr. Katherine Moore, Associate Professor of Psychology

Daniel Pieczkolon, Adjunct Professor of English

Dr. Brittani Smit, TCGS, Resident Director, South Africa

Community Arts Partner

Just Act: Lisa Jo Epstein, Artistic and Executive Director and Foram Bhukhanwala, Associate Professor of Education

Student Fellows

Rasheed Booker '24

Monica Anna Day, ‘20

Siobhan Dougherty, ‘21

Eleanor Doughton, ‘22

Ryan Hiemenz, ‘23

Harper Jones '22

Riti Kamath, ‘21

Yoon Kim, ‘22

Rebecca Kirk, ‘21

India Knight, ‘21

Caitlin Marcyan, ‘24

Mim Meder, ‘21

Keisha Robinson, '23

Era Joy Smith, ‘21

Barbara St. Fleur, '21