Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of Human Services Dr. Nicole Kras has been awarded the Transformative Learning in the Humanities Fellowship, part of an important three-year CUNY-based initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. With her cohort of 2021-2022 THL Faculty Fellows, Dr. Kras will share and develop active, creative, and participatory practices as well as “pedagogical research and methods designed for the rich diversity of CUNY students,” ensuring their success in and beyond the classroom. While prioritizing the importance of teaching, the grant supports CUNY faculty in the humanities, arts, and interpretive social sciences who are committed to equity and social and racial justice. Guttman Associate Professor of Anthropology Dr. Kristina Baines and Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Dr. Grace Pai were also named THL Faculty Fellows for this, the fellowship’s culminating cycle.
As a THL Faculty Fellow, Dr. Kras organized a 90-minute workshop titled Nature-Based Learning in Higher Education, held virtually on April 13, 2021. While the benefits of nature-based learning (NBL) is a rapidly growing area of research, the focus has primarily been on early childhood to high school-age students. This workshop featured pediatric neuropsychologist, Professor of Pediatrics, and Director for Leadership and Education at the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota Dr. Catherine Jordan, who provided “a solid foundation for understanding the research“ and the specific benefits of NBL, such as “increased concentration and engagement, stress reduction, and increased cognitive skills.” Following this overview, Dr. Kras presented her implementation of NBL with Guttman students, including class sessions on eco-art and animal-assisted therapy, as well as an educational program co-designed with the Central Park Zoo. In light of her promising findings and overwhelmingly positive student responses, Dr. Kras hopes that “this workshop ignites further collaboration both inside and outside of CUNY on identifying the potential benefits that NBL can have for students in higher education.”
Dr. Kras, H.S.-B.C.P., joined Guttman in Fall 2018. She holds a Ph.D. in Adult Learning and Development from Lesley University, a Master of Science in Education and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study as a Classroom Teacher Specialist from Southern Connecticut State University. Dr. Kras also received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with a concentration in child development and mental health, and a Master of Arts in Art Therapy from Albertus Magnus College. Dr. Kras teaches Fieldwork and Integrative Seminar I and II, Health and Human Services Policy, Methods of Intervention for Human Services, and Ethnographies of Work in the First-Year Experience. She currently serves as the Immediate Past-President for the New England Organization for Human Services and as a Council for Standards in Human Services self-study reader. Her research currently centers on the benefits of nature-based experiences for college students and human services program design.