In Spring 2020, “Introduction to Engaged Teaching and Transformative Learning in the Humanities and Social Sciences” was offered by two CUNY professors, Cathy N. Davidson (The Graduate Center, CUNY) and Eduardo Vianna (LaGuardia Community College) through the Futures Initiative. To teach this course, we combined our different expertise, specializations, training, and institutions to teach thirteen students, themselves from different fields, disciplines, career trajectories, and life spaces. Students represented MA programs in liberal studies, urban education, international relations, biography & memoir, and doctoral programs in educational psychology, social welfare, English, sociology, urban education. We also had an ambitious student in an interdisciplinary undergraduate program. Some students were full-time students and came to the graduate class from full-time jobs in other professions. Tatiana Ades, herself a MALS student who also works at Borough of Manhattan Community college as an academic advisor in adult literacy, served as the Assisting Instructor in this course. Sixteen individuals. A myriad of backgrounds and life experiences. The course was structured as a student-centered, participatory, active learning class and “radical pedagogy” experiment. Professors planned the first half of the semester and then students worked in teams to choose the topics, focus, and method of presentation for the second half of the semester. We came together to think boldly and creatively about learning and transformation . . .
And then a pandemic hit.
As CUNY worked to put 275,000 students online in the course of a few weeks, we realized our course had changed—as had our lives. And yet, indelibly, we also held fast to our mission of educational transformation finding that, even in the impersonal and flawed online world of Zoom, our meetings helped us retain a sense of commitment and community amid a city in the throes of a health and financial disaster.
At this momentous time, our students were already designing the second-half of the course and worked to make their offerings as relevant, personal, and humanly engaging as possible. In one of the group presentations on “Mindfulness and Experiential Learning,” Dree-el Simmons suggested we share recipes. The class contributions moved us all. The intimacy of that exchange was deeply moving: Homey. Ancestral. Immediate. Tangible. Touching. Tasty. Real.
Once the actual class ended, Dree-el worked with Tatiana to preserve the recipes and reshape them into this book, We Eat. Dree-el also wrote the Introduction and Tatiana mastered the requirements of a Manifold open source publication and edited the collection. Thank you, Dree-el Simmons, for the idea, the inspiration, and everything you did to make an assignment into a book. Thank you, Tatiana Ades, for your leadership, wrangling, editing, and acumen.
Thank all of you in this class for your commitment to educational transformation and for sharing your stories. Thank you to all of you readers for your interest in this project. We hope you try out these recipes and savor our stories. In a tragic time, this project nourished us and we hope it nourishes you as well. And so . . . We eat.
The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, City University of New York
November 24, 2020
CLASS PROMPT: Please, share a favorite, personal recipe and tell us its story.
- If possible, provide a recipe that is part of your culture/heritage.
- Include a complete ingredient list and full preparation instructions – if possible.
- If you don’t cook, try and talk to your favorite family’s cook and see what you can come up with. (As a last resort, Google and find a recipe to post that intrigues you— and tell us why it does).
- Tell us something about your recipe: Is cooking something that you do? Is it something someone else does for you (which means we may not actually know a recipe)? How do you relate to ingredients— do you measure them or do it by feel, intuition, or habit? Is there a family story or experience or moment you want to share? Think about the emotional experience(s) that happen around food. How a taste, texture, smell, ingredient, etc. can remind you of or bring you back to a memory, experience, moment, lesson, feeling, representations, etc. What is the significance of the ingredients? What did it feel like to do this exercise?