Cara O’Connor – work-in-progress

I will be aiming to create a poverty and humanities focus for three courses over the next few semesters, starting with this fall’s Intro to Philosophy (PHI 100 at BMCC), then with my spring 2022 Ethics course, and finally with a 200-level course I have been trying to design that focuses on food and philosophy. 

For this blog I will focus on the immediate concern, which is my fall course. Here is the syllabus for that course from last Spring

In truth, I really want to design an entirely new Intro to Philosophy. When I can do so, it will employ things I’m learning in this Institute in a different way. For now I am constrained to working with my course in its current form and making meaningful adjustments to that course.

There are two levels of change I think I can make in time for fall:

1(a) Reduce anything that might be experienced a busy work and (b) limit the tools online students are asked to use.

The reason for (1a) is because by keeping things simple, students might have more time to focus on the content of the course, and it might reduce anxiety in students who have insecure access to the internet and to devices with cameras.  1b) seems easy enough. Require Blackboard discussion boards but nothing extra, such as journals, online quizzes, blogs, or use of flipgrid. Luckily, the hybrid course I’ll be teaching is asynchronous + in person (on campus) so I can dispense with zoom for now (though I know I will need a backup plan in case in-person classes are delayed or cancelled this fall). 1a) is more tricky. The reason our students get so many assignments is in order to help them learn and get feedback throughout the semester, rather than cramming everything in at the end. If an assignment is optional it will not get done. I will be thinking about how to reduce the number of assignments without undoing the success I’ve had with scaffolding and with having many opportunities for assessment. (Advice is welcome!) 

The reason this relates to poverty is that a simpler course structure takes into account the fragmenting full-time work many of our students are doing, their care-giving responsibilities, and the many stresses of economic precarity. As someone (jean?) said in our meeting, this might follow what we call universal design. What helps students facing poverty can help any student. Right?

(2) Alter the guided reading questions and assignments, as well as some of the pacing of material, to bring in a chance for students to think philosophically about poverty.

My current idea is as follows (this will make sense if you look at the course calendar/syllabus but might be hard to make sense of just from the blog):

After students read West, Russell, Logic, and Socrates’ Apology I often have them watch a performance of Laches (on courage). I do this to give them a good example of the “socratic” method in action, since Apology is not a typical text. 

The change I’m considering is this:

For the readings by West, Russell, and for the Apology, I will alter some of my reading questions to bring more attention to ideas of the good life, class position, and the importance or unimportance of material goods, all subtopics and themes that are legible in these works. Then, once presented with Laches, students will be asked to do their first writing assignment, a “socratic” dialogue about poverty. 

Here’s a possible prompt for that assignment:

This assignment invites you to jump right in to the practice of philosophy-as-dialogue– not only with others, but dialogue with yourself.

We might say that we want ourselves or our children to be able to “escape” poverty or to be able to grow up in a world where they don’t face poverty. What is this condition of “poverty” that we find so troubling, unjust, bad, or frightening? Is poverty one kind of thing or many? Is wealth the opposite of poverty? What do we mean by wealth? Keeping in mind some of the conversations we’ve had about the good life and limiting our desires, as well as the conversations we’ve had about justice and fairness, write a dialogue in which you test out different ideas and concepts of poverty. Remember how Socrates does not arrive at a final answer about the meaning of Courage in Laches, but instead (Plato) uses dialogue in order to show how important it is to question the obvious. For this first assignment, you are not expected to arrive at a clear final answer (like Plato’s answer about what justice is in the Republic).

Socrates/Plato wanted to examine the concept of “manly” courage because that concept had a lot of sway in choices people made in ancient Athens. By opening up courage to questioning Socrates was able to create some potentially productive discomfort about military choices and the goals of elite education. Even though Socrates made his interlocutor confused, the point is not just to confuse oneself or others, it’s to reveal what needs clearing up. By using examples of things we apply a concept to, and ways we treat it as good or bad or neutral, we can hone in on what it is that our society is trying to DO with that concept, and what might be both the benefits and dangers of that process of making meaning. 

Having made that initial philosophical effort toward the beginning of the semester, we will proceed with many of the readings as-is, but with a difference in which parts of the readings I focus on and require. 

This is a *very* rough draft about how that might go (again, to be looked at alongside my Spring 2021 syllabus attached here). 

15-Week semester — rough draft

  1. Introduction, what is philosophy? West, Russell
  2. Philosophy as/and the good life, The Apology of Socrates and questioning our/their values
  3. Socratic Method — What is Courage? — and a Little Bit of Logic 
  4. Branches of Philosophy  (and work on essay 1) 
  5. Essay 1  — dialogue about poverty (and wealth) due, share papers and discuss
  6. Metaphysical beliefs/assumptions and the values they support – Plato and Truth; Epicurus and Pleasure/Happiness; Idealism and Materialism
  7. The Metaphysical problem of Time
  8. Time and Climate Change (and work on Essay 2) Scranton or another author
  9. Essay 2 – “Is time something we Have”? Students are asked to relate their own experience of time to philosophical problems not just in metaphysics but in ethics. 
  10. What are we trying to know, what kind of knowledge does Society need? What gets in the way of knowledge? (Plato’s theory of knowledge; Epicurus’ theory of knowledge as examples related to rationalism and empiricism) 
  11. Descartes, Hume, and Elisabeth (lecture with short excerpts assigned)
  12. Alison Jaggar and emotions as part of knowledge
  13. Patricia Hill Collins (make time to discuss ideas about welfare/race myths how they are perpetrated in the nexus of social science and popular media). Give students supplementary material on this (maybe this is a discussion board assignment) 
  14. Daniel Wildcat, Indigenous Knowledge 
  15. Final project – interview two people about their beliefs when it comes to poverty and time or poverty and knowledge and then to write a response paper about what they think of the two different sets of answers. 

Thank you for looking at this work-in-progress. Your feedback will be much appreciated!

Laurie Lomask – work-in-progress

1. For my Spanish creative writing class, I would like students to challenge conceptions and stereotypes about poverty (including their own). The assignment I am working on now is a reading of "Es que somos muy pobres" by Mexican writer Juan Rulfo. In this story the author describes the difficult choices an impoverished family has to make, though he only ever says they are poor in the title. I would like students to analyze what is said and not said in the story, and then write their own piece about a difficult decision without explicitly naming the circumstances. 
2. I am struggling with contextual materials for this piece. I have an interview with the author where he talks about how hard it is for people from Mexico to travel to any other country because of economic differences, as well as the role of literature, what is taboo, and other things. I also have a video about the Mexican Revolution that gives some idea about economic disparity in Mexico, especially in rural areas. But I am not sure if this is enough, or how to present it to students. This is the first time I am teaching this class. I feel like a lot of the discussion will depend if anyone in the class has a personal connection to Mexico, but at the same time I worry about those (relatively few) students becoming spokespeople for the country. 

Monica Foust – work-in-progress

Elements to Change: 

For this institute, I am focusing on my human development and child development courses. I have been thinking about how to integrate more resources that address lived experiences with poverty and systems that contribute to poverty. For now, maybe I could strive for one of each.  


I have been reviewing my course schedule to find places where it makes sense to incorporate these materials. This would most likely be within the 3rd or 4th week of classes and then after the midterm. 


In my development courses, I try to emphasize that development is complex and it is rarely a single factor that determines how we develop. In addition to using the materials as a way for some students to see their challenging experiences reflected in the course materials, I hope they also will see the strengths and protective factors they experienced being recognized and affirmed in the course. So often, poverty and poverty’s impact are discussed as sole determinants of individual outcomes and, while it is a pretty strong predictor of outcomes, it is not the only one. There are many intervening factors that we can look to. I also want to use readings to illustrate the systemic factors cause poverty and exacerbate the circumstances of those experiencing poverty. 


I can’t pinpoint a single need. The speakers and our discussions have given me so much to think about. So, let’s keep doing that! I also appreciate when folks share the strategies and resources they’ve used (that’s how I got some items on my list).

Extra bits: 

I’m also rethinking how I structure my course–partly because I’m starting to rely more on OpenLab so I can think more flexibly/creatively about what students produce to show their thinking. As a result of my participation in the institute, I’ve also been thinking of ways I could structure my course so that the course structure is not yet another barrier that students experiencing poverty face as they try to learn and attain their academic credentials. We’ve discussed (and I for a long time have been thinking about) how college is not set up for our students (many of whom have full-time jobs and families and long commutes and other challenges). I’m trying to re-envision the college classroom experience and create one that is not only built for individuals who are full-time students and don’t have other demands and challenges. 

Some of the materials mentioned by other fellows and on the website are:


Hillbilly Elegy   

The Florida Project


Wendy & Lucy

Learning Affect (Ramos-Zayas) 

Poorly Understood (Rank)

Capital City (Stein)

Homeless in College (Tai)

Elizabeth Porter – work-in-progress

I will be incorporating material from our Summer Institute into two of the courses I will be teaching in Fall 2021.

WGS 100: Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies

Course description:

An interdisciplinary course that draws on literature, psychology, science, economics, and feminist theory, Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies examines cultural assumptions about gender, promoting new ways for students to look at the construction of knowledge from feminist perspectives. Assignments emphasize diverse experiences across gender, race, religion, cultures and economic class; masculinity studies and sexuality studies. Topics include: representation of woman in myth and symbols; historical, cultural and economic sources of gender oppression; history of women’s movements; depiction of gender in the media; gender and sexuality. At the end of the course, students will be able to discuss from a theoretical and personal standpoint how and why gender shapes nearly all aspects of life. In addition, students will gain an understanding of women’s and gender studies, and masculinity studies: their evolution, current debates within the fields, and their application to other fields of study. 

This course has been designated “Writing Intensive (WI)” by Hostos Community College. The requirements include both formal (graded) and informal (non-graded) writing assignments. Both kinds of writing must be done in order to satisfactorily complete the course.

Writing Assignments:

In the Institute thus far, we have discussed the kinds of embodied knowledge we bring to our learning based on the on the intersections of our different subject positions and experiences. In the first formal writing assignment, I ask students to consider the “gender lessons” they have imbibed from various sources (assignment below).

Based on conversations in a small group activity, and some broader discussions with colleagues outside of the Institute, I plan to assign an informal (ungraded) writing activity where students list different aspects of their identity (where they were born, where they live currently, what languages they speak, what kinds of family roles they occupy, and other identities such as religion or identity). They will do some free writing reflecting on how these identity positions inform their thinking in different areas (such as education, family, and civic participation, for instance). Finally, they will write about how these identity positions might inform their participation in the class and their views on gender. I will make clear that students should not feel obligated to disclose any information about themselves that they do not wish to share.

Here are the directions for the formal assignment:

Gender Lessons Essay

We all receive “gender lessons” from the time we’re born. These lessons come to us from family members, from religious leaders, from our teachers, from peers, from gifts we receive throughout our lives, and from the media. These lessons typically involve how we should talk or not talk, in what activities we should or should not participate, what behaviors are considered gender-appropriate, how to dress, how to sit and walk, how to joke, what to wear, what decisions we make about our sexuality, what goals we set for ourselves, work-wise and family-wise. 

Basing your analysis on your personal experiences and the readings/videos we have discussed over the past few weeks, you will write a 3-4-page paper that reflects on what you have been taught and considers what you have been learning and what you still wish to learn.

  • Your thesis statement (at the end of your intro paragraph) should make a claim that captures what you have learned and what you still wish to learn about gender roles. 
  • Your first set of body paragraphs should focus on specific examples of lessons you have learned in your life about gender. Make sure to weigh in on what aspects of these lessons you find helpful and which of them you might want to criticize or rethink. Feel free to use the “I” when thinking about your own experiences (see handouts on summary versus analysis and the MEAL plan for help in constructing your response).
  • Your next set of body paragraphs should address what you have been learning in this course so far. Make sure to provide a balance of summary and analysis when referring to two of our readings/viewings. Think about what you have learned about gender and what specifically has resonated with you. **Make sure to include quotations with appropriate citations to support your points with evidence.**
  • Finally, in a body paragraph or two, think about one or two “lessons” you have learned through life and through the last few weeks that you have found helpful and want to learn more about. Also, identify a few “lessons” that you have reexamined—and perhaps might reject. 
  • End with a short conclusion that looks to the future and identifies a few areas in women and gender studies that you are interested in exploring. You might consider looking ahead at the upcoming readings and assignments in this class to get ideas.

Reading Assignments

Based on our reading assignments and presentations, I am adding some reading assignments to specific units (added readings are starred).

To complement Audre Lorde’s “Poetry is Not a Luxury”: **Select poems from Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X

To complement a series of readings from bell hooks: “Homeplace” by bell hooks

I will also include some evocative screenshots from Twitter to enhance our discussions:

For my ENG 110 (Expository Writing) course:

I am thinking about ways to integrate Dr. Jennifer Morton’s work on code-switching and pessimism traps into activities set up over the first few weeks that discuss the college experience. So much of the class is structured around the recursive process of writing, and one of the takeaways is that learning is process-based. We talk about the internal and external barriers to learning that can make a first-year writing course especially challenging.

Additionally, The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois is on the syllabus, so the resources from Topic 2 will be useful as we read and discuss this text (and I’m grateful to have learned about the free audiobook version).

Sangeeta Bishop – work-in-progress

I will be teaching Feminist and Gender Economics in Spring 2022

The course description is as below, and the outline of topics and readings is here:

Course Outline and Readings

Course Description

Feminist economics critically analyzes both economic theory and economic life through the lens of gender and advocates various forms of feminist economic transformation. The objective is to retain and improve economic analysis by ridding the discipline of the biases created by the centrality of distinctively masculine concerns. We will look at feminist critiques of, and alternatives to, mainstream economics methodology and view of “economic man,” the firm, and the economy itself. Other themes in the course will be racial-ethnic, class, and country differences among women.

In my course each module tries to have a mix of humanities and non-humanities readings, each has a film that we watch and discuss. 

There is a module on Poverty and Welfare specifically in Week 12.What I am looking for is perhaps to add some more specifically humanities readings whether in this module or in others. 

Also, most of the modules and topics can be enriched and looked at through the lens of poverty, though I am wary of (a) reducing all feminist issues to being poor; and (b) having women become the face of poverty.  With these caveats in mind, I look forward to everyone’s input.

In Fall 2021, I will be teaching a section of Macroeconomics for honors students

That actually makes me more excited because I will be able to experiment more without freaking out the students. 😊  So that by the time I teach a section of regular macroeconomics I will have refined the reading list. 

Here are some texts/readings/options that I am considering for this course.

  • We begin with a discussion on Scarcity. This would a perfect point to bring in a discussion of scarcity as related to poverty/class/inequality.  Need to find a film.
  • In the discussion on the Great Depression, I plan to use the picture/story of the migrant mother.
  • In the discussion on the New Deal, I plan to use a reading from Ira Katznelson’s book.
  • I plan to have the students watch the documentary Capital – related to Picketty’s book Capital in the 21st Century and use that as a basis for discussions around poverty in capitalism.

That’s as far as I have reached for this course.  Looking forward to input from my faculty fellows. 

Nicolle Fernandes – work-in-progress


Course: SCN 240 Food and CultureNote: this is designated a writing intensive course.

Since the course is offered by the Nutrition and Culinary Management Program within the Health Sciences Dept. at LaGuardia Community College, I would like to examine poverty through the food insecurity and food justice/policy lens.

Step 1

Introduce poverty, maybe offer two to three scenarios or divide the class into groups and each reviews one of the following listed below. 

What Hunger feels like: []

The vulture and the little girl []

Stories of four Americans: []

Play the poverty simulation game []

Have students write a reflection describing their thoughts, reactions, feelings, and choices they made if they played the game.

Step 2

Instructor asks a representative from each group to share thoughts with the class to wrap up step 1. Then engages in a presentation/class discussion on definitions of poverty, food insecurity, food justice/policy. 

Discussion to include Farm bill, Food waste, sustainable agriculture, etc.

Student-led listing of ways to supporting food security followed by instructor providing remaining programs/projects especially in NYC–see NYC Food Metrics report.

Step 3

Think-Pair-Share “Do you think volunteers can help solve the hunger problem?”Segue into Food policy/Food justice

Sources for Instructor presentation: []         

Pendegrass (2019) Introduction to the symposium: rethinking food system transformation—food sovereignty, agroecology, food justice, community action and scholarship.·         

Reiley, Laura. “The health and climate consequences of the American food system cost three times as much as the food itself.” Washington Post, 16 July 2021, p. NA. Gale Academic OneFile. Accessed 25 July 2021 file:///C:/Users/C246_S27/Downloads/The_health_and_climate_consequ.pdf·         

The Impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity in 2020 & 2021. []·         

NYC Office of Food Policy []         

Food Policy Report 2020. []

Pre and Post survey evaluating student’s understanding of poverty, food insecurity, food justice/policy-related content.

Bijoyeta Sahoriya Das – work-in-progress

I will be teaching ENG 274 Non-fiction writing in Fall, which is part of the Journalism Option in the English Department.

Course Descriptions (Official)

This course introduces students to creative non-fiction writing, writing that uses true events for literary effect. In writing and revising creative non-fiction, students will learn and practice a variety of forms, including personal essay, memoir, literary journalism (or narrative non-fiction), and biography. Students will work to improve their technique and develop individual voices but will also work in groups to discuss ways to improve their work. They will read works by published authors and will also learn how to submit their own work for publication.

My goal/Incorporating new elements post-Voicing Poverty Institute:

  • 1. I will introduce the theme of cross-border migration with a focus on the US.
  • 2. Instead of focusing on the immigration policies of the US and its response to the migrant influx, I will focus on the poverty as a cause of the exodus from Latin America.
  • 3. With this purpose I will introduce students to both literary and journalistic works and multimedia work that focuses on migration as a form but investigates the role of poverty in South America.
  • 4. Students will connect with texts, films and interview primary sources including experts on Latin America as well as immigrants in America.
  • 5. Students will write reported, researched and creative essays about these explorations and meditations.


1. Open Veins of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano 

2. Enrique’s Journey, Sonia Nazario

3. Multimedia: New American Story Project:

4. Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul 

5. Left Behind, Sebastian Edwards 

Angela Ridinger-Dotterman – work-in-progress

I’m currently thinking about including a poverty/humanities focus in two classes that I teach, Early American Literature (ENGL 215) and Introduction to Composition (ENGL 101).

I think that for me, one of the challenges of teaching early American literature for many years was getting students excited about the texts, which seemed historically distant in tone and content compared to the contemporary texts they encounter in English 215 (which is mostly 20th and 21st century in its focus).  However, over the past couple of years, the texts that are typically taught in an American literature survey course have become easy to connect to contemporary political debates:  The 1619 Project/CRT, the 1776 Commission, the debates over public monuments, and even BLM and #MeToo have provided new opportunities to engage students in conversations about early American literature and culture.  

Over the past couple of semesters, I have asked students to engage in various writing assignments that draw connections between past and present, and will continue to do so this fall (sample assignments attached: past-is-prologue and essay 1 ). 

I am also engaging my students in the greater questions about authority, culture-making, and canon by engaging them in a collaborative editing project that invites them to create an OER American literature anthology edited by and for urban community college students (starting this fall; unless it’s a total disaster, this will be an ongoing project).   Of course, such a project engages with various issues of authorship, access, and economic valuing of one’s work (issues that I struggle with in my own complicated feelings about the benefits of OER vs. the devaluing of intellectual property and economic support for the humanities).  

So, I’m going to be looking for ways to deepen this discussion.  The Topic 2 readings provided some really good resources for deepening and complicating the connection between race and poverty.  I don’t typically ask students to consider what happens between the early American period and the present, and while I can’t do that for every text in the course, it occurs to me that I can do it substantively at least in relation to race and sex. 

One really accessible resource that I have used in the past, but will rely on more substantively, is Aaron Huey’s TED Talk America’s Native Prisoners of War:

I actually use this text in English 101 as well, in connection with Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, to discuss poverty and cultural destruction (in 101, I also find the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center archives and the artist Cannupa Hanska Luger’s site great resources, though less obviously connected to poverty than cultural destruction and cultural resistance).  

The challenge in this is locating accessible (and, frankly, short) critical/non-fiction resources to help students develop context WITHOUT SHORTCHANGING the literary texts (and instruction in reading them as literary texts).  Suggestions to help develop those connections, particularly in relation to sex/poverty would be especially helpful. 

In English 101, I am currently thinking about ways to incorporate poverty in connection to John Lewis’s March.  The English Department at QCC is trying a common reading this fall focusing on John Lewis’s March, which didn’t sound especially difficult when I agreed to participate, but after realizing that it’s just Volume 1, and how little of Lewis’s engagement with the movement is developed in Volume 1, I’ve been trying to figure out how to work with that in a way that will be meaningful to students in the context of an English 101 class.  The Topic 2 presentations gave me a better way for thinking about how to center race, poverty, education, and citizenship in relation to Lewis’s early years, in ways that will be meaningful and accessible to the students. 

I can envision some framing from Dr. Katznelson’s book helping to inform my presentation of the material, but I have concerns about its accessibility for students. 

Ideally, I’d like to find some digital archival materials that I can draw on to help make these connections clear to my students, while also engaging their own critical reading skills.  

Millicent Freeman – work-in-progress

Module 3:  The Impact of Gentrification

Change to cities, neighborhoods, and communities is inevitable—however, with the latest tide of change, many communities are experiencing gentrification.  During gentrification, poorer communities are commonly converted to high-end neighborhoods with expensive housing options such as high-rises and condominiums.

As property prices increase, the original residents of the neighborhood are forced out in a variety of ways. Gentrification occurs when “communities experience an influx of capital and concomitant goods and services in locales where those resources were previously non-existent or denied.”

Learning objectives: Understand the impact of urban renewal/gentrification can impact the lives of residents,

  1. Explain how it looks in your community
  2. Review articles from The Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy.  
  3. Understand the impact of residential displacement impacts the lives of all residents.
  4. Demonstrate how to locate community profile data and interpret those data.
  5. Explain how poverty affects health and educational attainment

Question: What would it look like for all people in your city or community to flourish? Can everyone thrive equally and safely?

Reading Assignment(s)

Emily Chong, Examining the Negative Impacts of Gentrification Sept, 2017

Evans, G. W., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Klebanov, P. K. (2011, winter). Stressing out the poor: Chronic physiological stress and the income-achievement gapPathways: A Magazine on Poverty, Inequality, and Social Policy, 16–21.

Select articles from The Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy

Adele Kudish – work-in-progress

As an English professor, I have long appreciated the importance of teaching the humanities in my college courses, and have encouraged students to engage with literary works so as to better understand themselves and the world around them. But it is true that many literature professors, myself included, do not systematically attend to the topic of poverty in these courses, although it is found in literary texts from around the world and throughout literary history.
I have been shy to talk about poverty in my courses; money is such a taboo topic. While “class” frequently comes up as a subject, I realized that in the past I had somehow dissected poverty out of the conversation, focusing either on “labor”—and somehow leaving money out of it—or on the wealthy end of the class discussion. Moreover, institutionally and culturally, we have been encouraged and supported to address issues of race and gender, but less so class in recent years.
At the same time, I am professionally interested in the question of money in literature. I have been working on a book project that for a time I vaguely referred to as being about “women and money,” but which now has been narrowed down to an investigation of the literary representations of women working on the margins (and yet the center) of the fashion and garment industries, as seamstresses, piece workers, textile workers, models, and saleswomen, and they ways in which they are depicted in late 19th and early 20th century novels and short stories as both producers of commodities and as consumers. It turns out that literary works are not actually that reluctant to discuss money. Balance sheets, receipts, and invoices are often present in realist fiction, and they are often about the production or acquisition of fabric and clothing.
I would like to work on integrating some of this research into the syllabus for my special topics elective, “Literature and Fashion” (English 350). 
I want to do this in two ways: first, through (re)framing poverty with my students in fictional or poetry texts that I already teach (e.g. The Ladies’ Paradise, The House of Mirth, The Overcoat, “The Sundays of Satin Legs Smith,” etc.), and second, through the integration of more non-fiction texts (historical documents or philosophy treatises, for example—I do already teach some sociology and history articles, but as stand-alone texts) that I would pair with the literary texts. 
I am still trying to concretize the second part of this, in which I use the non-fiction humanities text in conjunction with the literary, but I definitely think that more contextualization of the literary works would make for a richer experience in the course for my students and myself.