Efforts to make syllabi more inclusive

Jacob WaringOpinions & Features Editor

Faculty Development Symposium was recently held with the goal of queering and indigenizing teaching styles, syllabi and more.

Discussion of creating a more inclusive curriculum occurred on April 12 with Yi-Chun Tricia Lin, director and professor of Women’s Studies Program introducing the speakers and keeping the discussion moving.

Heidi Lockwood, an associate professor in the philosophy department and graduate coordinator for the Women’s Studies Program both had said that Southern has been in midst of a two-year process of changing the name of Women Studies to Women’s and Gender Studies. The change is expected to become official in fall 2019.

Lockwood said that the they wanted to extend that discussion beyond the department as it is important to get the conversation started on an university wide level.

Making sure we are not discussing gender in a binary, limited way,” Lockwood said. “Also, with the indigenizing the curriculum piece, making sure we’re looking at ways of incorporating indigenous voices across the curriculum.”

The goal, according to Lockwood, goes beyond being politically correct. She said it is making sure all the different voices and communities have a place at the table by providing readings and materials that represent those points of view.

Those who came to speak was Mignonette Chiu from Hunter College, KC Councilor professor in Southern’s communication department, Elizabeth Counselman Carpenter an assistant professor of social Work at Southern, Ruth Garby Torres, who taught at Harvard University, and Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy, who is an assistant Professor in Gender Studies and Adjunct professor in Indigenous Nationhood at University of Victoria.

Each brought with them their own experiences as instructors, some as members/allies of the LGBTQ+ community, or from indigenous communities. As an example, Torres provided insight on what she learned while teaching “Nation Building: American Indians in the 21st Century” at Harvard University, or Councilor brought to the table life experience as a trans person, and how that has played a role in his classroom.

Councilor spoke on negative experiences where he felt excluded from the moment he walked into the classroom, and not actively learning in that environment. He wants to create a place that reflects positive learning environments where he and others felt included.

“I [was] trying to recreate [with my students] this feeling that I had with some teachers where I felt included,” he said, “where I actively look forward to coming class when I knew there was a place for me.”

The symposium had a workshop where those in attendance could share and review their syllabi with the speakers and the speakers provided syllabi as examples of inclusivity. Torres provided a document that listed different texts and information to incorporate indigenous readings from indigenous authors and allies. Sy said it is possible to create a syllabus with indigenous text’ but could require cultivating relationships.

“It’s possible to create syllabi that is just focus on the sources of the indigenous people in this area” said Sy, “If the sources don’t exist, you have to build your archive. You have to build relationships to generate that knowledge and help people create their cultural production.”

Photo Credit: Will Aliou

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