I teach writing courses that focus on issues related to race and social class. On occasion, I also teach African-American literature in undergraduate and graduate courses. The content in these courses is often difficult but necessary in helping students understand how underrepresented people write about themselves and their families in American society.
As I conceive of these courses and when I am actively teaching them, my hope is that I am helping to transform my students’ perception of the world around them both figuratively and literally. In other words, transformational means that the writers we read in class are transforming anxious feelings or removing textual or physical distance from individuals who are members of underrepresented groups they have had little interaction with before they arrived on Baylor’s campus.
Students tell me, “Dr. Pittman, I have never heard of that writer or activist before.” Sometimes this is the voting rights activist Fannie
Lou Hamer or the first African-American female ordained Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray. After hearing this, not boastfully but reflectively, I tell myself I am involving my students in a process of active learning that will hopefully influence their reading and civic choices in the future.
Baylor prides itself on its commitment to undergraduate education and I am excited that with Illuminate undergraduate education remains a priority. Many of our wonderful students will not go on to professional schools or to obtain advanced degrees. I say this not as a pejorative sentiment. I mean only to say it is important to continue to invest our energies in undergraduate students who come to us eager to learn and to leave with the skills they need to be productive workers and citizens in the world.“We need well-educated undergraduate students out in the world making informed decisions.”
For me, my hope is that this is actualized in the kind of readings I assign and in the assignments I design in writing my courses. They are meant to help students understand the transformational power of the spoken and written word not only from the writers we read but also from them as speakers and writers.
We need well-educated undergraduate students out in the world making informed decisions. Continuing to focus on undergraduate education can help ensure we send self-assured, civic-minded critical thinkers out into the global marketplace.
Not many universities can say that a faith-based approach to transformational education is an essential part of their mission. Here at Baylor, my faith practice, which is rooted in social justice, can be and is an expressive part of the way I design courses and the content
I appreciate a platform that gives students opportunities to engage with professors whose scholarship and teaching wrestle with the complexities of the human experience as it relates to faith and their own pedagogical practices. I applaud Baylor’s unique approach to educating all students at Baylor who come here seeking a holistic and rigorous education that values the individual experiences of each of them.