InTransit_LaGuardiaJournalonTeachingAndLearningSpring06_v1n2

Introduction

Peter Katopes, Vice President for Academic Affairs

The scholarship of teaching and learning. With these six words, Ernest Boyer in 1990 instigated a revolution around the way that colleges and universities defined scholarship, how that scholarship ought to be promulgated, and how the ensuing impact on faculty rewards and responsibilities might be measured.

The faculty not only sets an academic standard but also determines the character of a college. A dynamic institution will be so because of a dynamic faculty, one that is actively and enthusiastically engaged in the business of teaching and learning.

Here at LaGuardia Community College, we are profoundly engaged on a daily basis in exploring the intersections of teaching, learning, and scholarship. In Transit is both a celebration and an affirmation of this engagement. We are proud to present to you the results of some of the scholarship currently being done by LaGuardia faculty.

I came to LaGuardia after a long career as both a teacher and administrator at a variety of institutions, public and private, four-year and two-year. As such, I bring an “insider’s” perspective to LaGuardia. That is, I know intimately the profound joys associated with teaching and learning as well as the difficulties inherent in educating a diverse and ever-changing student body. Yet from the very first moment that I set foot on the campus of LaGuardia Community College, I realized that little in my previous experience had prepared me for the celebratory shock of the new that I discovered here. Much like the students who attend LaGuardia, I felt like I had arrived at a strange and wonderful place, full of promise and possibility, renewal and invigoration. For LaGuardia is an analog of the American experience, delivering on the promise of America by offering access and opportunity for a better life to the entire world. Energy and passion pervade this institution. Energy and passion about teaching and learning are electric and crackle in the hallways, in the classrooms, and wherever faculty and students congregate.

What are the sources of this vitality? Surely some of it emanates from New York City itself. For New York, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magical kingdom and perhaps the most vibrant and dynamic metropolis in the world, sparkles with the possible. If you doubt this, just ask any of the thousands of immigrants who flock to the city every year seeking, as immigrants eternally have, a better life for themselves and their families.

The energy and passion flow as well from the streets of Queens, the borough in which LaGuardia is situated, arguably the most diverse county in the world.

It surges forth from our students who, speaking more than one hundred different languages, come here to learn. And it shines brilliantly as well from our faculty – learned, well-traveled, multi-lingual – committed both to expanding the frontiers of knowledge and to helping our students navigate the complexities of an increasingly global society.

To an outsider watching from a distance, a stranger perhaps unaccustomed to the degree and scope of diversity which New Yorkers accept as a fact of daily life, what I describe might seem confusing and cacophonous. At ground level, however, it appears so different: an exciting, vigorous, and harmonious collective endeavor to elicit understanding and tolerance and to impose form and order upon a rapidly changing and complex world.

I grew up in Astoria, a neighborhood just a few blocks from the LaGuardia campus in Long Island City. Back then the borough of Queens was a haven mostly for the American-born children of Irish, Italian, German, Polish, and Greek immigrants. My own grandparents, who emigrated here from Greece during the first decades of the 20th century, did not read English and spoke the language uncertainly at best. Today, however, Queens is the home of immigrants from every continent, many not only bi-lingual - but multi-lingual and multi-national as well.

That the variety and diversity of this environment result in a richer, more vibrant and interesting society there can be no question. Still, it remains to be seen in the aftermath of 9/11 – in the ferment of constant immigration and population shifting which results in often jarring demographic changes and in the ongoing quest by new generations for the American promise of political and individual freedom and economic opportunity – how the experience of these global citizens is to be negotiated and understood. How are the complexities of a changing world to be articulated and clarified? And how might the inevitable conflicts and tensions stimulated by competing social, cultural, ethnic, and religious interests be resolved rationally, peacefully, and with fairness and justice?

If these concerns are to be addressed – and of course they must be if our society is to remain viable and free – then in what better laboratory than the rich urban mosaic of New York City? And what institution is better equipped to debate, elucidate, and imagine solutions than LaGuardia? For it is a fact that the overwhelming majority of LaGuardia students are not only current residents of New York City, but will make their lives here. They will be the business people, the politicians, the nurses and teachers, the social workers and lawyers, and the paramedics who will shape the present and future character of the city.

At LaGuardia we are prepared and eager to continue our strong leadership role at this defining moment for American culture and education. We are not afraid to ask the fundamental questions: How can higher education contribute to the enduring health and vitality of a democratic society that is transforming and redefining itself on an almost daily basis? How can LaGuardia Community College meet this challenge by demonstrating that the work we do, the value of which may be discovered in our scholarship, has relevance and application to the individuals and communities we serve? How can the promulgation of the scholarship of teaching and learning help us and our students arrive at a more meaningful and workable understanding of what it means to live and work in a global society? And, finally, what are the ensuing obligations, responsibilities, and rewards of global citizenship?

At LaGuardia we teach and learn for the public good. We are committed to the belief that the transformative and regenerative power of reasoned learning, critical analysis, and human connection will inevitably result in an evolutionary ideal of compassion, justice, and understanding. Therefore, we boldly proclaim our roles as public intellectuals, proudly making the fruits of our research and teaching accessible to an audience that extends beyond the sometimes limited boundaries of our traditional academic disciplines and professional societies. This journal will speak to those who have enthusiastically embraced the new discipline of teaching and learning, a discipline that is inclusive and expansive rather than narrow and parochial, that is multi-disciplinary, democratic, and alive with possibility and promise.

That teaching and learning exist on a continuum is a truth so evident that I almost hesitate to assert it. However, it is important that we as teachers and scholars remain cognizant of this relationship, and acknowledge and accept that we have both a moral obligation and a professional responsibility to not only be willing to offer up our teaching and learning in a public forum, but also generously and unashamedly open it up to criticism and debate. As Lee Shulman of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has often reminded us, the scholarship of teaching and learning is to be "public, peer-reviewed and critiqued, and exchanged with other members of our professional communities" (158).

What you will read in this volume is public scholarship at its best, scholarship that is a result of the disciplined and serious ongoing inquiry into the processes of teaching and learning that constitute the normal activity of the faculty at LaGuardia Community College. We hope what you read here stimulates and challenges you to engage in different and exciting ways in the national conversation on teaching and learning.

In and of itself, education may have many purposes, one of which is to straddle the divide that exists between what is and what might be. One way in which education might serve this purpose is to employ the past to validate the present, and by so doing, shape the future. Connecting the institutional past and present of LaGuardia to the promise of the future, In Transit offers seasoned veteran faculty an opportunity to pass on their wisdom in the great tradition of liberal learning. And In Transit invites our newer faculty to introduce themselves to the larger academic community, to showcase their talents, to share with us who they are and how they imagine the challenge of connecting teaching and learning in new and exciting ways.

In Transit provides a living record of the educational and social purposes of the College itself - and for higher education as we endeavor to help our students recognize and embrace the world of possibilities that awaits them.

Works Cited

Shulman, Lee S. Teaching as Community Property. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004.