Academic Matchmaking: Connections
[private]By Jenny Ortiz
As a Freeway Flyer, I interact with diverse student populations. It’s one of the reasons I love to campus hop. Since I started teaching at three different campuses, I’ve always wanted to have my different classes interact somehow. Of course it’d be much easier to have classes on the same campus connect, but what I wanted was to have students from one of my four-year institutions interact with students from my two-year institution. I wanted my traditional students to interact with the non-traditional students.
Last semester, my wish was granted! Students from all three campuses interacted both academically and socially. Simply having them in the same room was an accomplishment. Although this time around it wasn’t the entire class that participated, given the positive results, I hope to be able to set up a cross-campus assignment that will broaden my students’ thoughts and opinions.
My first cross-campus interaction was between an Adelphi University student and three of my LaGuardia Community College students. At Adelphi, I had my students write an eight-page paper using movies as a primary source. My Adelphi student decided to write a paper on war movies, but wanted to expand her research to include interviews by recent veterans. Given that I had three students at LaGuardia who had been in the military, I offered to set up a meeting between them. All parties agreed and the experience, for each of them, was enlightening. They were able to share their experiences not only about war and movies, but as students. They swapped stories about my assignments and all agreed I was a tough but fair and generous professor (Whew! What a relief.).
Watching them interact made me see that college truly brings people together. People who would never have interacted with each other in the real world are now swapping history and experiences. An eighteen-year-old freshman from Adelphi who went straight to college after high school was able to connect with a twenty-nine year-old student who spent years in the Air Force before college. By bringing these students together, I can create a community of students that extends across campuses.
In the end, my student not only wrote a wonderful paper, but also stayed in contact with the other students. She emailed them for follow-up questions and struck up friendships with all of them.
If this wasn’t promising enough, the same week my students at St. John’s University wanted to celebrate the end of semester with a pizza party. The problem was that we weren’t meeting on Friday. However, I was having an end of semester party with my LaGuardia students on Thursday night, so I invited my St. John’s class to the festivities. While the interaction wasn’t academic per say, I thought it would be good for both groups to meet.
Five of my students from St. John’s were able to attend, and they all easily interacted. They began, naturally, by comparing and contrasting their classes. They found that although the courses were different, many of the lectures overlapped. The LaGuardia students were curious to know the materials I had used. After discussing their courses, they moved onto their experiences as students. They quickly formed a mutual respect. When they first met each other there were stereotypes. That all disappeared within a few minutes. Food, laughter, and the idea that they are all working for a academic degree brought them together. Even the quietest students in my LaGaurdia class were chatting with the students from St. John’s.
Cross-campus interactions are possible and produce positive results. My students were all eager to meet up again, and asked me why I hadn’t brought them together sooner. I ask myself that same question. The experiment has proven positive and successful, and now I’m trying to figure out an easy way to get all my students from every campus involved with each other. Do you think cross campus interactions should be encouraged and what’s the best approach/method to get all these students together?
About the Freeway Flyer: Jenny Ortiz is a quite serious 23-year-old New Yorker, except when unicorns (specifically chubby unicorns) are involved. When she isn’t pleading with Kurt Sutter via Twitter to be her mentor, she is teaching at St. John’s University, Adelphi University, and LaGuardia Community College (see, quite serious). When she isn’t teaching, she’s hanging out with her friends showing off our earth and water bending skills (not serious, but super fun). When she is alone and it’s raining, she likes to read Haruki Murakami, or listen to the Broken Bells and daydream. If you want to be a fan, you can read Jenny’s work on fictionatwork.com, Blink-ink.com, Jersey Devil Press, dogeatcrow.com, Eighty Percent Magazine and InkSpill Magazine…or you can follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/jnylynn.[/private]