Kennesaw State’s Learning Communities program, housed in the Department of First-Year and Transition Studies, is a nationally recognized, award-winning program that fosters learning, campus life and civic engagement, and camaraderie among freshman entering the KSU community.
What is a Learning Community? “A learning community is 20-25 first-semester students who co-enroll in two or more courses that are linked together with a common theme. Some learning communities are for specific academic majors, such as business, nursing, education, or dance. Other learning communities are suitable for a variety of majors and carry themes ranging from “green” living, to social justice, to gender studies and more. The courses in learning communities count toward university degree requirements and are taught by faculty dedicated to helping new students achieve academic success.”
This fall semester, I had the opportunity to teach in a learning community of all women with the theme of “Girl Talk.” In this learning community, all the student enrolled took KSU 1101 (Freshman Seminar with Dr. Hillary Steiner), English 1101 (Composition 1101 we me), and Psychology 1101 (Intro to Psychology with Dr. Gail Scott). In this community, our primary focus was to discuss women’s issues both here in the United States and abroad, but we had a special interest focus on women’s issues in India. As part of the learning community, the students participated in a service learning project in which they raised funds for the Sneha Women’s Shelter in Calcutta that is spearheaded by SANLAAP, a feminist organization with the mission to “make this world a safer place for women and children by protecting their rights.” The young women in the Girl Talk community worked hard for this important cause and raised $869.55 for the women of India this semester.
Teaching in this learning community has been a learning and growing experience for not only these young women, but for me as well. It was an inspiration to see these women develop a compassion and deep empathy for the women of world as we learned about the dangers of being born a woman in India today, in the 21st century. It was unfathomable to many that women and children are still faced with such inhuman conditions in this world today, but it was also a great opportunity for them to see how they themselves could make a difference by raising awareness in their own communities, and by also thinking critically about the problems women face not only in other parts of the world, but also right here in our own communities, schools, and homes.
I am proud of the work my students accomplished this semester as we discussed many important issues that women face today including the negative impact of media on body image and self-esteem, depression and abuse, and the realities of rape culture in both India and our own United States.
For my part of the learning community, in order to facilitate a better understanding of women’s issues in India, I integrated articles and videos for the students to read and view for each unit and asked that they create a public service announcement about SANLAAP and the women’s shelter towards the end of the semester.
In our first unit, the students were asked to write a Narrative Essay that addressed an issue that they faced, “Growing up Girl.” For this assignment, I had the students read an article from The Atlantic, “As a Girl in India, I Learned to Be Afraid of Men,” by Mira Kamdar (Jan 4, 2013). This poignant essay is an excellent of narrative writing for the purpose of raising awareness of important social issues.
For our second unit, I created a Girl Talk Facebook page where I could post articles and videos that related to women’s issues, and also provide a simple platform for the students to also post and comment and create a dialogue in a familiar social media platform. On the Facebook page, I also posted the BBC documentary, “India: A Dangerous Place to Be a Woman,” and asked the students watch and respond. Of all the efforts I put forth to educate these young women about women’s issues in India, I think this film had the most impact.
In our third unit, each student produced a one minute PSA to raise awareness about women’s issues in India and the efforts of the SANLAAP shelter in Calcutta. These short videos the students produced were phenomenal and do an excellent job of demonstrating the impact this subject matter had on these young women at Kennesaw. I chose my five favorites to be displayed at the First Annual Learning Communities Showcase in November and these videos can be seen at my YouTube playlist for this event.
For our final unit, the students created videos that addressed different issues women face all over the world. These amazing videos can also be found on my YouTube Channel.