This is a repost of my blog originally posted in Feminist Studies in Religion.
I love reunions especially if it involves good food and good friends.
If you have ever attended a Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion Workshop you will know that they do not skimp on food, snacks or drinks. Wabash seems to have endless supply of chocolates, chips and of course drinks.
This past American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting, Wabash Center held a reunion dinner for the two Asian American Pre-Tenure Faculty Workshop cohorts. This was the first reunion for our 2 cohorts. It proved to be a very joyous reunion as some of us have not seen each other since 2007. About 20 gathered including some of the Wabash Center’s coordinators (Drs. Paul Myhre & Thomas Pearson-Associate Directors) and cohort leaders (Drs. Kwok Pui-Lan, Benny Liew, Zayn Kassam, Seung Ai Yang). We greeted each other, ate and drank.
Since it was a reunion for 2 different cohorts, not everyone knew each other in the room. One of our leaders, Dr. Kwok Pui Lan led a game called, “World Cafe”. Various questions were given and everyone in the table had time to share their thoughts and reflections. The questions were:
1. What do you remember most from your workshop?
2. What concrete teaching practice have you adopted because of the workshop?
3. How did the workshop affect your consciousness or experience of yourself as Asian Asian-American in the classroom?
4. How did the workshop help you to look at your own institution differently?
5. How might a network of Asian and Asian-American faculty who have been to Wabash be of value to the future? How might this networking be structured or facilitated?
After each question, people were asked to move around the room so that we could sit with different people and get to know different colleagues.
Several things that I learned from this reunion . . .
First, Wabash is always generous. As faculty members, we work under a scarcity model, but the Wabash Center practices abundance. Hence the dinner had an open bar, with hors d’ oeuvres which were delicious. The main meal was scrumptious and the dessert was to die for.
Second, even a fun game like “World Cafe” is educational. “World Cafe” was a wonderful pedagogical method of getting to know one another and a comfortable mode of interacting and sharing. I am sure to implement this pedagogy in my own teaching.
Third, the networking that occurred in my own particular cohort was very valuable. The friendships that we made and/or cemented from that initial workshop are immeasurable. Bringing the participants of the 2 cohorts, together deepens and broadens these connections. This is much appreciated.
As minoritized scholars working in mainly White institutions, it has become a challenge for many of us as Asian American scholars who are teaching and active in the academy. However, with this strong and incredible network of fellow colleagues, friends and mentors, many of us are led to believe that we can overcome any adversity.
I am so grateful to the Wabash Center for the teaching and learning that I have gained from their workshops. But more importantly I have learned that it is people that matter; students matter and a strong understanding among colleagues, friends and mentors matters too.
(for more discussion on racialized minorities in the classroom, please read my blog, “Through Hispanic Eyes” for Bruce Reyes-Chow’s blog site patheos.com).
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Associate Professor of Doctrinal Theology and the Director of the MATS program at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She is the author of The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press).