KU News: Writers still putting ‘Richard Wright in Context’

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Writers still putting ‘Richard Wright in Context’
LAWRENCE – For “Native Son” author Richard Wright, New York City was superior to his previous homes in Mississippi, Memphis and Chicago. But even there, in the U.S. publishing capital, he encountered such racism and restriction that he decamped for Paris, where he lived out his life. Wright’s 10-year (1937-1947) stay in New York is the subject of a chapter by a University of Kansas professor in the new book “Richard Wright in Context,” published by Cambridge University Press.

New book explores co-evolution of faculty training with educational trends
LAWRENCE — Since the 1970s, colleges and universities have seen an increase in faculty development, or programs designed to help professors improve their teaching. These centers for teaching and learning have adapted their approaches just as pedagogy in the classroom has shifted to student-centered and student-directed approaches. “At the Crossroads of Pedagogical Change in Higher Education: Exploring the Work of Faculty Developers,” co-written by a University of Kansas professor, chronicles the history of the centers, drawing on interviews with faculty developers and the literature of the field and higher education.

Fall 2021 KU Architecture Lecture Series lineup announced
LAWRENCE — The Architecture Lecture Series welcomes architecture and experiential design leaders from around the country to the School of Architecture & Design at the University of Kansas. Fall programming includes guest visits from architecture and urban design studios as well as the Symposium on Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Healthcare on Nov. 15.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Rick Hellman, KU News Service, 785-864-8852, [email protected], @RickHellman
Writers still putting ‘Richard Wright in Context’
LAWRENCE – For “Native Son” author Richard Wright, New York City was superior to his previous homes in Mississippi, Memphis and Chicago. But even there, in the U.S. publishing capital, he encountered such racism and restriction that he decamped for Paris, where he lived out his life.

Wright’s 10-year (1937-1947) stay in New York is the subject of a chapter in the new book “Richard Wright in Context,” published by Cambridge University Press.

“What he discovers is that there is no place in the U.S. outside of racism,” said author Ayesha Hardison, associate professor of English and of women, gender & sexuality studies at the University of Kansas. “Born in Mississippi, Wright is an example of the trajectory of many African Americans as part of the Great Migration. He stops in Memphis, he moves to Chicago, he moves to New York, and then ultimately, he moves outside of the United States. Each place offers him more personal and creative freedoms. However, even in New York, he experienced housing discrimination and racial hostility. For many Black entertainers and intellectuals, Paris functioned as a space to escape the restrictions they faced politically, socially and artistically in the U.S., and it worked that way for Wright as well.”

Hardison recently took over directorship of KU’s Project on the History of Black Writing from its founder, Maryemma Graham, who is set to retire after the fall semester. Hardison said the continuing scholarship presented in “Wright in Context,” edited by Michael Nowlin, professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, highlights the ongoing relevance of Wright’s work.

It was during his New York years, in 1940, that Wright’s most celebrated work, the novel “Native Son,” was published.

“It was both popular and critically acclaimed” at the time of its publication, Hardison said, becoming a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. “‘Native Son’ is gripping – it is graphic and socially relevant. It has crime, a dramatic police chase and courtroom scenes, and lots of social commentary. It really speaks to African Americans’ impoverished urban living conditions during Jim Crow, as well as the fear, frustration and resignation such conditions create.”

Hardison said Wright represented a break from the African American writers of the Harlem Renaissance, whom he criticized on various grounds.

“He is one of the most celebrated African American writers emerging at the end of the Depression,” Hardison said. “He is important because of the literary and political networks he secures during this economically precarious period, with key support from the Works Progress Administration. Richard Wright was one of the first African Americans to make their career writing, and his publications make a cultural impact because he directly critiques racial violence, segregation and various kinds of psychological and political limitations placed on African Americans’ ability to work, access education and live.”

It was while living in New York that Wright became estranged from the Communist Party of the USA, Hardison said.

“He disassociates from the party,” Hardison said, “because he feels it circumscribes his work by placing various constraints on his writing.”

Wright’s pursuit of freedom ultimately drove him across the ocean.

Expatriation, Hardison said, “offered not only the freedom to work differently, to create beyond whatever boundaries were placed on you and your art form, but it also allowed you to experience life differently. You were not subjected to segregated transportation or housing or public places. You were not subjected to lower pay scales. For Black creatives and intellectuals, Paris provided an opportunity to embrace themselves as thinkers and artists without the economic, social and psychological barriers that come with U.S. racism and discrimination. Harlem and Brooklyn offered Wright a reprieve, but he left the country with the hope of leaving behind oppressive American race relations.”
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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings
New book explores co-evolution of faculty training with educational trends

LAWRENCE — Since the 1970s, colleges and universities have seen an increase in faculty development, or programs designed to help professors improve their teaching. These centers for teaching and learning have adapted their approaches just as pedagogy in the classroom has shifted to student-centered and student-directed approaches. “At the Crossroads of Pedagogical Change in Higher Education: Exploring the Work of Faculty Developers,” co-written by a University of Kansas professor, chronicles the history of the centers, drawing on interviews with faculty developers and the literature of the field and higher education.

Heidi Hallman, professor of curriculum & teaching at KU, and Melanie Burdick, professor of English at Washburn University, decided to write the book after considering a question posed by a former mentor and colleague: “How do you feel about preparing teachers in an era of change in higher education?” That question posed to directors of CTLs across the country set the stage for the book. The interviews reflected evolving eras of how faculty developers approached their work. Previous eras could be thought of as that of the teacher or the learner, but the authors point out that currently faculty development is in “the age of the pivot.” Just as the pandemic forced schools to shift to online and virtual models, those who develop faculty had to adjust how they approach their work.

“Hearing about these experiences, even before the pandemic, helped us reflect on the speed of these changes and how faculty developers have been in this constant state of evolving and dealing with changing expectations,” Hallman said.

Before the pandemic, when interviews were conducted, higher education had entered a state of “projectification,” the authors wrote. Higher education was increasingly subjected to more of a business model, in which efficiency and consideration of budgets were heightened, and institutions were required to be more answerable to stakeholders such as legislatures and funders. The faculty developers interviewed relate how that affected their work, and chapters also trace how their work moved from individualized trainings to collaborative approaches to interdisciplinary work.

“I think as faculty, sometimes we see things only from our own discipline,” Hallman said. “The faculty developers we interviewed helped demonstrate how we’re in this together and how we can all learn from each other, and not just rely on our own disciplines.”

The authors also examine how emphasis on improving diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education has also influenced the world of faculty development. While the goal of improving in those areas is noble, interviews reflected that it has resulted in more training, yet it is unclear whether that additional effort has truly improved who is included in the ongoing development of teaching or if it is equitable, the authors said.

“At the Crossroads” also chronicles how the rise of online, hybrid and high-flexibility learning in the classroom has spilled over to faculty development and how new concepts like Universal Design for Learning have entered the fray as well. Where such approaches seek to adapt curriculum and teaching approaches to help each individual student, faculty development could also benefit from individualizing its approaches, the authors wrote.

“The goal of professional learning should be that it is ongoing and happens over time. If we’re looking to help everyone, initiatives should have some aspect of being self-driven. Such initiatives should also focus on things like career stage, where a faculty member is in their development and what their specific needs are,” Hallman said.

Throughout the book, Hallman and Burdick — the latter a graduate student of Hallman’s — share the experiences of faculty developers and how their work reflects the larger field. Some were naturally drawn to the work, while others were more pushed into it or appointed to do the job. Where some were fairly new to it, others had worked in the realm throughout their careers. While some were nostalgic for the past, others expressed excitement about new possibilities, and some led well-established CTLs at large institutions while others were in more of an informal position at smaller schools. All, however, offer valuable insight on faculty development and the improvement of the work of higher education.

Following a look at student evaluations of teaching and how involving the teacher in the work can produce improved teaching, the book concludes with a look at where the field stands now. Even before the pandemic, pedagogical change was affecting the work of faculty development. While the pandemic forced a sudden shift to online and virtual approaches, it simultaneously raised difficult questions about equality in education and provided an opportunity for positive change. Burdick and Hallman argued that while the past can help illustrate the path of faculty development and the scholarship of teaching and learning, how education will respond to the pandemic and other societal challenges remains to be seen.

“CTL directors and all faculty developers are truly standing at a crossroads where we must attend to the delicate and unpredictable acts of teaching within both a global pandemic and racial upheaval. At the same time, universities are bending to the direction of a business model, embracing the ideals of academic capitalism and efficiency through projectification,” they wrote. “Whether these conflicting crossroads can merge into combined or parallel paths forward may depend upon how faculty and students are integrated into the mapping. Faculty developers will no doubt continue to be in the thick of the changes as they are the ones who will support faculty and identify what constitutes the best ways to teach and learn on the road ahead.”
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Contact: Dan Rolf, School of Architecture & Design, 785-864-3027, [email protected], @ArcD_KU
Fall 2021 KU Architecture Lecture Series lineup announced
LAWRENCE — The School of Architecture & Design at the University of Kansas has announced programming for the Fall 2021 Architecture Lecture Series.
The Architecture Lecture Series welcomes architecture and experiential design leaders from around the country to the School of Architecture & Design. Lecturers bring a wide range of expertise in areas such as sustainable building, digital environments, public interest design, historic preservation, health and wellness design, and more.

Fall 2021 lectures will begin at 11:30 a.m. and offered in-person in the Forum at Marvin Hall and livestreamed. See events site for streaming information.

Oct. 15
Fabian Jabro is a founding principal of Standard Architects and brings to that role a decade’s experience as a builder. For 25 years he has helped keep the firm focused on collaboration and working a number of project types, including Little Island in New York City, Nutrabolt’s headquarters in Texas and Beam Center’s summer camp in New Hampshire. He is a hands-on principal involved in all of the firm’s projects.

Nov. 15
Symposium on Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Healthcare
Keynote address by Brian Alexander, author of “The Hospital: Life, Death, and Dollars in a Small American Town.”

Panel discussion led by Tom Trenolone, FAIA, director of design at HDR Architecture.

Panelists: Chris Emond, CFO of Mat-Su Health Foundation; Charisse Oland, CEO of Cuyuna Medical Center; and Brock Slabach, COO of the National Rural Health Association.

Following the symposium, a reception will be held at 1:30 p.m. to dedicate the new Pulse Design Group Simulation Lab and Health & Wellness Studios in 400 Marvin Hall.

Nov. 19
Founded in 2016, BORDERLESS is an urban design and research studio focused on cultivating collaborative design agency through interdisciplinary projects. With emphasis on exchange and communication across disciplines, BORDERLESS explores creative and collaborative city design interventions that address the complexity of urban systems and social equity by looking at intersections between architecture, urban design, infrastructure, landscape, planning and civic participatory processes.

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