Finalists Announced for New Social Justice Teaching Award

Is there a member of the faculty who you think exemplifies the principles of social justice in their New School classroom and in the larger community? Someone who transformed your notions of how you might be able to use your skills to transform the world for the better? Well, you aren’t the only one – the inaugural year of the Award for Outstanding Achievements in Diversity and Social Justice Teaching brought a range of nominations from throughout the University.

The Award for Outstanding Achievements in Diversity and Social Justice Teaching recognizes a member of the New School full-time or part-time faculty for their promotion of social justice through teaching and learning. This new award, created by the University Social Justice Committee, will be presented for the first time at the Spring 2014 Commencement ceremony.

For the inaugural year of the Award, the Award Committee reviewed the impressive dossiers of eight finalists. Below is a brief description of each of the finalists. It is easy to see what the Award Committee found so compelling. . .

Finalists for the 2013-2014 Award for Outstanding Achievements in Diversity and Social Justice Teaching @ The New School

Melanie Crean, Assistant Professor of Media Design, Parsons the New School for Design

Melanie is an artist whose creative and teaching practice explores the politics of perception and the capacity of speech and language to produce political change. Using writing, performance, video and internet technologies, she develops experimental, non-linear forms of participatory narrative that straddle documentary and drama. She has forged interdisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities with a wide range of communities to address local social justice challenges. Collaborative partnerships include: Sugar Hill Harlem (housing needs), Hunts Point South Bronx (incarceration), ABC No Rio (urban spatial justice), Brooklyn Grange (urban food ecologies), Our Goods (alternative economies), and the University of Baghdad (collaborative speaking.) The selection committee applauded Melanie’s fluency working within diverse cross-cultural environments and was also impressed with her fresh, innovative teaching methods that deploy tactics of embodied learning, collaborative games and play while simultaneously engendering critical and systems thinking as seen in Urban Tactics and Media Ecologies of Harlem (NMDS 5593) and Possible Worlds (PSAM 5500F).

Jaskiran Dhillion, Assistant Professor of Education and Anthropology, Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts

Teaching at Eugene Lang since 2008, Jaskiran has consistently offered students the opportunity to be engaged in work that both informs and challenges them to make the connections at play in learning across culture, class, and race. Her courses are deeply grounded in her belief that she can challenge her students to see that it is possible to “bring the concepts and ideas we engage in our academic seminars into conversation with contemporary problems we face as global citizens.” The selection committee applauded Jas’ work in creating dynamic, full-bodied courses. Immersive, experiential, interdisciplinary are just some of the words used to describe her teaching. Her stewardship of the Lang in Cambodia program and her courses in anthropology and education, such as Education and Human Rights and the Promise of Human Development, raise the stakes for student learning.

Robin Hayes, Assistant Professor of Media Studies, International Affairs, Nonprofit Management and Urban Policy; Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, New School for Public Engagement

Robin is a scholar and filmmaker who contributes to public and academic discourses about race, the African diaspora, and Black social movements. She produced and directed the recent documentary Black and Cuba (2013). Her courses, such as Social Justice Cinema: Marginalized Realities and Transnational Advocacy in Documentary Film (MMGT 6072) examine how economic, gender, and racial inequalities are reproduced, social movements, and traditions of dissent. The selection committee praised her groundbreaking work as principal organizer of Progressive Pupil, an educational nonprofit that aims to make Black studies accessible through social media and documentary film. Students in her courses explore strategies for raising awareness and taking collective action to address race-based oppression, including publishing posts on Progressive Pupil.

Amir Husak, Adjunct Faculty in Media Studies, The New School for Public Engagement

Filmmaker, teacher, and mentor, Amir is a an accomplished documentarian who has been dedicated to helping students build the technical and professional skills needed to use media as a tool of communication and change. He calls his students the next generation of “critically engaged thinkers and media makers.” He has time and again through his work with students shown a commitment to helping students articulate their political and creative voices. As a filmmaker, he infuses his own work with a passion toward social justice. Amir spent a year in Germany as a Fulbright scholar. His research was used to create the film Kotti & Co, which chronicles the movement amongst immigrants in Krueburg, Germany who oppose the growing gentrification of their community.

Erica Kohl-Arenas, Assistant Professor of Nonprofit Management, the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, The New School for Public Engagement

Erica merges social justice theory and practice in the development of community-university partnerships involving the Center for Court Innovation, mentorship of student-generated activities such as the Undoing Racism Conference and the establishment of Students for Social Justice, and through courses that involve students in the design and management of community-driven participatory action research across New York City. The selection committee was impressed by her intentional use of radical pedagogies (story circles) and transparent learning outcomes in her courses Community Engagement (MMGT 6651) and in Theory and Practice (MHTC 5000). These courses promote inclusivity and projects that incorporate procedural justice analysis to address community challenges resulting from poverty. As student testimonials reflect, she creates the “intellectual safe house” where power and privilege are unpacked in an effort to promote responsible community engagement, social reflection, and change. Erica was also a finalist for the Distinguished University Teaching Award in 2014.

Jasmine Rault, Assistant Professor of Culture and Media,Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts

Jasmine’s scholarship centers on feminist and queer media and cultural production, sapphic modernity, arts and activism, among other topics. She teaches an impressive array of courses in cultural studies such as Queering Activism (LCST 4032), informed by feminist, queer, critical race, and post-colonial frameworks. The selection committee was impressed with the ways that Jasmine empowers students to analyze structures of oppression and mount strategies of resistance, including raising consciousness about the need for “all gender” bathrooms on campus and an “End Racial Erasure” project at Lang. In the words of one supporter, Jasmine’s “pedagogy is informed by and in turn contributes to a genealogy of Cultural Studies as an activist, social justice-oriented discipline that, while often initiated within the classroom, is activated in everyday life.”

Marcus Turner, Assistant Professor of Filmmaking, School of Media Studies, The New School for Public Engagement

Through advanced film production courses offered to both graduate and undergraduate students, Marcus empowers students to search for the truth and soul of art and society. In his course, Community Collaboration Change (NFLM 3441), Marcus teaches students to identify different types of social, economic and political oppression, as well as to understand the historical origin of oppression in society. A practicing filmmaker, storyteller, and film producer (his documentary, No Justice, No Peace, explores police misconduct and the U.S. criminal justice system), Marcus was the Executive Producer of the television series “Sharp Talk,” hosted by the Reverend Al Sharpton. The selection committee was impressed with the passion and honesty that Marcus brings to his teaching and to his engagement with the community.

Zisan Ugurlu, Associate Professor of Theater at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts

Zisan utilizes artistic practices to cultivate the critical thinking skills required of responsible citizens of the world. Through a range of performative practices, including directing and acting, Zisan’s work exemplifies the transformational power of theater in shaping public opinion and decision-making processes. Beyond the politically grounded plays she directs, Zisan has worked with Rehabilitation Through the Arts to conduct research with the incarcerated to identify issues of reentry, which were then used to devise a theater piece with prisoners at Sing Sing, which will be performed in Fall 2014. The selection committee was impressed by her consistent use of the theme of economic inequity and an authenticity in courses, such as Acting (LTHR 3055), that utilize the incorporation of research conducted on those angered by unfair treatment.


Impressed by the finalists’ bios? We thought so. Interested in learning more about their work? Click the links in the bios to learn more. Want the chance to meet the finalists and celebrate their important work? Curious which of the finalists the committee selected to receive the award? Watch this space for the naming of this year’s winner and the details on an upcoming reception to honor all the finalists!