Expressing Humanity through Storytelling
February 21, 2020
by Brinda Roy, Professor of English
It would be an understatement to say I was excited to find out that I was selected to participate in the Global Gender and Women’s Studies Faculty Learning Community (FLC) during the academic year 2019-20. Never having been part of an FLC, I didn’t really know what to expect. What I encountered was an amazing cross-disciplinary and academic collaborative learning community comprised of guest lecturers and faculty from disciplines as varied as Nursing, Communication Studies, History, Anthropology, Sociology, and Student Development.
As the Gender FLC is a collaboration between Austin Community College’s International Programs and University of Texas at Austin’s Hemispheres Consortium, FLC participants have been treated to an amazing line-up of speakers, some of whom are professors or graduate researchers at UT-Austin. I have been exposed to so much intellectual and academic innovation vis-à-vis the guest lecturers who have shared their incredible research with us. From ethnographic projects centering around the Ayoreo women who live in Paraguay’s Chaco region, to gender bending in Turbo Folk – a popular Bosnian music genre, and the indomitable activism of the Thirunangai (trans-woman) community in the South Indian city of Chennai: every lecture re-emphasizes the idea that scholarship and learning are inherently valuable traits.
The real takeaway of this FLC lies in the participants being able to incorporate what we learn into curricula that will enrich our students. As such, I have also been fortunate to collaborate with a supportive community of ACC faculty and facilitators, some of whom are previous participants of an FLC. The end goal of the Global Gender and Women’s Studies FLC is for us to redesign a course based on the ideas generated by the meetings, lectures, and readings. The second half of our monthly meetings are, therefore, devoted to what I think of as part-brainstorming/part-workshop sessions. The feedback and suggestions I have received — from ideas for texts to use, to engaging students through active learning strategies — during these brainstorming sessions have been incredibly useful.
My English 1302: Composition II course redesign will use a global framework to explore the myriad ways in which storytelling often becomes the only way for women to bridge political, gender, and/or cultural differences. I will use a variety of global texts — Ted Talks (like Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story”), StoryCorps, Tik Tok, music videos, author interviews — in addition to the more traditional material of an English classroom (novels, short stories, poems) so students can think critically about the relationship between globalizing phenomena like human rights activism/feminism, and different modes of literary and extraliterary storytelling. Ultimately, I wish to implement in my redesigned course this tremendously exciting and empowering idea that, no matter what the medium, stories may be the only way that we can express our humanity as conscientious and ethical global citizens.
Participation in the Global Gender and Women’s Studies FLC has reinvigorated me in ways that I hadn’t anticipated but that I am very grateful for. I know I have been enriched and I hope to do the same for my students.