Date of this Version
In: Place, Self, Community: City as Text™ in the Twenty-First Century, Edited by Bernice Braid and Sara E. Quay. National Collegiate Honors Council, 2021.
I mistakenly joined the Place as Text (PAT) Committee in 2017. Perusing a list of prospective standing committees to join on the NCHC website, I had clicked on “Semesters Committee” (now “Place as Text”), having seen NCHC flyers advertising their adventurous institutes, which sounded fascinating though I had never attended one myself. Shortly thereafter I received an invitation to the committee’s June working meeting in Brooklyn that likewise sounded promising. Had I been well versed in the City as Text™ (CAT) pedagogy that undergirds PAT, I might have then done some reading, finding out more about the group and perhaps recognizing that prior attendance at one of their Faculty Institutes had historically been recommended for membership on the committee. Immersion would instead be the first CAT principle that I experienced, finding my way to Brooklyn and the recommended lodging—a hipster Even Hotel off of bustling Flatbush Avenue. I had only to walk catty-corner across Flatbush Avenue to LIU Brooklyn for our scheduled meeting. The campus proved challenging to navigate, however, prompting me to chat with several locals who directed me to an inner courtyard that provided access to our assigned building. After a flight of stairs and some back-and-forth down hallways, I found our designated corner room with eight or so congenial committee members seated around a conference table. They had wondered about my RSVP “yes” to the meeting but were open—as CAT had trained them to be—to a bewildered new member. Co-chairs Sara E. Quay and Alix Dowling Fink proved particularly amiable, capable, and in sync, modeling that CAT pedagogy engenders formidable leadership qualities. I inferred a recent change in leadership on the committee as the seasoned outgoing chair, Bernice Braid, amplified and informed our discussions throughout. I took exhaustive notes during opening conversations, jotting down CAT tenets such as “Look for contradictions, see things differently”; “Exploration, not tourism”; “See different things at the same spot”; “Become aware of your attitude toward a place”; and “Engage in experimental pedagogy through organic field exploration and self-reflective writing.” Thus began my immersion into CAT ways of learning and being—explaining a great deal, including why directions into the campus had not been clearer. This group liked to see what happens when one is a little lost.
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