Falling Forward

CTLM Newsletter Issue #13

If We Build It, We Will Come

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By Dr. Ellen Skilton

In the week that the Phillies are in the World Series, it seems like it might be OK to adapt a quote from a fictional baseball movie: “If we build it, they will come.” As I was preparing to write this, I had two amazing teaching/learning/mentoring moments that both had to do with building spaces for engaging with others on campus to create more inclusive, antiracist pedagogies and practices.

One space included a Zoom meeting, but more than that, included faculty from multiple departments coming together to try a new pedagogical tool. I was not invited to join them as an expert, but as a mentor – as someone who had done this kind of learning activity before and was also a peer. And because CTLM existed not only as a unit on this campus, but also as a real and imagined space for collaborating, reflecting, and trying out new teaching strategies, we came together to prepare for something new to happen. And it did.

The second time that I felt the CTLM space holding what it was meant to hold came last week when I was invited to attend the Living Our Values Experience (LOVE) Program’s planning meeting. It was a mid-semester check-in that included co-leaders Gail Lankford and Monica Day as well as a community facilitator from WURD radio, two faculty facilitators, 2 student facilitators, and 2 CTLM Student Fellows who support this program in multiple ways. It was the stuff of my dreams.

Everyone was focused on how to make the antiracism work in the program meaningful, potent, and focused (in the end) on taking action against racial bias. Here are some examples of the dynamic, vibrant work that was happening in front of my eyes in that room and on the screen:

  • A sophomore mentoring a first-year student saying, “I used to be a first-year and I was nervous, but you can do this..”

  • A faculty member talking about how students in her working group really supported another student who was completely overwhelmed by the racial inequities she was learning about.

  • A staff member asking students amazing questions about their goals as student facilitators/leaders and sharing her own experiences as a facilitator last year.

  • A student facilitator talking about stepping up to facilitate solo while the other facilitator was out sick and others offering strategies for adding additional student leadership to that group.

  • A faculty member talking about how the students in her group are running the group. She shows up to offer support, but they are leading.

It was a hybrid meeting, but our table in Taylor Hall 111 was full. The physical space we had imagined and then created was a container for a group of students, staff, and faculty shifting back and forth in the roles of teacher, learner, and mentor for each other. We were much bigger and brighter than the sum of our parts.

Lunching & Learning

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By Daniel Pieczkolon

Have you ever noticed that—despite the incredible variety of the subject matters they address—TED Talks all seem to have the same tone? That uneasy marriage of theatre kid & motivational speaker energies. The safely self-deprecating personal anecdote giving way to the emotional & logical core before, ultimately, arriving at the carefully practiced performance of surprise & revelation.

I often have TED Talks recommended to me—which probably says more about me than anything else, but I’m not sure this is the place to investigate that—and I routinely find myself having to fight past my rhetorical hangups with the medium to make room for the various wisdoms they offer. I think my frustration with TED Talks stems from two interdependent places. For one: the samey-ness of the format has the effect of diluting the “unique” intelligences & experiences on display in any particular TED Talk. How can the same pedagogical approach really be the optimal one to teach me about financial planning and active listening? And two: the specific rhetorical similarities conspire to create a distancing effect wherein the speaker is positioned as some intelligent and compassionate person, and I, the audience member, am there in the hopes of being offered just a small piece of their intelligence & compassion. In this way, they are much closer to stand-up comedy or a one-person play than a form of education.

As the CTLM’s Faculty Director, Dr. Ellen Skilton, described her ambitions & goals for our upcoming “Lunch & Learn” series (which kicks off today), I couldn’t help but think of them as anti-TED Talks. It is our hope that each installation in this series will look & feel wildly different from the one that preceded it—both in content & form. Some may resemble group science experiments in which attendees are actively learning along with the facilitators about some unique aspect of their field and the ways in which they communicate that information to their students; some may resemble improv comedy shows wherein the attendees’ thoughts & experiences are providing the raw material to test out a new form of communication; and, yes, some may even resemble TED Talks; (my gripe is not with the form but with the uniformity with which it's been applied!). At its core, this series aims to find ways for faculty & staff to come together (over a meal) and engage with ideas of pedagogy—as both content & form.

We are incredibly grateful to Drs. Michael Dwyer & Prash Naidu for facilitating our first Lunch & Learn, which will focus on “podcasting as pedagogy.” Please come out to the Faculty Dining Room today (November 2nd) from 12pm-1:30pm to participate in our first Lunch & Learn! This event is bring-your-own-lunch, but the CTLM will provide cookies & coffee.

And please feel free to propose a future Lunch & Learn by using this form.

And, lastly, please write to Dr. Skilton to advance my goal of changing the name of the series to the “Ellen Dialogues”.

You're Wrong About... Podcasting as Pedagogy!

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By Buzz Lombardi

Podcasts are so abundant these days, so much so that it can be hard to find the good stuff. With so many choices out there, I always felt lost. Podcasts can be so different and hyper-specific that even when I am recommended a good one, I have a hard time keeping up with it.

One podcast that I had listened to a few times was called You’re Wrong About… a podcast hosted by writers Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbs. In the show, Marshall and Hobbs dissect historical events, or pop culture trends that have largely been false or more nuanced than the rhetoric surrounding them would lead the average person to believe. Popular episodes explore topics like the life of Princess Diana, The Satanic Panic of the 1980’s, and musical act The Chicks (f.k.a. The Dixie Chicks) and their role in “cancel culture” during the early days of the War in Afghanistan.

Although I enjoyed the podcast, I struggled to keep up with the often whiplash-y sensation I would get from the sheer variety of the podcast’s subject matter. Week to week topics could go from serious to light-hearted, and the emotional rollercoaster was enough to turn me off for a bit.

I was just about to give up hope on the form, but then I enrolled in CM213 at Arcadia University with Dr. Michael Dwyer.

CM213: Writing and Communication is such a great class for working on your writing muscle. The main focus is pretty self-explanatory, but there was something I was not expecting when I came in on syllabus day. The curriculum has such an emphasis on all different types of media, from podcasts all the way to YouTube videos. I never would have thought that something like a YouTube video could be a reliable source for a writing assignment.

In CM213, we were assigned a project in which we had to make our own podcast. Before we could do so though, we did a deep dive into different kinds of podcasts, and learned how information could be extrapolated from them. This was going to be a challenge for me.

In preparation for making our own podcast, we had to write an article where we would use a specific episode of a podcast as one of the main sources to an argument. Branching off from the podcast, we were then expected to find other sources that helped strengthen our argument, while also using as much from the podcast as we were able to. This would help us reverse engineer the podcast format, so we could understand some of the tricks to making a good episode of our own.

On this list, I was excited to see The Chick’s episode of You’re Wrong About… as an option. Despite my apprehensions with the format, I felt some comfort having been familiar with the podcast, so I made sure to jump on that one.

When I first started listening to the podcast, I kept hearing a very specific phrase repeated over and over. It went something like, “according to a study…” or “according to (author of a piece)...”. I recognized that! Those were sources!! I’ve had to cite those in my own writing.

In the past, I had always listened to podcasts where the hosts just gabbed on and on. In You’re Wrong About… the hosts were well spoken and studied on the topic of the episode. Sources weren’t just circumstantial or anecdotal.

When I went to write that essay, I honestly had the easiest time finding new sources to help my argument. Thanks to the nature of You’re Wrong About…, new sources were popping up by the minute, and I could then look into them if they interested me, or were going to be helpful to my argument.

Not only was the source citing helpful to find new avenues for my research, but it also helped me understand how podcasts are constructed. Piece by piece, source by source, podcasts are built like model airplane sets. Conversation is the glue, piecing the arguments together like tiny wings on a 1/144 scale B-52. These tiny little pieces, while seemingly inconsequential, add up to a whole that is greater than the sum.

Podcasts are great. It took me quite a while to understand this, but the things that make them great are the “flaws” I spoke about earlier. Because podcasts are hyper-specific to a topic, they can be much more researched. Thanks to the low production cost, this also means just about anyone can make a podcast. And thanks to the low barrier of entry, there’s an abundance of them out there to pick from.

Podcasts have become an essential tool to me when researching topics for my writing. Having the ability to listen to other writers discuss topics I’m interested in, or researching myself can be incredibly helpful, especially when I’m first starting my research. Oftentimes, the podcasts link to a bunch of different resources that may come in handy during my writing process. Podcasts can be a great first step.

Podcasts are so abundant these days, and that’s good. This saturation means more information is getting out there, and we’re lucky to be in such a productive time for the form.

Space as Pedagogy

By Daniel Pieczkolon

Last week, I held one-on-one writing conferences with my EN100 students. Normally, we meet as a group on Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays at 8:30am in a musty cinderblock room in Taylor Hall that is exclusively freezing or sweltering. It’s a wonderful group of students, and we’ve done some great work so far this semester, but the where & when of our class has definitely impacted the how & what of our teaching/learning. I’m confident in this because during those conferences last week—which were held throughout the day and in my office (which is much more comfortable than our classroom)--I felt as if I was meeting some students for the first time. One student came to meet me right after lunch (still finishing an energy drink) and was more gregarious and dynamic than I’d seen her all semester. Another met me mid-day on Tuesday (a day we don’t normally meet) and was more confident & direct in discussing his writing than usual. As we were finishing, I asked him how his day had been so far and what he still had left to do, and he noted that he’d had a good day because he doesn’t have class right after his early morning basketball practice (like he does when we normally meet), which meant he was able to rest & relax prior to our conference & the rest of his classes.

As educators, we sometimes have a tendency to disembody the classroom—to consider education as an entirely abstract & theoretical act that transcends the physical. This is a mistake though, and taking the time to consider the physical spaces we do our work in can help us become more engaged & innovative teachers & learners. A number of spaces across campus have recently undergone renovation, and below we have initial reactions from some of the people teaching & learning in these spaces. There are also a number of planned renovations—including the possible creation of a “Teaching Lab”--that we hope to write about as we continue to consider the relationship between space & pedagogy.

Catalyst, Foundation, Mirror

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By Sam Heaps

When I think about writing a story, I think about setting first. It is the most important element to me. Environment will dictate what the characters experience and respond to—even more than each other. It is catalyst, foundation, mirror (etc etc etc). Place makes the characters who they are for the period of time we are allowed to know them.

It is funny then that I have never considered the role my classroom, the actual physical space I teach in, might play in my understanding of my students, or the dynamic of my lectures.

I’m not saying I haven’t thought about “place”. It certainly came up in its own way during the pandemic. Teaching over Zoom gave me an entirely different understanding of who my students were, those of them engaged in childcare in small apartments stood in stark contrast to peers lounging by their outdoor pools. And there was that initial feeling of herding cats and that constant fight to keep cameras on. I’m not saying anything unfamiliar to anyone reading this.

So I have been consciously grateful for the return to the classroom, and hyper-aware of the gift that sharing physical space to engage in intellectual pursuits, truly is. But, as an English professor, I have never pined for a specific space in which to teach. I’ve not wanted for more technology (I struggle with the most basic computers), or any room more elegant than four brown walls, a chalkboard, chairs that can be arranged in a circle to facilitate conversation. If anything I’ve romanticized the idea of scarcity, like a lack of resources might make me, the instructor, the pivotal force that will dictate whether a conversation succeeds or fails. (Not that I think that’s quite how that works, but.) That an empty room might act as an invitation for the spirit of literature to come creeping in. “Look, there’s so much emptiness, so little distraction, have a seat!”

This semester is my first teaching at Arcadia, and walking into Taylor 323 I was immediately intimidated. Not only is it a large room, and a bright one, but it is filled with geometric desks on wheels and projectors simultaneously on the right and left side of the classroom. It felt like a room specific to the sciences or some kind of more advanced media than my precious little poems and stories. But what was initially merely overwhelming has now become a delight. It has positively impacted my engagement with students, and even our ability to learn and grow together. It has challenged my solipsistic philosophy of the instructor, and encouraged me to truly appreciate how reliant we as individuals are on our communities and the resources invested in us by them.

My first delight in Taylor 323 came in discovering that each individual desk’s surface was also a white board. This opened up room for us to do in-class writing, brainstorming, and outlining activities with an ease no amount of post-its can supply. Each student was given their own private (and large) space to write down ideas, make mistakes, erase them, start over again. The easy mobility of the desks has also meant it was easier to rearrange groups and share discoveries widely.

The dual screens, which at first seemed excessive and showy to me, have also proven to not only be time-saving, but also create the sense of a more egalitarian classroom. No one can choose the wrong seat, no one consistently can’t hear, no one has to move. I imagine it will be gratifying for students who may have limited mobility. On a day to day level, if I would like to supplement our readings or materials with a video or image, I can do so easily and without disrupting the lesson. If I would like to show examples of student work, the same.

The energy of a room so clearly cared for has also proven to be energizing for both me and the students. The class I teach in this room happens to be an exceptional group of students I am lucky to know. But still it is impressive to me that we have been able to maintain a high level of energy, even into this mid-semester slump. The community we’ve built in Taylor 323 is an enthusiastic one, and one I could not imagine doing anything other than suffer in a different habitat.

The more I think on it, the greater I think the link between classroom environment and class personality really is. I’ve been lucky enough to develop relationships with students in Asia and Europe, in museums and movie theaters, and also in government subsidized housing and one-room schoolhouses and even once in a Ball Bearings Factory. I’ve taught at several higher education institutions across the country. And there is something unmistakable about the relationship between what is being taught and where. A relationship between whether or not you as an educator are able to meet your teaching goals, to serve your students the way you want to, and what physical tools are at your disposal. The students can sense when they are in a location that is valued highly. Invested in.

When I agreed to write this piece I contested. I was sure (I am still sure) there was a science or mathematics instructor, or someone who understood the culture of Arcadia, or even just how money works, who would be better suited for the task. Despite this, I am grateful for the opportunity to meditate on my relationship to my classroom, not just my class. To the point where I might now refuse to distinguish between the two.

Cleaning Up Arcadia's Closet

By Ryan Hiemenz

Finals season last spring was a tough one for many of us. For me, it was the first time I had made it a full year on campus. With that came many other firsts; first classes held outside, first "annual" end of the year events, first time spending hours with friends on campus instead of working, and of course, first in person spring finals.

In the Media and Communication department, I don’t have many “exam” finals. It’s mostly huge projects that pull together everything we’ve talked about over the course of the semester. This past spring I took Dr. Michael Dwyer’s course “Multimedia Publishing and Production,” and our final project was to work with a team to build a website and create a number of stories using all of the skills we had accumulated throughout the semester. It was a tough project, but one that I’ll always look back on fondly because we were able to complete something that felt insurmountable while applying everything we’d discussed (not only in this course but in many of the courses in the major).

One story I wrote for that project was particularly interesting to me. We’d been given a tip that there was talk of potential renovations to Murphy Hall coming this summer. As fans (and critics) of our home up in Murphy, we jumped all over that thread and by the end of the week we had received floor plans and models of the concepts from Professor Gralin Hughes and plans to interview Professor Alan Powell for his thoughts on the changes. By the end of the semester that story had come together to form a major part of our final project, “The Yassification of Murphy Hall.”

Over the summer, those plans became actions and the renovations to Murphy Hall had finally begun. When we got closer to returning this fall, I reached out to Professor Hughes to talk about the changes and how they might affect Murphy Hall as a whole. Check out that conversation below:

Now with that context in mind, we can jump forward to the present day where these renovations have been made. The best way to capture all of these changes is to go room by room, starting with the entrance to the building. The focal point of these renovations is around that front entrance area and the rooms surrounding it. Though there is not a ton of space to work with, there were ways to utilize that space better.
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Upon walking through those front doors for the first time this semester, students are met with a brand new window into room 108 straight ahead. The TV screen that used to play loops of video projects is now placed on the wall to the left. And likely the most noticeable difference, the absence of Alan Powell’s office. There’s a fresh coat of dark gray paint on the walls, giving a very sleek and updated look to the space.
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After walking through the only remaining door on the left, you’ll immediately notice the brand new student lounge. The front half of Powell’s office has been transformed into a space for students to enjoy in between their classes. Furnished by Dr. Lisa Holderman, the lounge includes two comfy couches, a table and some chairs, a water cooler, a charging station, and a bookshelf that houses the department’s new book exchange! Loco Mag, which is also based in Murphy Hall, has also taken some time to hang old posters and classic issue covers on the walls for students to enjoy. If that wasn’t enticing enough, there’s a bowl on the table full of candy that seems to never deplete (thank you again Dr. Holderman). If you’re lucky, you might even catch Alan in the act of taking some candy to go on his way through the building. So far, I have seen many students hang out there before classes, both getting work done and enjoying themselves. In fact, I’m actually sitting on the couch right now while I’m writing this!
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That’s not all though, the equipment lab next door got a huge upgrade as well. Though the entrance is still in the same spot, the second half of Powell’s office is now being used for extra storage of various equipment. This gives the lab much more room to space things out, organize the shelves differently if they so choose, and most of all, it allows the workers in there to not feel like the piles of gadgets could fall on them at any moment. With this expansion, there’s now a window in the back of the lab, which REALLY helps it to not feel so much like a closet.
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Next to that, we have the Studio Supervisor, Julia Rodriguez’s office, which I don’t think changed too much aside from maybe getting a new paint job. However, next to that is where some of the biggest changes come in. The room that was once a computer lab that wrapped around the edges of room 108 (yes, it was as strange as that sounds) has now been completely changed. The part of that computer lab that was next to Julia’s office is now a hallway, leading to a brand new audio recording room on the left and a new room straight ahead. This room, which was once thinner and full of computers, has now been widened a bit creating a space more like a classroom rather than a technology filled hallway. Now, a professor can teach using examples shown on a screen at the front of the room, and thanks to the new organization of the room everyone can see from their seats. This effectively creates a brand new classroom for professors who teach courses that rely on computer-based programs, wherein the students and professor can work together on their own computers without having to yell questions around the corners of the room. It’s a huge update that I know Professor Hughes must be enjoying this semester.

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Finally, we come to room 108. For Media and Communication majors, this is one of the rooms you’ll spend the most time in. I was particularly fond of this room, even with the stacks of extra chairs and the holes in the wall by the computer. It was special, in its own way. Now, even though I liked that room before, it pales in comparison to the room we see after the makeover it got this summer. The holes are patched, the extra chairs are gone, and there are two brand new windows that look out into the surrounding hallways. These windows (even though the blinds on them are usually shut) feel like a breath of fresh air in what can sometimes be an otherwise gloomy room. I’m very excited to be spending more time in 108, it feels nicer than it ever has!

These renovations are extremely important to Murphy Hall, not only because the building needed an update, but because of how those changes impact the students and faculty housed there. In a brief interview with Dr. Michael Dwyer, he explained that the changes made are “important to the culture and atmosphere of the department because they are symbolically making the department visible.” Dr. Dwyer also added, “having a designated space for media students where they can make media projects sends a valuable message to students that their work matters.”

Now that these changes have been made, Media and Communication students are thrilled to explore Murphy Hall again. There’s a new breath of life in the building. Students can stay late to work on their theses without having to find a space in one of the other buildings to work. More importantly though, they know that even though the department is pushed up to the far corner of campus, they’re just as much a part of this campus as anyone else. Murphy Hall is our home, now let’s love it like one.

Landman Library's Mid-Century Modern Renovations

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By Danita Mapes

Arcadia has really outdone itself renovating the campus. From the acquisition of Archbishop McDevitt to the shiny new gym to a complete Murphy Hall renovation, campus is looking better than ever--including the library!

When I first heard about the library’s very snazzy 70s-style renovations, I was so excited. I work in the Interlibrary Loan Department (in the big office behind the circulation desk!), meaning I help library patrons acquire books and articles that they can’t get here from other libraries. I also lend out books and articles that we own to other libraries. The work is so fulfilling and I love being able to find things for people who are having trouble finding an article or book. As much as I absolutely love the library, though, it was lacking in one aspect: the aesthetic. Before the renovations it was very drab: wood desks with black desk chairs all over, more wood tables and black chairs for lounging… it lacked any sort of vibe.

From what I could see from my office, people didn’t really hang out at the library that much. It wasn’t very inviting and had a very utilitarian atmosphere. I remember specifically complaining to my boss about the lack of comfy chairs in the library. Why would I want to study in an uncomfortable chair when I could study in my very comfy papasan chair at home?

And then, it happened. I came into work one day and the vibes shifted completely. Retro-style yellow, red, and black poufs overtook the library. Other varieties of comfy chairs were filled with students just hanging out.

It looked like a proper lounge area! I was even instructed to put some newspapers, magazines, and academic journals on display for all to see. The library was filled with color and people! Dare I say it, it seemed like things were going back to normal. Better than normal, actually.

If you have the time, I’d definitely recommend checking it out. The renovation makes the library feel so much warmer and inviting, and my shifts are more enjoyable as a result!

Lessons Learned from Curating CASAA as a Site for Cultural and Sociopolitical Studies

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By Dr. Christopher Varlack & Deja Edwards

The Center for Antiracist Scholarship, Advocacy, and Action (CASAA) was established at Arcadia University in November 2021 as part of the Anti-Black Racism Initiatives (now known as CABR). The goal of the Center was to become a leading advocate for antiracist thought while also finding mechanisms to act towards ensuring racial justice and equity. Though much of the 2021-2022 academic year was spent building the infrastructure for CASAA and writing a grant that would support antiracist scholarship and pedagogy at the University, one of our core goals was to transform the physical space–located at 2035 Church Road, across the street from Taylor Hall–into a cultural site on campus. If we could renovate the space and secure pieces from the University’s Rilling Collection of African Art, we believed that we could create a site on campus to build community, to celebrate African culture, and to elevate the voices of the Diaspora, recognizing that both cultural celebration and preservation are important goals for combating anti-Black racism across the globe.

CASAA, however, was destined to be more than just an academic research center with a small smattering of age-old art. From collecting masks from Ghana, Morocco, and the Caribbean to display throughout the Center, to rummaging Dr. Doreen Loury’s basement for pieces she had gathered over the years, to taking trips back and forth from Lancaster and Adamstown, we were determined to expand the collection of African artifacts and to create a new collection–one that would delve into the history of racist stereotypes and iconography. After all, we knew that we needed to put an image to the anti-Blackness, anti-Asian hate, and commodification of Native American culture that we wanted to problematize as part of CASAA’s founding mission. Still, it was not until our second year of operation that we reached an understanding of how the Center could be used to facilitate teaching and learning at the University, taking students outside of the traditional academic classroom and exposing them to a history not abandoned in a distant past but rather one very much alive in the modern world.

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Our first tour of CASAA took place during the Summer 2022 semester when both faculty and students from the MFA in Creative Writing Program, under the direction of Mr. Joshua Isard, joined us for a three-hour visit that included a tour, a poetry reading, and a discussion about the interplay between creative expression and social justice work. At that moment, we were able to envision the function that the physical space of CASAA could serve for our Arcadia community. CASAA would be a home where our BIPOC students could gather, a home for global studies on race and racism, and a home for the kinds of transformative thinking that would hopefully move the proverbial needle toward a more just and equitable world. Since then, we have held a total of fourteen tours of the Center with courses across the disciplines, University Administration, and the Board of Trustees, with another seven tours already scheduled before the end of the Fall 2022 semester. This was a sign, to us, of the power of the artifacts we had collected and the impact of the story those pieces have to tell.

In truth, both of us were simultaneously elated and nervous when this venture first got underway. Did we have enough knowledge to tell those all-important stories we were eager to preserve? Would we forget important information that could further open our students’ eyes and help them to better understand why combating anti-Black racism work is so essential to the University today? Would the experience be engaging enough for students and would they be interested at all in participating in discussions of the racist history behind the many pieces in the room? How would they respond to this site unlike any other on campus? And what would they tell their families and their friends of the experiences they had, many in their first year at Arcadia? In the end, we each became more comfortable with the role we had taken on through the Center. We even had repeat students who would add information, ask questions that had been on their minds, and tell stories about their own encounters with artifacts just like those on display. In those moments, we felt they had learned more from the experience, more from being completely immersed in the history and unable to look away, more from the collective conversations we sought to unearth in this carefully curated space than we had learned along our own educational journeys.

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In the end, we were able to transform CASAA into an interactive learning environment where students can explore international and domestic artifacts that speak to a global system of racism that we cannot afford to ignore. And in the process, we have had the opportunity to see in action the value of an Arcadia education, from the power of integrative learning in breaking down academic silos and advancing shared understandings of the factors that have contributed to the human condition, to the impact of visual literacy in enabling us to probe the images we are so heavily exposed to and the psychosocial influence those images can often have, to the role of crossing boundaries in interrogating the social justice issues and the struggles for rights happening both inside and outside of the borders of the United States. For us, CASAA is part of the “values-based learning community” at Arcadia, and so we are incredibly grateful to all who have contributed to this vision, to all who have participated in the ongoing work, and to all who have embraced the fearlessness, the adaptability, and the undying pursuit of justice needed to bring about “the world in which we want to live.”

On Becoming a "Yes" Person

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By Leigh Ferrier

There’s a comedy that came out in 2008 featuring Jim Carey called Yes Man. In it, Carey’s character plays a man who must say yes to everything in order to get out of a rut. There are obviously consequences for saying yes to everything, and those play out through a bunch of comedic (and sometimes heart-warming) moments. The movie engages with the idea that saying “no” is definitely important, but saying “yes” can be the gateway to world-changing experiences, perspectives, and opportunities. I never felt that I’d have a sort of connection with this character, but I believe I’ve become a sort of “Yes Person” in my own right. As a kid, I’m not so sure I’d be willing to give up my precious free time to take on a new project or opportunity, but as an adult, I’ve found that saying “yes” to something new has the potential to open not one, but several new doors.

I was never one of those kids in high school who knew what they wanted to do with their future. I’ve always dabbled in a little bit of everything, and narrowing down a career path was difficult for me. I did well, but you could say I never reached my full potential academically. Fast forward a decade or so from my high school graduation, and things have changed quite a bit when it comes to academics. Now, I’m not a person who necessarily believes in fate, but I do tend to believe that I’m right where I need to be. As a 29-year-old college graduate, and a soon-to-be-30 year old graduate student, I’ve never felt more at home in my work, and I attribute a lot of that to being ready to say “yes” to things.

As I’ve gotten more comfortable academically, I’ve naturally found myself gravitating towards more and more projects and saying “yes” when opportunities come my way. When I start something new, I always start with an open mind, but this particular chapter of my life warranted even more of an open mind than I’m used to. Finishing community college and transferring to Arcadia for my undergrad was a leap of faith. My first semester was Fall 2020, and it was entirely online. Still, I kept my mind open, and started saying yes as soon as the summer before classes started. Saying yes to new opportunities can be exciting, but it also means making time and space for new things in your life. I knew I didn’t want to come back to school just to glide through, get my grades, and go. I wanted to be a part of as much as I could and I hoped that I would make my journey through academia much richer.

When I was admitted into the Honors Program at Arcadia, I felt even more excited about the upcoming year, and at the first opportunity to do something extracurricular, I happily said “yes.” The offer came from Helene Klein, assistant Dean for Honors and Accelerated programs (and all around awesome person). She asked if anyone wanted to assist with a research project for an upcoming book about the untold history of Africa by Dr. Bernadine Ahonkhai. I spent a good amount of time researching and compiling docs and links and resources, and I really enjoyed the work. Then, through my volunteership on that project, another door opened via a friend and colleague of Dr. Ahonkhai: George Whitehair.

George invited me to be a part of another research project, and once again, I said “yes”. I was finding myself intrigued by the research I’d already been doing, and I was excited to do more. I was also just ready to continue utilizing my research skills for more than just Googling random bits of information like I tend to do. Once I learned more about the project, I was more than intrigued, because this project focused on someone local that I’d never heard of: Dr. Frank Erdman Boston. I’ve come to know a lot more about Dr. Boston over the last couple of years through the research that George and I worked on together and through the testimonials of people who knew him. By saying “yes” to this opportunity, I got to see a small grass roots research project turn into a wildly diverse team of individuals who were coming together to help celebrate and share the legacy of one remarkable man.

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Dr. Frank Boston (1890-1960) was, by definition, an American hero, and it’s been an honor just to be able to share his story. It’s difficult to quantify the impact that he’s had on the community at large, but I’ll do my best to briefly sum up some of his accomplishments. A WWI Veteran, Dr. Boston was someone who believed in service. During a time in history, a time not very long ago, when the military was segregated, Dr. Boston served in the The 92nd Infantry Division, also known as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” an all African-American regiment. A veteran, and a medical doctor, Dr. Boston went on to start a hospital and an ambulance corps, both of which are still thriving as a part of the Lansdale Community. His patients remembered him as kind, intelligent, empathetic, and full of personality.

It’s not easy to condense the life of a man who left such an incredible mark. His volunteerism and selflessness are inspirational on their own, especially given the racism and adversity he faced. A monument was built in his honor in Lansdale, PA—a town that I’ve been to frequently, one county over from my own. I’d never heard of Dr. Boston until I got involved with this work, and I almost couldn’t believe it, but at the same time, I could. They refused his supporters the opportunity to hang his portrait in the hospital he founded after his death in 1960. Dr. Boston’s name had been lost beneath a legacy of racism that is still being reckoned with today. But with newfound interest in his story and legacy, the lobby of Jefferson Lansdale hospital was dedicated in his name, with a new portrait proudly on display. Just last month, a street was also dedicated in his name in Lansdale, and I got to be there for the street naming ceremony.

I don’t get paid to be a part of the Boston Legacy Foundation team, but so far, I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel, I’ve gained knowledge and experience, and I’ve made friendships and connections that I’m sure will last a lifetime. I wouldn’t have been privy to all the information I’d learned about Dr. Boston or my own community and the surrounding communities without saying “yes” to the opportunity. I learned about an incredible person that lived locally that I’d never heard about, and I’ve watched the joy spread as people were able to see themselves reflected in that hero. In a time of social media celebrities and influencers, and in a time of extremely conflicted politics, it’s been a reward in itself to see people come together in a bipartisan effort to shine the spotlight on someone who really deserved it.

Being a “yes person” just means that I’m ready to say yes. If something comes my way, I really think it over. I also consult heavily with my Google calendar to make sure that I’m not overwhelming myself. In the two years I spent in my undergrad at Arcadia, I opened the doors to so many new things, and I’ve constantly been excited to do more. Not only did I graduate with my bachelor’s degree in English, but I was a student pedagogical consultant through the CTLM, I got to read submissions for Arcadia’s undergraduate literary mag, Quiddity, I edited scholarly pieces for The Compass, I participated in several research projects, volunteered my time at a start-up company, assisted in getting a small business’ social media off the ground, and honestly, more. Through all these “yeses,” I’ve had unpaid and paid opportunities, made new friends, found and fostered new passions, and firmly rooted myself in what I’m doing and what I want to do in life. Now, as a graduate student, you can still catch me still saying “yes” to new opportunities while completing my studies, and sometimes still finding time for video games—saying “yes” to rest and relaxation is important, too!

Gaps in Mentorship

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By Tessa Wrice

I remember sitting with my sophomore year roommates in our Oak Summit apartment when we got the news that we would be getting sent home due to the impending pandemic, a force that none of us could have anticipated at the time. Then the world changed, at first confusion which turned into fear, not only of other people and the potential spread of the virus, but for the future. The future of school, jobs, relationships, and society as a whole became a major topic of concern globally and as a student halfway through her undergraduate career, I had no clue what any of it meant for me post-graduation. What was clear, however, was that life as I had previously known it to be was fragile and change was the only guarantee.

This is something that I have had to consider now that I am in my last year of undergrad and thinking about career choices. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve witnessed so many careers go from what we thought were essential to unessential basically overnight. Many operations within universities, manufacturing, and media were halted, funding was cut, and millions lost their jobs. Many workplaces never reinstated these jobs once the pandemic finally slowed down. Although there are plenty of new jobs emerging and many people who left or were laid off have found fulfilling careers in other workplaces and industries, it got me thinking about what it means to be essential and how students getting ready to begin their professional careers can benefit from mentorship centered around building skills that withstand the ever-changing global economy.

One of the ways in which we have had to collectively shift as students and professionals is becoming comfortable in the digital workspace. Before the pandemic, I had never attended an online class or been in a position where most of my schoolwork and time was spent in virtual workspaces. Being a young adult in the 21st century, I knew how to work my computer and navigating these new programs came very easily to me. What did not come so easily, was learning to manage the mental aspect of things. I struggled with inattentiveness, boredom, and lack of motivation due to the swift shift to virtual learning with little time to adjust. My time management and self-motivation were also extremely underdeveloped for an all-virtual learning environment, two very important skills not only in academic settings but professional work environments as well.

Many organizations found that once they went virtual, it didn’t make sense to bring everyone back to the office like they once were. In some cases, it was more cost-efficient to transition certain staff to a fully remote position with the added benefit for employees being decreased spending on gas and food and an increase in time spent with family. In undergrad, a lot of our education and skills are centered around an in-person work environment but with more and more virtual work opportunities emerging, it would be just as beneficial to receive guidance around navigating remote work as well. Remote work is something that I am looking into for myself—both as a neurodivergent person whose brain doesn’t always sync with the typical 9-5 schedule and as a person seeking the freedom to work from anywhere in the world.

The pandemic also forced a lot of us to create more solidified mental health routines, or acknowledge the lack thereof. It’s more important than ever for employees to begin prioritizing their mental health. One of the ways we can do this is by giving ourselves a better work-life balance. If we’re being honest, this is something that everyone struggles with at all stages of their career, especially as we get older and take on more responsibilities in our work and personal lives, but getting a head start on learning what that balance could potentially look like is invaluable to our quality of life. Pre-pandemic, I had never heard the term ‘toxic productivity’ and now it’s something I am seeing everywhere, a term to describe the unrealistic productivity expectations that some had set for themselves and others during lockdown when we had all of that “free time”. You remember, that “free-time” that was spent caring for sick loved ones, mourning friends and family, and constantly watching the news while waiting for increasingly grim updates?

Productivity can be a very useful metric system to keep track of our working habits but only after we have a better understanding of how to get things done more efficiently and how we can take care of ourselves first. This seems like something that you wouldn’t necessarily seek out mentorship for but I think it depends on how you define mentorship and if you restrict that definition to only include academic, artistic, or professional environments. I believe that mentorship in this area is important because it’s guidance that we aren’t always exposed to in our normal academic or personal lives.

As much knowledge and insight as my parents have given me about school and work, there hasn’t been much advice on better balancing my personal life and professional life since these are things that they are not so good at themselves and don’t always have the answer I’m looking for. Having a consistent mentor who knows you, your strengths and weaknesses, and the specific tools that you need in order to maintain a more balanced life would be invaluable to any college student, but especially those finishing up this portion of their academic careers.

Peer-mentorship would also be a great form of mentorship for college juniors/seniors about to step out into the professional world, especially after these long stretches of social isolation and feeling disconnected from others. It reinforces our communication and social skills, facilitates networking, gives us greater perspective on the lives of others in similar positions to ours, and gives us the opportunity to open up to those who we may feel most comfortable with. With a peer mentor, you can identify specific goals for yourself relative to the position that they are currently in and it’s something that I think would be incredibly beneficial during a time when you feel like everyone else’s path is so much clearer than yours, simply because for two years you haven’t had the opportunity to actually talk with someone face-to-face who is only a few steps ahead of you on theirs.

Although it feels like we were supposed to become more self-sufficient in the months following the pandemic, I think us seniors have gotten a lot more needy in ways that we have trouble articulating. I believe a lot of it to be fear of moving forward into a world that’s familiar, yet wildly unfamiliar at the same time. The ambiguous answers to our questions that once settled our nerves no longer serve us in that same way. We need advice and mentorship that is a little more concrete, consistent, and specific to the varying ways that the world is changing.

Mentorship Throughout a Pandemic

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By Abby Stephens

Wake up, eat breakfast, log on, log off, eat lunch, log on, log off, run, eat dinner, watch TV, sleep. A normal day in my high-school-sophomore life just two years ago. Fast forward two years. Wake up, scramble to eat breakfast, attend my rigorous college courses, eat if I have the time, go to soccer practice, eat dinner, do homework, sleep. A normal day in my college-freshmen life today. Two drastically different lifestyles, if you ask me.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began just about two years ago, my life, along with everybody else’s, changed from the normal, everyday hustle and bustle of an “in-person,” social life to one that was about as impersonal, mind-numbing, and static as it could get. Even once the quarantine came to an end, most of my remaining high school experience was carried out in the same manner: impersonal, hybrid learning primarily with a computer as its lifeline, wearing masks to school as the newest accessory, and social distancing in each and every classroom. The world of education during the pandemic was like nothing that I, or my classmates, had ever experienced before. Learning during the pandemic was trying to understand the complex lesson the teacher was attempting to teach through a computer screen as he or she buffers every five minutes. Learning during the pandemic was attending school in person one day, while attending school through a computer at home the next. Learning during the pandemic was talking with your friends as they explain everybody should “work smarter not harder” on the next virtual test and all collaborate to take it.

Not only did the pandemic affect education during my high school years, but it also largely impacted the ever so important social life of the average high school teenager. Social activities from parties to general get-togethers to school dances to sports and everything in between were now either banned or condemned by society. For an extensive period of time, I could only connect with my friends through what had become the foundation of a high school teenager’s life: technology and social media.

Losing the structure of a normal, high school life at this time, both in terms of personal, interactive learning in the classroom, and a normal social life, posed a lot of mental strain on myself and my classmates as well. Adjusting to virtual and hybrid learning while attempting to learn vital information that would eventually be the basis of our college education was a struggle. Living the same day, isolated from the rest of the world, everyday was not only boring, but mentally taxing, and perhaps even stunting, for a developing teenager. With what felt like nothing to do but scroll through social media for hours each day, myself and others became easily influenced by what we saw on the internet. The aforementioned led to a multitude of self-esteem and body image issues for teenagers everywhere.

Now here I am, two years later, as a first-year in college. As life here at college is functioning relatively the same as it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, myself and my fellow first year students were thrown into a fast-paced world for, essentially, the first time in two years. The transition to college is also the first time myself and most of the other first years are living on our own. Now, we are expected to attend in-person classes everyday, keep up with our rigorous college coursework, get involved in sports, clubs, and organizations, be social and make new friends, all while taking care of ourselves, both physically and mentally. With that being said, I feel that mentoring from both staff and older, experienced students would be extremely helpful in navigating this new life filled with new experiences after living in a world so vastly different for so long.

Beginning in an in-person, rigorous, college education has been a large adjustment after experiencing a relatively diluted, virtual, high school education due to the pandemic. Not only is the coursework harder simply by nature, but there is an extra challenge associated with obtaining information consistently in person again, taught at a rapid rate, as well as working hard enough to succeed in these classes. In order to assist first years with this educational transition, continued mentoring from professors and the Learning Resource Network (LRN) has been extremely beneficial in reinforcing concepts taught in class if students are struggling to keep up. I, personally, have visited the LRN for multiple tutoring sessions in Biology and Chemistry at this point, and I always leave with much more clarity on the topic, as well as a greater sense of security in what I am learning. However, I also feel that additional mentoring for study tips and time management, whether this be in the form of workshops, LRN sessions, or by other nature, would be useful for first year students as well. I have had a peer mentor in my first year seminar class this semester that has provided some guidance in adjusting to the college coursework, and I have found it helpful thus far. The aforementioned may appear simple to some, but for others, like us first years, transitioning out of a global pandemic, it can be very difficult to manage.

After living in a virtual environment for so long, it has become difficult for many to connect with others on an intimate level. Personally, I have found that following the pandemic, my social battery has shortened and I find social interactions much more taxing than before. On campus mentoring, from older students or staff, in the form of holding campus-wide social events that are less obligatory than clubs and organizations would be a great help in helping first year students get to know one another. Events such as Rock the Knight are prime examples of those that I and other students have been able to use to connect socially with each other without feeling stressed or strained. Any form of event led by mentors encouraging strong connections amongst students, or providing insight into appropriate ways to create those connections with others on a college campus would be a continuous help as we adjust to living and learning with others in this new environment.

Furthermore, providing as much mentorship from older students and staff to provide services that promote mental health awareness is extremely important for first year students struggling with their mental health. Since the pandemic especially, I have experienced some mental health struggles, and have seen a therapist since the end of the mandated quarantine in 2020. With that being said, it brought me a sense of comfort when I moved here and learned that Arcadia offers counseling services to students when they need it. Counseling services that are promoted in a destigmatized manner in order to allow students to feel comfortable and safe are extremely helpful. Clubs, organizations, workshops, and events that advocate for mental health awareness, as well as breaking the stigma that surrounds it, is an important form of mentorship that should continue to grow on campus. A great example of a club like this is The Hidden Opponent (THO) club that I am a part of that focuses primarily on destigmatizing mental health issues in student-athletes. Simply having mentors on campus that check in with first year students on occasion is very beneficial in allowing us to feel comfortable during this huge transition in our lives.

Mentors are Just Like Roy Kent—They are Here, They are There

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By Helene Klein

When Daniel Pieczkolon asked me to write an article about mentorship for the CTLM newsletter, I really had to pause. We have so many “mentoring” opportunities within the Honors Program. We have peer mentors embedded into our EN101H classes. We have a team of mentors that help first years assimilate to Arcadia and the Honors program. We have College Access Mentors that partner with Parkway Northwest High School to provide tutoring and other support to their students. We used to run an Alumni Mentor Program. Our Honors Project students each have a mentor to help them complete their semester long passion projects. Even with all of these mentoring opportunities in our program, I wasn’t sure what to write about. How could that be? What does it really mean to be a mentor or be mentored, anyway? I know every year when it is time for training the mentors, I have to really think about what that experience should look like--every year. Why? The answer is, undoubtedly, because the word “mentor” is both elusive and ubiquitous.

Certainly, mentoring is more obvious when a person or group of persons have been awarded this title. Yet, I will always contend that some of the most influential mentoring happens when people aren’t really looking to mentor or be mentored, often by those without the formal title “mentor,” and by those that don’t realize that others see them this way. Mentoring happens when someone looks to you for guidance, and sometimes, you don’t even realize this is happening to you.

I remember an English professor I had in college for at least five separate courses. I took him whenever I could. He was passionate about the material. He made me think more deeply about literature and life than maybe anyone had before him. He jumped around the room, and oftentimes ended up on top of a desk (think Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society), and when class was over, everyone lined up outside his door to talk to him--about the book we were reading and more importantly, about life. He always had time for these conversations. He made me want to be a professor. I wanted to do for others what he was doing for me and my friends. Was he my advisor? Nope. By simply and elegantly being his authentic self, he forged a connection with me and all of his students that made us think more deeply, read more carefully and, for me, made me see what I could be. He was a role model. The thing about mentoring is that it is insidious. You don’t always see that it is happening, and that is why you always have to be prepared not only to embrace its lessons, but know that you may be acting in that role for someone in your orbit.

In the Honors Program we run lots of mentoring programs. And, probably our biggest program is the first year mentors. Their role is to help our first year students assimilate and make Arcadia a home. In the fall, we do some training about mentoring with our mentors. We talk about confidentiality and truth with tact. We do some scenario training. We ask the mentors to set up bi-weekly house meetings (we have four houses for our first years - aka Harry Potter). We don’t prescribe what the mentors should do during those meetings, or what they are trying to impart to the first years. Why? First, we trust the peer mentors to use empathy to understand the needs of those in their house, and two, mentoring requires adaptability. Mentoring happens when we feel comfortable being ourselves, sharing our stories, passions, challenges and worries with one another in an authentic way. You can’t fully train great mentoring, but you help people develop the skills and confidence to embrace their authentic selves and use that strength to drive connections with others, that might make a big difference in someone else’s life.

I think of Amy Stringer. Amy was a peer mentor and a house captain a few years ago (she is currently in medical school). During her house meetings, she ran Dungeon and Dragon games, because she loved them, yes, but also because they allowed people to sit together, sometimes for hours, laughing, creating, and sharing stories from their weeks in between the rolls of the dice. Often, first years slowly taper off attending house meetings towards the end of their first semester as they get more comfortable at Arcadia, but not in this case. Attendance for these house meetings stayed high. Last year, Jeremy, our President of Mentoring, (what we affectionately call the Bee of Mentoring or the BOM—we are a bee-themed organization and it gives us a lot of room to create fun puns!) stood up in front of all the newly admitted first years at our Scarlet and Gray Day Breakfast and spoke about Amy’s influence in his college career. He loved her house meetings even though he had never played Dungeons and Dragons prior. He had fun and felt seen and empowered. That summer he threw himself into helping me and the rest of campus deal with the challenges of campus engagement in a COVID world. For two years now, he has been our BOM and the resident advisor on our affinity floor. Amy’s influence, by just being herself, provided an example of mentoring that inspired Jeremy, and now Jeremy’s example helps others to feel more connected, engaged and at home. That is what mentoring does--it creates a ripple effect. And, it comes from the confident humility of knowing that what you have to offer is important, and you don’t have to be any one thing and especially, you do not need to be everything; you only need to be what you are to inspire others to be better, do more, feel more comfortable in their spaces. That is mentoring.

LOVE = Unbias

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By Monica Day

After two years in development as a “pilot” program, CTLM is excited to announce that the Living Our Values Experience graduated to a full-fledged ongoing “program” starting this fall, and is being co-led by Gail Lankford and Monica Day. We currently have 40 participants hailing from three affiliated courses meeting weekly on Wednesdays to discuss the theme of BIAS, and specifically how it impacts: health care education; early childhood education; policing and prosecution; LGBTQIA+ community; and media.

We are also grateful for the generous support of the Office of Access, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for sponsoring a culminating project for this semester entitled Bias [Un]Installation, where the fall LOVE cohort will share what they have learned, actions they have taken, and next steps they propose in either physical or digital installations. Stay tuned for a glimpse of the installations in the next CTLM Newsletter!

Now that LOVE is here to stay, a few reminders about how you can participate:

If you are an instructor and you would like to find out more about how to affiliate one of your courses with LOVE in a future semester, please reach out to ctlm@arcadia.edu to discuss. This is a great way to introduce CABR content and pedagogy, and explore inclusive excellence, into your courses regardless of the discipline or topic. Racism touches every part of our lives, and the LOVE Program offers a multidisciplinary and experiential lab in which Arcadia community members sit together to learn, engage and take meaningful action.

If you are a student, LOVE offers many opportunities to participate, such as a GCE/GCR option, an Honors designation, and also, employment opportunities to be a Student Co-facilitator. You can also participate as you would in any other club or activity on campus if the subject matter interests you.

Last, a reminder that everyone in the Arcadia community is welcome to participate in the LOVE Program: staff, faculty, undergraduate, graduate, administration, Board of Trustees! Together, we are creating a brave space for teaching and learning around race that ripples out to the community as a whole, and also is supportive and additive to every other CABR initiative as it helps to move us forward as a community.

Please consider joining us in a future semester!

The CTLM Team

Faculty Director

Dr. Ellen Skilton, Professor of Education

Inclusive Excellence Programs Support Specialist

Monica Day, Adjunct Faculty, School of Education

Faculty & Staff Fellows

Dr. Jodi Bornstein, Associate Professor of Education

Gail Lankford, Marketing Operations Coordinator, University Relations

Dr. Katherine Moore, Associate Professor of Psychology

Dr. Prash Naidu, Assistant Professor of Historical and Political Studies

Daniel Pieczkolon, Adjunct Professor of English

Student Fellows

Maria Katrina Carrera, '23

Roksana Cerne, ‘22

Leigh Ferrier, ‘24

Ryan Hiemenz, ‘23

Jo Wesner, ‘24

Tessa Wrice, '23