The College Fellows program appealed to me because I am committed to pedagogical notions that fuel successful humanities courses: rigor, spirited inquiry, and techniques that open up spaces for collaborative learning. I believe that the best teaching combines the inspiration of art, sometimes painstaking craft, and a dash of magic – those indiscernible elements of classroom interaction that elevate what could have been flat dialogue into experiences that reside in memory long after the class ends. I like to think that students find my classes memorable because I challenge them to engage the subject material in a variety of forms, because I value them and respect their contributions, and because I prioritize the learning enterprise that we’ve committed to embark upon together.
The Engagements provide an opportunity to extend my teaching of African-American literature and culture beyond the scope of the specific field and into the general terrain of understanding difference. For my courses, this will involve a macroscopic view of how racial difference was (and is) constructed in American life. Students entering one of my classes quickly realize that they will be responsible for much of their own learning; as a result, they learn to expand their academic capacity, to take risks, and extend their intellectual reach. As an associate professor of English, I try to create a challenging, engaging and exciting environment that promotes rigor. I seek an atmosphere in which everyone feels free to speak, as well as a space in which students critically connect with the course materials rather than speak solely from personal experience or anecdotes.