Excerpt on Lysley Tenorio’s Reading at San Francisco Philippine Consulate

On Wednesday November 28, after a wet and windy day, yours truly had the pleasure and honor of introducing my grad school mentor and thesis advisor fiction writer and Professor Lysley Tenorio, who’s new book, Monstress, a short story collection, was recently published by Ecco. Organized by PAWA Inc and hosted by the San Francisco Philippine Consulate, the literary event was started off with a welcome from the Consul General.

The introduction went something like this:

 A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, Lysley Tenorio has received a Whiting Writer’s

Lysley Tenorio

Award, fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, Manoa, The Chicago Tribune, and The Best New American Voices along with Pushcart Prize anthologies.

His latest book, Monstress published by Ecco/HarperCollins was reviewed in the New York Times where ANDREW HAIG MARTIN called his collectiona refreshingly off-kilter approach to the lives of Filipinos in America.”

Katy Waldman from SLATE.com wrote “it is the unassuming pitch of these stories that makes them so exquisitely deadly.”

And Dan Lopez in Lambda Literary described the collection saying: Hard lives and hard choices take center stage in Monstress, but this is no bleak landscape that Tenorio limns. Woven throughout the collection is a wry narrative of ambition. These characters whether they are gay or straight, American or Filipino, all share an abiding desire to succeed, their shared identity of otherness paradoxically empowering as it appears to disenfranchise. In that sense, they belong to a larger project of outsider fiction.”

To read more about the event, click here.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses

Weighing in on Puente Project Annual Student Leadership Conference 2012

On Saturday, October 13, I’ll be participating in this year’s Annual Puente Student Leadership Conference taking place at Saint Mary’s College, where I’ll be facilitating two back-to-back writing workshops titled “Power of Voice.” I’m hoping to sneak into Gary Soto’s keynote address and greatly looking forward to working with ambitious students who have already set themselves as leaders in their communities.

Puente Project is partnering with SMC undergraduate admissions and the Saint Mary’s College Intercultural Center to co-host a conference for over 500 Puente Project students from the San Francisco Bay area.  A University of California program, Puente Project is a college preparatory program  that serves low income, youth of color who are the first in their families to attend college.  Puente is open to all students,  with about 90 percent of our students being Latino descent.   The purpose of this conference is to expose Puente students to a new college campus and to begin their exposure to leadership, college preparation, and identity development as a college going student.

Mini Agenda

Breakfast: 8:00 am – 9:00 am

Welcome 9:30 am

Keynote Speaker: Gary Soto, Author and Playwright: 9:50 am -10:30 am

First Workshop Session: 10:45 am – 11:35 am

Second Workshop Session with new student group: 11:45am- 12:35 pm

Students back to Soda Center for closing program: 1:30 pm

Students Dismissed: 3:15 pm

Hoping for plenty of a-ha moments this fall semester

Rereading America

Fall 2012 has landed with a whole new set of classes to teach and fresh students to guide this semester. In addition to leading a freshman cohort, I’m looking forward to reading the anthology Re-reading America, Jonathan Kozol’s Shame of the Nation, and David Shipler’s The Working Poor for L&CS 121: Culture and Civic Responsibility along with helping to steer seniors toward strong portfolios and presentations for L&CS 124: Senior Assessment & Portfolio. Should anyone have suggestions on exercises and documentaries to cover this year’s presidential election, by all means, please send them my way. November 4, 2012 will be a spotlighted in L&CS 121. Here’s hoping for a good head-smacking academic year with lots of a-ha moments for the students and myself.

Here’s the course descriptions to pique your interest:

F.Y.A.C. L &CS EDUC-070-36 (54159)

Welcome! This class is designed to help you, as a newly minted college professional, become effective agents by prompting how to ask good questions, how to practice life-long learning, and, finally, to increase the capacity to take charge of your own academic career. Consider this a strength-training course to strengthen your critical skills and support you in your transition to college life, combining class discussions with co-curricular activities, and a variety of workshops so you may achieve your highest potential. You will be provided with access to a faculty and academic advisor, who will serve as a resource and mentor to guide you through the many learning and living experiences at Saint Mary’s. Consider your faculty advisor as a physical therapist, here to ensure you are fit and toned for your college profession. I look forward to learning and training with each of you.

Liberal & Civic Studies 121: Culture & Civic Responsibility

Course Description

Welcome to L&CS 121, the first of five Liberal and Civic Studies courses that together comprise the core experience for students pursuing this program of studies. Within the broad framework of culture and civic responsibility, this course introduces you to the seven central emphases and themes of the Liberal and Civic Studies Program: 1) Service-Learning, 2) the Arts, 3) Diversity, 4) Ideas from the Great Conversation, 5) Critical Thinking, 6) Integrative Thinking and 7) Self-Assessment. (NOTE: These themes and emphases are explained in the introductory pages of your Guide to the Liberal and Civic Studies Program.) In addition, the course gives special emphasis to the theme of American society and culture—its roots, development, nature and impact. Throughout the course, we will explore possible answers to the question: Can we create here in America the kind of “Beloved Community” envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King?

Liberal and Civic Studies 124/100 Fall 2012 – Senior Assessment & Portfolio

Course Description

Welcome to L&CS 124, and congratulations on entering your senior year! This course is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what you have learned & experienced, and how you have grown over the course of your L&CS education.  As an interdisciplinary program that seeks to educate the whole person, and strives to develop self-awareness, ethical values, and habits of social responsibility, it is important for our students that they have time to assess their development.

How it went down at this year’s ACTC 2012: “Preparing for and Living in the Real World through Core Texts”

This year’s 18th Annual Associated Core Texts & Courses Conference, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsored by Carthage College, and focusing on the theme: “Liberal Arts Education and the World: Inquiring into, Preparing for, and Living in the Real World through Core Texts” took place 29 March through 1 April at The Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel, where I presented with the following panel

“Conrad, Ellison, and Narrative Structure:

Blending Critical Thought and Student Engagement”

Aaron P. Smith, Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized;” Lamiaa Youssef, Norfolk State University, “Narrative Lenses and the Journey toward Self-Knowledge;” Justin Ponder, Marian University, “A Walking Personification of the Negative: Listening to Stories in Invisible Man;” Rashaan Meneses, Saint Mary’s College of California, “We’re All ‘Others’ Now: Revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Age of Post-post-colonialism.”

Chair: Jean-Marie Kauth, Benedictine University

Some of the speakers and panels that caught my attention were the following:

Robert Gurval, Department of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles: “Harmony and Homer on the Pearl River Delta: The Foundations of a New Liberal Arts in China”-

  • China is looking at Western liberal arts colleges to help shape their higher education though instead of calling their undergraduate core curriculum “general education” they’ve opted to use the term “gateway education” to indicate that students are beginning the path to learning
  • self in search of self
  • self as social institutions
  • Liberal Studies as training for life
  • introduce poetry first as foundation to politics, which is the gateway to political and economic theory

From the panel, “The Function of Core Texts and Their Programs,” Nicholas D. Leither, Saint Mary’s College of California, “Skepticism Destroyed Their Paradise: Generative Thinking and and ‘Believing’ in the Text”-

  • argues that students lose innocence in college when they’re taught to become the skeptic
  • more often than not in the classroom creative thinking isn’t valued, nor seeing several POV’s simultaneously
  • Rational thinking limits
  • “When we take a critical approach, we forget to believe.”
  • Critical versus generative, students need to take a leap of faith

From the panel, “Concepts of the Self in East and West,” Yaqun Zhang, Xiamen University “Confucius’ Gentleman Personality and Its Influence on Academic Education”

  • education as a cultural mission
  • educating students to let them know they are part of a a social and civic commitment
  • seeking harmony not sameness
  • having a sense of appropriate conduct

From my own panel on Conrad and Ellison, Aaron P. Smith Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized” (concerning Ellison’s Invisible Man)

  • one must have existence to become authentic, meta-alienation
  • alienation requires confrontation
  • those who create new values need an audience to receive

This year’s conference not only emphasized true and vigorous cultural exchange between the U.S. and China since ACTC has been collaborating with Chinese universities to help shape their curriculum, but another important theme emphasized again and again was inter-disciplinary exchange and pairing texts that weren’t so obvious on the surface, but in comparing say Machiavelli to Lao Tzu, professors made profound connections and demonstrated an exchange of ideas and values that spanned time and geography.

Teaching two brand spanking new courses for L&CS this spring semester

Reading the likes of Azedah Moaveni’s Lipstick Jihad, Fareed Zakaria’s Post-American World, Jared Diamond’s Collapse, and revisiting Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma for two new classes I’m teaching within Saint Mary’s College’s Liberal & Civic Studies Program. Students are coming to me in class proud about how conversant they’re getting concerning world politics, global matters, and environmental issues. I must confess, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut during class discussions. Its hard to keep silent when the readings and subjects are so stimulating.

122 Environmental Responsibility in a Global Community 

Taken the semester immediately following L&CS 121 whenever possible, this courses focuses on the natural world in which we lie, and the complex interrelationship between human activities, the values which determine these activities and their consequences for the environment. Different societies’ belief systems along with their responsibilities and attitudes toward the environment are examined. Students are required to devote time each week to a service-learning project, write essays, intellectual integrations and a self-assessment. Class sessions are supplemented by a biweekly activity lab. Prerequisites: L&CS 121, English 5, Collegiate Seminar 20/110. 

123 Modern Global Issues

The purpose of this course is to gain broad-based exposure to some of the cultural, political and economic issues related to and arising from the processes of globalization. Students will study recent critical dialogues and philosophies of globalization, including issues of ethnicity/race, gender, identity, urban culture, post-nationalism, multiculturalism and post-colonial studies. Students are require to participate in class, lead discussion, write essays and news articles responses, give an oral presentation and complete a midterm exam.   Prerequisite:L&CS 121 or permission of instructor.

We’ve watched some of the following videos to supplement subjects and texts recently covered:

Slajov Zizek on “Cultural Capitalism:

Hans Rosling on “The Magic Washing Machine”

Saving the Bay Documentary

Former student helps his community and shares his story in the magazine “Against the Current”

A former student of mine, Antonio Venegas, shares his story and lends inspiration with a recently published article in the magazine Against the Current. His piece, titled “Where to Occupy Next?” covers the Occupy Movement and his community engagement.
Here’s an excerpt:

Where to Occupy Next?
— Antonio Venegas

I TRULY DON’T want to be another sob story. But when the rare opportunity comes along to tell my story and affect many, like a stone cast into the water, it is necessary to at least attempt to grab the hearts of people who will listen.

As I constructed the presentation that I was going to show my social justice organizing class at St. Mary’s College about my experience with the organization Causa Justa (Just Cause), I ran across something that froze me. I searched for “foreclosure” on Wikipedia in hopes of finding a comprehensive definition, and like most articles on that site, its words were displayed accompanied by an image.

Read the entire article here.