Spring Notes from Faculty and Staff
Missed my colleagues—short chats in the hallways, conversations professional and personal in our offices, missed greetings with hugs, smiles, and joking around with staff at the front desk, and the occasional lunches or dinner in the neighborhood. Post-pandemic, I look forward to catching up on what people read, wrote, viewed, and how each one managed to survive the isolation. I want to know what my colleagues and friends learned, created, and the adventures they took. And I miss “critical drinking” at Brooks 1890.
Joni Schwartz-Chaney, Humanities
The beginning of the semester is my favorite time at LaGuardia. Being in the Library with students again after two years, even if it’s fewer than we hoped for, is motivating. I spent three hours at the reference desk on a recent Wednesday and welcomed that familiar fatigue. Meeting new and returning students, barely time to collect my thoughts. But I feel deep sympathy for these students, struggling to navigate physical and digital spaces. I always turn to music for comfort, now more than ever. No music has delighted more recently than Inokasira Rangers’ album Rangers Patrol 1977-1982 UK! A contemporary band from Japan playing Jamaican ska-inspired versions of British punk. If the kids are united, we’ll never be divided!
Ian McDermott, Library
Perhaps first how I feel—
Sadness mixed with pride. That busy, constructive time before and the time of fear and waiting, of adapting, of treating each black box as a person during—they are both over. I’ve changed.
What I look forward to?
The things that do not change and the things that are always new.
The awkward silence before students begin to speak in groups and their excitement as they present what they’ve discovered.
Walking toward the subway on my way home, proud of our collective authenticity,
the sound of birds—
Lucy McNair, English
Thinking back to 2020 and 2021, and acknowledging the second anniversary of the pandemic, I think about the people most impacted and affected by the catastrophe the pandemic caused. As we grappled to comprehend the “what and the how,” I would like to see spring at LaGuardia focus on the most vulnerable and most affected in our society: women. I look forward to conversations about challenges and opportunities; hope in managing post-traumatic stress; strategies to care for ourselves. We recognize the intergenerational trauma and the need for healing in our communities; I want to be part of those working to enact trauma-informed care and providing wellness tools for healing ourselves and those who come through our doors.
M’Shell Patterson, Workforce Development, ACE
What I am looking forward to the most this Spring is that the college commits to the lessons and creativity of universal design and supportive technology innovations invested in students, faculty and staff during the pandemic. We learned about our students’ lack of technology and their struggles to sustain the everyday economics of going to classes and completing assignments. This should not be seen as a product of our times but rather as a vision; giving all students the equal opportunity they deserve in pursuing and achieving their academic goals.
Matthew Joffe, The Wellness Center
The thing about departures is that they bring new meaning to memories you never knew you held so close. To me, being back on campus means walking again through the hall of flags, and remembering the apprehension my immigrant students might feel, as I once did. It means feeling the grass beneath my feet and hearing the soft blooms of the first cherry blossoms in the atrium as I sip coffee between classes. It means seeing my students in three dimensions, watching them build community in the classroom, and sitting in silence in my office as they describe their perseverant stories of life.
Preethi Radhakrishnan, Natural Sciences
As every Spring I come to the start of a new semester with some trepidation and fear of failure, always the same dream the week before of first day walking into class half-dressed and unprepared; half a dress was sufficient for most of these past two years, so I look forward to dressing up again.
Also, as always, I feel excitement at the prospect of a new beginning, the chance to start fresh and make it better, always the same sweet anticipation of meeting new people; I look forward to being in person with them again, no more black-box attendance, except at a play in our 3-D Black Box Theater.
Judith N. Foster, English
Voices echoing in hallways:
chatter of friends and colleagues.
Smiles evidenced only by crinkled skin around the eyes (for now)
as we bump into students and friends we haven’t seen in person, in years.
The soothing smell of physical books,
eyes grateful for reading something without a default glow,
and sharp scent of dry erase markers
(the annoyance with how it somehow manages to get on hands, clothes)
The understated tactility of pens gliding on paper,
the energy of a room of eager minds
ready to share and absorb ideas.
The ability to be present, in multiple modalities,
for students who have weathered so much.
Nicolle McGuire, Business
As we welcome our spring 2022 semester, and make our way back to the hustle and bustle of a lively LaGuardia campus community, I look forward to physically greeting my students and to providing referrals to actual office spaces and buildings. I look forward to collaboration and conversations that require personal connection, grabbing Starbucks on the way, and maybe even paying a visit! Spring is here and so are our students, and the opportunity to reconnect to our campus, our colleagues, and our campus community.
Jenny Lugo, ASAP, Student Affairs
In August 2021, Library faculty and staff returned to campus. We found eighteen months of mail and evidence, everywhere, of the life we left behind. In my office, I found stale gummy bears and pictures of my infant son—now a toddler, full of knock-knock jokes, a living measure of how long we were away. It’s been so long. Soon, I hope to see you on line at Circulation, picking up a hold. I hope I can answer your question at the Reference Desk, meet your class at a Library workshop, and find you, happily lost among the stacks. It’s been too long.
Silvia Lin Hanick, Library
I don’t stay still well. So, this time of working from home and being in one place all the time has been challenging, but it also gave me an opportunity to closely observe the change of seasons. As I became more attuned to that cycle and the ways nature makes room for change, I watched out my window every day as the spring buds turned into fall leaves. I watched as they budded again. Before this period in my life, I would often find myself startled in mid-October by a cloud of orange and red leaves above me, shocked that it was already fall. I didn’t notice the slow shifts and changes in the seasons. I’m excited to return to campus, but I do so thinking about the cyclical nature of time. We return and rejoice in the familiar: our offices, our classrooms, the beautiful student artwork and the history of Queens lining the hallways in the E building, the energy and buzz of the atrium, the soon-to-be-flowering cherry blossoms, the energy of a really great class, the inability to walk around campus without stopping for three or four or five conversations on your way to your destination, the constant buzz of motion between the E, M, B, and C buildings. But LaGuardia now, too, is changed. There is both familiarity and newness. We return to begin again. I welcome the great opportunity and responsibility in that newness.
Liz Clark, English
For me, spring always means warmer weather, lighter coats, brighter colors, growth and new beginnings. It’s also a time to see more students on our campus, to see them start from scratch or renew their path to the rest of their lives. Seeing our students is a reminder of why we’re all here and that’s always new, even though we’ve done this so many times before. It feels good to help beginners again. Isn’t spring great?
Charles Elias, Information Technology
The writer Arundhati Roy pictures the pandemic as a portal. She warns us of the dangers of a return to normality and encourages us to imagine the world differently. I have always thought of LaGuardia as a place that emboldens us to challenge and rethink our current ways of being in the world, and I look forward to stepping through this pandemic portal together with students and colleagues. I am excited to continue our shared work of articulating alternative “imaginaries,” new possibilities for thinking and acting, through open and critical exploration in the classroom and beyond.
Christine Marks, English
This semester I look forward to teaching in person.
I am starting this semester with hope that it will end with a more peaceful world.
Dušana Podlucká, Social Science
I’m looking forward to working with students in the darkroom. A few years ago, the students and I gathered around the developing tray, waiting for the photographic image to appear on the paper. The room is dimly lit; you can’t see facial expressions clearly. As the image slowly emerged on the paper floating in the development bath, a student next to me let out a long sigh and exclaimed that in his excitement, he had been holding his breath while waiting for the image to appear! No matter how visually savvy, students are still excited by the magic of the darkroom. I’m thrilled to see their reactions to creating prints from negatives, and to share their feelings of accomplishment.
Maureen Drennan, Humanities
As a person from the Caribbean, I feel my spirit always buoyed by seeing the signs of the coming spring, as life reawakens from its winter slumber. This year, I am also very much looking forward to the halls of LaGuardia reawakening with the laughter and smiles and chatter of students bustling to, or sauntering from, classes. I’m looking forward to seeing my colleagues in three dimensions and being warmed by smiles!
Dionne Miller, Academic Affairs
Maybe I’m too Gen X, but is there anything better than coffee and conversation—unless it’s coffee and conversation and a good book? While I have had a river of coffee in the last two years, there has been a drought of conversation. I’m looking forward to plunging into the ocean of conversations we have on campus—hallway conversations that hook you into lingering, post-class conversations that strengthen mentoring relationships, funny conversations that make you appreciate a colleague’s wit, and deeper conversations that create space for honesty and real bonds. What could be more enjoyable? Maybe add coffee.
Jacqueline Brashears, Natural Science
As we transition back to campus, I look forward to engaging with my students and being able to better assess their learning styles and needs. I miss seeing their eyes open wide and foreheads furrow as they think deeply about a question or text. I am excited to see their faces (even partially), to connect with them, and to see them connect with each other; building a sense of community that is different from that which can be developed in online spaces. Lastly, I look forward to assessing their individual learning needs through in-class activities and giving on the spot feedback, which can encourage students, particularly learners who don’t always feel comfortable or know how to ask for help.
Anita Baksh, English
Spring in continuing education often comes in stages. Since our programs often have staggered start dates or are awarded new sponsored-projects, we welcome new students in orientation sessions and “day one” classes over a period of weeks, day and night. This spring, more than any other, I’m looking forward to more of those events happening on campus, slowly but surely returning LaGuardia’s hallways, classrooms, labs, and sidewalks to the hub of student activity that inspires so many of us in our work. Seeing students form friendships during their breaks and watching faculty compare lesson plans at the photocopier again will be the loveliest shoots of Spring.
John Hunt, Pre-Academic Programs, ACE
I am most looking forward to reestablishing the fundamentals of a studio practice in my painting and drawing courses. Our classes are 3.5 hours long, allowing for focused engagement rooted in looking deeply, concentration, and a development of both intuition and technique. These are the qualities of my course work that were the most challenging in an online modality.
Along with the frustrations, I have had some of the most rewarding moments in my teaching career during the pandemic period, which I never anticipated.
Michael Rodriquez, Humanities
The pandemic illustrated for me how globally interconnected we are. There is no longer such a thing as isolated issues and actions. As I teach my students, I remember what the Pandemic did to my way of imparting knowledge. The notion of an educator as the knowledge-holder who imparts wisdom to their students is no longer fit for the purpose for the 21st century. We need to redefine the role of the educator in the classroom. This may mean that the role of teachers will need to move towards facilitating young people’s development as contributing members of society very early on in the teaching process. We must set challenges and bring ideas to life through our presentations. This is what I love about teaching-I am able to make change as is necessary. The Pandemic might just have been the disruption that our education sector needed to get us all to rethink how we educate, and question what we teach and what we are preparing our students for. Good educators boost students’ long-term life outcomes. I hope this is what I do every time I enter a classroom!
Claudia Baldanedo, Youth Initiatives, ACE
There’s a really great moment in a class, maybe three or four weeks into the semester, when you walk into the room and you see the students interacting with each other, as friends. You’ve made it through a few assignments together. People feel like they are on the same page, and we know each other’s names. As a social space, the classroom has no match. I am thrilled to have the chance to teach in-person again this semester. And I am grateful to everyone in the LaGuardia community who makes it all work so beautifully.
Charity Scribner, English
I consider it a gift to be able to teach those who I call the Leaders of the New School—our future lawyers, politicians, medical and communication professionals among so many others who will make a significant impact on our world. This new season will represent another opportunity to be a student of life on another level for all of us. Returning to campus also provides the opportunity to understand the true importance of humanity and care once again for one another. Let’s continue to be great, LaGuardia!
Shaunee L. Wallace, Humanities
This spring, I most look forward to welcoming our PTA students back on campus; each cohort is a family. I am delighted to inform students that we are once again learning together without distancing restrictions or an absolute mask mandate. Learning and practicing manual techniques and PT interventions with the appropriate level of connectedness can only be facilitated by face-to-face interactions. It’s an incredible privilege to be back and be well.
Clarence Chan, Health Sciences
I am enthusiastic to meet with students in real time and space. After being flattened by screens over the past two years, it is meaningful to experience one another again in the 3rd dimension–hear the full range of our voices, laughter, excitement, confusion, disappointment, or sadness; see smiles, body movements through space, and full facial expressions again. This time has affected everybody in some way—socially, emotionally, mentally, or physically: it’s important to champion resilience by asking, “What got you through?” I plan to listen closely, engage, and connect to students accordingly. Much love as we navigate forward!
Deema Bayrakdar, The Women’s Center and LGBTQIA Safe Zone Hub
My thoughts ->
on <- returning
to campus this spring
Today as we walked to the bus stop, the sun bright and the air fresh, I breathed, “It feels like
“I hear the birds,” my son noted.
Today our LaGuardia colleagues addressed returning to campus.
new student faces on campus;
excitement to see and interact with students and coworkers in person once again.
Feels like spring. Fresh. Familiar.
The spring is an unwritten chapter. Will masks feature? Will the plot shift from pandemic to
people, places, and plants? I’m already planning what plants to bring into my office for this
Rebekah Johnson, Education & Language Acquisition
Spring brings intense transformation, maybe more so this year, my last spring at the college (I’m retiring June 30th.) Endings and beginnings seem focused more sharply as I plan the next steps of my life (wait, did I just hear God laugh?) while trying to leave any potentially helpful tidbits I can for those of you who will continue to support our students despite this world of uncertainty and war. Please know I feel so inspired by you—faculty, students, and staff—and I am truly grateful to have worked, learned, and laughed with so many of you.
Priscilla Stadler, Center for Teaching Learning
What I love most about being here
is seeing you
Walking or standing
Hands in your pockets
Ready to say some kind thing or other
Cheri Carr, Humanities
One of my favorite things about teaching at LaGuardia is that I find that my students and I generally share a set of similar perspectives. All of my academic work is oriented toward the interrogation of power. I examine how it operates, sometimes secretly and sometimes very openly, to empower economic and political elites at the expense of everyday people. I also explore how folks without access to institutional/cultural/economic/social or racial forms of power have worked hard to push against these structures when they are disadvantaged by them. Many of these activists share radically democratic visions, although there are some who work to build or support new hierarchical structures to the disadvantage of other non-elites. In my teaching, I have seen students find our collective parsing of these dynamics and their intricacies extremely rewarding. The classroom can be (though it is certainly not always) a magical place for discovery and learning together.
Karen Miller, Social Science
One of the things I am looking forward to this spring is the return of the Creative Writing Read-a-Thon. This is such a wonderful event for our students, faculty, and staff to share their stories and create a community of readers and listeners. Creative writing students gain a college-wide platform to build their chops. And I love seeing faculty and staff come out of the woodwork to show a more personal side of themselves. It’s one of those special spaces at LaGuardia where people meet each other with openness and generosity.
Chris Schmidt, English
Four student interns who are developing floating wetland for Newtown Creek, our local estuary, will share their design strategies with students of the New York Harbor School on Governors Island. And the high school students will share their work with the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) to develop shellfish habitat. We’ll explore the integration of these two efforts and assist each other with implementation. BOP’s Community Science Manager, Rob Buchanan, will guide us and the City Parks Foundation, the NIH Bridges Program, and the Levin/Goffe Scholarship will support our students!
Sarah Durand, Natural Science
After two years of remote teaching and learning, it is highly motivating to finally return and enjoy interactions face-to-face (literally) with faculty colleagues, staff, and, of course, our students. This will clearly enrich the student experience by re-establishing a dynamic and participatory learning climate. It will be invigorating to walk around the classroom (rather than sit in front of the computer screen), build a rapport with the students and appreciate their ideas and perspectives, even if they find the disciplinary concepts hard to grasp.
Ian Alberts, Natural Science
After two years of unstructured time, I look forward to random routine. Students coming and going, the classroom, and the noise. The daily encounters of colleagues and friends on the street and in the hallways to catch up and laugh. And our “creepy corner,” the back aisle of the Humanities department where Dana, Poppy, Jaime, and I have our offices. Dimly lit and intimate, it is our space for early morning coffee, quiet work, and loud music in the evenings.
Patricia Sokolski, Humanities
Dear Spring 2022 Semester,
May we grow from all that we have learned since that dark and dreadful Spring 2020 semester,
May these lessons eventually lead to light and even levity,
May not one day at LaGuardia be without love, or laughter!
Ellen Quish, Center for Teaching and Learning
This spring, I am looking forward to seeing students speak to each other again—to the chatter that simmers just before a class begins or sometimes, if the discussion was especially good, lingers after it ends. I’m looking forward to the things I overhear when students are doing group work and they veer completely off topic; maybe they discover a shared interest or realize they went to the same high school or emigrated from the same country. Even silences in the classroom will feel better than silences over Zoom. In general, I’m looking forward to all of us feeling okay (enough) to share a physical space again.
Dominique Zino, English
I’m a flaneur at heart; I’m best on my feet and can’t stand sitting at my desk very long. I enjoyed the days when my printer was on the other side of the Humanities suite, where en route to pick up my prints, I would walk by open doors and stop to chat with others. If colleagues didn’t answer my messages, I’d just walk the length of the campus looking for them. In those moments, the campus felt like a giant machine working in synch, and I would get more done in an afternoon walk than I ever did in my office. Sometimes, in the afternoons, I would get espresso in the E Atrium, talking to whoever passed by. I could always find Paul there and we’d check-in.
Hugo Fernandez, Humanities
I am very much looking forward to having a casual chat with my students and colleagues in the hallways where genuine conversations take place. I missed these natural connections occurring throughout the LaGuardia campus. Spring is the time of new beginnings and renewal. Issa, a Japanese poet wrote, “Spring begins as it has deigned to do for a thousand ages,” which may mean that the joy of spring (rejuvenation) comes no matter what, whether we are in the winter (or in the shade) of pandemic or not. This is why I can’t wait to see the cherry trees bloom in the courtyard; several years ago, this gift from Japan was planted by Provost Arcario.
Kyoko Toyama, Counseling
For Spring 2022, I am embracing and making space for all of the hope, excitement and uncertainties around gathering again on a regular basis with colleagues, students, and the larger Long Island City community. Feeling the energetic, productive buzz of the campus is something I am looking forward to being a part of again, as well as visiting my favorite off-campus lunch spots like Pantry Market Eatery, Sensible Edibles, and the dumpling spot in The Factory at LIC (I’m not sure if it’s still there, though). As we embrace this new way of being (back) with each other, I look forward to being part of communities and conversations that can help us move forward, heal, and do the work we love to do with each other and students.
Adela Effendy, CUNY Start/Math Start
In the spring 2022 semester, I look forward to experiencing a sense of community in the classroom and across campus as we return to a more in-person presence. Over the last two years, our world has been divided by concerns over COVID-19 vaccination and mandates, and by political and social issues. While the virtual platform provided a temporary sense of community during these struggling times, it is important that moving forward we cultivate an inclusive and equitable environment for all in the classroom and across campus.
Derek Stadler, Library
I am a thrill-seeker who loves adventures. So, two years later, I believe there is a new dawn for higher education and a new era for our students. Meeting students after distance learning and pandemic experiences will allow me to explore their behaviors and habits of mind and examine my (new) role with fresh eyes. I am excited to learn and experience something I have never encountered before. I am ready for the roller-coaster!
Reem Jaafar, Mathematics, Engineering, and Computer Science
I am ready to bring back the quality of instruction we provide in the classroom and simply being present for our students. I look forward to passing on my nursing knowledge and experiences, mentoring my students, speaking with them, lending an ear, and just being in the classroom! I want to see the light turn on with that “Aha” moment; I want to watch students mature and develop their nursing and critical thinking skills. In sum, I am just happy to again be in real space with my colleagues in Health Sciences, with students in the classroom and in the Atrium, and to reunite with friends, faculty, and staff from across the college. I’m looking forward to laughter in the hallways, learning in the classroom, and the noises in the cafeteria. At LaGuardia, we are the sum of all these parts.
Faith Armstrong, Health Sciences
This spring we open the doors to our classrooms, seminars, and meetings, where, in unblurred backgrounds, we will talk and think, contest and create together. And while I look forward to unzoomed conversations, I have missed, and want to experience again, the in between campus spaces in which agendas are suspended. There’s nothing better, for me, than the Atrium, aka, the piazza, where, as in Italy, nearly everyone will pass by at some point in the day. There’s Arthur, in his studio smock, and there’s Steven! I’ve missed the little sigh just before he speaks, and the women (mostly) at the kiosk, whose patience is ever instructive, and just next to it, the library, its keepers showering us with equitably-accessed pleasures of knowledge. I miss the new books section; I miss everyone at the desks, so polite, generous, and forgiving of lapses. Oscars to all this spring for humanity and democracy. Pushing through the doors of the English department are gusts of faculty, deconstructing in a rush. There’s Christine! Irwin! Anita! Luke! Jackie! Neil! Tuli! What are you reading, hearing, watching? Groups of collaborators at the tables, bent over chemistry, math, and nursing texts: I can’t wait to ask, unmasked, if I may borrow a chair. And on the wall opposite the kiosk, fresh exhibits. Thank you, Art. Here’s to standing before you again. Above all will be light, flowing down into the Atrium, catching the sounds of our lovely line of young people laughing along the windows, radiating through the glass into our flowering courtyard, where, bending over trees and leaves, shading the iron benches, our light will spill into a restful and flourishing silence. I want all of this, every bit of it, again. See you soon! Coffee’s on me.
Michele Manoukian, Center for Teaching and Learning
I look forward to making memories with my students because no matter how difficult life gets, sunshine always prevails. There are so many things that I can’t wait to resume; for instance, drinking tea with my friends in the E-Atrium, quick chats while hurrying from E to the C Building, brainstorming projects, and many more. Most importantly, I want to thank each and every one of my colleagues across campus who made the LaGuardia Humanitarian Initiative possible when the pandemic forced us indoors.
To Paul, I want to say “Thank you! Abar dekha hobei, “which, when translated from Bengali, means “will definitely meet again.” Thank you for inspiring me to reflect on “why” and “how” I teach.
Tuli Chatterji, English
Spring is upon us, along with our long-awaited return to campus, a campus where I will get to see, and infrequently visit, our lovely little green oasis of a garden, located where a block of 31st Place used to be. On that narrow little-used block, years and years ago, the combined Writing Center/English Department Aliens co-ed softball team gathered to practice after work hours and before games, every Thursday throughout the spring and summer. You can’t really hear echoes of the thud of a ball hitting a mitt in that garden any more — unless you try really hard.
With deepest appreciation for the depth of your integrity through all the years I’ve known you,
Bert Eisenstadt, The Writing Center