A WHIRLWIND OF CHANGE
Photos by landon nordeman
Daniel Collins, Ph.D., associate professor of English, discusses the best way to tackle the Picture the Homeless project with Arches students during hisclass in October. Adam Koehler, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, gathers in East Hill with his Arches students to talk about and analyze Nick Flynn’s book Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.
“The best part is that we walked into class on the first day and had an instant sense of community,” Toth says. Toth’s English 110 class focused on telling New York stories through senior citizens from Serviam Gardens and writing profiles on their New York City experiences. The remainder of the semester was spent observing a series of films and learning to watch films critically. “It was a good exercise to see life through their experiences and relate it to our generation,” says Daniel Castro III, a freshman from New Jersey. Both Daniel Collins, Ph.D., associate professor of English and director for the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, and Adam Koehler, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, chose to focus on homelessness in their Arches English 110 classes as part of the service element. The semester started for both classes reading Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn, which is about, as Koehler explains, “a young man who discovers his father living in a homeless shelter and goes back and forth between his father’s story of how he became homeless and his story of how he tried to help his father out of homelessness.” Each student in Koehler’s class volunteered for 10 hours at the Concourse House
Shelter in the South Bronx, a temporary housing facility that offers an afterschool program for children. As a way to present and analyze the service, students wrote a narrative on the overall experience. “We were looking at the different layers of homelessness, and the service part was to humanize it,” Koehler says. “It gives them access to their city in a way that was going to be meaningful and help provide service to those people who need it.” Collins’ class focused on Picture the Homeless, a homeless advocacy organization in the Bronx, which uses community organizers’ skills to enable the homeless to advocate for themselves. Students selected an issue relating to homelessness, researched the topic, attended a Picture the Homeless meeting, conducted interviews and wrote a final paper. The class also attended the play We Are Here, which is about family and was meant to tie into Nick Flynn’s book and the cultural aspect of the Arches program. David Shefferman, Ph.D., assistant professor of religious studies, taught two sections of Religion 110 this semester and focused on teaching students firsthand about the role of religious ideas, institutions and communities in articulating and addressing social justice
issues related to labor. “The students interviewed and observed religiously affiliated community organizers involved in Living Wage NYC, a long-running campaign in the city to secure for workers compensation (pay and benefits) commensurate with the realities of life in New York,” Shefferman explains. Another section of Religion 110 was taught by Andrew Skotnicki, Ph.D., chairperson and professor of religious studies, and his class read Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler, a book about a boy who takes in some orphans. To coincide with the book, his class visited the Martin de Porres home, a Lasallian educational community and residence in Queens, N.Y. Next semester, the Arches program will include three courses in Religion 110, two in English 110 and a psychology course. The College also is exploring other courses to add to next year’s program. In addition to participating in service and cultural activities through their classes, Arches students attend a variety of events in their residence hall. Currently, all Arches students reside on the fifth and sixth floors of East Hill, and learning-living advisers plan five programs a semester, including social programs, educational, health and wellness MANHATTAN.EDU N 27