The World from Six Feet Away
May 8, 2020
by Ryan Davidson, Adjunct Professor of English
Perspective has always been an essential aspect of individual growth. Learning leads to empathy which leads to understanding which hopefully leads towards progress. My hope at the start of the Global Gender and Women’s Studies Faculty Learning Community (FLC), run by ACC International Programs in collaboration with the UT-Austin Hemispheres Consortium, was for a more complex perspective that I could translate to my students. I could learn so that they could hopefully learn more from me. Obviously, a lot has happened since then…
Our first meeting took place on August 23rd. We gathered on the UT campus. Shook hands. Shared food. Sat next to each other. I had no idea where Wuhan was. I had never heard of Zoom. I complained about sitting too long in traffic. Nine months later, everything I took for granted is no longer possible, critical thinking has never been more imperative, and the importance of connectedness cannot be understated. As we look to other countries across the world and how they respond to COVID-19, it becomes more and more clear each day how we are all linked and how global disparities continue to influence how we live.
I, initially, lacked this perspective. I underestimated how much it would alter my own viewpoint and approach to teaching. As an adjunct, working at multiple different campuses, my involvement with colleagues is usually limited to brief interactions in a cramped office as we wait for a computer or try collectively to figure out a printer jam. I didn’t just interact with colleagues in this FLC, I gained true friends and brilliant mentors from across disciplines that have taught me how to be a more prepared and engaged educator. As a group, we learned from scholars who dedicated their academic careers to studying the experiences of people and places I never knew existed. From discovering the political background of Bosnian Turbo Folk to the Thirunangai in Chennai and their connection to the Goddess Angalamman, I became aware, once again, of how unaware I really was. The FLC provided me the opportunity to be a student again. To be excited to learn, to be engaged, to be surprised, and dazzled. To leave on a Friday morning with a new understanding of a population and a place I had never considered.
My ENG 1301 (Composition I) course redesign will focus on what different global parenting strategies can teach us about gender dynamics. While the project initially began as a way to look at a similar topic in literature (Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” The Beatles’s “Hey Jude,” and Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” were early inspirations), after some great advice and mentorship it shifted to explore the concept in a manner that allowed for more diverse group of writers and thinkers from across multiple perspectives.
This experience has left me as a better educator, scholar, and global citizen. I would recommend the FLC to everyone. I cannot imagine a scenario in which it would not completely transform their way of thinking and approach towards the world. As we move towards a new normal, this is needed now more than ever.
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