If I had to describe my experience with the Mellon LaGuardia Humanities Scholars Program in fall 2018 in one word, it would be empowering.
As a LaGuardia student majoring in English-Spanish translation, I have always been a student of the Humanities, however, my idea of the Humanities was confined to classes related to literature and social sciences. In my eyes, the Humanities did not add any practicality to my day to day life; but were only romantic, abstract ideas of certain topics in academia. The LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Alliance Scholars Program is designed to deepen students’ understanding of the Humanities and to help them create a personal project of interest within a field of the Humanities.
To aid in this understanding of the Humanities, the program also included various cultural enrichment activities. I attended various Broadway shows and even had the opportunity to experience opera singer Andrea Bocelli in concert at Lincoln Center. The program also provided me with MetroCards and a stipend for my continued participation.
During our biweekly meetings, we would have different types of workshops, ranging from career preparation, to public speaking, and even panels on select topics in the humanities, including social justice. This time would also be spent even developing our projects with our faculty mentors from LaGuardia and the CUNY Graduate Center, all while enjoying a delicious meal.
As a LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholar, my project centered on the way LaGuardia students learn a language, and the researching of strategies and methods to learn multiple languages at the same time. Part of my research consisted of conducting a student focus group to learn about the possible difficulties, both on and off campus, that LaGuardia students who are not native English speakers face in expressing themselves.
I owe part of my success with my project to the support that I had from my mentors in the program, but also to the support of the staff at the Center for Teaching and Learning. They shared valuable insights with me from their own personal and professional experiences.
I learned from our conversations, and the empathetic practices that they have used in their work with students who are non-native speakers of English who have encountered similar challenges around language and communication to myself and my peers. My mentors shared strategies with me to not only help other LaGuardia students, but to help me understand how to navigate these challenges while also growing in confidence as a language learner.
At the end of the program, when I had finished my project I felt more human, more compassionate, empathetic and understanding.
The Humanities were no longer letters inscribed in old books to me, but had become a practical tool of successfully engaging with and relating to those around me. I learned to listen and observe better and to make sure that my actions would also reflect that. I learned to admire differences with others; and to use these differences as an opportunity to have healthy discussions, and build bridges across different perspectives.
Through the Mellon Humanities Alliance Program, I have gained ears to hear the many stories around me and acknowledge the power in them and not regard them as mere noise, lips to advocate for those who are yet to find the strength to do it for themselves, eyes to see the beauty in people’s progress and success, and a heart that empathizes with everybody’s journey.