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Friday, June 9 • 9:30am - 11:00am
Em(body)d Pedagogical Practices with the CUNY Peer Leaders: An Innovative Approach To Leadership Programs in Higher Education

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When we think about the concept of “Critical Making and Social Justice,” we reject the traditional, dated models and practices of western education and instead underscore examples in academia in which innovative teaching practices have been successfully implemented. This holistic and interactive workshop will focus on student-centered pedagogical practices, and how they are applied when working with diverse undergraduate students, many of whom are from marginalized and underserved communities.

We will spotlight a leadership and mentorship program entitled “The CUNY Peer Leaders Program,” in which the founding principles center on non-hierarchical learning structures that emphasize peer learning, and embedded components of social justice, student agency, and emotional wellness. The CUNY Peer Leaders (CPLs) engage and participate in a variety of community building exercises, skill shares, and enrichment opportunities designed to explore their perspectives and strengthen and uplift their voices. The program also works with critical and creative thinking, examination of sociopolitical issues and their impacts, various historical and cultural perspectives, aesthetic appreciation, and human connection. Through their work, individually and collectively, CPLs further develop their skills in research, oral and written communication, collaboration, project management, and digital literacy, which help prepare them for success as students in college, participants within their communities, and as future professionals.

Next, we will transition into a brief framework and then hands-on activity used in this program that has and can be adapted for many different areas of study and disciplines. This activity is entitled “Body-Mind Mapping,” which is an indigenous based/inspired practice of understanding the experiences of communities and peoples. Body-Mind Mapping aims to have participants ask themselves what their bodies are experiencing in forms of pain, pleasure, anxiety, and self-acknowledgement. This practice began within the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange in Edmonton and Psychosocial Support Initiative in South Africa. Body-Mind Mapping became a collective activity and form of data collection in order to counteract stigma and fear by recognizing stories of those living with HIV/AIDS. The City of Edmonton’s Artist-in-Residence Ted Kerr and Education Coordinator Lynn Sutankayo organized a body mapping retreat in August 2008.

For the 2008 retreat, three outlines of the bodies of three artists were traced (Brett-Maclean, 2009). Each artist explored his identity through images and text superimposed on the outline of his body. The artists began by writing down their names and places of birth, and followed with representations of significant personal memories including those related to living with HIV, all in abstract ideas and visual aesthetics on their body map. Body mapping offers both a metaphor and means of recognizing the fluidity of the personal, social, geographical, political, and emotional experience of journeying through life with illness. Participants have described experiencing a heightened awareness and appreciation of the various threads and storylines making up their lives. They noticed the sometimes limiting ways in which they had narrated their stories, and they found a renewed appreciation of all that helped them to sustain their courage, integrity, and hope. In addition, they experienced a renewed commitment to promoting increased acceptance and understanding that would help reduce the stigma of HIV, a fundamental goal of the exhibit (Brett-Maclean, 2009).

In a research setting for humanities and social science disciplines, Body-Mind Mapping offers an opportunity for scholars to understand the communities they collaborate in a non-invasive way. It places the autonomy and embodiment acknowledgment in the hands of the participants by asking them to interpret and describe what they are feeling based on their current state of mind. These practices dive into indigenous methodologies from which collective and personal experiences are prioritized by marginalized communities, which are too often ignored or misrepresented in scholarly research. Academic Kelsey Milian Lopez was inspired by Body-Mind Mapping as an engaging activity through which participants could reflect on their own identities and desires. Participants are engaged with questions not often asked concerning experiences involving pain or pleasure.
As a motivating leadership exercise, students have a life-sized body map traced using a 48x200 sheet of white poster paper. For students who might prefer to not trace their bodies, a handheld 8x11 size paper is available so they may participate and engage equally. Milian Lopez developed a series of guiding questions that aim to have students ask themselves who they are, how they would describe where they come from, what their aspirations and desires entail, and more. For our workshop at HASTAC 2023, we will have the CPLs participate in developing a new set of guiding questions to pose to the participants. Having conducted this activity in various academic classroom settings that range from elementary to undergraduate education, Milian Lopez has noticed the intrigue and energetic engagement Body Mapping has with its participants.

The workshop will allow for creative and artistic expression. Participants are encouraged to use mixed media materials and tools to demonstrate their answers to the guiding questions in the exercise. Scrap pieces of paper, magazine clippings, ribbons, colorful construction paper, beads, feathers, and thread are among the materials that can be used. This practice offers hands-on expression often lost in the collegiate academic setting, and connects strongly to the conference theme of critical making. At the end of the workshop, participants may place their body maps against a wall for others to see in a “gallery walk style,” where they may engage with viewers and provide context to their maps or leave it up to artistic interpretation. Overall, Body-Mind Mapping acts as a reminder to participants that reflection on embodied experiences should not be neglected. Kelsey Milian Lopez thinks about it like this: “Our bodies speak to us, both about ideas and aspirations for the future or the kinds of generational traumas we have faced from the past. How do we show that and describe that with creative materials and tools?”

Brett-Maclean, Pamela. “Body mapping: embodying the self living with HIV/AIDS.” CMAJ :
Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne vol. 180,7 (2009): 740-1. doi:10.1503/cmaj.090357


Lauren Melendez

Director, CUNY Peer Leaders Program and Administrative Specialist, The Futures Initiative, CUNY Graduate Center

Jerome Campbell

CUNY Peer Leaders Program, John Jay College, City University of New York
avatar for Kelsey Milian

Kelsey Milian

Futures Initiative, CUNY

Jackie Cahill

CUNY Graduate Center, United States of America

Shehnija Afrin

CUNY Peer Leaders Program, Queens College, City University of New York

Brian Garrett

CUNY Peer Leaders Program, Medgar Evers College, City University of New York

Violet Doolittle

CUNY Peer Leaders Program, The City College of New York, City University of New York

Friday June 9, 2023 9:30am - 11:00am EDT
PS 407 (Design Center)