Notes on T.J. English (Fall 2023 Student Conference)
Last week the School of Arts and Humanities put together the second ATLAS Student Conference, a scholarly-focused symposium featuring Liberal Arts faculty members, a selected guest speaker, and our amazing students at Lehman College.
ATLAS (Anchored in the Liberal Arts) is a literary initiative that has been running at Lehman for the last couple of years, supported by the generous help from The Teagle Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
The program offers an extensive list of transformative texts both present in our Liberal Arts courses and other material ready to be included in future classes for the next generations of lecturers, professors, and upcoming undergraduate college students.
This year the ATLAS program team (led by professors Beck, Burns, and Maybee) has planned two successful Student Conferences, which allowed students to present their reflections on the literary material they’ve come across throughout their semester and research conducted with the help of their professors.
These conferences hold a great deal of significance for faculty as well, by building up academic camaraderie and exchanging fresh pedagogical perspectives.
Majority of the students who interact with any ATLAS course offered at Lehman are transfer students, mainly members of the Latinx and BIPOC communities. According to the latest records, Lehman serves up to 60% of its student popularity made of transfer students. Along with other types of students like international or non-native English speakers take a longer time to adjust to the eclectic Lehman environment, full of opportunities and academic avenues woth exploring. The major intent that makes the ATLAS program and its courses is to share with students impactful, rich, and diverse texts able to transform their lives.
Not only students seem to enjoy and learn from the proposed texts, but they also feel much more connected with the material presented in the classroom and appreciative of the professors who cater to their scholarship.
These texts are particularly transformative in the sense that their content reveals remarkable values tht run in the veins of the students. Through these novels, poems, movies, and manifestos students’ experience are seen and felt.
In the spirit of civic engagement and self-discovery, the ATLAS program speaks to both students eager to learn about themselves through the Liberal arts and faculty open to engage with relevant texts and contemporary everlasting themes, such as (but not limited to!) the meaning of life (Philosophy), multicultural speaking (latin American Studies), the significance of love through literature (English), the importance of ancestrial heritage (Africana Studies), and many more groundbreaking topics.
The power of the Liberal Arts is rooted in its transformative connection between the communal and personal experiences that a piece of media (books, movies, music, etc.) evokes in an individual. A transformative text “shapes the way you see the world and how you feel the world,” as our most recent guest speaker T.J. English (Honorary Doctorate Degree of Letters from Lehman College, 2021) cared to share with us Lehman faculty and students. Author of several non-fiction books, T.J. English was awarded with the Global Impact Award (2019) for its extraordinary literary and journalistic endeavors. having T.J. English at our STLAS Student Conference was an incredible achievement that sparked vivid interest from students to faculty. The same way T.J. English has been fascinated by the aura and work of Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground, etc.), the students who engaged with their ATLAS material through their designated class had the chance to be inspired and share their learning with an audience of scholars. From Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa to Capitalism by Eric Williams, students presented their experience in engaging with these texts and how much they meant to their personal development. Students’ growth as scholars is a transformative experience not only for them, but a very much invigorating sight for the faculty and team of educators that make Lehman such an innovative hud of knowledge.