Student class redesigned for faculty

By Kaiti Deerberg

A popular Columbia course, Culture, Race and Media, has recently been adapted into a seminar, not only to teach students about the importance of cultural awareness in media, but instructors as well.

The idea to adapt the class into a seminar for teachers was created by Soo La Kim and Lott Hill, co-directors of the Center for Teaching Excellence. Kim said the idea began after she and Hill discussed the course’s success in sensitizing students to race, culture, gender and other issues.

The Culture, Race and Media student course was created by award-winning instructor Beau Beaudoin, associate chair of the Television Department, to explore issues of racism, classism and sexism in the media, along with the goal of deepening awareness of individual perspective.

“Because the class is a great course and an effective model of great teaching at Columbia, we wanted to use this to create a space for teachers to explore the same topics students were discussing in the course … to engage in the same conversation,” Hill said.

Kim said the seminar is very similar to the class, but will also focus on helping teachers address issues of race and culture in their own classrooms with students.

Hill also said they wanted to use the class as a model to move away from “diversity workshops” that are often held in the workplace.

“Ultimately, part of this was trying to create an alternative to things like ‘diversity training’ and ‘inclusion;’ the level of discourse that is happening in Culture, Race and Media allows for much deeper conversation than, perhaps, these other training workshops,” Hill said.

The seminar is a four-part series of two-hour sessions. Teachers from all departments were welcomed to participate in the pilot program that began on Feb. 19.

“It’s kind of like a mini-course where you come together with the same people and continually engage in the same ongoing conversation,” Kim said.

The seminar’s first session was held in the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., in Room 401, on Feb. 19. The sessions are planned to be led by different Culture, Race and Media instructors. The first session was lead by Beaudoin and Shanita Akintonde, a marketing communications faculty member who is also a Culture, Race and Media instructor. About 15 Columbia instructors, both part-time and full-time and from all departments, gathered in a circle to begin the course.

“We’re here to recognize our ethical responsibility as influencers of influencers,” Beaudoin said.

Attending faculty then addressed their feelings toward their responsibility as instructors, with many replying “empowered” and “important.”

“I am grateful to have a group where I can get some guidance,” said Stephanie Goldberg, a part-time instructor in the Journalism Department.

After a few warm-up exercises to relax the group and introduce one another, Beaudoin and Akintonde began to delve into Culture, Race and Media material. They explained the several “isms” they would be discussing, including sexism, racism and classism.

“This is not a class where we are going to teach you about ‘isms,'” said Beaudoin. “This is a class where you are going to learn about your own personal feelings towards those ‘isms.'”

“This class is about P.C.,” Beaudoin said. “It’s about personal conciousness, not about being politically correct, however.”

Teachers who attended for the first seminar session were asked to commit to attending the next three to complete the course.

“It’s all really part of this bigger dialogue that is going on across campus,” Hill said. “We want to provide the space and the platform for teachers to share in the discussion.”