Welcome back to a very special #shoutout edition of the 255! Today we are congratulating the English and World Literatures Department for landing on College Magazine’s top 10 list of Hermione’s Approved College’s for Bookforms!

We are extremely proud of our bookworm students, and all the work and research of the EWL faculty. New York City is indeed magical and literary, and we applaud and co-sign this recognition. You can check out the full list and glowing details about us here.

Congrats again to the EWL crew! We hope you all have a spooky, spell casting weekend! Use your magic for good, wear a mask, and always share your treats.

Welcome back to the 255. This week we wanted to highlight the ongoing collaborations between the Politics & Human Rights and International Studies Departments. This semester the departments have co-hosted events that create dialogue around social justice and activism. In the past, the departments worked with student organizations like the Bedford Hills Program and Social Sciences’ Assembly, forming MMC cohorts to attend marches, events, and protests. In these unprecedented times, the departments still wanted to host these events and create community in virtual spaces. We took the time this week to chat with Associate Professor of Politics & Human Rights, Marnie Brady, to ask questions regarding this series.

  1. What is the PHR/IS Event Series? What inspired the faculty to create this series?

The PHR/IS Event Series is based around being responsive to urgency of our times. As you know this summer we experienced the velocity of the movement for Black Lives Matter. Our departments held a Town Hall with students where they not only showed interest but demanded that we, as a department, engage in these questions and conversations of our time through the perspectives of our fields of study. What we do in our departments is close analyses of these events looking at the contexts and conditions in which they take place and the people and movements that create social change both domestically and internationally. And so, that led to the faculty of Politics & Human Rights and International Studies reaching out and activating the connections to those who we know have been crucial to movement related work both in and beyond New York City. We became active in creating this speaker series which includes voices of people who are working around criminal justice, indigenous rights, land justice, birth and reproductive justice, and questions around social practice and its relation to the arts. We created this series so that we can challenge ourselves to think about the world that we want to see and how we already are actively participating in molding that world.

2. How have you been engaging students with in the virtual space? What challenges have you faced and how have you addressed them?

We are making the event series integral with our departments’ curricula. These are not just individual conversations but rather have been built into many of our PHR courses. This allows for us to continue the dialogue in our class community and allows for students to be able to collectively participate. Rather than it being an additional requirement, it was important for us as a department to make this integral with courses students were taking, so we can continue to foster these conversations beyond the events’ settings. Not only are students actively involved in the series, but also they can think reflexively on how differently guest speakers relate to the topics of our classes and topics. This has been a tremendous opportunity to allow for guest speakers and students all over the world to enter a virtual space and engage in with us. This is a positive feature of the virtual world in that if this were in person, there are many challenges we would face like for example organizing the conversation around land and environmental justice between MMC’s Dejah Bradshaw and leaders of the Landless Movement in Brazil. We wanted to make sure that our connections and networks were still an integral part of our classes and these events. We have had some amazing guest speakers and look forward to the many more to come.

3. Have you had a favorite event throughout the series?

Although I have not been able to go to all of them, I do have to say that the Constitution and Citizenship Day Event was exceptional. It combined the powerful testimony of an MMC alum, Jasmine Valentine, with the powerful leadership of the Bedford Hills Club, Viviana Metzgar . It was wonderful to see a student leader in dialogue with a returning citizen from Bedford Hills talking about these issues and the ways that MMC students in Manhattan can support their fellow colleagues and peers at Bedford Hills and Taconic. That, to me, was really powerful especially within the context of thinking about the issue of criminal justice reform and abolitionist politics at a time of this insurgent Black Lives Matter Movement. That event was so close to home because it is about our students’ lives, at Bedford Hills and Taconic, and it was so wonderful to have an alum from Bedford Hills to speak to those issues.

Thanks to Professor Brady for taking the time to answer our questions. There is no activism without community, and our division will continue to build and grow a community that fosters care and change for one another, and our city/world writ large. We look forward to seeing the rest of the events unfold as the semester progresses. Thank you for joining us again at the 255. We would lastly like to remind you all to be kind, stay safe, and wear a mask when you VOTE!

Welcome back to the 255. As we are speeding through the month of October, we would like to wish our students the best of luck during Midterms season. This week we will feature an exciting in-class activity that boosts engagement during these stressful times.

MMC’s Social Sciences’ Assembly, a student organization that promotes student engagement in the social sciences and social justice, co-hosted an event with the PHR/IS department entitled “How to Defend Democracy.” Professor Annabel Hogg, who’s teaching Political Participation this semester, used her class time to provide a space for this crucial dialogue to take place. Professor Hogg’s class discusses the importance of citizens’ participation in government and its relation to ideas of democracy upon which the United States was founded. Professor Hogg, along side Professor Jennifer Mueller, Chair of the International Studies Division, reflected on the decline of U.S. democracy and its global implications.

The first part of the event featured a common read of Steven Trevitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s “The Crisis of American Democracy.” The second part was a teach-in for participants that explained the ways in which we can actively defend against the erosion of the U.S. democracy. Participants raised concerns over the clear erosion of established democratic norms present within the U.S. government over the last few years. Through dialogue, both professors and students alike compiled collective ways that we, as citizens, can fight back.

We took the opportunity to interview Professor Hogg and hear her insight to the relevance of the event and how she is connecting it to her course.

  1. What motivated you to use class time for this event?

The idea for the teach-in came up during a conversation amongst myself and other PHR professors who felt we needed to set aside special time to discuss the gravity of the moment with students. We thought it was important to create a space to discuss just how critical this election is for a myriad of reasons….creeping authoritarianism in the US being a major one! 

2. How does this event coordinate with what you are teaching in the course?

This event dovetailed nicely with my course on Political Participation in that it addressed some of the key questions we discuss in class like: What are our rights and responsibilities as citizens in this moment? What are the various ways we can engage to help protect our democratic values at a time when they are under threat? If the Trump Administration tries to overthrow the democratic process what can we do?

3. Did the event meet your expectations? Why or why not?

This event highly exceeded my expectations! We had a great turnout and it really felt like students and faculty were working through these tough issues together and making a plan to Defend Democracy! It also felt like a good way for everyone to calm the pre-election jitters we are all experiencing!

We thank Professor Hogg for taking the time elaborate on the event and her class. If you want to learn more about this topic and conversation check out the link here for Levitsky and Ziblatt’s “The Crisis of American Democracy.” Lastly, we would like to thank you for joining us here at the 255. As always a gentle reminder to be kind, stay safe, and get out and VOTE this November!

Welcome back to the 255. This week we wanted to feature an ongoing series hosted by the English and World Literature Department; the Brown Bag Lunch Series. The faculty from across Divisions are able to share their work with students, connecting it to ideas relating to their courses and research interests. The 255 took this opportunity to interview the Chair of the Department, Michael Colvin, to get some insight on the series and its position within the department.

  1. What is the Brown Bag series and what inspired the English and World Literatures Department to host such a series for students?

I was very curious to see how we could look at the different ways text is used in different disciplines. So my idea was to start inviting people from different disciplines who use or define text in different ways to see what they’re doing. For example, I always think it is interesting to teach Bible as Literature to see students who have experienced the Bible as Bible first, and to see that there is already, in the reading, a tradition of close analysis commentary. So this also becomes an opportunity to see, even in our disciplines, the way we read things. We read through our disciplines, but there is an overlapping. It is also a way to get inspiration as faculty for ways that analysis can be used for intervention. We like sharing and seeing our work and seeing how this comes in with the work that we do with students. We do a lot of student showcases, so for us this experience was also a way to show that all of us as faculty are involved in some way beyond just teaching. We wanted to be able to share what drives us outside of the classroom.

2. What are other events that you have hosted and how does the brown bag series relate to those?

Some of the past talks we’ve had have been very interesting because the presenters have used different formats to present their work whether that be using technology or in conversational ways to demonstrate their outcomes. These events tend to be very informal, but it invites students to ask questions.

I’m hoping that these events are sending the message that our department and our major programs are very involved in creative work and also in analytical and intellectual work. It’s part of everything that our students do. It’s actually very nice to see that the brown bag series, the creative writing functions, and student showcases that we will be doing compliment each other. All of it is very interesting to me how these events demonstrate students engaging in text. And that to me is really amazing because it’s creating a sense of community.

3. How is the engagement between the Brown Bag Series and the students translating in the virtual world?

It is harder to get people to confirm ahead of time to know what the headcount or screen-count will be. And that makes it difficult for us because we don’t know if we’re going to have three people or three hundred people in any given event. However, I think that there is something that we have realized that we need to work on, which is our communication outreach to know how many people are going to attend.

But, I find that the turnouts have been really good. For example, Professor Williams hosted an event after graduation in the Spring. No students were required to be there, but we had about thirty students attend the meeting to read and hear poetry. And these are the types of things that I think are really positive during our current times. No, we don’t want to be Zoomed in all of the time, but on the other hand, Zoom effectively creates spaces to share the intellectual life of the college. I think that the Brown Bag series and the Creative Writing series are proving to us a good testing ground for how we might consider hosting these types of events in the future.

4. Do you have favorite Brown Bag series topics coming up?

I have loved all of our events, but I would like to promote the upcoming ones. Professor Tatianna Serafin, who teaches in both EWL and the Communications Divisions, will be presenting on Wednesday October 21st from 1:00-2:15 PM. She will presenting on “TwoTwoOne.NYC” the digital journal. That one I am really excited about because I believe we will get students who have participated in the journal before. Also, with the screenshare function, she will be able to provide a lot of examples that will funnel students’ interests in taking one of her journalism courses. I think students are going to be thrilled to see this centerpiece of production that students are involved in.

The other event to note will be given by Professor Cecilia Feilla regarding Jonathan Swift and the Surrealist. I know that Professor Feilla had spent a long time conducting research in Paris a couple of summers ago and was going to present before about it, but, unfortunately, it got cancelled. I am extremely excited to see what she is presenting on and I am also encouraging my seniors to attend because we have been discussing in great detail magical realism.

These are two talks that we have coming up, but I am discussing with my colleagues events and presentation that we might want to do in the spring!

We would like to thank Professor Colvin for taking time to share with us his perspective and vision for the Brown Bag Lunch Series. Don’t forget to check out the upcoming events on the HUMSOC and EWL insta! And as always, be kind, stay safe, and get CREATIVE!!

Shakespeare Globes’ Production of Twelfth Night, 2013

Welcome back to the 255! We are enthusiastic to reintroduce our #StudentSpotlight series. This series will highlight the wonderful work of students, and share with the community their interesting, provocative, and innovative ideas of future. This week we are featuring Maggie Salko, who is a creative and articulate writer whose work reaches far beyond her MMC studies. Her most recently published article on The Daily Fandom, “It’s Time to Bring Shakespeare Out of the Elizabethan Era,” is the highlight of this week’s #StudentSpotlight.

Maggie Salko

Maggie is a Junior at MMC who is double majoring in Business Leadership and Literature & Media. She hopes to go into publishing after graduation. She is currently the President of the student club Marymount Marauders, whose mission is to bring the magical world of Harry Potter to MMC and spread its message, excitement, and magic to the rest of the community. Outside the classroom, Maggie has a plethora of professional internship experiences from organizations like StoryCorps, Custom Broadway, & The Daily Fandom. Maggie has had a passion for Shakespeare since high school, after joining her school’s Shakespeare club. This experience introduced her to plays outside of the ones taught in common core curriculums and inspired a new love for The Bard. She’s been writing for The Daily Fandom, a site dedicated to getting pop-culture and fandom-centric topics into spheres of academia, since May of this year.

Maggie published “It’s Time to Bring Shakespeare Out of the Elizabethan Era,” on August 31st, 2020. In her article she discusses the entertainment value of Shakespeare’s work in the modern era. Throughout the piece, Maggie argues that keeping Shakespeare’s plays in the Elizabethan Era loses some of its important entertainment value. She observes that these pieces of art were the highlight of the theatrical world during their time. However, in a contemporary setting, Maggie describes them as a “chore to see.” She concludes that it is important for directors to place Shakespeare’s work in the modern era because it adds a dynamic to the piece that invigorates its entertainment value.

Maggie explains her interest in this topic by adding: …

When given the opportunity to write about whatever I wanted, I immediately knew that I wanted to write about Shakespeare. After spending quarantine watching the productions from my article, I decided to put that knowledge to use and show people how Shakespeare can be entertaining in today’s world. My main goal was to show that The Bard can still be relevant today, and new theatre creatives have the ability to make his plays exciting and captivating once more.

Chicago Shakespeare’s Theatre Production of Romeo and Juliet, 2019

Thanks to Maggie for sharing her work with us! We love seeing our students spread their wings outside the hallowed walls of MMC. We highly encourage you all to check out her article “It’s Time to Bring Shakespeare Out of The Elizabethan Era.” You can access her entry here. Thanks for reading another entry here at the 255. Finally, a brief reminder to be kind, stay safe, and support each other’s work!

Welcome back to the 255! We are quickly approaching the last few faculty spotlights in our Meet the Division series. This week we wanted to feature the Director of Academic Writing at MMC. She is a vital member of the community and shapes much of the curriculum that stretches beyond the HUMSOC division.

MEET DIANA EPELBAUM

In addition to being the Director of Academic Writing, Professor Epelbaum teaches introductory and advanced writing courses offered for all students at MMC. This semester, Dr. Epelbaum teaches a Writ 101 course that explores “writing about writing” linked with a NYC Seminar, and an AIP course entitled “Race and Place in Natural Histories of the Americas.” Her research interests include Writing and Rhetoric Studies, Early American Literature, and History of Science. Her current book project Empire and Ecology: Gender and Place in Women’s Natural Histories of the Americas, 1688-1808 explores 17th and 18th century women naturalists who disrupted imperial modes of knowledge production and offered alternate visions of the Americas. The New York Times awarded Professor Epelbaum the “Teachers Who Make a Difference Award,” for her excellence in teaching.

Dr Diana Epelbaum
  • What is your favorite course/subject to teach here at Marymount? Why does this course interest you the most?
    • I love teaching writing. In these courses, we spend a lot of time on reflection and introspection (and I do, too). We explore our educational journeys, individual writing habits, practices, blocks, preconceptions, emotions, and processes, and work to transform ourselves as writers, readers, and thinkers.
  • What pedagogical approaches do you use when teaching? Why do you believe that this method is the most effective in engaging students?
    • I use a lot of metacognition in my courses. This means everything is transparent–why and how I ask students to complete certain tasks, and why and how these tasks might transfer to other situations, both academic and personal. Metacognition creates awareness around our processes and liberates us to make interdisciplinary connections.
  • Why did you choose your individual career and/or field of study?
    • I think this career chose me! From the time I was a kid, everyone told me I would teach, and once I taught my first high school class, I never wanted to do anything else! As a literature teacher, I always gave a lot of class time to writing, but when I went for my doctorate, I realized that writing was a whole field of study, and I’ve been teaching writing ever since. I learn so much from my students, and every year is different. 
  • What is your favorite activity to do when you are not teaching?
    • I love to hike, camp, garden, do anything outdoorsy. I love to travel, and I’m really into travel photography. Attaching a few travel shots here!
  • Do you own any pets? If so, how many? If not, why?
    • I have a ten year-old mutt named Frannie, adopted from Miami-Dade Animal Shelter. She is my constant companion. Here’s a pic!
  • What is advice would you give to Marymount students in today’s uncertain and rapidly evolving world?
    • The most important advice I’d give to MMC students is to keep challenging yourself to make connections, to think associatively rather than linearly. We are not in a linear world, and many career paths are no longer linear journeys. The more connections you actively make among your classes, and among your classes and personal and professional contexts, the more successful you’ll be at thinking outside the box and creatively approaching the work you ultimately choose. 

Thanks to Professor Epelbaum for sharing with us these wonderful pictures and responses. We look forward to bringing you more stories from our HUMSOC fam later this week! As always, a friendly reminder to be kind, stay safe, and write more.

The 255 is back with a another Meet the Division series! These week we are highlighting the Chair of the Politics & Human Rights department who is vital to organizing guest speakers, community activities, and cooperating with the sociopolitical student led organizations such as the Bedford Hills Program and the Social Sciences’ Assembly.

MEET ERIN O’CONNOR

In addition to chairing the Politics & Human Rights department, Dr. O’Connor is an Associate Professor of Sociology. Her research, studies, and interests include ethnography, culture, art, work, knowledge, body phenomenology, body, and craft. Her book manuscript, Firework: art, craft, and self among glassblowers, researches glassblowing studios to analyze the meaning of contemporary craft in industrial and knowledge economies. Her research reveals the relations among body, materials, and others inform the emergence of self, community, and meaning while investigating the socio-political meaning of craft throughout history. O’Connor’s published work can be found in journals such as Qualitative Sociology Review, Qualitative Research, and Ethnography among others. She explains that she uses her areas of expertise as lenses through which to investigate social inequality and human rights in regards race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and class among others.

Dr. Erin O’Connor
  • What is your favorite course/subject to teach here at Marymount? Why does this course interest you the most?
    • I have a lot of favorite courses, so it is hard to say. Spring 2020, it was Queer Ecologies (PHR 312 aka EcoCulture & Sustainability). The course was an exciting outcome of my research on craft and material ontology; it broke down the dichotomies that construct and separate subject and world. In short, ‘we’ are the ‘world’. Currently, I’m loving all my classes — Environmental Justice, Culture & Ideology, and Art, Politics & Society. I’ve revamped each in light of contemporary social and political issues. Particularly exciting has been the reworking of the Art, Politics & Society syllabus with students from the class. I honestly wasn’t feeling excited about the previous syllabus in the current climate — art activism is everywhere, morning and night, inside and out and I was feeling like that was more pressing to address. Luckily, the students felt the same! So, after talking about the movements, social issues, happenings important to them, I rewrote the syllabus as “Art Activism”. It’s very exciting as we’re discovering new artists and methods of art activism every week. Everyone pitches in!
  • What pedagogical approaches do you use when teaching? Why do you believe that this method is the most effective in engaging students?
    • I’m an ethnographer, so I like to be out in the city, talking with people, and learning from environments. Typically, I pair readings with field research. I feel strongly that experiential and theoretical learning go hand in hand. In my own research on glassblowing, for example, I couldn’t have gotten to the theories of material ontology that eventually took me into environmental studies without having blown glass. That’s our payment of the debt of experience — articulation! Covid has changed that, but have adapted through changing classes — Art Activism — does expansive surveys virtually and also through organizing a fall 2020 virtual department event series that brings experts in the field of racial justice into our community via Zoom. This has been so uplifting. At the end of the day, I need experience, the world, and community voices to think and to feel human. At the end of the day, we can neither think nor learn without this.
  • Why did you choose your individual career and/or field of study?
    • I’m from rural northern Michigan. In my house growing up, we had a set of encyclopedias, a glossary of tropical fish, a book about gnomes and both endless National Geographics and tomes about narrow-gauge railroads. The moments in which I got my hands on some ‘big-picture’ thinking — my English teacher, Ann Reasner, and my mom’s friend, who was an artist, Valerie Loop — I felt my mind leap and bound. I didn’t know what it meant exactly, but I knew that I wanted more. By almost random luck, I submitted one application for college and was accepted to Michigan State University (I’m the first person in my family to earn a college degree). First year, I didn’t understand anything — small town culture didn’t translate into a 40,000 person campus with 200+ person classes — and, though I was fascinated by the catalogue of classes (those lists under Philosophy, Religion, and Sociology!), I nearly flunked out of school. Luckily, my parents let me go back to try again the second year and I came upon a mentor in Political Science, Ron Puhek. Through him and a couple of philosophy and women’s studies professors — Herbert Garelick, Richard Peterson, and Marilyn Frye — I learned that the pursuit of ideas could indeed be a profession! I decided then, my sophomore year, to become a professor. I’m forever indebted to them for showing a small town girl that she could have big ideas 🙂  And, on that note, my town was quite conservative in the typical way of small American rural towns in the 1980s and 1990s, white, homophobic, heterosexist, and insular. I felt strongly at a young age about racial inclusivity, environmental justice, and gay rights, especially as I came to regard myself as bi-sexual. So, in short, I didn’t fit the bill. College was absolute liberation for me as were the big ideas that I encountered there.
  • What is your favorite activity to do when you are not teaching?
    • I love to be outside. All day in any way. I love walking, hiking, swimming, gardening. I also love laughing with my boys — age 7 and 3. When they’re smiling and we’re laughing, running around, there is nothing better.  Before the kids, I did a lot of collage work with handmade paper. I still build and make a lot….shelves, treehouses, garden beds, and anything that involves arranging.
  • Do you own any pets? If so, how many? If not, why?
    • Yes, two cats: Michael and Sappho. I was never into cats and my husband is allergic, but, hey, the boys begged us and the kitties were found by neighbors newborn with their mom on top of a garbage bag! Happy to have them now. They’re sweet.
Sappho (Left) and Michael (Right)
  • What is advice would you give to Marymount students in today’s uncertain and rapidly evolving world?
    • Stay connected!

Thanks to Professor O’Connor for sharing her pictures, interests, and professional background. Join us next week as our series continues! Autumn is well underway, a friendly reminder to be kind, stay safe, and begin to layer up!

Welcome back to the 255! We hope that you are all having a wonderful transition into official autumn. To celebrate our seasonal change, we wanted to bring to you our new #FacultyFeature series. Each post will encapsulate the work of one of our awesome HUMSOC faculty. This week we’ll highlight the recent work of Professor Jessica Blatt!

Professor Blatt is an Associate Professor of Political Science here at MMC. Dr. Blatt’s work focuses on American political thought, specifically how ideas of difference such as race, gender, class, etc, interact with political discourse and public policy. Blatt is the author of Race and the Making of American Political Science (University of Pennsylvania Press 2018). At MMC, she teaches many courses relating to social and political theory, race, and American political development.

Professor Jessica Blatt

The Always Already Podcast, a podcast that holds conversations about critical theory, featured Professor Blatt in a conversation around race in relation to American political science. Always Already Podcast has two consistent segments that discuss critical theory in their words “in the broadest read of the term!” The two segments are (1) discussions of texts around critical theory, political theory, social theory, and philosophy; and (2) Epistemic Unruliness that consists of interviews and conversations with activists, artists, and academics.

Throughout the podcast interview, Always Already Podcast question many aspects of American political thought and its relations to race. The podcast explicitly raises the questions: What was political science’s role in shaping a de-radicalizing ‘race relations’ paradigm? How did the early discipline of political science turn to categories of ‘race’ in a bid for foundation funding and claims to scientific knowledge? And, what are the pedagogical implications for political scientists today of the book and of this genealogy of racism in the discipline? Check out Professor Blatt’s interview in the link below as well as her book Race in the Making of American Political Science.

  • Always Already Podcast Interview — here
  • Race in the Making of American Political Science — here

Thanks to Professor Blatt for sharing with us her work. We highly recommend that you all check it out. Join us soon for our next segment on the #FacultyFeature. And as always, a quick reminder to be kind, stay safe, and get to your teachers!