Spring 2015 Learning Communities

The TLC has funded three learning communities for Spring 2015.

  • A Cleaner Tomorrow: Youth Environmental Education Teaching & Learning Community
  • The First-Year Experience and the Greater Liberal Arts: Cultivating Intellectual Curiosity and Engaged Learning through Co-Curricular Partnerships with the Writing-Intensive Classroom
  • Understanding The First-Generation Student Experience at Pitzer to Inform Campus Practice and Create Programming for Improving Success

A Cleaner Tomorrow: Youth Environmental Education Teaching & Learning Committee ($600)

Submitted by Divya Bambawale ’17 & Taylor Novick-Finder ’17 (co-chairs) with Professors Melinda Herrold-Menzies (EA) and DeLacy Ganley (Director of Teacher Education at CGU)

A Cleaner Tomorrow (ACT) is an environmental education program for youth. We work at Sultana Elementary School in Ontario, California, and the Oakmont Outdoor School in Claremont, California with students in grades four, five, and six. We formed in late 2013 as part of an Action Research Team in Pitzer College’s Institute for Global-Local Action Study, and have spent the last fifteen months developing a group of college-aged mentors to teach youth about environmental issues and solutions. Our goal is to be a multidisciplinary education program, which provides an alternative method of teaching to inspire students to be engaged advocates for ecological preservation. Our group consists of nineteen first and second year college students, and our planned majors range from Environmental Analysis and Science, to Political Studies, to Literature, and everything in between. We have designed our program to be multi-faceted with its reach, with a diverse group of students to relate to any students we might work with.

Starting Fall 2014, ACT has been working under the auspices of Pitzer College Student Senate, and we utilize that opportunity for funding for our program. We also were granted funding from the Pitzer Green Initiative Fund (PGIF), who graciously supports our efforts both in the schools we work in and on Pitzer’s campus. We have partnered with several other environmental clubs on campus, including Eco Centre, the Animal Rights Club, Terracycle, Pitzer Outdoor Adventure, and more. We are also expanding our engagement on campus, including hosting environmental workshops for the children of students, faculty, and staff, and initiating change through proposals for rainwater collection systems through the PGIF.

Although we have garnished substantial and generous support from Student Senate, PGIF, our advisor Melinda Herrold-Menzies, and other environmental clubs, we hope to expand further into the Pitzer community. We are applying to be a Teaching and Learning Committee as we seek support in developing our environmental pedagogies. While the ACT curriculum we have developed so far has emphasized various hands-on activities based on teaching experiences members have had in the past, we hope to strengthen our pedagogy so there is more structure and focus. We would like to meet with professors of education and environmental science in order to understand how to teach in more meaningful ways so that students are taking away key points from our lessons. While we have tried to have students reflect on what they learned after each lesson with ACT, we have found this unhelpful as many students do not want to actively reflect. We are therefore looking for ways in which we can not only teach more effectively, but be able to understand how much is being understood by the students. We are therefore requesting $600 from Teaching and Learning Committee in order to spend $300 on materials in each classroom based on what we develop as more meaningful curriculum.

Our Teaching and Learning Committee will be coordinated by Taylor Novick-Finder (P ’17), Director of Administrative Operations and Treasurer of A Cleaner Tomorrow (ACT). The participants in the committee will be other members of the ACT community, as well as interested faculty, staff, and students in environmental education tactics. We hope to reach out and build relationships with Pitzer faculty in order to work with them on a more regular basis. Members will meet on a regular basis, at least once every month or more often as needed. The meetings will focus on evaluating our current curriculum and modifying aspects of it in order to be more structured. Funding that is granted to this committee will be used for classroom materials in Sultana and Oakmont, allowing us to focus our current funds to be utilized for youth environmental education in more workshops on campus.

We hope that with this grant, the ACT community will be more effective teachers. By learning teaching pedagogy, our members will be able to apply their knowledge not only in the classrooms we teach at, but also to the workshops we create on Pitzer’s campus. This will give the Pitzer community more access to ACT and our newly formed teaching pedagogy.


The First-Year Experience and the Greater Liberal Arts: Cultivating Intellectual Curiosity and Engaged Learning through Co-Curricular Partnerships with the Writing-Intensive Classroom ($1000)

Submitted by Bill Anthes (Art History/FYS Director) and Andrea Scott (Academic Writing/Writing Center Director) with Michelle Berenfeld (Classics), Carina Johnson (History), Brinda Sarathy (Environmental Analysis), Claudia Strauss (Anthropology), Sarah Nelson ’17 (Writing Center Fellow), and Summer Sturtevant ’15 (Writing Center Fellow)

As education costs continue to rise and increasing numbers of students pursue vocational degrees, the liberal arts curriculum has been characterized as on the brink of survival. Yet as interdisciplinary scholar James Clifford claimed recently, these arguments may be too bleak, overlooking the vital role the liberal arts play in the university’s teaching and knowledge practices. In a polemic called “The Greater Humanities” Clifford theorizes the overlapping assumptions and practices that transcend any one field, comprising the shared values that underlie multiple disciplines from literature to linguistics, politics to psychology, anthropology to history (2-3).

Clifford offers a rich framework for understanding the value of Pitzer’s First-Year Seminar (FYS) Program in fostering these diverse but shared ways of knowing. The FYS Program cultivates intellectual curiosity and launches students in their academic careers, supporting an approach to learning focused on developing competencies in the interpretation of complex texts and evidence, representation in varied forms of socio-cultural, environmental, and scientific phenomena across time and place, and awareness of the ethical and political dimensions and responsibilities of knowledge and its application. As such, the FYS Program (currently linked to academic advising) is also positioned to serve as a gateway to Pitzer’s already vibrant co-curricular programming.

This learning community proposes to bring together an interdisciplinary group of faculty, students, and staff to explore ways of deepening partnerships and establishing more coordinated connections with field groups and co-curricular centers like IGLAS, MCSI, the Art Galleries, the Writing Center, and the Conservancy to explore ways the FYS program can cultivate the greater liberal arts on campus. Pitzer’s co-curricular centers speak to distinct but overlapping constituencies, interests, and learning styles yet often do not coordinate programming together in systematic ways.  The learning committee will conduct preliminary research that will inform a grant proposal that envisions the FYS Program as a site for integrative knowledge-making practices in the greater liberal arts that may be strengthened through closer partnerships with co-curricular centers on campus.


Understanding The First-Generation Student Experience at Pitzer to Inform Campus Practice and Create Programming for Improving Success ($1000)

Submitted by Professors Roberta Espinoza (Sociology) and Katie Purvis-Roberts (Chemistry/DOF) with Linda Lam (CAPAS Director), Annie Greaney (Resident Director), Kristen Park ’17 and Gabriel Ornelas ’17

In 2010, a study by the Department of Education found that 50% of the college population is made up of first-generation students, or those whose parents did not receive education beyond a high school diploma. Additionally, the National Center for Education Statistics released numbers the same year that found most of those students were students of color, specifically Latino and African American. Overall national trends indicate that first-generation students are more likely to drop out of college, more likely to take longer to graduate if they do not drop out, and more likely to be in more debt if they do graduate. Being a first-generation student basically affects every dimension of being a college student. So although every college student needs to adjust to their new college environment, the adjustment period is even more severe and critical for those that are first in their families to attend college. Part of the struggle is because first-generation students have what scholar Jeff Davis (2010) calls the absence of an “intuitive orientation toward college” that helps them acclimate to their new college environment. Davis argues that in order for first-generation students to learn the culture of college and effectively navigate higher education, they need “guides,” meaning institutional agents that employ programming that walks them through the various processes of higher education.

This learning community will answer Davis’ call by bringing together a key group of faculty, staff, and students to create a concrete plan of programming for first-generation students at Pitzer. To better understand the experiences of first-generation students at institutions of higher education, we will first read the relevant scholarship to map out the national context for students who are first in their families to attend college. We will then analyze and discuss the research conducted by FirstGen and Professor Espinoza to bring the focus back to the experiences of first-generation students at Pitzer. The learning community will use all this information to inform institutional practice and create a detailed programming plan to best support first-generation students, along with a cost estimate to accomplish it.