“I love and live off of the ‘aha’ moments students have in class when they suddenly understand or build a new understanding of a concept. That has always been what excites me about teaching, whether it’s in a math class or a seminar course.”
In addition to the value she places on new ideas that come into being for individual students, Dr. Grace Pai sees “a career in education as a means of alleviating poverty and bringing about social mobility and equality.“ She does not mince words about “a lack of equity that too often leads to social stratification” and the scope of this crisis: “I’ve always found it astonishing that in a ‘developed’ knowledge economy like the United States’ that stresses the importance of obtaining a college degree, we still have about 15% of students who don’t even graduate from high school.” Experienced as a counselor and math teacher in NYC public schools and holding a Ph.D. in international education and development with a specialization in applied statistics for program and impact evaluation, Dr. Pai is a powerful emerging voice in the critical areas of global learning, culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP), as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as they relate to race in America. During just the last turbulent year, beset by the global pandemic, the Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies has presented or spoken at over a dozen events on CRP, Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), and racial justice.
Faculty Feature: Dr. Karla Fuller, Associate Professor of Biology and Program Coordinator of Science
“More than anything, I want our students to know that they can succeed in science and math. They don’t have to pursue it, but I don’t want them to think that it’s not for them for any particular reason, except [if they don’t choose it.] If they want to, they can be good at it, or they can be interested in it… I just want them to feel like they belong. That it’s for them, if they want it.”
Dr. Karla Fuller, Associate Professor of Biology and Program Coordinator of Science, bears the unique distinction of being the very first faculty hired at Guttman, prior to the convocation of its inaugural first-year class in 2012 and the naming of the College. Seeing it as the urban likeness of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU), she determined to fulfill her “mission in life” – giving students of color sustained opportunities to “have that moment like, ‘Oh, maybe I could study science’,” the realization critical to “increasing the overall percentage of underrepresented people in America who are scientists, the number of Black and Latino scientists in the field, and this means pursuing graduate studies or professional school after a Bachelor’s degree.” To this ambitious end, Dr. Fuller has spearheaded the establishment of Guttman’s Associate of Science (A.S.) degree Program of Study, forthcoming in Fall 2021.
“We live in a world immersed in texts – news, job applications, advertising, medical prescriptions – so to lack literacy skills means disenfranchisement. It means being shut out of jobs and opportunities, which reinforces economic and class divisions.”
According to Assistant Professor Meagan Lacy, Information Literacy Librarian at Guttman since 2014, information literacy encompasses the reading and research skills essential for scholarly advancement as well as “a key element of critical thinking, necessary to solve problems and make decisions.” It “is also fundamental to building an informed citizenry and a healthy democracy,” enabling “those who seek and critically analyze information for themselves [to] make personally informed decisions on political and social issues.” Therefore, “information literacy matters for life, not just for school. The more information you have,” along with the tools to select the most reliable, relevant kind and use it effectively, “the more questions you can ask and the more you can advocate for yourself.”
“We can disagree and still be friends… Most of the time, a literature classroom is a philosophical space. It’s about how we live, how we react to each other, how we deal with love, and who we are constantly becoming. So, disagreement and argument… help us really understand what we think and why.”
Associate Professor of English Dr. Ria Banerjee specializes in literary modernism, primarily Anglophone British, European, and Indian writing of the 1910s-1930s – “partly because I love that ‘modernist mood’ and partly because so much of what people lived through at the beginning of the 20th century bears eerie parallels to what we are going through now.” Presently, she is at work on the manuscript of her book, tentatively titled Drafty Houses, where she posits that the way “modernist [English] authors wrote about changing, renovating, and restructuring houses and personal spaces in fiction actually speaks to how they thought the UK ought to change politically.” Avoiding direct confrontation with the authorities, “established authors like T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf wrote about rooms, buildings, and houses as a kind of substitute for… the nation as a shelter for citizens.” These writers became what Dr. Banerjee calls “tepid activists,” who were “outraged at the many political atrocities carried out by the UK at home and abroad, especially in the British colonies, [but] tried to find ways to be critical without being arrested,“ or having their writing banned.
“I want for students to understand how their own curiosity can become a resource for self-education… that they can take control of their own education, follow their interests, and trust themselves to learn independently.”
“What drew me to Guttman is teaching,” Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Dr. Maggie Dickinson proclaims with passion, “that community of faculty who are just so dedicated to understanding teaching as a practice and putting that at the center of their work.” The Online Course Development training she led with fellow Guttman faculty Dr. Kristina Baines, which became urgent as COVID-19 took hold in Spring 2020, embodied this value. “Dean Blake really supported us in making it a home-grown professional development. We drew on the resources at Guttman to put it together [so] it really built on the work that everybody was already doing.” Since coming to the College in 2016, Prof. Dickinson has observed the shift to recognizing “that we have faculty who are leaders in understanding some of these [pedagogical] questions and we can draw on them as experts.”
“In all of my classes, my biggest focus is building up students’ confidence so that they can persist and overcome obstacles.”
“When I first came to Guttman” in 2014, remembers Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Marla Sole, “I designed a signature assignment for my Statistics class.” Working as “empirical researchers to collect data and analyze it,” students compared the prices of iced and hot coffee. Dr. Sole also arranged a visit to a local café, where the coffee buyer spoke to the class and provided the essential context that makes coursework come alive. “When I think about that research,” published in 2017 in the Journal of Statistics Education, “I always remember my first group of students” at the College, the first of many Dr. Sole has taught in courses ranging from the Quantitative Reasoning component of City Seminar to Calculus.
“The thing that you always want as a professor is that moment when the students get what you’re talking about… see something and connect it to their lives, or see [something] in their lives and connect it to [what’s] happening in the classroom… When you do something in a class and the students say it was the first time they did that, or the first time they saw the point of something.”
There is little that Associate Professor of Sociology Dr. Alia Tyner-Mullings has not done as a Guttman Founding Faculty, joining in 2011, a year before the College’s doors opened to students. Colleagues assume, she laughs, “that any committee that exists, I’m on it, which obviously is not true.” Dr. Tyner-Mullings has chaired Guttman’s chapter of the Professional Staff Congress since its inception, a position she has held through several election cycles and crucial contract negotiations. A vocal advocate for establishing the Academic Senate, she presently serves as its Vice Chair. Dr. Tyner-Mullings has collaborated to revise Guttman’s unique two-semester Ethnographies of Work (EoW) sequence and, subsequently, to create an Open Educational Resource (OER) for these courses. In addition, the acronym she coined for the Guttman Learning Outcomes that articulate educational goals and reflect the institution’s vision for our students – GLOs – has been heartily adopted.
“I always say [to my students], I want you to be the master of mathematics rather than mathematics being the master of you.”
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Vivian Lim finds Guttman “the perfect setting for being able to teach math in a way that is meaningful, that engages students critically about the world.” Teaching the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) component of City Seminar in the First-Year Experience since Fall 2017 has been ideal as “one of the fundamental learning outcomes is students being critical and using math in an interdisciplinary way.” Dr. Lim freely admits that “this is my dream job,” an opportunity to connect math directly to her students’ lives and empower them as civic agents.
“My students are deserving of the wonderful opportunities that life has to offer, even if they have to demand a seat at the table.”
“Lean into the present and don’t waste time” are tenets of Dr. Tashana Samuel’s proactive philosophy, words by which she lives. A child psychologist specializing in cognitive development, Dr. Samuel holds a Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center, with research experience including a longitudinal study at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital Center under Drs. Catherine Monk and Laraine McDonough. Since becoming Assistant Professor of Psychology at Guttman in 2015, Dr. Samuel is simultaneously teaching Statistics in the First-Year Experience and Introduction to Psychology in the Liberal Arts and Sciences – Humanities and Social Sciences Program of Study; conducting research on “techniques to alleviate academic anxiety in community college students”; publishing the promising findings in an article co-authored with fellow Guttman faculty Dr. Jared Warner; and sharing their pedagogical impact in service of our students. Also involved in expanding psychology course offerings at the College, she is excited to teach Guttman’s upcoming first iteration of Child Psychology.
“You will not have learned everything possible at any point in your life. The learning process is a lifelong endeavor. It is never over.”
Defying deep-seated expectations, Lecturer of Mathematics Keino Brown reveals that he was once “hellbent on becoming an English professor. Then, math happened.” He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Mathematics at the CUNY Graduate Center, “securing the requisite firm footing in the breadth of my discipline’s concerns.” Though “not yet settled on any particular interest,” Prof. Brown will likely select his research focus from one of the “pillars” of mathematical physics: topology, differential geometry, or complex analysis. Since Spring I 2014, Guttman has counted him among the pure mathematicians at the College, where he has taught every mathematics course offered at least once, aiming “to make the classroom feel like a shared space for learning how to think about abstractions logically.”