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!

Featured in the campus newspaper: “Saint Mary’s College welcomes these new faculty members as classes get under way on August 29”

“20 New Faculty Members Join Saint Mary’s in the 2011-12 Academic Year,” Feature Story, posted in SMC’s News & Events August 26, 2011:

Rashaan Alexis Meneses joins St. Mary’s College as an adjunct professor in Liberal and Civic Studies. She has taught at Merritt College, Laney College and Diablo Valley College and holds a MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s. A Jacob K. Javits Fellow, her research and writing focuses on the Filipino and Mexican diaspora, immigration and overseas workers, cosmopolitanism, and globalized cross-cultural influences. She serves as a Collegiate Seminar Governing Board member and, last fall, co-supervised the SMC Writing Center. She has been published recently in UC Riverside’s The Coachella Review, University of North Carolina’s Pembroke Magazine and the anthology, “Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults.”

Mentoring Faculty

Spring 2011, I had the privilege of mentoring two colleagues for Collegiate Seminar at Saint Mary’s College of California. So quickly had I jumped for being a mentee myself, suddenly I found the tables turned. Reflecting on the experience, which I hope to share again, here’s suggestions on what I learned that might prove helpful for others:

MENTEES:

-Arrange to meet with your mentor and prepare a list of questions.
-Submit syllabus and course calendar to mentor by second week of classes for review.
-Schedule time to observe your mentor’s seminar.

MENTORS:

-Request syllabus and course calendar from mentees and have them submit by the second week of classes for your review.
-Schedule time to observe mentee’s class and be sure to meet directly after observation to cover questions and concerns your mentor might have.
-Provide contact information and consider following up before the end of the semester to cover any more questions or concerns your mentee has.
-Discuss participation about program activities such as retreats and the informal curriculum.

An end of the semester reflection seems an incredibly useful and invaluable tool for mentors, mentees, and the program. Below are questions, which could be prefaced with: "Mentoring support which is meant to be collegial and non-judgmental. Therefore, mentors are not evaluators."

In your reflection, you may want to respond to these questions:

  • What date and which text was your class discussing when you were you observed?
  • When did you have your follow up meeting after your observation? Please give a brief summary 3-4 sentences on what was covered during your meeting.
  • What expectations did you have as a mentor/mentee?
  • How were your expectations met?
  • Were any expectations not covered?
  • What suggestions do you have for future mentors/mentees?

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://i2.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.

Revving up for the APASA Keynote Graduation Speech at Saint Mary’s College

Honored to be delivering the keynote speech at Saint Mary’s College of California’s for the following ceremony:

Asian Pacific American Graduate Celebration
Saturday, May 14th
2-4 p.m.
Hagerty Lounge (Please note the change in location; it was originally scheduled in LeFevre Theater.)

Here’s a taste of the speech, an excerpt from an essay written in response to a call for Fil-Am literature:

“Barbie’s Gotta Work”

Unlike my mother who grew up in an old Army barrack tacked to the dusty farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley or my father who sometimes had to sleep in the chicken coop because his family’s house off of Franklin Boulevard in Sacramento was over-crowded with six other siblings, not only did I enjoy a spacious suburban room of my own, but I also had full governship of a pink and white miniature estate. At four feet, the Barbie Townhouse towered over my seven-year old frame. First released in 1975, my three-story edition boasted a blush bedroom suite with a lace canopied bed and matching pink armoire on the top floor. The second level living room afforded Barbie and her friends a cozy space to converse and enjoy tea while lounging on white wicker furniture. On the bottom floor, Barbie hosted small dinner parties and cooked in a cramped kitchen that lacked a stove, an oven, and a sink but offered instead a mini-refrigerator. The townhouse also featured a canary-colored pull-string elevator, which ended up stalling dramatic storylines. Between unspooling the pulley and positioning Barbie just right so her limbs wouldn’t catch as she was towed between floors, she eventually bypassed the elevator, so she could continue her arguments or flirtations uninterrupted.

***

Inspiration for this particular essay was partly borne out of that plastic pink dream we call Barbie. Before I fell hopelessly in love with Louise Erdrich’s tales or stumbled trying to follow the footsteps of Woolf, I wove stories and created characters using the most pink and most traditional of mainstream narrative tools.

Image from Celebrity Baby Blog

The Barbie Townhouse circa 1970’s release was my cardboard and plastic play-stage where I could re-enact and revise plot-lines from One Life To Live and All My Children with an ethnic twist. Instead of Barbie as the lead her friend, Island Fun Miko, was lady of the house and the center of all my Barbie narratives.

Image from Jemboy’s World

“Tropical Island Fun with Barbie and Miko” January 26, 2009

The Barbie Travel Agent Set was a surprise gift from Santa who, ironically, had designs to usher and initiate me into Third Wave Feminism:

Image from The Henry Ford Museum, “Happy 50th Birthday, Barbie!” March 2009

Globalisation & Cosmopolitanism

On the Facebook, of all places, I reconnected with a fellow SMC MFA’er and college professor who is teaching a fall semester course on “Globalization and Cosmopolitanism,” two passions of mine. Our discussions got me thinking about how I could revamp some of my composition courses. Below is a list of possible source materials that come to mind as I consider re-designing my syllabi (all sources deal with transnational politics, immigration, citizenship, etc):

FILMS

1. The Constant Gardner

2. Bread and Roses

3. Dirty Pretty Things

4. The World


5. Kinamand

6. Maria Full of Grace

7. Angel-A

8. Recommended by colleague, Where the Green Ants Dream

ESSAYS & ARTICLES
1. Roger Cohen’s NY Times’ columns deal with globalization and global citizenship, and I’ve had some classroom success with his astute article “The Global Rose as a Social Tool” published March 13, 2008:

Most of the roses I saw were destined for the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain in Britain, with a price tag of the equivalent of $10 already affixed. I asked Helen Buyaki, aged 27, one of 1,800 employees at the farm, what she earns: “4,500 shillings a month.” That’s 70 bucks.

Look at the global economy one way and Buyaki earns the equivalent of seven bunches of roses for a month’s labor. That smacks of exploitation. Look at it another and she has a job she’d never have had until globalization came along.

2. Arundhati Roy’s speech “Come September”, September 18, 2002

Nobody puts it more elegantly than The New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman. In an article called, “Craziness Pays”, he said, “The U.S. has to make it clear to Iraq and U.S. allies that…American will use force without negotiation, hesitation or U.N. approval.” His advice was well taken. In the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in the almost daily humiliation the U.S. government heaps on the U.N. In his book on globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman says, and I quote, “The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist. McDonalds cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas…and the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.” Perhaps this was written in a moment of vulnerability, but it’s certainly the most succinct, accurate description of the project of corporate globalization that I have read.

BOOKS
1. Unmasking Los Angeles: Third World Cities, non-fiction collection of essays, edited by Saint Mary’s professor, Deepak Sawhney

2. Graceland, novel by Chris Abani

3. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Saijie (also adapted into a film but the books are always better)

4. The Secret Agent, novel by Joseph Conrad

5. Travel as a Political Act, non-fiction travel book by Rick Steves

6. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, philosophy by Kwame Anthony Appiah