Author Archives: Sarah Ryan

Posts: 4 (archived below)
Comments: 2

Baruch at its best – on YouTube!

It’s December 22nd and you’re up to your ears in grading (right?) The good, the bad, the 4-and-a-half paragraph essay revealing a student’s ability to resell her textbook in “perfect” condition on Amazon… It’s that time of year again. But this year has a new twist…

Kyra Gaunt and her Anthro 1001 class created a video that reminded me why I love our students (even when they don’t remember the difference between a change agent and an opinion leader on an exam)…

The subject of the soon-to-be-viral video is “What can $199US buy?” The goal is to get other faculty and students on-board to raise money for children who need it. The 4-minute video is beautifully assembled and features a typical class of Baruch students – hailing from Cote d’Ivoire to the Philippines.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

You’ll learn where $199 can buy building materials for four houses (hint: it’s not Florida, though I hear you can buy four houses…) and what you and your students can do to experience the “priceless” joy of “giving a child access to the world.”

Once you’ve watched the video, you can…

1. Engage this semester’s students in the project – send the video link around as you distribute grades (OK – maybe only with the good grades), forward it to your favorite student club leaders, etc.

2. Get involved as an individual – donate yourself, forward the video to colleagues, give to your favorite charity to celebrate whatever holiday you celebrate (or to celebrate not having to celebrate holidays at all!)

3. Plan for next semester – Kyra and her students want the spirit of giving continue. What better way to get our students thinking about the value of their own educations than to encourage them to “give back” to less privileged individuals!

4. Talk to your colleagues – Many of us have favorite educational charities (not surprisingly, mine are in Rwanda!). Follow Kyra’s lead and engage your colleagues in the same sorts of discussions about what $199 buys… What a great way to start the New Year!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Inter-disciplinary Teaching: A Novel Approach

Last week I attended an inspirational presentation by two members of our faculty. Christina Christoforatou specializes in Medieval manuscripts, Karen Freedman in abstract design. Together, they are rocking the worlds of their Learning Communities students – teaching abstract thinking and expression through English, Graphic Design, and “tours” to modern art installations.

Christoforatou and Freedman have achieved an inter-disciplinary collaboration that eludes most of us – even those of us charged to collaborate by the mission of the Learning Communities program. Most of us try, but cross-disciplinary course coordination is tough. It’s difficult to pick up a new discipline over the summer. But Christoforatou and Freedman have discovered another way to coordinate their courses, and neither had to train in the other’s specialty. In fact, their approach embraced the differences among their disciplines even as it reinforced particular ways of thinking and doing. So, how did they do it?


Posted in Students' Skills and Abilities, Teaching Large Classes, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Viral Video, Donor Dollars, and Academic Integrity: Poor Students versus Freedom of Speech?

This summer, two of my colleagues became the subject of a YouTube viral video. Maybe you heard about the swearing, pants-dropping debate coaches (well, only one dropped his drawers) videotaped (with their consent) at the national cross-examination debate tournament… It was quite a spectacle. Since then, the video has been taken down, the debate association has issued a statement, the mooner was fired (purportedly, for years of questionable conduct) and the other young coach sanctioned by her University. YouTube consumers have moved on to fresher fodder. Yet, as midterms approach, new “angry professor” videos are likely to surface – momentary catharsis for undergrads trapped in fill-in-the-blank purgatory. No college is immune from this new virus…


Though colleges have had to manage external criticism in the past, the viral video phenomenon is a different beast. Consider the issues our campus faced a couple of years ago with the fresh(wo)man text War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning…(New York Sun article: “Baruch Requires Students Read Book Some Are Labeling Anti-Semitic“).

Though the issue received prominent attention in the print press, the back-and-forth was short-lived, the college had time to craft a response (i.e., freedom of speech), and the exchange was largely print-based. The story reached thousands – not millions. The story lacked compelling oral and visual content (e.g., yelling, crying – mooning). It paled in comparison to the storm surrounding the viral debate video (e.g., print and television stories, a rumored Chronicle investigation, a 100% funding cut for one program and potentially related cuts at other colleges). Comparatively, the War controversy was tame. Importantly, it did not result in financial fallout…


College costs are rising, tax levy and financial aid moneys are in flux, and increasingly we need donor/investor money to bridge the gaps. Their money enables poor, working, and middle class students to enjoy the privilege of post-secondary education (aside: thank you for subsidizing my B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. Ohio/national taxpayers!) If they respond to controversy by curtailing their support, students can be deprived of programs, perspectives, professors… To the extent that most students cannot afford the “true” costs of their schooling (i.e., a 100% tuition-funded institution…), we have to consider/manage how their underwriters perceive our campus. Viral video makes us more vulnerable… financially and intellectually…


Posted in Assessing Learning, Learning Goals and Objectives, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Viral Video, Donor Dollars, and Academic Integrity: Poor Students versus Freedom of Speech?

Of Legos and Sock Puppets – Knowing When to Go Low-tech

My first-year students find Plato’s The Republic daunting – especially the part of the book that requires sewing. My M.P.A. students claim that creating nonprofit organizations is difficult – when another group has taken all of the yellow legos. Deprived of their i-whatevers and Power-thingies, my students reluctantly admit to the joys of low-tech learning semester after semester. What is it about toys and tactility…?

I’m no luddite, really. I willingly volunteered to blog about teaching. I check my e-mail frequently. I occasionally carry the cell phone my friends bought me… and as a rhetorician, I appreciate the deliciously rich communicative context of this and other e-exchanges. But there is something curiously wonderful about pretending that a tiny piece of molded plastic is “grass” or “brick” or learning where the thread goes to make a needle sew (i.e., the first question I get every time my PUB 1250 students make sock puppets for our productions of the Allegory of the Cave).

As we embark on this exchange about teaching, my inner-laggard could not resist the opportunity to invite ironic participants to engage in a discussion of low or no-tech teaching methods under the “Using Technology” heading. So, fellow “dancing animals” (a shout-out to Vonnegut), what sorts of low technology thrills you and engages your students? And if you expertly code-switch between the worlds of wired and unplugged, how do you decide when to engage electricity and when not to flip the switch?

For how and why I incorporate low-tech teaching into my courses, read more…


Posted in Using Technology | 5 Comments