Honored to be selected as Visiting Arts Faculty 2017-2018

I confess I have a debilitating case of imposter syndrome, so every bit of success comes with a dark lining of doubt,  but dear friend and writer Katherine Field, has urged me to celebrate this one, so this is me celebrating. I’m honored and excited to serve Saint Mary’s College of California’s Collegiate Seminar Program and January Term program in a new role as Visiting Arts Faculty for 2017-2018. More on this soon…

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.

Quick Recap of SMC’s Parents & Family Weekend Session “Classroom as Kitchen Table” with a shout out by author Mitali Perkins

On Saturday, October 22, at SMC’s Parent & Family Weekend, “Classes Without Quizzes,” I got to meet 25 parents and family members who were eager “to see Saint Mary’s through their kids’ eyes.” In my session, titled “Classroom as Kitchen Table: Education Through Conversation and Feeding Hungry Minds,” we read aloud Sandra Cisneros’ deceptively simple short short “Eleven.” As always this bittersweet narrative got the packed classroom buzzing and was the perfect inspiration for us to dive into our own childhood memories for a little creative writing exercise of our own. Here’s a quick review from one of the parents I met at the session, author Mitali Perkins:

I’m back from parents’ weekend at Saint Mary’s College of California where we attended classes without quizzes. I, of course, signed up for a writing class taught by Rashaan Meneses, who led us through a brilliant workshop on enhancing voice with detail.

You can read the rest of her recap along with her creative exercise from our class session in her post “Writing the Empty Nest at Parents’ Weekend” at her blog Mitali’s Fire Escape.

Presenting “The Classroom as Kitchen Table” at SMC’s Parent & Family Weekend’s “Classes Without Quizzes”

Along with my fellow SMC colleagues, I’ll be presenting my class without quiz, “The Classroom as Kitchen Table: Education Through Conversation and Feeding Hungry Minds” where we’ll be reading Sandra Cisneros “Eleven” discussing and analyzing the text, and, if there’s time, we’ll do some creative writing of our own. Should be fun!

Parent and Family Weekend 2011

NOTE: Schedule subject to change

Saturday, October 22nd

8:30am                        Parent and Family Check in

9:00 – 10:00am         Breakfast

10:15 – 11:15am      Classes without Quizze- Families take 1hr long classes from
various academic disciplines

11:20am – 12:20pm Student Support Mini Seminars – Staff share ways to support your student                                          regardless of class standing

12:30 – 1:30pm         Lunch

1:30pm                        Day in the Bay – Enjoy your afternoon with your students!

Post Keynote Speech Write-up for Saint Mary’s College APASA Graduation Celebration

APASA Graduates

On Saturday, May 14, I had the honor and pleasure of delivering the keynote speech for the Asian Pacific American Student Associaion Graduation Celebration at Saint Mary’s College. Upon arrival, Hagerty Lounge was transformed into an elegant venue dressed in gold and purple with red and white table cloths laid out in the back for some fine dining that would take place after the speeches and ceremonies. An undergrad named Craig, immediately welcomed me and got me situated. Organized by Joan Iva C. Fawcett, the Director of the Intercultural Center, which sponsored the event, the celebration opened with an address from Jef Aquino, the MC. Alex Carbonel, a talented musician, singer, and basketball player performed throughout the celebration, and her beautiful music really added to the ceremony.

Trying to hold my own, I gave my speech, included below. Three awards were soon presented: the Student Scholar Award, the Student Leader Award, and the Dean Grace Cardenas-Tolentino Award then Brother Camillus Chavez gave the candle blessing, after which all attendees were invited to taste some delicious dishes from James Na and Jim Fawcett’s catering company as well as listen to the beautiful ukulele played by Eileen Lindley, a former student of mine.

This was a happy, tear-filled event, which I am very grateful to have shared, and I hope to attend more since these students are so wonderfully inspiring.

Here’s the keynote speech, a tribute to my family, speaking of inspiration:

APASA 2011 Graduation Ceremony Speech

Thirteen years ago, I sat in uncomfortable folding seats, just like you. Tipsy from excitement, thrilled to be sharing this moment of arrival with family and friends, eager to finally be an independent adult. With all frankness, I don’t remember the graduation speeches. I couldn’t tell you which prominent speaker said what, but I remember feeling like I could catch air and fly. I also distinctly remember hitting ground after graduation and crashing into the reality of life after college. There were the student loans, the string of jobs to pay the rent. I floundered between careers and learned more about what I didn’t want to do rather than coming to some instant grand destiny. Life after college was a process of elimination. Messy and confusing. What kept me sane, tethered to my dreams, and confident in my sense of self were my friends from college and my family.

https://i1.wp.com/www.rtspecialties.com/tobar/conex1/hedy4.jpg
Hedy Lamarr

Every once in a while, like today, we get to step back and survey what we’ve accomplished, celebrate the distance we’ve covered, and chart the new heights we hope to achieve. We are always arriving. In 1947, a newly married Filipino bride and groom, my grandparents, arrived in the U.S for the first time. Traveling by ship, they crossed the Pacific from Leyte, Philippines. You’ve probably heard similar tales such as theirs. Between the bride and groom they had two ten-dollar bills to serve as a nest egg for their new life in the States. The young woman carried a smile that could rival sunlight. She admired the ideals and beauty America stood for so much that she decided she wanted to be just as pretty and fair as the Hollywood actress, Hedy Lemarr. So my grandma got it in her head to turn her dark Pilipina skin to lily-white just. She basked on the rocks next to the river where she washed and dried her family’s laundry, thinking she could bleach herself the same way her brothers’ shirts and sisters’ linens were whitened in the heat of the sun. When she got home, she found herself darker than the earth she walked on. She learned an early lesson to just be yourself.

My grandpa had been encouraged at age eleven by his mother to make a living in the States. She told him that if he ever wanted to be someone he had to go to America because the tiny island of Limisawa didn’t offer the same opportunities he would find in the States. And, after she died, he went to California, all alone, at sixteen-years old to discover himself and a world that he’d make his home.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to the Philippines to marry his sweetheart and they sailed back to California. On their journey they met another Filipino who had no money but hefted a load of responsibility and promises that he also made to his family back home. This fellow Pinoy, asked my grandparents, if they could lend him some money, and my grandpa, being the overly generous soul he was gave the man one of his ten-dollar bills. Of course, grandma was furious. “Why did you do that?” she asked.

“Don’t worry, dear, we’ll be all right,” he answered.

Felipe & Ramona Napala, my maternal grandparents

My grandpa always knew whatever adversity he and my grandma would face they’d succeed. He hadn’t the smallest doubt that they’d find their way and be able to share their fortune, so he always took great lengths to help others. I look to each of you today, and I see you doing the same. You’re honoring community and family, supporting your brothers and sisters who journey into the unknown alongside you. I know that by your commitment to APASA, you each have stayed true to who you are and where you’ve come from.

With no safety net aside for their love for each other, my grandparents embarked on one of the scariest endeavors we could ever take, daring to make their way in a new country, living a foreign life among strangers. Imagine if they had Facebook, Twitter, or Skype to keep them connected to home and to warn them of the dangers they might come across.

Today you have so many tools and means to keep you informed and stay linked to your family and friends. My grandparents had only the relationships they’d make along the way and the ambitions their families inspired within them. Still, you’re every bit the pioneers my grandparents were. They, like you, embraced a new world, unsure of the next step or the step that would follow after the first one. Faith, hard work, and commitment  to family, friends, and their heritage kept their nerves steeled, helped them grit their teeth, and hold fast to their dreams. I have every confidence you’ll be doing the same on your journey.

You’ve navigated some deep and choppy waters in the different classes you’ve taken at Saint Mary’s, and the different activities you’ve participated in. I’m thinking now of Collegiate Seminar which has given you the rare opportunity to reflect honestly and deeply about some of life’s most important ideas. Rarely will you get a chance to just sit and discuss some of our most muddiest concerns.

At the same time that you’re drawing upon your college education as a foundation for what’s ahead be sure to also remember the stories, experiences, and advice that your family and friends have shared. Think of all the challenges your grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins, and parents have faced to help you get where you are now. Keep learning and shaping your own wisdom, which rests on the wisdom of your loved ones. Honor their words and memories.

Delivering the keynote speech, can you tell my hands are shaking?

I’ll leave you with a couple life’s lessons and you can do with them as you will. Firstly, try with all your might to avoid debt or try not to get into any more debt. Credit cards are bad. Stay away. I learned that the hard way. Don’t be me.

Secondly, stay hungry and keep your thirst for knowledge and experience. Read everyday of your life. Always be inquisitive. Try to see the world from someone else’s eyes and walk in their shoes.

Thirdly, and lastly, keep engaged and connected to your communities. Don’t forget about us here at Saint Mary’s because we’ll miss you and we want to chart your success. Stay close to family and friends as you scale your ambitions and make your way in this world. Keep your communities close to heart because each of you inspire us.

Let’s take a moment to thank and congratulate one another for arriving here, celebrating all that we have accomplished and wishing only success and good fortune for what’s to come. Today is your day, and I wish you many successes. Peace and blessings!

Wishing all the grads many successes!

Big thanks to APASA for including me in such a grand event!

All photos, except the pic of Hedy Lamarr, are courtesy of PJ Sanders.

Swinging into Spring with Upcoming Events

Paper presentation at Yale on “Engaging First Generation Students with Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality”

Paper Proposal: Clearly an outsider looking in, Jean-Jacques Rousseau exploits the adversity and hardships he’s faced as an exile, turning his experiences and observations into a source of empowerment and a means for enlightenment. In “A Discourse on Inequality” Rousseau’s rhetorical strategies, his critical view on hierarchy, and his refusal to accept the status quo, demonstrates for First Generation college students invaluable methods of critique and cognitive processes. First Generation students may often feel over-whelmed and estranged within institutions of higher learning, and a close reading and discussion of Rousseau provides a critical point of connection, shedding light on our own agency of power. While his contemporaries insist on entitlement, Rousseau reveals our own empowerment by illustrating how to engage critically within our community.

 

Frontispiece and title page of an edition of Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality (1754), published by Marc-Michel Rey in 1755 in Holland.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 7:30pm
Reading with Rosemary Graham and Rashaan Alexis Meneses for Saint Mary’s College Creative Writing Series,

at Soda Center, Saint Mary’s College of California, 1928 Saint Mary’s Road, Moraga, CA.

Rosemary Graham
Rosemary Graham holds a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Virginia.  She is the author of Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude and My Not-So-Terrible Time at the Hippie Hotel. Her third novel, Stalker Girl, was published in August of 2010.  She is a professor of English at Saint Mary’s College of CA. 

rashaan meneses

Rashaan Alexis Meneses earned her MFA from Saint Mary’s College of CA, where she was named a 2005-2006 Jacob K. Javits Fellow and awarded the Sor Juana Indes de La Cruz Scholarship for Excellence in Fiction.  She has recently published in Pembroke Magazine and Growing up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults.

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Keynote speech for  Saint Mary’s College of California’s Tenth Annual Asian Pacific American Graduate Celebration

Saturday, May 14, 2011

2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Le Fevre Theater

Reception to follow in Delphine Lounge


Asian Pacific American Graduate Celebration