|Carol Wright is a visiting instructor in the African American Studies Program.|
Q: You started working at Wesleyan in 2003. What has impressed you most about the university?
A: I am impressed with the incredible depth, intelligence and humanity of many Wesleyan students and my colleagues in the African American Studies Program.
Q: What does ‘visiting’ instructor refer to? Where are you visiting from and how did you end up at Wes?
A: Visiting instructor refers to the fact that my position is non-tenure track and temporary. As a practical matter, I am visiting from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where I held a pre-doctoral fellowship for two years. During my final year at Bowdoin, I saw the Wesleyan job advertisement and jumped at the chance to apply.
Q: Are students of all ethnic and backgrounds interested in a degree in African American studies? How would you describe it?
A: The African American Studies Program is strong. Many, many students of all different backgrounds are interested in an AFAM degree. The program is interdisciplinary in nature. Course discussions and debates include issues of economics, globalization, gender, class, politics, cultural and literary representations among other things. Students learn important content, but further, I think the program has a profound effect on the ways students think, how they understand and re-organize the experiences of their world.
Q: What issues would you bring up in the classroom?
A: Broadly, I teach courses specializing in African American education. This includes issues of social inequality, urban educational policy and the relationship between educational theory and practice. Most recently, Ive taught a service-learning course that will place students in a local middle-school with a focus on the effects of the No Child Left Behind policy.
Q: What do you hope students take away from your classes?
A: I would like to think students leave my courses as better critical thinkers and writers while simultaneously understanding that African Americans have a complex educational past and sometimes a contradictory educational present.
Q: Do you have a philosophy about teaching? How do you help students become critical thinkers in the classroom?
A: I approach teaching as if I’m telling a story. Stories have a beginning, middle and end and you can’t just jump in at the middle, or only a few students will figure it out. By giving a full narrative, I try to capture as many students as I can. I also try, every semester, to show at least one film, have a guest speaker and let students give their own presentations. Many students request to to work on a thesis, or are interested in doing independent studies on these subjects.
Q: Do you enjoy being in the classroom more so that researching?
A: I love teaching. I enjoy engaging students, but I can find it to be a real challenge to teach and find time to spend on my own research. I’ve been collecting a lot of data about African American college students at small, liberal arts universities, that I have to go through. None from Wesleyan, though.
Q: Where did you go to college and what are your majors?
A: I went to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania where I majored in anthropology and sociology and French. Academically speaking, I am a huge supporter of small liberal arts colleges. Socially, well, thats another story.
Q: On campus, have you attended many student events, concerts or dances?
A: Students have invited me to events, but I often have to decline due to scheduling conflicts. Last year I attended a creative student performance and I thought it was fabulous. It was great to see students in a less rigid, more creative/expressive milieu. I was reminded that students have many talents — I was also reminded of my lack of artistic talent — and express them in multiple ways.
Q: You mentioned that you visit family in New York. Is that where you’re from?
A: Both my parents are from the Caribbean, but I was born and raised in New York City. Other than New York, I have lived at least one year in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maine, Connecticut, Brussels, Belgium and Dijon, France.
Q: Whats something humorous or unique that I should know about you?
A: I once drove across the country in the middle of the summer in a bathing suit. It was about 100 degrees and my car did not have an air conditioner. Also, at one point I had a part-time job selling Lancome cosmetics.
Q: Oh, so youre a saleswoman too?
A: I was pretty good; I won an award or two. Go figure!
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|