Episode 77: BRESI grant awardees

In early September, Chancellor Matos Rodriguez announced the recipients of the newly established Black, Race and Ethnic Studies Initiative (or BRESI) awards. 126 projects across CUNY will be funded from a $10 million gift to CUNY from the Mellon Foundation with the goal of reimagining and expanding the study of race and ethnicity. In this episode, you’ll hear some of the awardees share a fuller description of their projects, illustrating a cross section of the innovative and vital work being carried about by our colleagues around the university. Congratulations to all the awardees.  

Click here for a complete list of awardees and award categories. Awardees you’ll hear from in this episode (in this order) include:

  • William Carr, Medgar Evers College New Course – The Biology of Race
  • Virginia Diaz-Mendoza, John Jay College Honoring the SEEK Legacy – Moving from Theory to Transformative Practice
  • Kim Liao, John Jay College Decolonizing the John Jay English Major: Creating Foundational Introductory Courses
  • Lissette Acosta, Judith Marie Anderson, and Jessica Levin, Borough of Manhattan Community College Black Studies across the Americas
  • Punita Bhansali and Anuradha Srivastava, Queensborough Community College Addressing Racial Health Inequity through Student Internship Experiences
  • Robyn Brown Manning, Hunter College Project to Improve Campus Climate: A Space to Breathe
  • Anna D’Souza, Baruch College Expanding DEI Fridays
  • Nakia Gray-Nicolas, Craig Michaels, Soribel Genao, and Lenwood Gibson, Queens College Advancing Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Social Justice, and Belonging (A/DEISJ+B)
  • Juan Jose DelaCruz, Lehman College Assessing Quality of Life and Socioeconomic Barriers to Health and Education among Indigenous Migrant Communities (IMC) from Latin America and the Caribbean Living in NYC
  • Brenda Greene, Medgar Evers College Center for Black Literature Archive Digitalization
  • Soniya Munshi, Queens College Building Infrastructure for Asian American/Asian Studies and AAPI Communities across CUNY
  • Nicole McClam, Queensborough Community College CUNY BA in African Diasporic Dance
  • Toy-Fung Tung, John Jay College Initiatives to Create an Interdisciplinary Asian American/Asian Studies Program
  • Todd Craig, Medgar Evers College The Sonics of Thin Air: A Sonic Rhetoric Publication
  • Mary Phillips, Lehman College Sister Love: Ericka Huggins, Spirit, and the Black Panther Party
  • Gunja Sengupta, Brooklyn College Indexing book, Sojourners, Sultans and “Slaves”: America and the Indian Ocean in the Age of Abolition and Empire
  • Kirsten Cole, Shawn Grant, and Angela Polite, Borough of Manhattan Community College The Impact of Anti-racist Pedagogy Professional Development
  • Jayashree Kamble, LaGuardia Community College BIPOC Writers, Editors, and Novels: The Missing Chapters in the Story of Mass-Market Romance
  • Karen Miller, LaGuardia Community College From Detroit to the Philippines: Circulations of Racial Logics and Struggles for Freedom across Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies over the Long Twentieth Century
  • Cynthia Tobar, Bronx Community College Black Lives Matter in Higher Education: Empowering Student-Scholar Voices
  • William Boland, Baruch College The Impact of Minority Serving Institution Grants on College Completion
  • Jessie Daniels, Hunter College Combatting the Far Right in the Streets, Online and Around the World: A Collaborative, Qualitative Research Project
  • Vincent Alexander Jones II, York College Health Education and Efficacy to Respond to Violence and other Negative Experiences on Dating Apps Among People of Color and Sexual Minorities: A Qualitative Study
  • Hiroshi Matsui and Mina Kang, Hunter College Impacting prostate cancer disparity in Black men using RNA nanotherapeutics
  • Marcela Ossa Parra, Queens College Identity Development Through Autobiographical Genres
  • Beatriz Carolina Peña, Queens College Manuel Jalla, a Slave from New Spain, Attacks Slavery (Boston, 1708)
  • Viviana Rivera-Burgos, Baruch College Puerto Rico Public Opinion Laboratory: A Questionnaire Pre-test
  • Charlotte Walker-Said, John Jay College Militias and Messiahs: A History of Martial and Spiritual Entrepreneurship in Central Africa

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Episode 76: Kate Brandt on adult literacy

Kate Brandt is Professional Development Coordinator in CUNY’s Adult Literacy/ HSE/ESL Programs. You may have a vague sense that CUNY offers such initiatives, so here’s your chance to learn along with me about their robust nature and fundamental value. I talk with Kate about her path to and long tenure at CUNY and how the field of adult literacy has and hasn’t changed in recent decades.

At literacy.cuny.edu, don’t miss “Students Speak, My Pandemic Year” and “Feature the Teacher.” Kate also gives a shout out to CollectedNY.org, a free resource for adult education teachers.

We also talk about Kate’s forthcoming novel, Hope for the Worst, to be published by Vine Leaves Press in the Spring of 2023. Learn more about Kate and her writing at katebrandt.net.

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Episode 75: For the love and respect of animals

Bill and Leo

This episode is for animal lovers and for anyone who believes that our connection to non-human animals is much closer than most of us humans think. If this doesn’t describe you, take a risk on being convinced.

Bill Crain is a retired psychology professor from City College and co-founder with his wife, Ellen, of the Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary in Poughquag, New York. He is the author of several books, including The Emotional Lives of Animals and Children: Insights from a Farm Sanctuary. Bill is a gentle, soft-spoken activist who has been arrested and jailed numerous times for protesting black bear hunting in New Jersey. This article provides a good summary and features a visit from Daisy Dominguez. Daisy is a librarian and faculty member at City College and a good friend of Bill and the sanctuary. She took me there to meet Bill and the animals in April, and we got to help feed the pigs and commune with the goats, sheep, chickens, horses and donkeys. I was recording our conversation and the animals’ voices all the while – trying unsuccessfully to have one episode I could call Outdoor Voices – but unfortunately the wind swallowed up the sound. So instead, I had indoor conversations with Bill and Daisy after the fact and tried to recapture some of what we talked about.

This is a collage conversation: First you’ll hear Bill and me talking via Zoom about his life with animals and how it intersects with his teaching. Then Daisy tells me about her evolution to animal activism and veganism. In the final segment, Daisy and I talk again about her teaching and writing and her involvement with the IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) at City College. Stick around to the end of the episode for some audible clips of our actual visit with Bill at the Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary.

Visit the Safe Haven website for more photos, videos and info about the rescued animals. If you are so inclined, please consider making a donation to the farm.

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Episode 74: Seeing Rape

John Jay college’s production of Seeing Rape was presented for the 9th year this past April. The production is a series of short plays addressing sexual violence, written by John Jay students and performed by professional actors. Professors Shonna Trinch and Barbara Cassidy are the producer and director, respectively, but as you’ll hear in this episode, everyone, including the student playwrights, takes an active role in putting the whole thing together, logistically and creatively. The plays are written as a final project for an Interdisciplinary Studies class taught by Professors Trinch and Cassidy. I had the chance to talk with the Shonna and Barbara as well as two of the student playwrights, Camila Martinez and Mayada Moussad. They shared their experiences of the joys and challenges involved in the creation and execution of the production, their hopes for the impact of Seeing Rape, and its effect of their own lives. Visit SeeingRape.com for more information about the project.

Shonna has been both a guest and an interviewer on Indoor Voices previously. Check out Episode 46, where I talk with her and Ed Snajdr about their book What the Signs Say, and Episode 53 where she and Ed talk with the authors of Gentrification Down the Shore.

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Episode 73: Nicole Treska’s love letter to her family

The future author of Wonderland

Nicole Treska’s fiction, reviews and interviews have been published in several literary magazines, and her forthcoming memoir, Wonderland, will be published by Simon & Schuster in the Fall of 2023. She is an adjunct professor at City College, as well as a 2010 graduate of City’s MFA in Creative Writing program. In this episode, she talks with her colleague Michelle Valladares, the director of the MFA program, who was a guest here last Fall. They discuss how Nicole’s book came to be, its road to publication, and about the continuing benefits of the MFA program as a student and as an alumna. Wonderland refers to a Boston location as well as the questions that circle around her family’s complicated history. Michelle, an enthusiastic champion of Nicole and her writing, describes the book as “prose poems put together.” Perceptive, that, because the book, which started out as an “assignment” from a friend, was constructed, as Nicole puts it, by “screaming my life into a Word doc.”

Thank you, once again, to Angela Harden, adjunct professor and general manager of CCNY’s WHCR 90.3 FM: The Voice of Harlem, for the use of a quiet studio for recording this conversation

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Episode 72: David Munns on living in space

Far Beyond the Moon: A History of Life Support Systems in the Space Age goes far beyond a prurient – but crucial – interest in the management of human waste in space. In documenting the attempts thus far, the authors, David Munns and Kärin Nickelsen, describe in compelling detail the multi-organism environment that needs to be considered in order for humans to survive in space. In so doing, they illustrate how these efforts are connected to the current climate crisis and the survival of the planet. Full of fascinating history and facts about science fiction, growing crops, gender differences, Biosphere projects, and space toilets, Far Beyond the Moon is an entertaining presentation of provocative ideas that seem well worth the attention of policy makers and billionaires. [FYI, there’s a signed copy available to borrow from the Lloyd Sealy Library; call number TL1500 .M86 2021.]

David is interviewed in this episode by Richard Relkin, John Jay College’s Director of Media Relations. Rich is a not only a fan of sci-fi and sci-nonfi, but a fellow popular culture aficionado. I was impressed by his recently discovered index of his erstwhile magazine, Comic Culture, and am glad he shared it with me so that I could share it here.

More from David:

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Episode 71: Student & professor talk about language

Rebecca Shapiro describes the circumstances – starting with voracious and mischievous reading as a young girl – that led to where she is today, an Associate Professor of English and Linguistics in the English Department at New York City College of Technology. She challenges her students and has a great time with them, a fact to which her former student Estephanie Montero can attest. Estephanie – now a student in the B.A. Program in Speech Pathology and Audiology at Lehman College – and Rebecca reunite via Zoom and discuss some of the more memorable assignments from Professor Shapiro’s Language, Culture, and Society class.

During the conversation, Rebecca and Estephanie mention Genie a few times. In case you’re not familiar with her case, you can read about it here. And if you don’t know what a shoe tree is, Rebecca held one up to her computer screen, but you can’t see it. It looks like this.

Rebecca Shapiro is the author of Fixing Babel: An Historical Anthology of Applied English Lexicography. She is also co-founder of Starfish House Editorial Services. She is on Twitter, which is how I “met” her!

Here’s another recent interview with Rebecca that delves even more deeply into linguistics. She joins in around the 29 minute mark and, among other things, talks about how dictionaries can be tools of justice.

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Episode 70: The intersection of art and social justice

For over ten years, Queens College has been partnering with the Queens Museum through a project called Social Practice Queens (SPQ) which supports initiatives combining art linked to such subjects as environmentalism, community histories, urban life, politics, and fair labor standards to name only a few.

Social Practice CUNY (SPCUNY) uses the same philosophy and approach and broadens it across CUNY. Based at the Graduate Center, SPCUNY supports faculty making public-facing work at the intersection of art and social justice. Fellows collaborate with diverse communities across CUNY campuses and throughout the city in projects that complement and inform their scholarly and pedagogic work. Cynthia Tobar is currently an SPCUNY faculty fellow, and in this episode, she talks with SPQ and SPCUNY co-directors Chloë Bass and Gregory Sholette, about the impetus behind this initiative and the value of providing a space to foster socially engaged art making at CUNY. Working effectively and meaningfully within the complicated bureaucracy of a silo-ed institution, their vision and execution of a “shadow CUNY” can serve as a model for other higher ed institutions who want to have a foot in the institution and in the larger world simultaneously. Check out the 2021-22 faculty fellow cohort (note previous Indoor Voices guest and City Tech librarian Nora Almeida among them).

Chloë Bass is a multiform conceptual artist working in performance, situation, conversation, publication, and installation. Chloë is a Future Imagination Collaboratory Fellow at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, a Faculty Fellow for the Seminar in Public Engagement at the CUNY Center for the Humanities, and a Lucas Art Fellow at Montalvo Art Center. She is an Assistant Professor of Art at Queens College, CUNY, where she co-directs Social Practice CUNY with Greg, with whom she co-edited Art as Social Action (Allworth Press, 2018). She currently has work on view at MASS MoCa, Center for Book Arts, Albright-Knox, and upcoming at the Henry.

Gregory Sholette is a NYC-based artist, writer, activist and teacher whose art and research investigate issues of collective cultural labor, socially engaged art, and counter-historical visual representation. He is a co-founder of the collectives Political Art Documentation/Distribution, REPOhistory, and Gulf Labor Coalition, as well as author of the books Dark MatterDelirium and ResistanceArt as Social Action and the forthcoming Art of Activism and Activism of Art. Greg is a Professor of Art at Queens College and co-director of the Mellon Foundation-funded art and social justice program Social Practice CUNY. To learn more about SPCUNY from another angle, read his opinion piece, “Reimagining Higher Education Through Socially Engaged Art,” about CUNY during/after COVID. Check out Greg’s latest work here.

Cynthia Tobar is Assistant Professor and Head of Archives at Bronx Community College and a faculty fellow with SPCUNY. In May 2021, she interviewed Molly Rosner and Summer Walker about their COVID documenting project at La Guardia Community College.

Greg and Chloë mentioned SPCUNY projects/artists Tara Homasi and The Workers Art Coalition and SPQ graduate standouts including Barrie Cline, Setare Arashloo, Erin Turner and Jeff Kasper.

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Episode 69: Molly Rosner on representations of history for children

My Barbie doll had a townhouse, a camper, a private jet and a wardrobe that would make Carrie Bradshaw envious. Barbie lived very much in the present (circa 1973) and didn’t teach me a thing about her past or mine. If I’d grown up a decade or so later, I’m sure I would have been badgering my parents for an American Girl doll. With one of those, I would have had a doll (who looked much less like a Playboy bunny) to fetishize as well as a stealth U.S. history lesson. In the introduction to her book, Playing with History: American Identities and Children’s Consumer Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2021), Molly Rosner explains how her American Girl doll was indeed instrumental in teaching her about American history, but more to the point, it taught her how to be an American consumer – as my Barbie clearly did for me. (Thanks, Mattel!)

Molly’s book is a series of case studies from five eras of the 20th century. She’s chosen unique yet iconic artifacts or projects – the annual Toy Fair, The Clark Doll Study, the Orange and Landmark Books, Freedomland, USA, and the American Girl doll – to illustrate how commercial industries have, on the whole, presented white, male, heroic, exceptionalistic views of U.S. history and American identity. As she writes, “Most representations of history for children continue to tell a story of America’s essential goodness and its steady march of progress rather than a story that acknowledges oppression and notes the fluctuations between progress and regression.” Playing with History is packed with fascinating supporting material, including book publishing history, the evolution of juvenile criminal justice theories, and the critical impact of dolls on a seminal U.S. Supreme Court case. (As she writes, “American history was forever changed by dolls.”) In our conversation, Molly talks about how her research all started with the idea of nostalgia and how becoming a parent has affected her thinking about cultural artifacts and media.

Molly is Director of Education Programs at the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives (a NYC history archive) at LaGuardia Community College. She was a guest on Episode 59 in May 2021, when she and LaGuardia student Summer Walker talked with Bronx Community College archivist Cynthia Tobar about their COVID documenting project.

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Episode 68: Daniel Vater’s culinary journey

Daniel Vater

Back in the early days on this podcast, in 2017, I interviewed Claire Stewart, Associate Professor at New York City College of Technology’s Hospitality Management Program, and we talked about her book, As Long as We Both Shall Eat: A History of Wedding Food and Feasts (Episode 6). For this latest episode, Claire returns to interview CUNY alumnus, Daniel Vater, who was a student in her Culinary Improvisation class. By the time Daniel was a student in Claire’s class, he’d had a decade and half of experience in the restaurant world as well as his own catering business, but Daniel took advantage of the unique flexibility of the CUNY BA program to fill in some gaps in his knowledge of the business aspects of his culinary career. He currently works as a private chef and is near completion of a Masters of Management in Hospitality at Cornell University. He talks with Claire about what he gained from his time at CUNY and about his multi-faceted, successful career. You’ll also get a glimpse into the private lives of private chefs and some picks and pans in the world of culinary trends!

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Daniel and Claire

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P.S.: In May 2018, I was one of the judges in a just-for-fun, end-of-semester culinary contest in Chef Claire’s class at City Tech. Daniel, Claire and I are next to one another in the second row.