Thanks to another great podcast, Future U by Jeff Selingo and Michael Horn, I learned about a course at Georgetown University called Mastering the Hidden Curriculum. Part of the Georgetown Scholars Program, the course teaches students things about college that many students, especially first-generation students, don’t know, like what office are and how to interact with faculty. The course also dives into topics like imposter syndrome and how to fight it as a new college student.
I wanted to know more about the course and the Georgetown Scholars Program, which provides programmatic support for high-achieving low-income and first-generation students at Georgetown. I reached out to Missy Foy, executive director of the GSP, to ask her on the podcast. She, in turn, connected me with Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students. The two of them are a wealth of information about the experiences of low-income and first-gen college students, and they had a lot to share for faculty and administrators about how colleges and universities can better support these students.
Anthony Jack’s faculty page, https://www.gse.harvard.edu/faculty/anthony-jack
Georgetown Scholars Program, https://gsp.georgetown.edu/
“What Students Think of Their College Experience,” Future U podcast, November 23, 2022, https://futureupodcast.com/episodes/what-students-think-of-their-college-experience/
"The Weekend" by chillmore, via Pixabay
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[00:00:00] Derek Bruff: Welcome to Intentional Teaching, a podcast aimed at educators to help them develop foundational teaching skills and explore new ideas in teaching. I'm your host, Derek Bruff. I hope this podcast helps you be more intentional in how you teach and in how you develop as a teacher over time.
Late last fall, I listened to a powerful episode of The Future U podcast hosted by Jeff Selingo and Michael Horn. The episode was recorded at a Chronicle of Higher Education event in Washington DC and it featured stories from three college students about their experiences in higher education. All three students were incredibly articulate and insightful, but one student stood out to me.
Lisa Kennedy is a sophomore at Georgetown University. She's a first generation student from rural Wisconsin, and she's part of the Georgetown Scholars program. One element of that program is a course called Mastering the Hidden Curriculum, and it teaches students things about college that many students, especially first generation students, don't know, like what office hours are and how to interact with faculty.
The course also dives into topics like imposter syndrome and how to fight it as a new college student. This course seemed like an incredibly useful experience for a first gen student like Lisa. I wanted to know more about the course and the Georgetown Scholars program, which provides programmatic support for high achieving low income and first generation students at Georgetown.
I reached out to Missy Foy, executive director of the G S P. To ask her on the podcast. She in turn connected me with Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students.
The two of them are a wealth of information about the experiences of low income and first gen college students, and they had a lot to share for faculty and administrators about how colleges and universities can better support these students.
Thank you Missy and Anthony both for being on the podcast today.
I'm excited to talk with you and learn from you today about all kinds of things. Tell us about a time when you realized you wanted to be an educator.
[00:02:22] Anthony Jack: Missy, you wanna go first? ,
[00:02:25] Missy Foy: you're too kind, Tony. Thank you. What a good question. And it's interesting cuz it's not so much a choice, it's just, it felt like a little bit of an inevitability.
First of all, I had some incredible professors and mentors when I was in college. I remember one of them telling me, find a job that you love and you'll never work a day in your life. And I thought, wow. It, it. Sort of codified how I felt about his teaching style, that he genuinely enjoyed it.
He just loved it. That's Tony Arend at Georgetown, who's in the government department. So I think I looked up to people like him so much and saw how they changed my worldview. You know, I could be a corporate lawyer right now if I hadn't had people in my life challenging me gently on what I wanted to do.
And then I think really I honestly don't know if I would've been in education if I hadn't met some of our students. I think I feel called to be with them and learn from them and show up hopefully as my best, the best version of myself for my students. So I, I don't know if I would be an educator if it weren't exactly for these particular students, but they're why I'm here.
[00:03:32] Anthony Jack: I can echo a number of those things. You know, I am a first generation college student and I had no idea what this world was, right? The world of higher education, I didn't know what it was, right? Education for me growing up was literally only I don't wanna say just to minimize what they do, but only the teachers that we had.
I didn't know about this other world, and I'll never forget that the first time I went to convocation at Amherst College, which is where I went for undergrad, I saw all of these puffy hats and colorful robes and with three stripes on the arms, and I was just like, oh, this is nice. Like this is, this is, this is kind of cool.
I was like, I started meeting more faculty members and I was like, they had nice houses. They had summers off. They get the same breaks that we got, and Amherst had a five and a half week winter break. I was like, okay, I like this. And what it really was an exploration for me was the ability to craft your own agenda, right?
There was freedom in being faculty members, specifically an educator in higher education. And that's what really intrigued me. I got to be a forever student, right? I get to. connect with people. You know, my job is not just sitting behind the desks, which would both feed and drain me in a way that I think will be uncomfortable.
Whereas the kind of joy and fuel that I get from interacting with people, interacting with students, mentoring, advising, teaching was something I want to curate more. And then realizing that when that began to be, you know, something that I wanted to, like, tone down a little bit. I had my research to fuel me in different sort of way, right?
I get to now write about the policies and practices and behaviors of universities that need to change or need to be brought up to current standards of students, right? And the current demographic of students. And so I was like, oh, wow, this, this is that mix that I was looking for. And so being an educator for me is slightly different than what I saw growing up, but then I also build on that, right?
I it's, it's like this, it's like this snowball effect, right? I had great teachers, I had great mentors. Then when I was at Amherst, I saw how people did mentoring and research, and I was like, okay, this could be for me. And then I came to graduate school to make that happen. Yeah.
[00:06:21] Derek Bruff: Yeah. That's great. And that
that element of the faculty life of getting to chart your own course, right, within some boundaries and, and a system that, that is not always kind, but but a fair degree of autonomy to explore the things that are really meaningful to you and your students. I think that's really powerful.
Well, Tony, let's talk a little bit about your work first, and then I'm gonna bounce back to, to Missy to learn more about the situation at Georgetown. Tony, what are, to use your words, the privileged poor? And what are the doubly disadvantaged?
[00:06:55] Anthony Jack: Yeah, that's a great place to start. And, and thank you for, you know, grounding this conversation on teaching and mentoring and you know, even curriculum in in the research.
So, The privileged poor, and the doubly disadvantaged is my corrective in how we talk about lower income and first generation college students. I say that because we typically treat all lower income and first generation college students as one big monolithic group, right? We just lump everyone together, treat everyone the same.
We have this, this mindset of that they don't have cultural capital. They don't understand how universities work. They don't, they don't, they don't, right? It's always from a negative perspective and. It's not that, that framing is completely inaccurate, right? If you are a lower income person and you went to a, and you are from a disadvantage, economic disadvantaged neighborhood, you probably went to a lower income school, a more distressed schools, and those schools are not similar in many ways to the colleges that you are applying to.
But what my research showed is that, for the first time, is that colleges and especially elite colleges, were hedging their bets. And so they were getting their new diversity from old sources. They were recruiting lower income students from Andover, Exeter, St. Paul, Choate, Hockaday, the Menlo School, all of these high schools that cost
50 and $55,000 a year. And so the privileged poor are lower income, lower income students who graduated from boarding, day, and preparatory high schools. And the doubly disadvantaged are lower income students who attended and graduated from local, typically distressed public schools. And the reason why it's important to understand that difference is it forces us to prepare for our students differently.
It forces us to understand how social class shapes the undergraduate experience because it's not just those who come from money who are comfortable. It's those who have educational experiences that only money could buy, who understand what office hours are, which is a huge part of the academic experience of college, right?
It's one thing to go to class. Office hours are where faculty become advisors. Advisors become mentors, and mentors become lifelong friends. People, right? It's not just what you know and who you know, it's who knows you and how well they do when it comes to writing a letter of recommendation, when it comes to nominating you for awards and prizes, all of these things that take teaching and advising to the next level, you have to know someone, but who feels comfortable in those interactions. and so understanding
that there is this overlooked diversity among lower income students helps us get a better understanding of how social class shapes, how they move through the university.
[00:09:53] Derek Bruff: So you've used the phrase doubly disadvantaged, so I, I can imagine that those students do have additional disadvantages that the privileged poor might not have, having gone to some of these more elite prep schools. On the other hand, I can imagine faculty making assumptions about a student because they went to an expensive private school. That that may not actually be accurate given where, given that student's entire life story.
[00:10:21] Anthony Jack: Exactly. And that's part, that's part of the project, right? That's not part of it. That's the heart of the project. Because for, for example, Students who feel comfortable going to office hours typically have had years of experience engaging with adults in a comfortable one-on-one situation. So whether it is happening at your dinner table or in office hours at your high school, students from money and those who went to prep schools, whether they're from money or not,
typically have an edge in gaining access to a whole host of institutional resources, right? Through office hours, through going to career services earlier and more often to get their resumes checked out to apply for different things, right? They don't wait for things. They are proactive in how they
seek out resources. And yes, it can actually lead to a biased understanding of students' background that actually turn, that actually results in faculty members, quite frankly, unknowingly, sometimes privileging privileged in more than one way, right? It's not just those for money, but those who've had these experiences.
Because when you look at who serves as research assistants. Who's more likely to serve as course assistants, who's more likely to serve in these life of the mind positions? They typically are students who feel comfortable. Those who have had years and years of practice. But at the same time, my research looks at not just when they're the privilege poor and the double disadvantage experiences differ, it also looks at where they align.
And one of the big things in my research that I talk about is food insecurity, right? Because no matter how much knowledge you have about backdoor donuts on Martha's Vineyard or vacationing in Tulum and vacationing to all these places and all that stuff like that, if you don't have money to leave campus, And your campus was one of the nearly 75, right?
That shut down during spring break. Right. So of all the colleges that have adopted no loan financial aid policies, only one in five kept their dining halls open during spring break, it did not matter how much knowledge you have of the fine arts or the high arts, or whatever you want to call it. You were going hungry.
Because you didn't have enough money to go back. or worse, you didn't have a home to go back to. College was now your permanent address, and so how do we begin to understand that there are some students who embody both? Who embody the. , the, the, the highbrow life of these elite boarding schools where they've had the Harkness method, you know, drilled into them, where they have this understanding of office hours and fellowships and all these kind of things.
And those who know what poverty looks like on an intimate basis, who know what food stamps and snaps, like, who knows what happens when SNAP benefits run out, right? There are students we have who understand both. And how we prepare for those students is incredibly important. I always say we need to question what we take for granted.
I mentioned the word fellowships here in passing, but I always stop and make a moment. There are a group of students that, when you say fellowship, it only means what happens on a Sunday morning across church pews, right? In mosque, right? That's literally the only definition that they understand.
But if you go to a college, All of a sudden fellowship means something totally different. It has a very prominent and probably more prominent secular definition than a religious one. And so how do we begin to understand that when I say fellowships, I'm talking about Rhodes and Marshall and Binchy, not church pews saying hello to your neighbors saying, may the peace be with you.
Right. How do we begin to understand those things? And when you think about the loaded language that we have in. When faculty member say, on the first day of class, oh, my office hours are from two to four, I had one faculty member tell me, she always wondered why her students never came in that two to four slot.
And she told me, she said, she finally asked, she asked me for advice and she, and I said, ask. I said, define office hours. And she came back. She said, you know what, Tony, my students told me that the reason why they did not come to office hours, Is because when I said that my office hours from two to four, they thought that was my time to do my work uninterrupted.
Right? Something was lost in translation that had nothing to do with English proficiency. Right. We have a very coded language We cannot take for granted that everyone has had a chance to master this new language and the, and the required skills to navigate campus before they arrive at the college gates.
[00:15:08] Derek Bruff: So, Missy, I wanna bring you in.
I see you nodding along with what Tony's saying. Tell us about your context at Georgetown and how you see some of these issues play out and, and how the Georgetown Scholars program is, is trying to address some of them.
[00:15:22] Missy Foy: First of all, you can tell why I was desperate to get Tony to join us. He has such a way, he's such a storyteller, such a gifted storyteller.
The story about convocation with the, I mean, they wear costumes right? Right. It's all this , you know, pomp and circumstance over the top stuff. And the language, oh my goodness, I love that office hours example. Cause I really think it gets to the heart of it. At Georgetown we have the Georgetown Scholars Program, which is over 650 first generation and primarily low income students.
About 70 or so percent are from public high schools, not necessarily under-resourced high schools, but and we do see a, a, a difference in terms of preparation and I think like comfort and empowerment in this college context for students who went to the Choates of the world versus students who went to
santa Ana Public High School, which is a phenomenal high school by the way. So we do see difference in how those students are prepared. Within G S P, we provide wraparound support services and we're a student kind of driven initiative. Students are involved in every decision that we make and often guiding them.
And I think that that's served us well. Cause we make sure we're talking to students as they are living in the world today. And we've done some things to, I think, try to address the, the dynamic between the, or the disconnect sometimes between the privileged poor and the doubly disadvantaged and the resources that
they come to school with the, the knowledge on how to navigate the system. Partially informed by Dr. Jack's research as well as the research of Dr. Rachel Gable also, well, she was formerly at Harvard. Now she's at Virginia Commonwealth. We created a course called Mastery in the Hidden Curriculum and it's now a two credit pass fail course.
We serve dinner at every, every class, and it's for first year students taught by exclusively first gen graduates of college faculty members. Ah and they wear their first gen graduate t-shirt like to the first class when they introduce themselves, and they obviously talk a great deal about that. We have had students who attended the private fancy schools when they got to.
you know, we have had those students opt into the class, but it was, you know, it's disproportionately, I think students from public high schools who felt like they didn't have that guidance. I was remembering when , when Tony was talking about the definitions of the privileged poor and the doubly disadvantaged and how schools have kind of doubled down on those, on that privileged poor population.
I remember. So I went to. Public high school in Chicago when it came to Georgetown. I remember we did this like exercise and new student orientation where we went around and talked about where people went to high school and where I'm from in Illinois, where I am right now actually. Students who went to boarding schools were students who had gotten in trouble in high school.
And had to go away for disciplinary reasons. And so, all I was thinking when they were talking about, oh my gosh. And then they seemed to like know each other too, like, or they were friends, like I went to a dance or something with somebody who went to Andover was, I walked away thinking, this is amazing.
This is why I chose Georgetown. They're taking a risk on a student who didn't have, who needed another chance in life. . I was trying to,
[00:18:45] Derek Bruff: You poor kid. You had to go to Andover .
[00:18:48] Missy Foy: I really did think. I thought, yeah. Oh my gosh. Wow. They, you know, , they're on the straight and narrow now, and fingers crossed that everything goes according to plan.
[00:18:57] Derek Bruff: But they've had a rocky past.
[00:18:58] Missy Foy: They've had a rocky past,
[00:18:59] Derek Bruff: and that was in fact not what had happened
[00:19:01] Missy Foy: not what had happened at all. .
[00:19:03] Anthony Jack: What I think is important, especially from an instructional and a curriculum perspective, is how do we truly understand both, not only the demographic shifts that are happening at college and universities, especially those that have adopted class-based affirmative action measures.
Right? I think about Vassar doubling the number of Pell Grant recipients that it had in a two year period. I think about the fact that, you know, one out of every five students at schools like Harvard and Yale now are to some degree, by some definition, low income, that they're, because of the recruitment, I think about.
Stanford increasing their no loan contribution to 125,000. Yale increasing it to a hundred thousand, Harvard to 80,000. That's going to increase the, that's going to lower the sticker shock and increase the number of people who are going to say, Hey, I can afford to, and I can make it at the institutions, but are we ready?
It's always the question that I want to ask, right? . Are we ready to welcome and support the diversity that we are spending millions to recruit? . And sadly, the answer from many institutions is no. .
[00:20:18] Derek Bruff: Yeah. Well, let, let's talk more about that and, and that, those changes I saw, right? I, I taught at Vanderbilt University over a 20 year period and the student population changed in so many dramatic ways during that time, and I think a lot of faculty had have trouble keeping up, right?
These are not the students that we were teaching 20 years ago. They, they have very different life experiences and they have different expectations and beliefs. What are some other elements of this hidden curriculum? That, that faculty might experience as it plays out in their classroom. We've talked a little bit about office hours and about like this notion of fellowships, but what are some other parts of the hidden curriculum that that sometimes trip students up when they make it to colleges?
[00:21:01] Anthony Jack: You know, I think one thing that's important is is I wanna put a large talk about a larger umbrella of things, but the mechanism is still the same. It's like access to institutional resource. When it comes to faculty, what I really wanna focus on is not saying that one faculty member is doing something right or wrong in one particular way, but just realizing that we play an integral part in students access to institutional resources.
Right. Whether that means mental health, career services, library services, a whole host of things, how do we take a step back and say, and ask ourselves a question? , how easily accessible is this office or resource to us versus to students? Because when I think about the work of Becca Bassett, who is at the University of Arkansas, when I think about the work of Elizabeth Lee who's at St.
Joe's College, St. Joe's University, I think about the way in which we have a, we don't understand the decision making processes of our undergraduates. We think that our door is always open and that's perfectly fine, but we don't understand that for some students it is rude or disrespectful. They've been taught to not ask for help, to do it on your own.
That it's a sign of weakness to ask for help or, or worse, it is actually wrong to bother someone. What your problems or with your questions. Right? And so when we have that in mind, we actually realize that open door policies, if not discriminate against those are more like the doubly disadvantaged. Then the flip side of it is it actually privileges those who feel comfortable in being proactive, and this is, and those, I know some detractors will say, well, the student who is the most agent should get the resources, should get this.
Mm. Just because you are coached to ask for something doesn't mean that you know how to know what to do with it, when you get it right. Some people just know how to ask because it's, it's how they... It's like they're Ash Ketchum. They just got, you know, like with Pokemon, you gotta catch 'em all right?
They just ask for everything and whatever. Whatever hits, whatever it sticks. Sticks. Versus of those individuals who actually would bene those individuals who actually benefit the most from these type of supports actually are the least likely to ask for and be least likely to get it. And that to me, as an instructor, as a member of a university, as a spokesperson for a university, that's problem, that's problematic.
I, I, I anchor my conversations in office hours because it allows me to talk about the larger process of how do students access the, the, the, those storied resources that we write view books about that. We do that. We do informational videos about that. We literally, Battle on US News and World Report saying, actually no, we, we have this much endowment per student and we spend it this way and we do this, and we do that, right?
We literally go to go to like PR war to sell ourselves, and then yet when students get to campus, we don't try to, we don't take away the, the, the barriers to those things. Or rather understanding that students have different perceptions or understandings about how to and when to access those resources. ,
[00:24:42] Derek Bruff: Missy, can you weigh in on that?
I think this what I might call help seeking behaviors is a, is a real key element of this, of this space. I remember hearing a colleague years ago tell me that she, she had a couple of students come up to her after class. This was a, I think a, a French language or literature class. And one student said, you know, I just couldn't get the paper done last night.
Could I have an extension? And the teacher said, sure, no problem. And the student behind that one in line said, I killed myself last night getting this done. I didn't know I could ask for an extension. And that's when my colleague realized that there was some real inequity here.
Because of these help seeking behaviors and how they play out differently in students. What does that look like for Georgetown Scholars and how do you, how do you try to help them navigate this system more effectively?
[00:25:28] Missy Foy: So we do a couple different things. We have an incredible peer mentor program where upper class students can kind of guide
the younger students on navigating the place. We also do, this is one of my favorite G S P traditions is our Thrive Challenge. Where we ask students to go into office hours to visit the career center, to think about where they wanna study abroad. And we're actually hoping to build, I'm hoping to build a sort of a counterpart class to the mastering the Hidden Curriculum class on navigating life after college, which would clearly go through fellowships as well as like how to articulate being a first gen college graduate and what a incredible thing that is to an employer, putting that in your cover letter.
You know, we sort of swing between trauma porn and not mentioning it at all, you know, closeting those students. And so finding like some, an authentic balance, but I think we do it most directly in that, in that class that I mentioned, the master in the hidden curriculum class. And I think what was interesting to me is we started out by mapping like, what are the things that students need to know?
And so we go through kind of like decoding some of the language, which is so alienating. . You know what's interesting? I'm, I'm, I'm, I don't have a PhD. I'm not a fancy academic. I'm a lowly staff member. And the words that other universities use still makes me feel like ill-equipped to be in those spaces.
Like, I remember we were doing a research project with Harvard and they use language like proctors and houses, and I was like, what the f are these people talking about? Like Googling it on the side?
[00:27:04] Derek Bruff: Yeah. Having taught at Harvard for a couple of years, I was like, oh, they just have different words for everything they do.
[00:27:11] Missy Foy: Yep.
[00:27:11] Derek Bruff: That's, that's what's happening here.
[00:27:13] Missy Foy: And so it's things like that, the language can be so incredibly alienating as Tony rightfully points out. Things like, what does a provost and what does a provost do? I mean, if I ever talk about my job to my family, they're like, can is. Is the provost, the money person?
And you know, I'm like, I don't honestly, frankly know all these years in . So I think one thing we thought, we thought we'd go in and decode the language and we do do that. But I think the best thing that has come outta that class is to Tony's point, it's been a space of empowerment for those students.
We have them do their final project on kind of where they've been and where they see themselves going, and they can take it in a million different directions. And our students are so incredibly creative and talented. I'm always surprised by that. I'm like, but you're brilliant. So you only get to be that thing.
And then they come out with music that I'm like, oh my gosh, you have that whole other side of your brain that's like flourishing as well. But I think a lot of it is yes, making it make, helping students understand that help seeking behavior is a habit of excellence and not a deficit. This is something that their classmates, you know, who go to those fancy boarding schools, come to the table with.
They understand that you. , it's more like everyone needs help to get through things. You know, I have a team that I work with at my job and Tony has teaching assistants that he relies on. Like, that's not an embarrassing thing. And that's totally okay. I think the difference is for many of our students, they grew up in context where to Tony's point, it either wasn't rewarded to ask for help or the help didn't exist.
So you're either discouraged from doing it or sometimes like, I mean, think about our thin government safety nets in many of these contexts. You know, they're not amazing. So students learn to figure it out on their own. And I do think we see a huge gulf in those students' experiences because they.
You know, the value of college is not always what happens inside the classroom. It's those conversations at 3:00 AM on your dorm floor. It's who you end up dating sometimes, or you know, marrying. Ultimately, it's the exposures and the connections that you have, and if you feel disempowered. If you feel like, oh, I don't even know the language to go into those conversations, how are you possibly gonna be able to take advantage of this?
And so, I mean, I think I, we've rightfully had the criticism leveled at us to not be teaching, mastering the hidden curriculum to our students, but to be teaching it to our faculty and to our continuing generation students, which is an excellent point and very well heard. We will get there, you know, maybe higher ed will get there in time to make that a mandate for all new faculty members or something, but it's not there now.
And so in the meantime, we're trying to help our students navigate those, those contexts until we are more student friendly, you
[00:29:52] Derek Bruff: Well, well, let me then invite you, because our, our audience here on the podcast is primarily faculty. What are some choices that instructors can make either in the design of their courses or how they interact with their students that can help close some of these gaps and make things more transparent?
Missy, you seem ready to share some ideas.
[00:30:15] Missy Foy: First of all, I'm like so excited to hear what Tony has to say. , I'm always like, I feel like when I spend time with him, I'm like, this is like taking a PhD level course with . You know? I mean, you're, you're an expert on this. You've done all the interviews and the research and so it's so fun for me cuz so like what I hear anecdotally from students is, is born out in the research that you do on
a systemic level. So actually I'd love to hear him if, if you feel prepared, Tony, to take this on. Yeah, I'd love to hear from you first.
[00:30:41] Anthony Jack: Yeah, no, I, and the thing is, I'm glad that you mentioned the, the example of, of extensions and, and just how, how big of a moment that can be for a student. Right? There were times where, you know, aren't parents and families have jobs where you can't be late.
or rather, if you, if you are, you're, you're held to the, the punishment is greater, right? The, the potential punishment of easily getting fired is great. I'm not trying to say if, you know, if your mom and dad is a doctor and you're late to the OR, but No, I'm not trying to say that, but I am trying to say that when you, as my mom was a security guard at a middle school, , you show up late a whole bunch of times.
You're no. You ask too much of your bosses, they're like, oh no, you're an annoyance. You gotta go. And so there are a number of things and like that extension, how that translates into behavior. Right. I think about the work in the Nicole Stevens and the, a number of people, another psychologist at at, at Northwestern Kellogg.
This, it's a beautiful moment. I think it's absolutely right. I think that it's, it's. As I say in my research, it is not only the, it is not only the job of lower income first generation college students to grow, to adapt and to change, right? It's incredibly important that if universities are going to say, are going to admit a diverse class, that means they are committed to support that diverse class, right?
I will say that until I'm blue in the face. And so for me it is making things explicit, right? It is the definitions that we use. It is taking that extra step or that extra 10 seconds in class to explain what you mean. I gave a presentation, professional development presentation to the University of Tennessee system, and a professor, my professor said, I've been teaching from here for more than 25 years, and I've never thought to do this.
And as I look back, I realized why I was more comfortable with certain people and why I didn't, I didn't. I got, and we talk about the emotional experience of getting annoyed at having to explain myself, but yet that's our job, right? And so I think it starts the definitions that we use. I think a uni, I think the syllabus is a very powerful tool of of welcoming, of creating sense of belonging, right?
And being very intentional in how we, in how we use it. I think that . I personally like it when, and I, and I advocate for this, is when individuals personalize not only their syllabus, but their definitions to say, this is how I understand it to be. And so we are co-creating this environment together.
And let me tell you where I am. I think it's important for us to show examples of failure and show examples of collaboration because oftentimes we present ourselves, our research and our entire entities as kind of like these Athena moments, like popped out of one's head completely formed and ready to go and one of the most you know, badass Greek gods.
Right? That's not who we are. That's not research. That's not the institution of higher education and right. And so when we begin, when we begin to not only question, what we take for granted by actually defining those, the defining what is part of that tacit understanding of what it means to be a student.
Whether that means offering an automatic extension or rather actually saying like, look, I'm putting it out there. Life happens. There are gonna be times where you cannot make a deadline. Email me 24 hours before and I'm going meet with you halfway, or if you're not that lenient, what is one question?
What is the importance of certain deadlines or certain assignments? Because I personally think that a lot of assignments are just, are just busy work, and a lot of deadlines are more punitive than, than, than, than anything that teaches you how to do something. , but how do we begin to interrogate that? But then also, if you want to keep the deadline and you want teach somebody, teach the student something, then frame that assessment as learning that you can ask
For an extension because half your classes, or in many schools like Georgetown and Harvard, more than three-fourths of your classes are gonna be coming from places of money and privilege that you're gonna, they're gonna feel perfectly comfortable demanding of things of you, let alone asking. And so it's a whole bunch of things for me.
And, but, but Missy, you said that, you know, hearing from me is, is is informative. I, you know, I don't have the every day administrative experience of working with students in different offices and the like. So I always enjoy hearing from people who are in students' lives every day, working with different offices, creating collaborations, because as a faculty member, even as a researcher who focuses on this, I'm not part of those conversations, and I wanted to end there because I think that faculty need to get off their high horses at times and actually listen to the individuals who are recruiting the students, supporting the students, and taking care of the students.
[00:36:21] Missy Foy: You're so kind, , he's so kind to say that. And I do. Yeah, man, that's nice to hear. Especially cuz there is such a hierarchy at college. You know, faculty are up here and staff is down here, and so thank you for always being cognizant and celebrating kind of the the experiences that we have as staff members.
It's interesting you say this because Georgetown is not back from winter break yet, and we have about 25 students staying on campus during the winter break when the dorms traditionally close and other students go home. And as we have these conversations about meeting the American Talent Initiative goals and increasing the number of Pell eligible students, These, this is, they're, I'm not gonna be invited to future meetings because I keep on saying, what are we gonna do for winter housing?
What are we gonna do for summer housing? What are we gonna do when the cafeteria closes? What are we gonna do in terms of summer school and access to that funding resource? Man, like where to begin? It is, it's kind of overwhelming. You know, I think about one thing to me that the college admissions scandal revealed is how many well-to-do students had access to academic accommodations.
Psychoeducational testing that is like $4,000. When we bring from perhaps under-resourced public high schools who are so brilliant that they were somehow able to get through with a 4.0 or a perfect gpa or be the valedictorian. When you're dumped right into the deep end of some of these classes, it's no longer enough to be smart.
You have to know exactly how to study, and so you might need academic accommodations at first, but if that is cost-prohibitive, how are we thinking about that? So it to me, it's like an ethical question and it's like I found myself to be an unwitting opponent to increasing Pell eligible numbers. In some ways, like, because I feel like what I'm, when Georgetown hears from me on this topic, I'm saying we need to do better.
We need to do more.
[00:38:17] Derek Bruff: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm gonna have to end it there. Thank you so much for taking this time to share your your research, your experiences, your expertise with the podcast audience. I really appreciate it. This has been rich and provocative. And I think we've given folks lots to think about as they approach their work with students in lots of different capacities on campuses.
So thank you so much for joining us today.
That was Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Schutzer assistant professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, as well as Missy Foy, executive Director of the Georgetown Scholars Program at Georgetown University. I am grateful for their research on and work with first generation and low income students, and I'm especially grateful that they took the time to come on the podcast and share their perspectives and advice.
I'll add that I try to keep these intentional teaching episodes down to 40 minutes or less, which meant editing out some really great comments from Tony and Missy. I've posted some of those comments over on my Patreon page as a bonus clip, and they are well worth checking out. This episode of Intentional Teaching was produced and edited by me, Derek Bruff
see the show notes for links to my website, the signup form for the Intentional Teaching Newsletter, which goes out most Thursdays, and my Patreon, which helps support the show for just a few bucks a month. You get access to the occasional bonus episode, patreon only teaching resources, the archive of past newsletters, and a community of intentional educators to chat with.
As always, thanks for listening.